By Michele McDonald
After seeing a need for enhancing the training of psychologists in former Eastern Bloc countries, a George Mason University professor was awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant to help develop and teach in a new psychology program at a Lithuanian university.
University Professor James Maddux, an emeritus faculty member of George Mason’s Psychology Department and a senior scholar in the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, will assist with curriculum development and program evaluation for Klaipeda University’s new master’s degree program in counseling psychology. He will also teach for the third time in one of the program’s required courses. The two-week visit will take place in fall 2015.
Maddux will help train current faculty and have a lasting impact on the university’s program, according to the Fulbright proposal. He will also discuss possible faculty and student exchanges between Klaipeda and Mason.
In addition, Maddux will investigate opportunities for Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being to collaborate on well-being initiatives with Klaipeda University’s recently created Center for Research in Human Well-Being.
Maddux began traveling in Eastern Europe about four years ago to give lectures and seminars at the behest of a professor friend from Romania. In addition to Lithuania, he has visited Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia.
Maddux was struck by the lack of resources at Eastern European universities, compared to U.S. universities, and the need for improvements in psychological services in these countries that are still recovering from dictatorships more than two decades after the fall of Communism there.
“Clinical psychology was almost at a standstill in Romania during the Communist dictatorship,” says Maddux, adding that the stigma attached to mental health problems in most of these countries makes seeking help even more difficult.
But according to Maddux, dedicated professionals are changing that situation in these countries. Resource-strapped universities are working to fill the need for academically based psychological training. And although university faculty are poorly paid and carry heavy class and research loads compared to their U.S. counterparts, they and their students are eager to seek out the latest advancements in psychology.
That’s why he keeps going back. Maddux is returning this week to Lithuania to give lectures sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. “I like feeling useful, and I feel useful over there,” he says.
While the work is enriching, Maddux says the best part is meeting the people. “The people have been nothing but gracious and welcoming,” he says.
Some of his favorite leisure activities are to try new food and visit local castles in the stunning countryside. “I save time for the touristy stuff,” he adds.