“What Independent Monitoring For Quality (IM4Q) allows us to do,” says Chatham Professor of Counseling Psychology Anthony Goreczny, PhD, “is to help improve the quality of life for people who have historically not had much choice or opportunity to do so.”
IM4Q is an information-gathering method used in Pennsylvania to improve the lives of individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability. The state has contracted with Chatham to conduct this research in Allegheny, Washington, and Greene counties. Dr. Goreczny is principal investigator for that work.
“Here’s how it works,” he says. “Each year, we receive a list—a random sample of individuals who are receiving services through Pennsylvania’s Office of Developmental Programs. Then we go out and interview them in teams of two. Typically, one of the two will be an individual with an intellectual disability (ID), or a family member of an individual with ID. We interview folks in their home, or wherever else they’d like to be interviewed, and ask them how satisfied they are with their lives, and with the services they’re receiving.”
“And we ask them an important question: what would improve your quality of life?”
“They might say that they want to go to a Pirates game, or to go to church services more often, or to take a college course of some sort,” he says. “We submit their request to the county, and the support coordinator has 45 days to take action toward making it happen.”
“When we first started, a lot of participants were interested in moving,” says Dr. Goreczny. “Now, there seems to be a movement toward empowerment and self-improvement for people with ID. Instead of just accepting their lot, they’re saying ‘I want better’ and it’s really neat. They want to take a college class, learn how to vote, become more integrated and included in the general community.”
Dr. Goreczny considers individuals with disabilities to be underserved yet rewarding populations to work with. “When it comes to people who want to go into the helping people professions, there tend to be three groups of people that they don’t want to work with: older adults, the chronically mentally ill, and people with developmental disabilities. However, research has shown that when we bring people into the fold of working with these populations during their training, it opens up a whole arena that they’d never considered working with.”
“I’ve had several people say to me that they never thought of this as a population they’d want to work with, but now it’s all they want to do.”
Dr. Goreczny estimates that over 100 Chatham students have been involved in IM4Q, both graduate and undergraduate, and their degrees of participation vary with their interest and availability. Chatham students conduct interviews, enter and analyze data, and even publish in scientific journals based on work they’ve done through the program.
“IM4Q gives them in-depth interviewing skills, and also the opportunity to do more research analysis,” he says. “Students who work on the project really feel good about it.”
One of these students is Terrie Haggey, PsyD ‘21, who came to Chatham from Maine for the Master of Psychology program and for the opportunity to work with Dr. Goreczny on the IM4Q program. She co-conducts interviews, and serves as the coordinator for IM4Q Washington county.
“Chatham was one of very few programs I found that has an emphasis on research with people with intellectual disability,” she says. “I’m already working on a couple of studies with Dr. Goreczny, and I haven’t even finished my Master’s degree yet.”
This summer, Haggey will be presenting results from a study at the annual American Psychological Association conference in Washington, DC, focusing on how the overlap of intellectual disabilities with physical or behavioral disabilities affects quality of life. “We in the United States have done very little research on this,” she says.
For Haggey’s doctoral work, she’s interested in looking at co-morbidities of mental health and intellectual disability, particularly with regard to what types of treatments individuals are getting. “It’s about healthcare equity,” she says. “Even when people with ID have access to healthcare, providers aren’t necessarily trained to work with them, so they’re maybe not getting the care that they could.”
Chatham University’s Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Counseling Psychology program is one of a small number of APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PsyD programs in the nation. The program includes three years of coursework and practicum experiences, followed by a one-year internship.