Partnerships in Mental Health Community Praxis

The Department of Psychology considers community-based collaborations on issues related to mental health of great vested interest. To extend the Department’s impact and community engagement, it has established strong parentships and collaborations with the community and local and national health organizations. The current collaborations and actions focus on the following:

In the frame of contract of agreement between the University of Crete and SOS Children’s Village (Heraklion, Crete), members of the Department of Psychology of the University of Crete offer the following services through series of lectures and training seminars:

A) sensitization of SOS mothers and teachers of children living in the SOS Children’s Village on issues of children’s development from conception to toddlerhood with the aim to promote their socio-emotional development,

B) sensitization of health and mental health professionals (pediatricians, psychologists, social workers, speech therapists and others) offering their services in SOS Children’s Village for issues related to children’s development from conception to toddlerhood,

C) sensitization and training of SOS mothers and teachers on the empowerment of their interaction with infants and children living in SOS Children’s Village,

D) sensitization of SOS mothers, teachers and health/mental health professionals for the possible effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on infant and children’s development.

All above series of lectures and training seminars will start at the end of February 2022.

In the context of their collaboration, the Department of Psychology, University of Crete has provided the Pancretan Association of Parents & Friends of Children with Neoplasms "Iliachtida" with the following services:

(a) opinion on and support in the development of the psychosocial support services offered by the Association as well as their expansion in different sites in Crete;

(b) support in the selection of staff (psychologists);

(c) expertise and support in the design and implementation of research protocols;

(d) scientific supervision of the psychologists of the Association, whenever needed, and

(e) support in the development of the Association’s collaborations with other organizations/associations.

The Department of Psychology and the School of Medicine at the University of Crete are conducting a Joint Postgraduate Program “Clinical Interventions in Addictions” since the 2016-2017 academic year. The administrative management of the program is the responsibility of the Department of Psychology. The aim of the program is to provide applied clinical knowledge of substance use, abuse and dependence through a pluralistic curriculum that includes solid theoretical knowledge and opportunities for the development of practical intervention skills in prevention and intervention. The research components of the curriculum provide graduates with the skills and scientific tools to conduct research (qualitative and quantitative). This research knowledge culminates in the students’ MSc thesis. The postgraduate students gain the knowledge-base and skills required to work in prevention centers, rehabilitation/recovery programs and in organizations where interventions related to substance use / abuse and dependence are applied. The Joint Postgraduate Program in Clinical Intervention in Addictions has entered a Cooperation Agreement (decision 240 / 25-9-2018 of the Board of Directors of OKANA, decision 18 / 20-9-2018 of the Special Interdepartmental Committee of the Program, decision 396th / 01-11-2018 of the Senate of the University of Crete) with the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA), which is the largest institution dealing with addictions and addictive behaviors in Greece. Expert addiction therapists from OKANA provide lectures and workshops during the first year of postgraduate study. During the internship year, the organization provides its facilities and expert knowledge and skills in intervening in addictions.

The postgraduate students’ internship begins at the beginning of the 3rd semester of study and includes two full semesters of training in the facilities of the Organization against Drugs (OKANA). The interns gain experience in prevention programming and diverse addiction intervention practices. OKANA facilitates the internship year. The interns complete 1200 hours of practice, gaining knowledge of how the rehabilitation/ recovery or prevention centers organize their services, the intervention techniques and practices applied, and the capacities to intervene in addiction recovery services. Interns are trained to intervene in individual counseling or psychotherapy services, group interventions, psychosocial interventions, family therapy, motivational interviewing, arts-based therapies, prevention programs and community-wide interventions depending on the services offered at the facility where they are training. They develop new skills and enhance their insights in addiction and into their own development as a professional. The Monitoring Committee of the Internship continuously proctors each intern’s progress. The external clinical supervisor (expert from the OKANA facility) oversees the supervision of the interns placed at their facility and provides the necessary training and feedback on performance and expectations. Each supervisor completes a quarterly progress report informing the Internship Committee about each postgraduate intern’s progress.

The Department of Psychology in the context Internship Practice, an integral part of the curriculum of our undergraduate students, has developed an expanded collaborative network with infrastructures and institutions supporting the mental health of the general population inside and outside Crete. Through this network, opportunities for synergies and mutual support of the associated parties are created with long-term benefits for the participants. On the one hand, institutions via clinical supervisors systematically provide positive feedback regarding the level of scientific training and empirical knowledge, the provision of upgraded services, and the application of effective social skills by the beneficiaries. On the other hand, through the Internship, the Department of Psychology and in particular the faculty members are connected with mental health professionals in both private and public sectors and frequently they have the opportunity to offer their support through various actions responding to various challenges with direct effects on individuals’ and communities’ mental health. Hence, the vital role of the Department and the University of Crete in fulfilling essential unmet needs related to the promotion of resilience and well-being of societal members is highlighted.

Department of Psychology has launched on July 2021 webinar series with internally acclaimed scientists from Greece and abroad. There is a special emphasis on impact of bio-psycho-social factors in mental health. Webinars are advertised through the Hellenic Psychological Society and are open to the general public.

The Department of Psychology is collaborating with the Arkalochori and Acharnes Municipalities in providing psychological support to the victims of the recent earthquakes. The Mobile Mental Health Unit of the University Hospital of Heraklion coordinates the action, and the collaboration entailed an online training course for mental health professionals. Faculty members from the Department of Psychology facilitated the course. The course provided mental health professionals with training on the principles and techniques of intervening after a natural disaster and managing the psychological effects on children and adolescents. In addition, Faculty Members of the Psychology Department take part in the Mobile Mental Health Unit’s interdisciplinary team, which visits the affected areas providing individual and group psychological support to the earthquake victims in collaboration with municipal social services.