Dr. Alvis: Leading from the Heart and Maintaining Space for Healing in the OECS
Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D. is the epitome of local excellence. Through her work in psychology and psychotherapy, she is there to prove that it is not necessary to leave the region to receive quality mental health care and training. She helps communities reframe their mental health, rethink their healing, and build on the support rooted in Caribbean culture.
A Bermudian by birth, Grenadian by association, and Vincentian by heritage and residence, Dr. Alvis earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (Honours) with a minor in Caribbean Studies from the University of Toronto. She then attended University College London (UCL) for her Masters studies, earning a Masters in Educational Psychology from the Institute of Education (IOE). She received her Ph.D. from Syracuse University in School Psychology.
A return home to change the landscape
After completing her doctorate, the decision to return to the Caribbean was a no-brainer for the psychologist. Especially given the influence of his father who emphasized contributing to the communities that raised Dr. Alvis and his brother.
“My dad always stressed that my brother and I have been very lucky, but at the end of the day we stand on each other’s shoulders and that ‘to whom we give a lot, we expect a lot’. Of course, when you you’re young, you don’t take these things too seriously, but I think it planted the seeds of an orientation to service to others and a sense of duty to my country,” Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D . .
Since returning home, her influence has skyrocketed as community and corporate giants, including the Rotary Club, have invited her to share her transformational ideas on mental health and wellness. She has also been able to “rise as she rises” helping to create the next generation of regional psychologists and championing quality of care and accessibility in mental health – professionally and through advocacy work.
Leading mental health work through leadership
Dr. Alvis is currently president of the Grenada Psychological Association. Through her leadership, she led the continued involvement of association members in the COVID-19 response and psychosocial support such as hotlines, public service announcements, Facebook and Instagram panels and psychoeducation sessions.
His work at St. George’s University in Grenada has allowed him to successfully train 32 professional psychologists in the Masters Program in Clinical and Community Psychology. For the past 6 years, she and the program director, Dr. Arlette Herry, have taught and provided professional graduate supervision. All psychologists are specifically trained to serve throughout the region.
“Our graduates work throughout the region as scientist-practitioners in a variety of roles and it is incredibly rewarding to know that I have made a real contribution to psychological research, practice and capacity in the region through my work with them. . I even had the pleasure of working alongside my former students – now colleagues – on national and regional projects, and as reference partners”, Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D.
These days she is focusing on her private practice ‘Alvis and Associates’ where she will serve Saint Vincent and the Grenadines through a comprehensive list of psychological wellness services.
“Currently I am focused on growing my private practice and expanding my services, including through teletherapy in the OECS. I am currently working with an associate psychologist and would like to hire more soon and eventually be able to to host students who are preparing for internship or internship hours in psychology training programs I actively seek out professionals in other fields to partner on projects and explore people’s ideas about who is a psychologist, what we do and areas that can benefit from our contribution,” Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D.
Dr. Alvis is also involved in psychology advocacy at the regional level with the Caribbean Alliance of National Psychological Associations (CANPA) where she is co-chair of the Disaster Mental Health Committee (DMHC) with Dr. Peter Douglas-Weller.
“As Co-Chair of DMHC, I contributed to efforts leading to the historic signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between CANPA and the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in April 2021. I look forward to continuing work associated with disasters, emergencies and climate crises through similar ongoing agreements with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies -Red (IFRC)”, Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D.
Given her passion for the region, her commitment and her expertise, Dr. Alvis is well positioned to offer the best ideas on how we can continue to close the gap in mental health accessibility and resources.
“Any effort to break the stigma around mental health issues in the region should be on many fronts, but I have a few areas that I think are particularly important.
Look beyond the prism of pathology
Rather than focusing on mental ‘illness’ in a reactive way, there needs to be more emphasis on prioritizing mental ‘wellness’ as an essential component of overall health and that we don’t have no need to talk about it through the prism of pathology or as something unusual or unusual. taboo. Being able to talk comfortably and openly about our thoughts and feelings is essential, and achieving mental “fitness” should be a priority for everyone,” Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D.
We can learn from children
“Children and young people are essential catalysts for change and have a much broader understanding of mental health and a more developed vocabulary for it through their exposure to various types of media.
Normalizing conversations about mental health with young people, teaching them about emotions and self-regulation, and establishing ideas and practices around empathy, compassion and kindness are important activities for parents, teachers and schools, and anyone who works with them.
Children and youth should also have the opportunity to talk about their experiences, voice their opinions, and meaningfully participate in mental health-focused programs,” Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D.
Honoring the role of religion and our history
“Religious faith is very important to many people, but it is often presented as being at odds with seeking the services of a therapist. It would help if faith-based organizations and religious leaders were willing to partner with Psychology professionals Talking to congregants about the importance of mental health and the ability of therapists to offer services that complement those offered by the church would help dispel the misconception that they cannot not coexist.
Also, it is important to emphasize our history in regards to slavery and colonization, and how this affects our unique Caribbean psychology in the present day regarding ideas such as (but not limited to ) power and authority, race and color and sex. and sexuality.
I think we underestimate the role of our history in shaping our societies and therefore the mental health issues that arise within them. If we don’t know our past, how can we understand ourselves in the present? Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D.
Community Mental Health Care
“Focusing on developing community psychosocial skills and supports that are locally authentic and effective by leveraging trusted community members/religious leaders/elders rather than relying on specialist care from outside is essential to both for normalizing discussions about mental health, as well as ensuring that these supports are sustainable.
There are never enough trained psychologists to help everyone…but most people don’t need a psychologist! The Caribbean is incredibly resilient and the right people could be positioned as mental health “influencers” with basic skills and vocabulary to help others in the community and spread the message,” Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D .
Mental health and social issues
“Recognition that mental health issues do not develop in a vacuum and that many cases are exacerbated by issues of marginalization and oppression, as deprivation is deeply needed. Part of the problem is that we view mental health problems as manifestations of individual “weakness” rather than the product of interactions between nature and nurture. This is not specifically addressed by psychology, but even by how we are taught about social issues in school and how we talk about the people who are affected by them,” Alisa Viola Alvis, Ph.D.
Dr. Alvis can be contacted at [email protected], or by phone or WhatsApp Chat at the practice number which is +1(784)-434-2050.