Improving Outcomes in Juvenile Drug Court
We have partnered with a local juvenile drug court (JDC) to evaluate the individual, family, and JDC system-related factors that contribute to outcomes for offenders in JDC. JDC is a docket within the juvenile court that focuses on juvenile offenders who have problems with alcohol or other drugs. JDC courts maintain close oversight of each case through frequent status hearings with youth and their families, as well as close collaboration with team members from treatment programs, the justice system, social services, schools, and law enforcement.
Our project involves evaluating youths and their families and tracking JDC-related outcomes (e.g., drug test results, new offenses, program completion). The overall goal of this project is to determine changes that could improve the rate of successful program completion for youths in JDC. One specific area of concern is how to better engage families to participate in the program and help their child be successful in JDC. Additionally, as of summer 2018, we have contracted with the JDC to have a USM Clinical Psychology student provide psychological assessment and intervention services through a new externship position. We will be studying the implementation and effectiveness of these new services as we continue to work with the JDC.
The JDC study is supported in part by the Society for Community Research and Action (APA Division 27).
Impulsivity and Risky Behavior among At-risk Adolescents
We work with a military-style residential program that serves adolescents who have dropped out of school and are not employed. Because they have not finished high school and are also not working, these youths are at risk for developing problems with substance abuse, delinquency, and other negative outcomes. Many of them have already engaged in some of these behaviors. Our initial work with this program focused on learning about risky behaviors among these youths and relating these behaviors to characteristics like impulsivity and exposure to stressors. One of our early findings was that youths in the program report significant difficulties with emotion regulation and impulsivity, so we provided a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills training group for select groups of youths at the facility for two years. We have since discontinued the DBT program, which was supported in part by a Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology Varda Shoham Clinical Science Training Initiative grant and a Proposal Development Grant from USM's Vice President for Research, but we continue to collect self-report data from these youths and to gather information from their program files.
Associations between Stress and Risky Behavior in College Students
We are studying how exposure to stressors interacts with distress tolerance ability in the prediction of substance use and other risky behaviors in college students. Students come into the lab to complete a questionnaire, an interview, and a computer-based task. The questionnaires and computer task tell us about the students' characteristics, and the interview covers their exposure to stressful life events. Students are then invited back to the lab 6 months later for a follow-up. We are interested in learning what characteristics at time 1 are associated with risky behavior by time 2. We are also interested in cross-sectional associations between variables like impulsivity, distress tolerance, and psychological symptoms. This study will help us identify predictors and correlates of risky behaviors in college students, and might suggest appropriate interventions to prevent or reduce these problems.
Diet and Substance Use in College Students
This study is a collaboration with Dr. Katherine Serafine's neuroscience lab at the University of Texas- El Paso. We are asking college students to complete a pre-test survey about their substance use, typical diet, and other factors. We then have them complete a week of daily diaries about their diet and substance use. We are interested in seeing if certain dietary patterns are linked with substance use because there is some non-human animal data suggesting that this may be the case. If we identify a pattern, Dr. Serafine will begin a study that aims to test the mechanism by which diet may influence substance use in non-human animals.
Perceptions of Mental Health Services
We are interested in understanding how the public perceives mental health services, as this is critical for dissemination of psychological science and for getting services to the people who need them. To this end, we have examined perceptions and expectations about psychotherapy and therapists among non-treatment-seeking adults and we are currently collecting equivalent data from parents in an effort to better understand parent perceptions and how they might facilitate or limit children's access to care. These projects are a collaboration with Dr. Joye Anestis's lab in the adult track of our program at USM and Dr. Jacob Finn of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.
Preventing Campus Sexual Assault and Substance Misuse
Our lab is part of a national multi-site randomized controlled trial of a primary prevention program to reduce sexual assault and substance abuse on college campuses. During the 2017-2018 academic year we collected questionnaire data and led groups of first year students at USM through the program. We followed them for one year post-intervention and are conducting an additional round of online-only data collection with USM students in fall 2019.
This study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R44 DA 039602-03).