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ISSUE 121 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/18/2008

Conference informs

By Elizabeth Mitchell
Associate Editor

Friday, April 18, 2008

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and are frequently misinterpreted as behavior problems. This past Thursday and Friday, April 10-11, St. Olaf hosted a psychological conference titled, "Treating Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents." The lecture was brought to campus by St. Olaf College and the Northfield Allina Medical Clinic, along with Dr. Reid Wilson, Ph. D.

The annual psychology conferences are not directly affiliated with the St. Olaf psychology department, although psychology faculty members often attend. It is planned in part by the Center for Lifelong Learning, which hopes to show students that learning continues after graduation.

Wilson is a clinical psychologist and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He has written two books: "Don't Panic: Taking Control of Anxiety Attacks" and "Facing Panic: Self-Help for People with Panic Attacks." Wilson served on the Board of Directors of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America for 12 years and as program chair of the National Conferences on Anxiety Disorders from 1988-1991.

The workshop intended to teach evidence-based treatment methods for separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Among the learning objectives for dealing with these illnesses were to outline a universal treatment strategy for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders and to distinguish helpful versus unhelpful behaviors by parents of anxious children.

The workshop, which lasted from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, covered a variety of topics, including "Fears & Worries of Grade School Children," "Heredity & Genetic Predisposition," and "Helping Kids Become Problem-Solvers."

The workshop was approved for continuing education credit as well, and it was attended by many professionals in the fields of social work, psychology, and marriage and family therapy. Teresa Lebens, Internal Conferences director, said that the conference was "very successful. He was a very animated speaker. The topic [for the conference] is always huge. You never run out of children who need help. We received very good comments from many of the attendees."

Lebens said that the conference, which St. Olaf has hosted annually for at least 10 years, is a great way to bring new people on campus. She noted that people who have never been to the school before will always ask her questions, such as "Do they really leave their backpacks everywhere? Their P.O. boxes are really unlocked?" Lebens feels it is good for these visitors to "see what a good environment there is here."

St. Olaf hosts several large-scale conferences throughout the year on such topics as psychology; worship, theology, and the arts; and globalization and social responsibility. These conferences are intended to help bring revenue to the college, as well as offer opportunities to the community to hear speakers and discuss subjects which they might not otherwise have access to.

They are open to anyone wishing to attend. Most conferences are affiliated with some department of the college, although the psychology conference is the only non-affiliated professional conference.

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