SEHD Faculty/Student Collaborative Research Projects Examine Telemental Health Training and the Impact of Self-Care Infused Curriculum

SEHD Faculty/Student Collaborative Research Projects Examine Telemental Health Training and the Impact of Self-Care Infused Curriculum

student and faculty research team

Ashley Evans ’23, Abigail Side ’22, Isabella DelVecchio ‘24, and Paula Gill Lopez, PhD

Each year School of Education and Human Development faculty and students engage in meaningful research projects, often presenting at national conferences. The following details two of those projects from this past academic year.

Telemental Health Training in Counselor Education: A Qualitative Study

It’s no secret that the pandemic has disrupted clinical experiences for the last two years, forcing students, and the placements in which they work, to get creative in providing students with the experiences they need for their professional development. In many cases, in-person counseling sessions were replaced by telehealth services, with clients logging in for video chats.

Jocelyn Novella, PhD, assistant professor of counselor education, has long been an advocate for telemental health services as an avenue to provide care. She and fellow faculty member Dilani Perera, PhD, LPC NCC, MAC, chair and professor of counselor education, teamed up with students and used the pandemic’s disruption to assess the curriculum to ensure that students are well-prepared to serve clients through telemental health services. The research was supported by the Kathleen McGuinness Mentorship program, a fund established to provide assistance for Fairfield faculty/student research and mentorship and student leadership development opportunities.

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Casey DelBasso ’15 interviewing Lucy Edwards MA’22 and T.J. Debicella MA’22 at the 2022 Innovative Research Symposium.

“We polled graduate students who had begun in-person clinicals who then had to suddenly stop in March, 2020 and switch to video sessions,” explained Dr. Novella. “Since they had both experiences (in-person and online delivery of counseling), they were in a good position to know the pros and cons of each delivery method. We found that students had a lot of questions about emergency protocols online, such as what to do on an online call if the client is suicidal. Issues like privacy and consent came up often.”

The students collected data and used qualitative research methods to inform best practices

“We’ve used this information to transform our training process,” said Dr. Novella. This fall, for example, students will practice building relationships with clients and role play scenarios online as well as in person.

The research team, including students T.J. Debicella MA‘22, Lisi Ewert MA’22, and Lucy Edwards MA’22 presented their findings at Fairfield’s annual Innovative Research Symposium and will continue work this summer towards the goal of preparing a paper for publication in a counselor education journal.

Anatomy of a Self-Care Infused Graduate Program

School psychologists tend to have one of the highest burnout rates of all mental health professionals. “They are ‘on’ all day, all week, solving problems,” explained Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, director of the School Psychology Program. “I’ve had alumni tell me they didn’t know the job would be this stressful.”

Dr. Gill Lopez believes that graduate programs should stress the importance of self-care and worked with five students as they embarked on a qualitative data analysis study to determine the positive benefits of their self-care infused school psychology program.

To begin their study, “we examined existing student documents such as course evaluation data, student reflections on internships, and admissions data,” explained Ashley Evans ’23, a member of the team. “We looked for common themes and keywords that both explicitly mentioned the phrase ‘self-care,’ or implied any aspect of it, such as practicing mindfulness or having gratitude.”

Their research led them to study system change, one individual at a time.

“We found that a lot of our interns internalized what was taught in class and brought it to their internship sites,” Evans continued. “One student started a Wellness Wednesday lunch group for staff, another led a school-wide intervention called ‘12 Days of Self-Care,’ and another presented self-care professional development to a group of teachers.” It was clear that students not only recognized the importance of self-care, they carried those lessons forward and taught them to others.

The other students on the research team were Micaela Catanzaro ’22, Isabella DelVecchio ‘24, Abigail Side ’22, and Erica Spino ’22. The group presented their findings at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) conference in Boston, Mass. last February and at the Innovative Research Symposium.

Tags:  SEHD

Last modified: 06-13-22 9:04 AM

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