Cayden Cathers sitting on couch

Research for Mental Health Professionals with Cadyn Cathers

“Many students are intimidated by the idea of learning research methods as they imagine that the course is designed to teach them to be scientists; it isn’t,” said Cadyn Cathers, MA, Affiliate Faculty for the MA in Psychology Program and Interim Co-Director for the LGBT Specialization in Clinical Psychology. “Research for Mental Health Professionals is designed to teach students how to be critical and thoughtful consumers of research.”… Which many of us could benefit from in this age of constant information-sharing, don’t you think?Cayden Cathers sitting on couch

Cathers majored in biology at Santa Clara University and completed two years in a doctoral program in environmental toxicology at the University of California Riverside – he grew up wanting to be an environmental scientist – and his shift into the field of clinical psychology ten years ago was a significant turning point in his career.

You can take the person out of the science, but you can’t take the science out of the person… Or something like that.

“One of the things that I love about teaching research methods at AULA is bringing back that passion for the scientific method and sharing it with students,” he said. “There is something beautiful about the process by which questions asked by creative and curious minds can get answered (which usually leads to more questions, of course!).”

You researchers out there (or future researchers, or thoughtful consumers of research) are most likely formulating some questions right now, like: What do students actually do in Research for Mental Health Professionals?

The class teaches students to know what kind of article to look for depending on their questions relating to the psychology of their clients and their own research interests. For clinical psychology programs, the board of behavioral sciences requires instruction in “Diagnosis, assessment, prognosis, and treatment of mental disorders, including severe mental disorders, evidence-based practices, psychological testing, psychopharmacology, and promising mental health practices that are evaluated in peer-reviewed literature.”  (Business and Professions Code §4980.3). Essentially, the course guides students in developing research methods and practices to determine:

  1. How to find the articles that can answer their questions.
  2. How to evaluate if the research was done well.
  3. Whether the conclusions drawn are generalizable or transferable.

“It teaches them information literacy, specific to mental health research,” said Cathers. A lot of students report that they wish that they had taken the class sooner,” he added. “Learning how to read the literature critically made them better writers for classes that required references outside of their textbooks.”

So you see, Research for Mental Health Professionals isn’t intimidating or any of the other things you might possibly assume when you read the title of the course. It’s a tool to add to your scholar’s belt. And we all know how frustrating it is to try to attach two pieces of wood together with a nail when you don’t have a hammer.

Malia Gaffney holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She lives in LA.
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