November 19, 2022

In a First, APA Honors Filipino Adventist Psychologist

Rhalf Guanco received the Citizen Psychologist Award for his mental health initiatives.

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review
[Photo: courtesy of Rhalf Guanco]

The American Psychological Association (APA) granted its Citizen Psychologist Award to professor and researcher Rhalf Jayson F. Guanco, of the Adventist University of the Philippines. Guanco received the award in August 2022 in Minneapolis, United States, according to a Society for General Psychology (APA Division 1) announcement.

According to APA, 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. The first Filipino Adventist psychologist to receive this esteemed honor is Guanco.

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

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

More and more members of the church and other communities in the SSD territory are realizing how important it is to take control of 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.

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 teaches 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.

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Rhalf Guanco leads a community endeavor of the Mental Health initiative in the Southern Asia-Pacific region. [Photo: courtesy of Rhalf Guanco]

Guanco was born in Narra, Palawan, the third son of Lorna Ferrer Guanco and the late Romulo Salcedo Guanco. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree 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, graduating magna cum laude.

Additionally, he maintains active membership in several national and international associations, including the American Psychological Association, the 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. 

Guanco is also the Adventist Mental Health Association president and a mental health and assessment consultant for the Mental Health Initiative of 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,” Guanco said. “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.”

Guanco said he 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 intervention, such as family problems, academic difficulties, and other clinical problems.

One of his favorite quotes from Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White 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” (Gsopel Workers, p. 331). Guanco holds the view that those who love Christ will go to carry out his works and serve people selflessly until He comes.

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.