Iowa University's Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Program Utilizes Intelligent Video Solutions in Launch of New Program in Order to Teach and Train Students

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Mount Mercy University uses Intelligent Video Solutions' IP video system to hone students’ clinical skills in its Marriage and Family Clinic.

Based on the notes Dr. Lyle has entered on recorded video using the IVS system, he will be able to quickly review the session with the student therapist.

The IVS observational video system at Mount Mercy University enables Dr. Lyle and other faculty members to more accurately supervise student therapists during client interview sessions.

The IVS system provides real-time training based on easily accessible real-time data.

When Cedar Rapids–based Mount Mercy College approached Randall Lyle to set up and lead the new Master of Arts degree in the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Program, among his specifications for joining the faculty was that the new program “had to offer a clinic and it had to be wired for event video.”

Dr. Lyle’s requirement that an observational video system be a key part of this graduate program coincides with the mission of Mount Mercy.

The approach of this 85-year-old institution is to provide small, hands-on classes for its 1,800 students with meaningful faculty interaction. This new Masters program is part of college’s ambitious transformation into Mount Mercy University.

The MFT faculty consists of Lyle and Dr. Jacob Christenson, who is the assistant director of the program. The two conducted the video system search and evaluation.

At Lyle’s former position, where he was clinical director of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, the department utilized video as a teaching tool. His experience with this system provided the background he and Christenson needed to select and customize a video system for Mount Mercy.

They evaluated two systems for ease of use and editing/retrieval capabilities. Based on the features that matched their application and budgetary needs, they selected IVS.

Connie Snitker, Director of Technology Operations, and Paul McGinnes, the department’s hardware technician, worked with IVS company president Kevin Marti to bring up the system. As a team they dealt with issues of connectivity, network configuration, and the capacity of servers back at the main campus. McGinnis credited IVS with “responding and coming up with fixes quickly and effectively.”

Mount Mercy offers the only program in Iowa that is training entry-level MFT practitioners, having the sole Iowa MFT clinic that is fully staffed by student therapists who are under the supervision of licensed MFT therapists.

“Our curriculum trains student therapists to look at all components of a relationship, and now the clinic provides an opportunity for students to practice those skills,” says Lyle.

For the 150 to 200 sessions conducted at MFT clinic during a typical week, the IVS system (http://www.ipivs.com) plays a big role helping students develop their skills. Under the old method, students produced a written case report after each session, telling supervisors what they had observed and what they had done.

These reports can be very subjective, relying on the students’ recall ability. The new IVS system provides the supervisor a drop-down menu to tag each session with data such as supervisor name, session type, student name, and disorder description for rapid future reference.

The facility has ten suites comprising an interview room and an observation room separated by a wall with a one-way mirror. Each interview room has a PTZ camera and a fixed IP (internet protocol) camera. The audio/video signal resides on the building’s network and is recorded by an IVS recorder servers in the data room.

The supervisors can make notes on each interaction while viewing the session and insert markers onto the database for later reference. A mouse gives them control of the PTZ camera position from the supervisory room or through any computer connected into the system to focus on hand gestures, facial expressions, or other nuances. The fixed camera provides an overall view. The IVS system enables hassle-free recording management by providing easy, push-button control.

“It’s hard to read an emotion, so once the student completes the session,” says Lyle, “we can review the footage. The review prompts the student’s recall as to what was the significance at that moment and what the student was thinking. We all have mental filters that can affect recall, and the video gives an objective presentation of what went on during the interview. The approach creates open dialogue and multi-dimensionality.”

Students quickly discover the system is an important means of improving their professional skills. Lyle points out that for all students there is a break-in period. “At first they are terrified of being on video; they get used to it and eventually, they love it.”

By reviewing the video immediately after the session, supervisors can give students direct feedback on how to adjust their interviewing style. For example, students may need to lean in more, lower their tone of voice, or change the pacing of a session.

The user-friendly system enables students to look at the video repeatedly to see for themselves how to improve their technique. Since this approach removes most subjectivity from the leaning process, over time faculty members improve their coaching abilities as well.

Both faculty and students can simply enter keywords to search the library of recordings. Students become comfortable with the IVS system’s browser-based, easy-to-use software in a short time.

The department archives video over the course of the student’s one-year clinical practicum and preserves it until they graduate. Students use this raw video to put together a presentation about their progress at year’s end. Old techniques for putting these presentations together, though invaluable, were time-consuming.

The IVS system design provides a video database with custom meta data fields for easy file lookup. Once students log in, they can quickly search their clinical video database, download to workstations or laptops, and easily create professional presentations using the system’s simple, built-in video editor.

Throughout the year as students review their sessions, they can insert their own markers for the content database search. The play-back synchronizes footage from the two interview room cameras. Lyle estimates that the system enables students to save 50% of their valuable time.

To meet the needs of this growing university, the IVS system can grow with it. Snitker says that Mount Mercy is considering wiring the campus for video for the nursing school and for school events. “We want to do a better job of coordinating and training, and the IVS enables us to accomplish this.”

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Kevin Marti
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