For psychology major Elise Wyatt ’18, the opportunity to augment her classroom work by attending a major conference in her field was significant. “The NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] conference was absolutely beneficial for my engagement in the ‘Introduction to Psychopathology’ class, as well as for encouraging my interest in pursuing a career in psychology,” she says.
Wyatt was one of a group of students from the PSY 221 class of Associate Professor of Psychology Jamie Bodenlos who attended NAMI’s annual educational conference in early October in Syracuse. According to Bodenlos, the opportunities for students to interact with a broad range of people, from practitioners to patients, made it an invaluable experience.
“The best part of this conference is that it is attended by people with mental illness, providers, family members of people with mental illness and students,” she says. “In addition to the outstanding talks, there are great conversations that happen around the table where students can mix with a diverse group of people.”
Lea Mattran ’19, a psychology major, was particularly impressed with the variety of methodologies that speakers discussed using in their practices. “Each of the speakers had different avenues of treatment and hearing them demonstrate how they have been successful for patients was fascinating and inspiring,” she says.
For Mattran, the highlight of the conference was the keynote speech by Dr. Nastri Ghaly, a Syracuse-based psychiatrist who uses a form of treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation. His presentation, she says, was “captivating and informational.” Other lectures addressed topics such as treating trauma holistically, mindfulness practices, and alternative holistic treatment approaches.
Bodenlos says that bringing students to the conference ties in with one of her goals for the course, which is to provide practical experience with psychological disorders and treatments.
“I use these experiences to show how treatment is practiced in the real world,” she says. “At past conferences, there have been people with psychological disorders speaking about their experiences with the disorder. That has been so helpful for students to get that real-world experience with disorders, and it helps break the stigma.”
Wyatt, among others, appreciated the experience. “The conference discussions related actual diagnoses and treatment plans to the textbook material we’ve studied,” she says. “This real-world application provided an important link for grasping details of implementation of class material. Overall, the conference offered an enlightening look into modern clinical practices and opened our eyes to creative possibilities within the field of psychology.”