UA psychology program addresses rural problems

Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2007

FAIRBANKS - A new doctoral program in clinical-community psychology at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and Anchorage is aiming to address the state's high rates of suicide, domestic violence and substance abuse, with a focus on rural Alaska.

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"We have a lot of problems that can be addressed by psychology, but a lack of providers has left a lot of those problems unaddressed," said Christiane Brems, director of clinical training at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The program focuses on specific psychological problems in rural and indigenous areas, with students studying Alaska Native culture. A number of Alaska Native Elders serve as program advisors and help teach classes.

"Virtually every class we teach has a very strong emphasis on asking, 'How do you apply this in rural Alaska?"' said Catherine Koverola, UAF's director of clinical training. "When you learn about how to do a psychological assessment, you are learning how you would do it if you were in Nome or how would you do it in a village."

Before the program began last fall, Alaska was the only state that did not offer a way to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. The doctorate is required to become a licensed psychologist.

Currently there are 14 students enrolled in the five-year program - seven at each campus. The goal is to increase the total number to 40 students, Koverola said.

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