Research Opportunities

The Clinical PsyD program in Sacramento is designed for students interested in the professional practice of clinical psychology. Recognizing that this practice must be grounded in the most current literature and research knowledge, we strive to teach students to be competent consumers of research and confident in their ability to apply this knowledge to diverse populations in diverse settings.

One of the unique aspects of the Sacramento Clinical PsyD program is the design of its dissertation sequence. The 4-semester course sequence begins in the 2nd year and is completed in the 3rd year, before students leave for internship. Utilizing a cohort model, students in the class serve as committee members, supporting each other under the supervision of the instructor, a core faculty member who serves as dissertation chair. The seminar format draws on the expertise of other students to stimulate new ideas and to offer and receive critical feedback as students progress through the dissertation process. This intensive structure has proven extremely successful in facilitating students completing the program on time.

In addition to course offerings, several faculty members lead voluntary research groups, providing opportunity for students to engage in hands on research endeavors, to present at state and national conferences, and to publish their finding. Below, please find a description of some of the current research initiatives involving students.

Health Behavior Research
Suni Petersen, Ph.D.

Listening to Dragonflies: Action Research in the Developing World
Students plan, travel to remote villages & conduct research in health behavior change

The Listening to Dragonflies Initiative is an action research project. The studies we are conducting test the model of health behavior change as it applies to the developing countries of Asia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The goal of the project is to conduct research to build a model of health behavior change in the developing world and to test the mechanisms that effectively lead to reducing infectious and parasitic disease rates in rural Vietnam. Models have included hygiene training for children in grades K through 5, blood pressure screens of elderly community members, and training village leaders and health advocates for each hamlet. This initiative is part of a course on “Conducting International Research.” To date, four trips to Vietnam have led to student involvement in four articles, a symposium at APA, six poster sessions at APA, WPA, & CPA, and one dissertation.

Immigration Stress and Blood Pressure
Why does blood pressure increase when someone moves to United States? To date, researchers believe the rise is caused by dietary change. We think that there is more that goes into the rise in hypertension than simply that.

My research team is also conducting research on Immigration Stress and its relationship to the accelerated rates of hypertension experienced by immigrants. Currently, we are assessing the relationship between hypertension and immigration stress among low-income recent immigrants from Latino countries. Two grants have supported three studies, resulting in two dissertations, two papers in review, and four poster sessions at APA, WPA, & CPA.

Sleep Promotes Health
Sleep is profoundly important both biologically and psychologically. It is our assumption that if sleep can be promoted may symptoms will be more easily addressed by other treatments.

Working with people with insomnia, my team is using a hypnosis intervention to reduce insomnia. The goal is to reduce insomnia in veterans who have PTSD so that the PTSD symptoms can be addressed more effectively through other interventions.

Diversity Research Team
Sheetal Shah, PhD & Carl Mack, PhD

The team invites all levels and interests of graduate students. Our research team is led by Drs. Sheetal Shah and Carl Mack and supported by Research Assistants Nneka Nnadozie and Christina Yeagley. We will work collectively to create and maintain a team approach and atmosphere, to develop roles and responsibilities, and short and long-term goals. The team will use qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and support students in the development and implementation of their dissertation projects. The research team will function as a supportive atmosphere to doing diversity related work, as well as a place where mentoring can be utilized in a connecting and learning manner.

Cultural Diversity and Systems
This research project examines the role that cultural diversity plays in the behavior of systems.

The initial focus includes but will not be limited to:
• Learning about the mutual impact of cultural diversity and systems on structure and process.
• Understanding the meaning of culturally diverse individuals and groups within systems.
• The impact of the unconscious on individuals’ participation in groups and their subsequent impact on a systems’ dynamics.
• The impact and interplay of systems and the socio-cultural changes of the population and marketplace in the United States,
• Examining academic systems development and implementation of strategies to increase cultural competencies in its students and faculty.
The team will use qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and support students in the development and implementation of their dissertation projects.

Understanding Internalized Oppression for Women of Color
This study uses a grounded theory qualitative approach to understand the role and impact of internalized oppression on women of color, utilizing an intersectionality perspective.

The concept of internalized oppression is not a new one, but one that has not been given enough attention in the field. Think back to the famous study by Dr. Kenneth Clark (1947), in which he studied self-esteem in black children. Dr. Clark gave the children two dolls, a black doll and a white doll, and proceeded to ask them a series of questions, such as which doll they like best or which doll is nicer. Overwhelmingly the response was skewed toward the white doll. This is an example of internalized oppression.

Internalized oppression involves self-blame, self-hate or negative evaluations of one’s own race, gender, ethnicity, and so on. This negative evaluation is often cumulative, spanning generations, time, and settings. Internalized oppression has a deep impact on interpersonal functioning and relationships, workplace dynamics, connections to others, self-esteem and sense of self, feelings about one’s own group, psychological distress and adjustment, sense of empowerment, feelings about the mainstream group, mental health concerns, and more.

Using a grounded theory qualitative approach, we seek to understand the role and impact of internalized oppression on women of color, utilizing an intersectionality perspective. The use of grounded theory method will involve conducting interviews and transcribing data. The data will then be coded and categorized, leading us to form a theory to understanding the role and impact of internalized oppression for women of color.

Assessment, Psychotherapy, and Personality Research Team
Matt Baity, PhD

Although I have a wide range of more specific research interests, the common theme of my work is a focus on improving clinical care. The two main branches of my research are focused on advancing psychological assessment (e.g., improving diagnostic accuracy, incremental validity, multimethod assessment) and factors that impact treatment outcome.

We have a number of projects looking at the reliability and validity of certain psychological assessment instruments, the diagnostic effectiveness of those instruments, and how they might be used to predict treatment response. I have recently been involved in developing program evaluation projects (both locally and nationally) in which patients are tracked over the course of their treatment on a range of variables. Many of my students have used data from these studies for their dissertations, and several have received Dissertation Grant Awards and travel money from the Society for Personality Assessment, with whom we are very active. Over the past three years, my students have a combined 13 presentations and posters at professional conferences. We are currently in the process of preparing four of these studies for journal review with active plans to develop four more; and students are first authors on all these papers.

In addition to providing students with research opportunities, I aspire to adopt a mentor role, providing professional development experiences that include discussing articles and/or methodological issues, connecting students with professionals around the country that have similar interests, bringing relevant clinical issues impacting the practice of psychology to our group discussions, and teaching new tests/scoring systems. For example, I have become heavily involved in training on the new scoring system for the Rorschach (R-PAS). In coordination with the R-PAS developers, my lab is in the planning stages of several projects that will not only provide an opportunity for students to become fully trained in the new system ahead of many others, but will allow them to be part of the normative data collection process, making professional connections outside of Alliant.

Every student has an opportunity to make a contribution in this vibrant research group, graded o their ability and desires. For a list of recent presentations, please see the tab labeled “Our Students.”