My primary research area is professional development of clinicians, with an emphasis on the role of supervision and clinical training. Graduate students learn the theory of how to perform therapy in the classroom, but like learning to drive, the books can only help so much. Clinical supervisors play the critical role of guiding novice therapists through the process of gaining experience, treatment planning, bouncing back from mistakes, and honing clinical skills. At the same time, supervisors serve as gatekeepers to the profession and have to ensure students are capable of performing competent work. The tension between the roles of talent development and weeding out those unsuited for the field is felt by both supervisors and their supervisee, which can make the relationship dynamics between them complex.
Much of my work in this area has focused on the field of genetic counseling, where practitioners work with patients to help them “understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease” (National Society of Genetic Counselors). Formal research on supervision in this field is a fairly recent endeavor, and I’ve been a part of research groups that are developing supervision competencies, testing models of clinical practice and supervision, and measuring clinical outcomes. My lab is currently working on qualitative investigations of student experiences in supervision. Ultimately, my lab’s goal is to help create empirically supported methods of teaching and providing supervision to genetic counselors in training that promote well-being and clinical excellence, while reducing the risk of burnout and compassion fatigue.
Another current focus of my research lab is exploring the degree to which training for mental health practitioners in the U.S. transfers to other parts of the world. As more and more people come to the U.S. to study at our institutions, how applicable is what they learn here to their countries of origin? Answering such questions has applications in training both international and domestic therapists, as well as furthering our understanding and practice of culturally competent care.