Field of Interest

Anny Ortiz’s main area of interest, and intended research, involves novel treatment approaches for psychosocial problems like mood disorders — e.g. anxiety and depression — as well as addictive behaviors. She is interested in exploring peripheral pathways for addressing underlying factors that may be contributing toward making these conditions so pervasive in today’s culture.

She aims to approach her subject of study and investigation through an evolutionary psychology lens (polyvagal theory), positioned within an overall human-behavioral ecology conceptual framework and informed by the social ecological model of human development. One of Anny’s peripheral pathways of interest is the role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and the connection between the brain and the heart (via vagus nerve innervation).

A person’s ability to self-regulate and self-soothe, through “willful” activation of the parasympathetic nervous system – the branch of the ANS in charge of the “rest and digest” or “play and engage” response as opposed to the “fight or flight” response – is also an intriguing line of research for Anny. Another area of interest includes examining the notion of whether a broad understanding of the hierarchical structure, function and organization of the human nervous system can serve as a practical strategy for shaping behavior in flexible, adaptive and innovative ways (self-directed neuroplasticity). Also, whether or not this can result in improved psychosocial treatment outcomes and decreased addiction relapse rates.

Education and Relevant Experience

Over the past 15 years, Anny has worked at a variety of mental health programs. These included a residential treatment center, a wilderness therapy program and a therapeutic boarding school in Mexico, the U.S. and Costa Rica, respectively. Her work has focused on ecopsychology practices and the psycho-educational aspects of treating anxiety disorders and substance abuse issues in adolescents. In more recent years she began working with young adults experiencing chemical dependency, particularly to opiates, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anny has a B.A. in psychology from Arizona State University, where she had the opportunity to volunteer at The Mind-Body Health Lab. As a research assistant there, she investigated the effects of beliefs on symptom perceptions, physiological markers and health behaviors. She was also the teaching assistant of a community psychology” course that evolved intowhat is nowthe University-Community Partnership for Social Action Research Network.

Anny is currently pursuing a master’s degree on the way to a doctorate in Human Ecology through the Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.