Local named 2012 Psychologist of the Year

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A Belen clinical psychologist was named the 2012 Psychologist of the Year for New Mexico.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Clinical psychologist Deborah M. Okon was named the 2012 Psychologist of the Year for New Mexico by the New Mexico Psychological Association for her role in circulating information impacting New Mexican psychologists and their practices.

Deborah M. Okon was given the award by the New Mexico Psychological Association for her role in disseminating information impacting local psychologists and their practices.

“She is the most active person in the state as far as helping psychologists understand changes,” said Amelia Myer, NMPA’s executive director.

Okon, who owns a private practice in Belen on West Reinken Avenue, received this award during NMPA’s October conference.

The licensed clinical psychologist was chosen for her performance as NMPA’s federal advocacy coordinator during the past four years by the NMPA nominations committee, Myer said.

In this position, Okon communicates issues and legislation from Congress that affect psychologists throughout the state and their work environment, stated Okon’s award citation.

Without this, some psychologists may not know what’s going on in Washington, D.C., that would impact their practice in the future, Okon said.

“I do grassroots efforts to advance the practice of psychology,” Okon said.

She also informs congressional members of concerns psychologists are confronting.

“She pushes for concerns for both the psychologists and the public — people who are interested in psychological issues,” Myers said.

Serving as a federal advocacy coordinator is Okon’s way of giving back to the psychologist community as a way to thank all of those individuals who helped her along the way.

“It’s been incredibly helpful for me to network and keeping in contact with psychologists,” Okon said. “For me, this really was a nice way of giving back to them and do this for other psychologists.”

As part of running her small business in Belen, Okon learned she needed to focus on various issues impacting the practice of psychology, such as legal and payment issues.

Okon delved into researching and gathering this information when she opened her practice in 1997. Along the way, she connected with the Valencia County Small Business Development Center and two Los Lunas psychologists, whom she received help from.

“They helped me learn the ropes and then over the course of time I got to know other psychologists through the New Mexico Psychologists Association and they continued helping me learn the ropes,” she said.

Soon after, Okon began sending out emails containing this detailed information to psychologists throughout the state through a listserv for psychologists, created by NMPA for their membership.

“For me (this position), was in adjunct to what I was doing for my own practice and it’s been helpful for other psychologists, too,” Okon said.

Okon graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1992 before completing the Southwest Consortium Predoctoral Psychology Internship. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in 1994.

Later, she completed a post-doctorate internship at the Pueblo of Laguna mental health and substance abuse clinic.

She’s been teaching counseling courses part time to master’s students since 1998 at the University of Phoenix in Albuquerque.

She is also a part of the Early Career Psychologists group and holds Friday forums on military culture and eating disorders.

In the past, Okon was a clinical school psychologist for the Los Lunas Schools’ special education department.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.