Elisabet Rodríguez Camón: "We must strengthen the critical capacity of the students"
Education is not just one of the most important and complex social processes. Through it you can modify entire cultures and, of course, change the way of thinking and acting of the people who inhabit them.
That is why the teaching and education is an area that can be approached from different disciplines, many of which tend more and more bridges of dialogue towards pedagogy. Psychology, of course, is one of them .
Interview with Elisabet Rodríguez Camón, child and adolescent psychologist
To know first hand the point where psychology and education are played, we interviewed Elisabet Rodríguez Camón , that in addition to collaborating in Psychology and Mind He has experience in both psycho-pedagogy and child-youth psychology and in psychological care for adults.
What has been your professional career up to the present? What projects are you currently working on?
I started my professional activity in the field of psychology after performing the practices of the Bachelor in the Unit of Eating Disorders at the Hospital Mútua de Terrassa. That period of time helped me to opt professionally through the clinical path in the cognitive-behavioral current, so I prepared the PIR exams for three years. Although I did not obtain the position of resident, I considerably strengthened my theoretical knowledge on the field of clinical psychology. Later I spent a year working on the development and development of various psychological prevention projects for victims of traffic accidents and began to make my first individual psychological interventions in patients with anxiety-related symptoms.
Currently, I work as a psychologist at the Center d'Atenció Psicopedagògica Estudi (Sant Celoni), working as a child and adolescent psychologist, as an adult psychologist and as an educational psychologist, although I have been collaborating in different psychological care centers for more than three years. In addition, since last April, I am in a project-agreement of Center Estudi with Social Services of the City of Sant Antoni de Vilamajor, offering psychological therapy to users demanding the service. All this is combined with the collaboration in your Digital Magazine "Psychology and Mind" and the development of the Final Master's Thesis for the Master's Degree in Clinical Psychopedagogy, which is entitled: "Incorporation of Mindfulness Techniques in the school curriculum: psychological effects on students ».
Since you have been researching about the practice of Mindfulness, in what sense do you think that your techniques can be useful in the educational field?
The truth is that this field is still at a very early stage in terms of the study of the effects of this type of techniques in the educational context. Until now, Mindfulness has been closely linked to clinical psychology and to the application in the adult population; between 1980 and the year 2000, some 1,000 references to Mindfulness were published, while between 2000 and 2012 the figure was around 13,000.
With regard to the school population, most of the research carried out internationally belong to the last decade (and in Spain are even more recent) which in science is a very short period to assess results thoroughly. Even so, in most of them the findings are aimed at concluding numerous benefits achieved in the student body intervened in terms of measures of attention and concentration capacity, cognitive skills in general, as well as greater empathic ability and higher level of general well-being, and even lower aggressiveness rates. In any case, the publications converge on the need that the studies should be complemented by longer-term follow-up assessments after the intervention and that they should have a greater number of representative population samples to be able to validate a generalization of the findings. obtained. The results are very promising, in short, but more studies are needed to corroborate them.
The tendency of the educational system to give great importance to examinations is criticized, in which the correction is made assuming that there is only one correct answer for each question, which can serve to reward the rigidity in the way think. What position do you hold in this debate?
Talking about the education system in a uniform way would be unfair to the teaching staff. In a slow but progressive way, the teaching group is committed to evaluation systems different from the traditional ones (which are associated with a more finalist character) such as self-evaluation, co-evaluation, hetero-evaluation or peer evaluation, among others.Now, it is true that the Educational Administration does not seem to support innovations in the field of evaluation as a learning tool. The examinations and external tests introduced by the LOMCE are examples of this.
In the same way, to think that the school is the only educational agent that has responsibility for the development of rigidity in thought would not be completely accurate either, since the influences that an individual receives from the different environments where he interacts are very relevant in the configuration of one's reasoning ability. Creativity, for example, is a concept intrinsically incompatible with an inflexible style of thinking and its main determinants are both cognitive and affective, namely, openness to experience, empathy, tolerance for ambiguity and other people's positions, self-esteem positive, high motivation and self-confidence, etc.
These aspects must be developed jointly also from the family, therefore, this educational agent and the values that this transmits to the child are highly relevant and should be in line with the factors indicated above.
How would you describe the changes produced in the conceptualization of the current educational system compared to the traditional one? Do you think there has been a significant evolution in this area?
Undoubtedly. I think that for a couple of decades, especially since the publication of Daniel Goleman's great best seller "Emotional Intelligence" and all the research that entailed that new field then, there has been a great paradigm change in terms of the way understand education today. Since then, it has begun to take as relevant another type of learning such as cognitive-emotional skills, to the detriment of those more instrumental and traditional content.
There is still a long way to go but it is beginning to be seen how the emotional variables condition the academic performance and the performance of the individual in their interaction environment, that is, in social relationships. An example of this would be once again the rise of the incorporation of Mindfulness techniques and emotional intelligence content in the classroom.
To what would you attribute the increase in the incidence of learning disorders in children? Do you think there is an overdiagnosis?
My opinion on this issue is somewhat ambivalent. Obviously, I am convinced that a part of the increase in diagnoses is due to the advancement of science and the fact that psychopathologies are known today whose nosologies at the beginning and middle of the last century went unnoticed, were underestimated or mistaken. Recall that initially autism was described as a kind of child psychosis, until Leo Kanner differentiated it in 1943. However, I also think that recently is going to the other extreme, in that there are cases in which diagnoses are granted but not sufficient criteria are met both quantitatively and qualitatively. At this point I see a clear pressure from the pharmaceutical industry to try to maintain a high volume of diagnoses that allow them a greater economic benefit, as with the diagnosis of ADHD, for example.
On the other hand, as I said before, in a considerable proportion of the detected cases both the diagnosis of learning disorder and the nature of the evolution observed in the child is significantly influenced by emotional factors. Many times, low self-esteem or self-concept, lack of self-confidence and motivation of achievement, difficulty in emotional regulation, etc., undermine the achievement of the main goals in the intervention of learning disorders, usually relative to difficulties in reading and writing and calculation. Therefore, my opinion is that we should also focus on analyzing the factors that cause these emotional deficits, while working to improve the cognitive abilities mainly affected, obviously.
If you had to mention a series of values in which today the children are educated and they did not have as much prominence in the educational centers of 20 years ago ... what would they be?
From my point of view, and derived from the experience that has brought me to work closely with schools, we can differentiate very clearly the values that are intended to be transmitted from the educational context to those that prevail in the most personal or family environment. In the educational centers I observe a great teaching work that tries to compensate for the harmful influence that can be derived from the media, social networks, the capitalist economic system that surrounds us, etc.
I could say that the faculty with whom I relate daily is very clear that the student of today should not be a passive receiver of instrumental knowledge, but should play an active role both in the acquisition of this type of knowledge and in being educated to live in community effectively.Examples of this would be the enhancement of his capacity for critical reasoning and all those skills that will allow him to establish satisfactory interpersonal relationships such as empathy, respect, commitment, responsibility, tolerance to frustration, etc.
In the case of the family, I think that, although little by little the importance of incorporating these adaptive values mentioned is beginning to increase, there is still a long way to go in this regard. Usually I find myself in cases in which the parents spend insufficient quality time shared with the children (although not in a premeditated way, in most cases) and this makes it difficult for the children to internalize the aforementioned skills. In my opinion, the influence of the values that characterize current society such as individualism, consumerism, competitiveness or quantitative results make it extremely difficult for families to instill learning that goes in the opposite direction at a more "micro" level.
How does society and the environment influence the way children regulate their emotions?
One of the problems that most frequently motivates the consultations in my workplace is, both in the child population and in the adult population, the poor ability in the management and adaptive expression of the emotional and lack of tolerance to frustration. This is very relevant since the reference figures for a child are their parents, and it is very complex for the child to develop adaptive psychological abilities if he does not observe them in his models to be imitated, that is, family members and educators. I believe that today's society is generating individuals that are not "resilient", understanding resilience as the ability of a person to overcome adversities quickly and effectively.
That is to say that in this society of "the immediate, of the quantitative or productive" seems to convey the message that the more roles an individual plays, the higher the level of success: professional role, role of father, role of friend, role of son / brother, role of athlete - or of all the hobbies that the person performs -, student role, etc. The desire to embrace more and more vital skills becomes an infinite loop, since in the person the desire to reach further and further away or to achieve a new objective will remain constantly latent. And evidently, the efficient assumption of so many simultaneous roles is impossible to achieve. At that moment, frustration appears, a phenomenon diametrically opposed to the resilience that I mentioned at the beginning.
For all these reasons, one of the main objectives in the interventions that I carry out in most cases is to work on the identification, the expression of the emotions and sensations of the moment, parking both the past and the future. It also prioritizes the fact of learning to detect how language determines our way of thinking (based on judgments, labels, etc.), trying to establish a balance between both elements. The philosophy that guides my work is aimed at making patients aware that it is advisable to learn to stop working with "the autopilot" and to stop "producing" constantly. Many studies defend the beneficial effects of "getting bored" a few minutes a day.
In short, I try to teach that the key lies in the awareness of a given situation, because it is what allows you to choose what kind of response is given in a conscious way, instead of reacting to a stimulus in an impulsive or automatic way. And this facilitates a greater ability to adapt to the environment that surrounds us.
The youngest population is the one that has been more intensely involved in the use of new technologies that many adults still do not understand. Do you think that fear about the way in which the "digital and technological" revolution affects us in the How to relate is more unfounded than realistic?
On this question, it is undoubtedly observable that the use of new technologies has changed our way of relating to the world in a very short period of time; The first smartphones began to be commercialized only about 15 years ago. In the matter of technology as in most aspects, from my point of view, the key is not in the concept itself, but in the use that is made of it. The technology has brought medical advances and significant positive results in psychological therapy; Virtual reality applied to anxiety disorders would be a clear example.
Even so, in the more individual setting I think that the use of new technologies is certainly unbalanced towards excessive and deregulated consumption. For example, one of the most common situations that I find in consultation refers to the use of the tablet, console or mobile phone has replaced other traditional elements such as play time in the park or the realization of a pleasant extracurricular activity as objects of punishment towards the little one.You can also see how from the adolescence stage the fact of sharing all kinds of details of personal life in social networks is constantly the order of the day. It seems that face-to-face conversations are no longer fashionable, but exclusively through the screen.
Derived from this, I think that a feeling of fear may be developing towards the idea that the uncontrolled use of this type of technological devices is increasing. However, I do not believe that the solution passes through the prohibition of its use, but rather through education for a responsible and balanced use, both on the type of content that is transmitted and in the total amount of time spent on its use. On this controversial issue, I allow myself to recommend the Black Mirror series to the interested reader; I must say that on a personal level its contents have managed to adopt a new perspective on this subject.
In what future projects would you like to embark?
Looking to the near future, I would like to guide my professional career to acquire more training in the field of the application of Mindfulness and Compassion in clinical practice. The truth is that since I chose this subject for my Master's final research my interest in this field is increasing. In addition, I would also be interested in deepening the field of learning disorders and emotional intelligence.
I believe that continuous training is an essential requirement to achieve an optimal performance of professional work, especially in the field of clinical psychology and education, so linked to scientific advances. Finally, despite the fact that I feel very comfortable doing my job in consultation, I am very interested in the research sector, although at the moment it is only an idea to assess more in the long term.