Director of Psychology Explains Shepherd Center's Approach to Caring for the Body and Mind
Laurie Nash, Ph.D., ABPP, discusses the role of psychology in rehabilitation.
Laurie Nash, Ph.D., ABPP, is a board-certified rehabilitation psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist who joined Shepherd Center in 2009. She became director of Shepherd Center’s Psychology Department in 2016.
Q: How soon do patients and their families begin working with you and your team?
A: We start working with each patient from day one. We’re here to meet them and help them get settled in. Transferring from another hospital, it’s scary to start over. It’s about building trust because this is a whole new adventure they’re starting here.
Q: What’s your strategy in helping to alleviate those fears for new patients so they can focus on getting to work?
A: The most important thing is remembering that every patient is different. Some patients want to know everything going on, and everything that’s coming down the line. Others want to just go day by day, one thing at a time. It’s more about getting to know each patient rather than following rigid protocols. I love that Shepherd Center treats patients on an individual, case-by-case basis rather than providing the same care to all. That’s a big part of why I’m here!
Q: What’s a service your team provides that can get overlooked?
A: Something that surprises patients and families is how many educational group classes we offer, in addition to individual and family care. We address practical issues like returning to work, taking care of children, or returning to driving. But we also offer male and female sexuality and intimacy classes. We provide group counseling classes, group family therapy and discussions on changing family roles. There are pain management education classes that cover medicinal and non-medicinal interventions, and substance use education classes. We recommend them all. Research shows people have difficulty with a lot of these areas after their physical rehabilitation, and if they don’t start getting the education and support here, they may not get it when they return home.
Q: What stands out to you about Shepherd Center’s Psychology Department?
A: We are unique in the nation in providing mental health services to every single patient on a routine basis. A lot of other places only do consultations as prescribed, or in case of emergencies. I appreciate that it’s a standard here – and not just for patients, but for families, too. Patients tend to have better outcomes when families or loved ones are involved. We’re all in it together.
EDUCATION / PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
Bemidji State University
Bachelor of Arts
(Poughkeepsie, New York)
Master of Arts
Yeshiva University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine
(New York City)
Clinical Neuropsychology at Shepherd Center
Member, American Psychological Association
Chair, APA’s Practice Committee (advocacy and public policy)
Past chair, APA’s Mentorship Committee (peer mentorship)
- A native of Farmington, Minnesota, Laurie’s favorite family tradition is going to Minnesota Vikings football games around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Laurie won the 2016 Early Career Practice Award from the American Psychological Association, Division 22. This annual, national award is given to individuals in their first 10 years since licensure who have made a significant contribution to practice in rehabilitation psychology.
- She maintains her own health and wellness by getting outside often. Her favorite Atlanta hike is Whitewater Creek Trail.
- Laurie is also a writer and a published poet.
- She and her husband just moved to a new house in the Atlanta area. Good thing, too. They are expecting their first child soon, a boy!
Interviewed by Phillip Jordan
Photos by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.