Fund-raising can often become a dirty or dreaded word that makes Psi Chi advisors, treasurers, and even members cringe. Unfortunately, it seems that having fun and enriching experiences with your Psi Chi chapter requires cash, and cash requires fund-raising of some kind. Our chapter of Psi Chi at the University of Nebraska at Kearney found itself in such a situation in which we were doing the same fund-raisers over and over again, with the same result of barely earning enough money to do the activities we desired. To address this problem, our chapter used the resources of its advisor and considered the needs of mental health professionals to come up with a solution.
The chapter solution revolved around two issues. The first issue was the need for local access to continuing education units (CEU’s) for mental health practitioners in our community and surrounding area. Therapists are required to obtain from 24 to 30 CEU’s every 2 years to maintain licensure. CEU’s are sometimes difficult to find in rural, western Nebraska. Many therapists are forced to drive up to 200 miles to the nearest seminar or class being offered. By organizing a local workshop practitioners used less time and resources to earn their credits.
The second issue involved a change in legislation that created a need for a new level of licensure for mental health practitioners in the state of Nebraska. Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioners (LIMHP) became the title for individuals who are now allowed to practice independently without the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Prior to the change in legislation and addition of the LIMHP, master’s level practitioners were required to be supervised monthly, regardless of licensure, by an M.D. or a doctoral-level psychologist. Master’s level professionals could not diagnose major mental illness independently nor use any form of psychotherapy with individuals having major mental illness without supervision. Following the new addition to the legislation, an LIMHP no longer needs supervision and can diagnose major mental illness and use forms of psychotherapy with individuals having major mental illness without supervision. With the new privileges, the training of practitioners needed to be altered. Many of the education programs in which therapists had been involved did not off offer training on mental status exams (MSE’s) or diagnostic skills because, prior to the legislative change, their supervising clinician performed such tasks for them. Knowledge of conducting MSE’s and an understanding of the DSM-IV TR are needed for these individuals who have not been adequately trained to complete them independently. Our Psi Chi chapter recognized that these professionals would suddenly be thrust into completing these examinations without supervision, and a training session could aid in this transition.
Psi Chi Project
Once this need was identified, and the idea was introduced to create a workshop, it became a Psi Chi project. Like many chapter members and officers, we are all very busy, so each officer (with the help of some members) tackled a different portion of the work. Several tasks needed completion: rooms needed to be reserved, food needed to be ordered, a mailing list needed to be formed, registrants needed to be tracked, a brochure needed to be created and mailed, parking permits needed to be arranged, and registration and set-up had to be completed. Each officer or member took her task and completed it, making the workload equitable for everyone.
The Professional Seminar
The content of the workshop was mainly prepared by our advisor and keynote speaker, Dr. Krista Fritson. With the local need in mind, we had six specific areas in which we wanted to increase awareness and understanding for the participants of the seminar. The six objectives were for participants to (a) learn the basics about and uses of the DSM-IV TR, (b) understand the role of the DSM-IV TR in diagnosing and treating clients, (c) differentiate between the five axes used for diagnosing, (d) be aware of the misuses of the DSM-IV TR and diagnostic strategies, (e) practice administering competent and comprehensive MSE’s, and (f) comprehend diagnostic strategies using the MSE and other information. The content of the seminar insured the attainment of these objectives for participants.
All attendees received a certificate of completion at the end of the seminar. Each participant received 6 CEU’s toward license renewal. Dr. Krista Fritson reviewed the CEU credit criteria and insured that the seminar met the standards set by the State of Nebraska Licensure Board. The workshop was kept informative and fun. Throughout the seminar, we provided prizes for participants to encourage their attendance at future workshops. A drawing was held for prizes such as Psychology Club T-shirts, flash drives, and University of Nebraska at Kearney apparel. Dr. Fritson maintained a healthy sense of humor, which kept the participants of the workshop attentive. Attendees reported via evaluation forms that they enjoyed the day.
Our chapter also thought it was important to measure the effectiveness of the seminar. Pre- and post-tests were given to all participants of the workshop, which allowed us to assess whether participants learned the information presented at the seminar. In pre-tests, an average of 9.62 answers were left unanswered, approximately one third of the potential answers. In post-seminar tests, on average, 1.23 answers were not attempted. The difference between pre- and post-tests was 8.2 answers, which was statistically significant at the p < .001 level.
Next, we looked at the accuracy of the answers that were reported on the pre- and post- tests. We looked at three specific questions that we believed to cover the most important points for mental health practitioners. The first question we examined was "A DSM-IV TR diagnosis includes how many axes?” The correct answer, "5 Axes,” was answered correctly 95% of the time on the pre-tests and 100% of the time on the post-tests. The next question we examined was, "List what information goes on each axis.” In the pre-test, 87% answered correctly, while 93% answered correctly in the post-test. (The correct answer, for those interested is: Axis I–clinical disorder(s); Axis II–mental retardation and/or personality disorders; Axis III–medical concerns related to clinical disorder; Axis IV–psychosocial stressors; Axis V–Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score). One final question that was analyzed was, "List two misuses of the DSM-IV TR.” On the pre-test, only 18% answered correctly. After the seminar, 75% of the participants answered this question correctly. This difference was statistically significant at the p < .001 level.
Along with pre- and post-tests, evaluation forms were given to participants to gather information about how they perceived the seminar. Participants were asked to rate the following on a 4-point scale (1 = Excellent, 4 = Poor): course content, value of information; appropriateness of learning objectives and topic; instructor effectiveness, teaching method, professionalism; course materials and handouts; and quality of meeting facility and service. In terms of course content and value of information, 100% of the participants rated the seminar as excellent or good, with 80% rating it as excellent. 100% of the participants rated the appropriateness of learning objectives and topic as excellent or good, with 85% rating it as excellent. Instructor effectiveness, teaching method, and professionalism were rated as excellent by 95% of the participants. Course materials and handouts were seen as excellent or good by 95% of participants. The quality of meeting facility and service was rated by 100% of the participants as excellent or good, with 68% rating them as excellent.
This workshop was a perfect opportunity for a fund-raiser for our chapter. It wasn’t the run-of-the-mill fund-raiser; it involved the community and gave members of our chapter an excellent opportunity to network with area mental health professionals. The Psi Chi officers organized, planned, and advertised the entire Diagnostics Seminar, which gave us an excellent team building and service learning experience. Additionally, we were able to apply our research and statistics skills to assess the effectiveness of the workshop. Our chapter benefited financially from the seminar as well. Seminar attendees were charged $100 for tuition, with graduate students being permitted to enroll at a cost of only $50 per person. By not having a traditional fund-raiser with an expensive keynote speaker (expected cost of up to $2,000), our chapter was able to benefit significantly. The net income for the seminar fund-raiser was $2,200. With this profit, our Psi Chi chapter was able to send 11 individuals on graduate school visits to Denver and Greeley, Colorado. This financial benefit placed less stress on our chapter than with our other, smaller fund-raisers and freed up time for members to participate in service activities on campus and in the community. Additionally, Psi Chi officers received academic and scholarly opportunities as a result of the fund-raising seminar. The officers collaborated with Dr. Fritson to create a presentation describing the seminar and presented it at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association (RMPA) regional conference in Albuquerque, NM, in April of 2009. Upon completion of their presentation, the Psi Chi officers were asked to write an article for Eye on Psi Chi. Hence, the seminar fund-raiser provided many opportunities and experiences for the Psi Chi officers.
Conducting your Chapter’s Seminar
If you conduct your own seminar, you can change the topic every year to encourage attendance by previous participants and to have a reliable source of chapter income. Our chapter members will conduct another seminar this winter using the same shared workload as we did before, but we will off offer a different topic; possibly a topic that was requested on evaluation forms in the first seminar. Our chapter is looking forward to conducting this successful fund-raising opportunity again. We encourage any chapter members looking for new fund-raising ideas to put your heads together and go for it. Fund-raising no longer has to be a dirty word!