Philippines | Edward Rodriguez

The American Psychological Association (APA) Citizen Psychologist Award was given to Dr. Rhalf Jayson F. Guanco, of the Adventist University of the Philippines, in August 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

The APA Citizen Psychologist Award is granted to a person who has undertaken an initiative that addresses a challenging problem and enhances the well-being of individuals in one or more communities. Dr. Guanco is the first Filipino Adventist psychologist to receive this esteemed honor.

Candidates for recognition submit applications that demonstrate evidence of ongoing contributions, either to multiple initiatives or one project that significantly influences social justice and/or the general welfare of the community. The submissions are thoroughly evaluated by the APA Division 1 awards committee. 

In 2017, Guanco collaborated with the Southern Asia-Pacific Division's (SSD) Health Ministries Department's mental health team under the direction of Dr. Lalhaine Alfanoso, SSD Health director, to create several mental health curricula and programs that may be used throughout the division. These gave a platform for additional discussion of what mental health is and from which to engage communities to inform people about the value of mental health. 

More and more members of the church and other communities in the SSD territory are realizing how vital it is to take control of our mental health in the face of the pandemic. Three mental health summits have already been held since 2020 as part of the SSD's advocacy for bettering people's social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being.

Dr. Guanco, also known as "Doc RJ," is a practicing clinical psychologist and psychometrician. He is currently employed as an assistant professor in the Adventist University of the Philippines' undergraduate and graduate psychology programs, where he instructs major courses in psychology. As an educator, researcher, motivational speaker, and clinician, he blends his educational background, clinical experiences, life experiences, and spirituality to inspire others to reach their full potential and bring them closer to Christ. 

Dr. Guanco was born in Narra, Palawan, the third son of Romulo Salcedo Guanco (deceased) and Lorna Ferrer Guanco. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Palawan State University, a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Adventist University of the Philippines, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology from that same institution before graduating magna cum laude.

Additionally, Dr. Guanco maintains active membership in several national and international associations, including the American Psychological Association, Psychological Association of the Philippines, International Association of Applied Psychology, and is currently the newsletter editor and representative of the Philippines in the International Neuropsychological Society. Last but not least, Dr. Guanco is the Adventist Mental Health Association president and a mental health and assessment consultant for the Mental Health Initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Health Ministries Department in the SSD.

“Words can't express how thankful I am to God and to everyone who has helped me grow and develop professionally and given me support. This accomplishment is a huge milestone in my professional career, and I am humbled and truly honored by this. I never thought I'd be qualified, but God has a mysterious way of working things out,” Dr. Guanco said.

Dr. Guanco is committed to applying psychology that is supported by research in his practice. He works with children, adolescents, and adults who have behavioral problems, neurodevelopmental problems, depression, anxiety, or other mood-related disorders, as well as a variety of other problems that may require efficient intervention, such as family problems, academic difficulties, or other clinical problems. One of his favorite quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy is, "We are all woven together in the great web of humanity, and whatever we can do to benefit and uplift others will reflect in blessing upon ourselves” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 534).

Dr. Guanco holds the view that those who love Christ will go to carry out His work and serve people selflessly until He comes. The Citizen Psychologist Award committee was led by Dr. Joseph P. McFall.

The original article was published on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division website.