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How APA is helping COVID’s overlooked populations

Consider joining one of the 10 working groups tasked with culling resources to aid clinicians in working with underserved groups during the pandemic.

Cite this
DeAngelis, T. (2020, October 28). How APA is helping COVID’s overlooked populations.

Black medical personnel in full PPE equipment

COVID-19 has revealed many new psychological needs, but of particular concern are those related to groups that are underserved, including essential workers, older adults, refugees, and members of ethnic minority communities.

To help, a group of APA divisions launched the APA Interdivisional Task Force on the Pandemic in April. The aim of its 10 related work groups, which convene regularly on Google Meet, is to gather supportive resources—studies, references, instruments, and more—to help clinicians better serve a range of individuals and communities during this time.

“Our mission is to pull together resources for populations that are typically ignored, so that any mental health provider or other relevant user can take those products and use them to provide direct services,” says task force chair and Tulane University professor Charles R. Figley, PhD, who directs Tulane’s Traumatology Institute.

Arlene “Lu” Steinberg, PhD, a New York-based clinical psychologist and founding member of the task force, says it’s been gratifying to work with colleagues across specialty lines on a project for the common good.

“[APA] Divisions tend to be silo’ed, and that means we sometimes work at odds or even in competition with each other,” she says. “This experience has been different—it’s been about how we can bring our resources, strengths, and expertise to work together.”

Here is a taste of what the groups are doing and information on how you can get involved:

Hospital workers, patients, and families


  • Maureen O’Reilly-Landry, PhD
  • Victor Welzant, PsyD
  • Patricia O’Gorman, PhD

Members of this group are gathering resources and collecting materials to aid front-line hospital workers as well as hospital workers who tend to be overlooked and underserved such as janitors, food preparers, and support staff. They are also gathering resources to help hospital leaders understand and address the emotional needs of hospital workers and to educate medical personnel on providing emotional support to patients and their families who are frightened about COVID.

This group, which includes a number of international members, also hopes to provide culturally specific resources for the many health-care staff and vulnerable patient populations in the United States whose first language is not English.

For more, email Maureen O’Reilly-Landry.

Professional support for mental health providers


  • Julian Ford, PhD
  • Melissa Wasserman, PsyD

Mental health clinicians are experiencing significant pandemic-related stressors including personal and professional isolation, secondary traumatic stress, and telehealth fatigue. To help, this group facilitates virtual peer-to-peer support meetings, where mental health providers can informally connect, share concerns, and provide mutual support for one another. These meetings are free and available to any interested mental health provider.

For more, email the Clinician Support Collaborative group or sign up online.

Research initiatives


  • Radosveta Dimitrova, PhD
  • Rita M. Rivers

This group is creating a repository of multidisciplinary and international research and knowledge on the psychological impact of COVID-19, including peer-reviewed articles, reports, calls for papers, funding opportunities, conferences, webinars, symposia, and more. The group also plans to create a research map of global scholars conducting this work aimed at facilitating information and resource-sharing and collaboration.

For more, email Radosveta Dimitrova.

Older adults and caregivers


  • Irit Felsen, PhD
  • Jenni Frumer, PhD

To help older adults and the caregivers and agencies that serve them, this group has launched a study examining how these patients’ history of trauma is affecting their experiences during the pandemic. The researchers will also ask health care professionals about existing and novel needs and how their agencies adapted their services and service delivery in response to COVID-19. Based on the results, the group will determine strategies to foster resilience in caretakers and disseminate their findings to service providers, policy makers, and others. Also, the group will collect and summarize other relevant academic material as well as interventions for older adults that haven’t yet been peer-reviewed but are effective in the field.

For more, email Irit Felsen.

International whole person approaches


  • Ilene Serlin, PhD
  • Rita M. Rivera

Sometimes trauma is best addressed through nonverbal means such as bodywork, the arts, and spiritual practices. Such approaches—whether tai chi or yoga, practices that address the loss of meaning and faith, or established arts and body psychotherapies—are the focus of this group, which is collecting and disseminating cross-cultural, whole-person trauma interventions, particularly those amenable and/or specific to the pandemic. The group is also hosting a number of related webinars.

For more, email Ilene Serlin, join the group’s Facebook page, or access the group’s resources on Google Drive.

Interpersonal violence


  • Lenore Walker, EdD
  • Rita M. Rivera
  • Denise Carballea

Rates of intimate partner violence have tripled since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the likely result of quarantining and stress. This work group is gathering related prevention activities and using social media outlets to share information on this topic with psychotherapists and the public.

The group is also hosting weekly live roundtables where psychotherapists can share skills for working with clients experiencing domestic violence and traumatic stress symptoms. Abuse survivors have also taken part in these forums.

For more, email Lenore Walker. You can also follow the group on Instagram or Twitter, or on Facebook with the handle “covidipv”.

Refugee and immigrant concerns


  • Monica Indart, PsyD
  • Ayli Carrero Pinedo

This workgroup is establishing a practice-research-advocacy collaborative that includes members of various refugee resettlement and immigrant advocacy organizations. The aim is to identify service and advocacy needs for these populations in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, and then disseminate resources to a range of relevant integrative mental health, social service, and legal and advocacy providers.

In addition, the group plans to create a related database of national and international research, policy, and other efforts. In all of these projects, the group’s focus is to address these communities’ multicultural and diversity needs and to mitigate the harmful effects of marginalization during this time of high stress and danger.

For more, email Monica Indart and Ayli Carrero Pinedo.

Crisis intervention teams and trauma consultation


  • Falu Rami, PhD
  • Melissa Wasserman, PsyD

This group is developing a set of “best practices” resources and a new framework and model of crisis management and emergency services that addresses the unique needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. It expands on previous crisis-management models by including the roles of culture, resiliency, and trauma-informed care in providing these services.

The framework is relevant for individuals, families, communities, organizations, systems in crisis, and humanitarian sectors, as well as for providers from various backgrounds including mental health/psychosocial support, interdisciplinary, psychiatry, emergency/crisis responders, and essential workers. The framework will address inequities, racism, and violence through a comprehensive needs assessment, links to resources, recommendations, and more.

For more, email Falu Rami.

Higher education


  • Ayli Carrero Pinedo
  • Rita M. Rivera
  • Denise Carballea

Student leaders make up this work group, whose aim is to advocate for the needs of students and trainees during the time of COVID-19 and beyond. Of special concern are students who are underresourced, including those of uncertain U.S. legal status or who lack health insurance or resources to pay for tuition or meals. The group’s goals include promoting self-care activities and resources to support students’ physical and mental health, generating discussions about how COVID has impacted institutions and students, and collaborating with APAGS to conduct focus groups related to graduate student needs and goals.

For more, email Ayli Carrero Pinedo.

Children and families


  • Rachel Wamser-Nanney, PhD
  • Ann Chu, PhD

This group is supporting children, caregivers, and families impacted by COVID-19 by collecting and disseminating relevant resources via online platforms, including social media platforms. The group will also provide resources to and collaborate with professionals and community partners who serve these populations.

In addition, the group plans to collaborate with researchers studying the effects of COVID-19 on these groups, with a particular focus on young children, children exposed to earlier traumas, and underserved families and communities.

For more, email Rachel Wamser-Nanney.