Psychiatric News
Professional News

Multimedia Sessions Include Computer, Video Technology

By Ian Alger, M.D.

A rich selection of programs utilizing the latest communications technology has been scheduled for APA's 50th Institute on Psychiatric Services, which is being held in Los Angeles October 2 to 6. These sessions have been organized as workshops, so audiences will have ample opportunity to discuss with the presenters and chairs the clinical and social implications of the presentations.

Those interested in sharpening their cyber skills and learning more about the use of computers in psychiatry will find the 1998 institute particularly attractive. Moreover, video workshops will cover a number of cutting-edge topics, from the new reproductive technologies to the early recognition of prodromal syndrome in promoting the development of coping skills in patients with schizophrenia.

In the computer workshop "Comprehensive Clinician's Desktop," Tal Burt, M.D., and Waguih Ishak, M.D., will demonstrate an application that provides an all-in-one tool for charting, reference, and communication. In "Psychiatry and the Internet," Kenneth Chuang, M.D., and Albert Hyman, M.D., will help novice users identify useful online resources, including information about innovative therapeutic modalities. R. Bhawani Prasad, M.D., will lead the session "Cyber-Search Tips: Finding Psychiatric Information."

Roger L. Gould, M.D., will chair a workshop on his innovative work with computer programs that can "converse" with patients and are especially useful for stress management and behavioral change. John A. Liebert, M.D., will demonstrate his computerized triage program for screening patients rapidly and safely.

Several outstanding video programs promoting greater awareness of the impact of mental illness on patients and their relatives and friends will be shown throughout the conference. The PBS special "Despair," produced by Harriett Koskoff, considers depression from multicultural viewpoints through sensitive personal portraits and riveting interviews with experts from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Keh-Mring Lin, M.D., director of the Center for Research Into the Psychobiology of Ethnicity, will be the discussant.

In "The Bonnie Tapes," an articulate young woman with schizophrenia and members of her family discuss her illness and its impact on them. This program provides an unparalleled way for families and providers to "know" what mental illness is really like. Workshop chair Roman N. Anshin, M.D., will lead a discussion of two of these powerful tapes.

The outstanding documentary "In Their Shoes" gives voice to people at multiple levels of community where the impact of mental illness is so deeply experienced. The program, which captures the first-person perspectives of victims of mental illness, their families, clinicians, and public officials, was produced by the Mental Health Needs Council of Harris County, Tex. Stephen Goldfinger, M.D., will lead the discussion.

"Nerve," produced by Peter Stastny, M.D., is the winner of the 1997 Psychiatric Services Video Award. The video focuses on four individuals who live in Vienna or New York and describe themselves as "survivors" of psychiatric services. The program effectively demonstrates the differences and similarities between two cultures and shows that "empowering" activities are crucial in the process of recovery. Roderick Gorney, M.D., will lead the discussion.

"Twitch and Shout," another outstanding educational video, provides a startling yet intimate journey into the frustrating world of patients with Tourette syndrome. H. James Lurie, M.D., will lead the workshop and discussion of this unsettling yet ultimately uplifting portrayal.

In the video workshop "A New Program for Teaching Coping Skills in Schizophrenia," Marvin Herz, M.D., will demonstrate a new educational training program he developed to help patients and their families improve their coping skills through earlier recognition of the appearance of prodromal syndrome. With this earlier recognition, families and patients are better able to initiate earlier therapeutic measures and thereby reduce the incidence of relapse.

Other workshops will explore the field of brief therapies. In a fascinating video portrait, Milton H. Erikson, a pioneer in brief therapy, will demonstrate his ability to heal mind and body through his work with hypnosis. This documentary, produced by Jay Haley and Madeline Richeport, contains rare archival footage of Erikson's work and his creative application of brief therapy methods. In a workshop on short-term dynamic psychotherapy, Manuel Trujillo, M.D., will utilize videotaped sessions to promote the acquisition of knowledge about this increasingly important modality.

I will chair the session titled "Virtual Reality and Mental Health." Two outstanding researchers will demonstrate their recent work in the therapeutic application of virtual reality technologies. Larry Hodges, Ph.D., will present video demonstrations of "Fear of Flying," his virtual reality therapeutic program, and show video of his recent research in using virtual reality technology in the treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Hunter Hoffman, Ph.D., will demonstrate the innovative use of virtual reality as an adjunct to opioids in the treatment of pediatric burn patients.

Members of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry's Committee on Social Issues, chaired by Martha Kirkpatrick, M.D., will present the workshop "Hello Dolly: Humane Reproduction." This presentation will address the psychological, social, and ethical aspects of assisted reproduction using video case presentations. The goal of the workshop is to encourage the need for involvement of mental health professionals in the care of patients using assisted-reproduction techniques and in the formation of policy regarding such technologies.

Over four days, these 16 workshops will provide a lively atmosphere of discussion chaired by knowledgeable leaders and enlivened by the immediacy of media presentations.

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