News

News

Meet Dr. Jessamyn Schaller, Our New Berger Institute Affiliate

Dr. Schaller brings a unique perspective to the Berger Institute. With a background in labor and public economics, her interest in the economic determinants of health and well-being align well with the Institute’s mission of looking at the individual and social factors that influence personal development and thriving families. “I believe that the best way to gain insight into these is with cross-disciplinary interaction and collaboration. . . I can bring knowledge about how each family’s economic environment and individual economic status contributes to those same outcomes, in particular, how economic circumstances interact with psychology and social environments in influencing health and well-being,” states Schaller. Having worked and studied at such institutions as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, University of California-Davis, and University of Arizona, Dr. Schaller brings an expertise and skillset that is sure to foster creative collaboration.

Currently, Dr. Schaller is studying how adverse health and wealth events in older households affect different generations within families, the complexities of family eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and how media information/misinformation influences parents’ choices about their children’s health. “I look forward to getting to know both faculty and students across campus whose research areas overlap with my own. I also look forward to getting to know CMC students and incorporating them into my research agenda as collaborators,” shares Schaller.

Learn more about Dr. Schaller here. To read more about the Berger Institute mission, click here or visit us at the lab at Bauer North, Suite 224.

Resilience Isn’t Always Good, and We Want to Know Why

Resilience, or being able to successfully adapt and succeed despite adversity, is generally seen as positive. However, recent research suggests that there may be physical health costs with resilience due to chronic stress associated with trying to strive in the context of high risk. Recently, Dr. Stacey Doan and Dr. Tuppett Yates (UC Riverside) were awarded a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to examine the health costs of resilience.

The multi-year funded study will focus on: 1) links between academic achievement, poverty-related risks, and adolescent health in diverse ethnic groups (particularly Latinx youth), 2) factors that may help to reduce health costs of academic resilience in the face of poverty, and 3) testing whether poor sleep is part of the link between resilience and health problems.

Dr. Doan and Dr. Yates are tackling this problem with multiple methods (surveys, school data, interviews, hard biological data, etc.) and multiple informants (parents, teachers, etc.) over a long period of time to more fully understand information that is crucial for helping adolescents during a vulnerable time in their lives. “The grant allows us to follow-up on children who have been followed since 4 years of age. We hope to understand how their early experiences may shape their adolescent years. In particular, we want to know in what ways does resilience exert an influence. By understanding mechanisms, we can lay the foundation for future intervention and prevention efforts,” said Dr. Doan.

Learn more about other research from the Berger Institute.

Finally, the Poets: Art(ists) as the Pulse of Collective Healing and Justice

“The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets” (James Baldwin). Terisa Siagatonu (poet, activist, therapist) offered this quote as part of the night’s thesis for her presentation at the Ath on Tuesday, October 1st. Coming from the perspective of a 1st generation, queer, Pacific Islander woman, Terisa discussed her role as an award-winning poet and artist in being a voice that reflects what society is feeling and being an activist for healing and change.

In addition to reciting powerful poetry that filled the room with snaps of agreement, Terisa shared her background of how she navigated the 1st generation struggle and how she found her voice through poetry. She discussed the risks of being an artist, especially this day and age with social media and increased vulnerability. Despite this, she says, “the cost of my silence was way too high of a price to pay… it was affecting my whole well-being”. It opened up conversations with her family that would otherwise have been kept closed, and it helped her to find the transformative power of poetry in trauma. With a degree in marriage and family therapy, Terisa has a unique perspective of how creativity and artistry can be combined with healing. She not only teaches this to small groups, but speaks out as a member of society, following and reflecting current events and emotions. She shares how poetry is becoming more popular now than ever – it’s economic and easy to access, it grabs attention, and it forces you to be creative with what you want to say while challenging you to be intentional with your words. But the benefits don’t stop at there: “Our health improves when we have agency over our voice and control of our narrative… and not just in art,” states Terisa. Her goal right now is to find ways to not only have poetry impact the individual and the larger community by using voice to address change, but to address the root cause of current issues.

To keep track of Berger Institute events, click here. To learn more about Terisa Siagatonu, click here.

Translating Evidence into Practice: Research and Community Perspectives on Adapting Treatments for Diverse Children and Families

On Monday, September 23rd, Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum and the Berger Institute welcomed Dr. Anna S. Lau in giving an eye-opening, evening presentation on the research-to-practice gap for evidence-based practice in mental health. Dr. Lau is a child clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. In her presentation, Dr. Lau focused on the current views of evidence-based practice in mental health, the trouble with getting evidence-based research into practice while serving diverse families, and studies on how evidence-based practices can be adapted to be more culturally responsive.

“Effect sizes fall when evidence-based practices move from research to practice settings,” states Dr. Lau. She shares that many of these studies are from a specific sample of people from university settings who are somewhat similar. These researched, evidence-based practices, while very effective with the university samples, may not fare as well with the varying and more complex needs of clients from the larger community. Many practitioners in response may either adapt the evidence-based practices, possibly compromising its effectiveness, they may discard the evidence and rely on their expertise, or they may ignore the complex needs of their clients and rely too much on the research. In studying this, Dr. Lau found that many community therapists actually make pretty good calls when adapting the research, such as lengthening the pacing or omitting small components, with the integrity of the evidence-based practice still intact. Dr. Lau and others “want to give community therapists more support in leaning into the evidence-based practices” and how it can be adapted to fit their clients’ needs.

To keep up with Berger Institute events, click here. For the CMC Athenaeum speaker schedule, click here.

Meet Our New Research Coordinator, Jessica Vicman!

Stop by and give a warm welcome to Jessica, Berger Institute’s new Research Coordinator. Jessica serves as the Lab Manager for the research arm of the Institute. She will be hiring and training Research Assistants, helping with study recruitment, delving into data analysis, and helping to publicize the research at the Institute.

Through working at multiple research labs before graduating with her Psychology degree from Berkeley in 2018, Jessica developed a strong interest in the study of emotion regulation, mental health, and interpersonal relationships. “It’s really interesting seeing how they all intertwine,” says Jessica, who described this interest as really blooming under her mentor, Dr. Ariel Starr, a professor at the University of Washington.

Upon seeing the open position at the Institute, Jessica was immediately interested: “This is definitely hitting almost all of the key points I have in my research interests,” shares Jessica. “I’m really excited to see the results. . .to look at the hard science data like cortisol and blood pressure and all of these things, and then linking it to mental health, I feel like is such a good strength, and it’s where the field needs to go.” Jessica is also very excited to work with Dr. Doan and Dr Smiley (at the AMH Care lab). “They are such strong women, and I get really excited when they’re teaching me something,” says Jessica.

If you would like to talk to Jessica more, she can be reached at jesvicman@cmc.edu or by stopping by the Institute office at Bauer North 224. “My door is always open if [there are] questions about clinical experience, research experience, the Marvel Universe, etc.” smiles Jessica.