|MEET ABCT'S FEATURED THERAPIST|
Mary K. Alvord
Featured Therapist Interview
Mary K. Alvord, PhD (she, her, hers), is a psychologist with more than 40 years of clinical experience. She is director of Alvord, Baker & Associates, with offices in Rockville and Chevy Chase, Maryland. She specializes in treating children, adolescents, and adults using evidenced-based therapies, primarily Cognitive Behavior Therapies for anxiety and depression disorders. In addition to providing individual therapy, she runs Resilience Builder Program® groups for children grades 4 through 8. An adjunct associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, she supervises second year Psychiatry Fellows in CBT. She is co-author of Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens, Resilience-Builder Program, and audio recordings, Relaxation and Self-Regulation Techniques for Children and Teens and Relaxation and Wellness Techniques (for adults).
As a child of immigrants, growing up in Queens, New York, my first language was Russian with some Armenian. English came later from watching TV, preschool, and interacting with friends.
I have been promoting and providing telehealth for more than a decade. Our practice provided about 10-15% telehealth prior to the pandemic. Currently, we are 100% virtual and plan to offer in-person and virtual options, hopefully by fall.
First, we would like to know a little about your practice.
What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?
First, I feel fortunate that I chose a profession in which I continue to grow. I think that I am warm and a good listener as a clinician. Second, one of my areas of specialty is resilience, and I try to live and practice by the enhancing protective factors of looking at challenges as opportunities and by being proactive. Third, I care deeply about providing quality services and am open to learning new (evidence-based) strategies.
What "tips" can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice?
Consider your areas of specialty as well as age range and modalities (individual, group, family, couples) you would like to focus on. Network with professionals who might refer to you, and that you might refer to, and collaborate, collaborate! Respond to inquiries quickly, have an attractive website, and consult with professionals who can help with the business side - a good accountant and business attorney. Finally, decide what type of model you would like - solo practitioner, partnership, group practice, etc.
How do you remind your patients of their strengths during the therapy process?
Strength-based focus is central to both CBT and resilience models and frameworks that guide my work. I like the motto "tell them what to do, not not what to do" when guiding parents, and I like to reinforce what individuals are doing okay and right, rather than what they are doing wrong.
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?
I have been involved with APA for more than 20 years now, helping with tips sheets for the Psychology Help Center and as a public education coordinator for Maryland Psychological Association. Past President of APA Society for Media Psychology and Technology, I have long advocated for telehealth and new technologies. I have also been involved with ADAA and ABCT to a lesser extent.
Our practice volunteers to facilitate CHADD parent meetings as a pro-bono activity throughout the year. We have been doing this for over 12 years now.
I have co-authored two books, Resilience Builder Program for Children and Adolescents and Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens as well as two CD/digital recordings on Relaxation and Self-Regulation for Children and Teens and another for adults, Relaxation and Wellness Techniques. I am currently writing a third CBT book for teens.
Our group practice has a 2-year CBT Training Institute. As APA-approved sponsors of CE we also offer CE selections on ethics, cultural competence, and other areas of interest. A third "prong" of the practice is research. We also have a research team that focuses on outcomes research and has just completed an RCT in school in collaboration with Brendan Rich at Catholic University Psychology Department and Resilience Across Borders, Inc.
I founded a nonprofit charity, Resilience Across Borders, Inc., a few years ago to promote mental health in economically marginalized schools. We had been running Resilience Builder Program® (RBP) and now, thanks to donations and a grant from APA Society for Child Clinical and Adolescent Psychology, we plan to adapt the RBP for teachers to provide mental health activities to whole classrooms.
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
Who was your mentor?
I was quite fortunate to have a true first mentor as an undergraduate. Dan O'Leary started and directed the Point of Woods Lab School at Stony Brook University. I had the opportunity to be involved in the research at the school and also teach the students at the school for a half day each day during my senior year. Dr. O'Leary continues to be a part of my professional life. Also, while I was at the University of Maryland for my graduate training, Don Pumroy, who was at the University of Iowa during the days of Spence and Hull and now deceased, was an important mentor of mine in applying behavior therapy.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?
Pre-Covid, my husband and I were avid West Coast swing dancers. I am not particularly coordinated but love to move to music! I enjoy walking in nature and regularly walk trails with a good friend. Also enjoy gardening, making jewelry, and interacting, from a distance, with my toddler granddaughter (they live in CA).
We are also interested in some of your views of CBT.
What do you think is the single most important thing CBT can do for your clients?
My greatest appreciation of CBT is that it is always evolving and improving based on the science. Therefore, I feel comfortable that I am offering services that are evidence-based. Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?
As a practitioner for more than 40 years, I have witnessed many changes in the field. Despite all the evidence, there is still a high enough failure rate, or at least relapse rate, that we must push on to figure out what more we can incorporate and find mechanisms of change and sustained change. Whether we call them third wave or fourth wave, we need to keep pursuing the ingredients to maximize and sustain change.
How do you use the local or social media to educate your community on the benefits of CBT?
As a public education coordinator for 13 years for APA and MD Psych Assoc., I have spent my energy trying to disseminate accurate information through the media. I have been fortunate enough to contribute regularly to national media outlets to spread the important word of evidence-based therapies. I am a regular Twitter user. I not only use Twitter to educate the public and mental health community, but I use it to gain knowledge from colleagues and organizations around the world. Please follow me on Twitter @DrMaryAlvord and @ResilienceXBdrs. Our practice also has an FB page as does the nonprofit.
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT?
I joined when it was still AABT, almost 40 years ago.
How has ABCT helped you professionally?
ABCT is my theoretical home. Honestly, the conferences are not timed well for practitioners who find it hard to miss two weeks of sessions since it typically precedes Thanksgiving weekend. However, the conferences are always high quality. I also appreciate the list serve. It has helped me answer questions, consult on perplexing cases, and recruit new hires, both for research coordinator position and for licensed psychologists and clinical social workers.
What services do you consider the most valuable from ABCT?
Generous sharing of ideas and information on the list serve, the referral directory, and connections made through social media (we use the hashtag #cbtworks) and conferences.
What service(s) are missing from ABCT in your role as a practitioner?
Much improved now, but for years, there was an emphasis on the academic side of things without the practical real-world application of CBT. Please make sure that there is a continued balance. We all need each other.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions!