It has been a great first week at the Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health! The lab is located at William James Hall, which is named after the famous psychologist.
The lab’s main mission is to improve child and adolescent mental health through the dissemination of evidence-based mental health practices. The projects span across many clinics and schools to test the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. The lab’s work is of further importance as many of the projects deal with providing quality mental health services to youth in lower income communities. One of the research projects I am helping out with tests the effectiveness of the “MATCH therapy”, which is an evidence-based treatment of childhood anxiety, depression, trauma, and conduct problems. Given that many of the studies are conducted over multiple years and have 100+ participants, maintaining the database is an integral part of the work being done in the lab. I help out with a lot of the “behind the scenes” work such as entering data from psychological measures in the database, verifying that information is correct, and updating participants’ files. For further information about the research projects you can follow this link.
For me, it is really interesting to see what the actual assessments look like and how data is put together to examine the psychological needs of a child. The work I am doing in the lab will hopefully help me figure out what my specific interests are within the field of child clinical psychology.
Another interesting aspect to my internship is getting the opportunity to sit in on lab meetings and presentations. I attended a presentation by one of the post-doctoral students regarding her work at Boston Children’s Hospital. The presentation topic was about the emerging field of pediatric psychology and how psychologists can positively impact a patient’s hospital stay and overall outcome. Several case studies were presented in which children who had traumatic injuries and severe illnesses had their psychological needs met in addition to their medical ones. The hospital can be a scary place for a child and having adequate psychological services can help kids cope with their illnesses. Pediatric psychologists can help with explaining the illness/injury in a developmentally appropriate way, addressing emotional concerns, and working through issues regarding self-identity. We also learned that it is also important to conduct a comprehensive screening as some children with chronic medical conditions have had their psychological needs previously overlooked as a result of their serious illness. The importance of early intervention and streamlining psychological screening was also discussed.
I also attended an MRI safety session at the Harvard Center for Brain Science. I went for training to obtain a “yellow badge” so that I can observe MRI scans and be a “scan buddy” for child participants. The training emphasized the importance of being vigilant about safety and how powerful the MRI machine is. We discussed what conditions/implants would be contraindicated for an MRI scan and what the safety procedures are. At the end of the training we went into the room with the machine and threw around a tennis ball filled with magnetic paper clips!
One of the videos that we watched during training can be viewed here:
Overall, I had a very exciting (and busy!) week at the lab and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the upcoming weeks.
Melissa Viezel, ’16