Clinical Psychology Research Training
The Faculty Adviser
One of the most critical aspects of any program is working with a faculty adviser. Each student selects an adviser upon admission to the program and usually continues to work closely with that adviser for their four or five years in the program. However, as mentioned earlier, we are a community, with shared concern for students' needs and it is sometimes suggested that one change advisers as research interests and professional goals change. Each faculty adviser maintains an active research program or lab. Working in the lab teaches research skills, allows junior students to be supervised by senior students and provides exposure to many aspects of professional life. Of special importance is learning about data analysis, writing up research for publication and attending professional conferences. Students are thought of as "junior colleagues" and the successful mentoring relationship is typically one involving much collaboration.
Students are expected to be active in research from their first year onward. Each lab and advisor has a slightly different way of encouraging such activities. Some advisors incorporate students rapidly into their own research programs, others encourage students to explore areas of personal interest.
The most formal training occurs during the conduct of one's master's thesis and doctoral dissertation. A wide variety of research projects are undertaken in our program, from basic lab research, to lab analog studies, to treatment outcome studies. Generally, a formal experiment is the most frequent research methodology; quasi-experimental designs, correlational and survey methods – among other approaches – may also be appropriate for investigating many problems. In any case, students are expected to be part of various kinds of research including, where appropriate, single case studies, literature reviews and meta-analyses, and program evaluation.
We have various support facilities for research including extensive lab space and equipment, collaborative networks with local mental health agencies, excellent computer facilities and consultation. Funding for research projects is arranged within each lab. Many clinical faculty also have active grant-funded projects with state, federal and private grants providing equipment, travel costs and other assets. Some labs encourage students to write grant proposals of their own. A number of recent dissertations have been funded by student-initiated grants.
No research project is complete until the findings have been published in a scientific journal and presented at a professional conference. Students are strongly invited to engage in this aspect of scholarship and nearly all students leave our program with a solid record of such accomplishments.
Although our program does not have specialty "tracks," we do have some particularly strong research areas:
This area may be considered a subcategory of health psychology, but stands alone as a strength of our program. Substance abuse continues to be one of the greatest challenges to our society. It is also a rare therapist who doesn't frequently encounter substance abuse among his or her clients. Psychologists have made substantial contributions to the understanding, prevention and treatment of substance abuse and other addictions.
Clinical faculty who specialize in research on addictions and substance abuse include Stephen Lisman (etiology and motivation to abuse alcohol); and integrative neuroscience faculty in our department including Norman and Linda Spear (developmental consequences of alcohol/drug use; contributors to alcohol and drug abuse initiation in adolescence) and Lisa Savage (alcohol-induced brain damage); and other neuroscience faculty. These faculty offer coursework and collaboration opportunities for clinical students seeking a broader base of training in addictions.
A strength of the clinical program is the expertise of the faculty in various aspects of adult psychopathology and interventions. Steven Lynn examines the impact of traumatic events and the effects of hypnosis, cognitive therapy, dissociation and brief interventions. Donald Levis studies the nature of fears and their extinction through implosive therapy.
Meredith Coles studies the etiology, maintenance and treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder and social phobia.
Brandon Gibb studies cognitive and interpersonal vulnerabilities to depression.
Mark Lenzenweger is an experimental psychopathologist with interests in two major areas: – schizotypy/schizophrenia as well as severe personality disorders.
Their work is enhanced by the collaborative efforts of various colleagues such as Matthew Johnson (developmental course of marriage), Celia Klin (cognitive processes, reading comprehension), Albrecht Inhoff (eyetracking) and Ralph Miller (information processing in animals).
Our program continues to be known for its strength in research and training in child psychology. Raymond Romanczyk is founder of and director of the Institute for Child Development, which comprises both the Childrens' Unit for Treatment and Evaluation (C.U.T.E.) and the Childrens' Unit for Learning Disabilities (C.U.L.D.). Emphasizing a strong clinical-behavioral and systems approach, the institute serves as a research and clinical training resource for students, as well as a setting for assessment practicum. Children served range from those with severe developmental disorders such as autism and developmental disabilities to those with poor attention skills or behavioral problems in school. For over 20 years, the units have been involved with virtually every school district in a 50-mile radius, providing graduate students with real-world experience across all domains of service provision.
Meredith Coles is director of the Binghamton Anxiety Clinic, a research and training clinic devoted to obsessive compulsive disorder and social phobia in both children and adults. The clinic provides graduate students with training in empirically based assessment of anxiety and cognitive-behavioral treatment of anxiety. Research on factors that contribute to childhood anxiety is also studied in the clinic. Finally, Coles and her students are actively engaged in research spanning development from childhood to adulthood, seeking to elucidate psychosocial vulnerabilities to cbsessive compulsive disorder.
Alice Friedman is the director of the Louis Marx, Jr. Center for Children and Families. The center facilitates the conduct of treatment outcome studies of children with behavioral problems and medical illness and their families.
Brandon Gibb is director of the Mood Disorders Institute, which focuses on understanding the development and treatment of depression in children, adolescents and adults. Collaboration is fostered among non-clinical psychology faculty with strong developmental research expertise, including Peter Gerhardstein (infant visual perception) and faculty from other departments on campus.
Health psychology has been identified as the specialty area within clinical psychology that has the greatest potential for growth and future career opportunities. We are fortunate that it is also a strength of our program. Faculty within this area include Stephen Lisman (substance abuse), Peter Donovick (neuropsychology) and Alice Friedman (pediatric psychology). Courses and seminars are regularly offered on each of these topics. The Binghamton area includes three major hospitals in the metropolitan area, and two others within 80 miles. Our program has a history of research and/or service affiliation or collaboration with each of these hospitals.
Marriage and Family
To better understand what leads to divorce and distress in marriage, Matthew Johnson and the team at the Binghamton Transition to Marriage Project examine what leads to initial changes in marital satisfaction. While the emphasis in his lab is on basic research about couples, he has also done research on interventions based on empirical findings. Clearly, the research on family processes dovetails nicely with research on developmental clinical psychology, including the work of Alice Friedman (child health psychology) and Ray Romanczyk (behavioral treatment of autism).
A psychobiologist by training, Peter Donovick's specialization in human neuropsychology has enabled many students to select courses and training experiences that prepare them for internships and careers in clinical neuropsychology research and practice. Although Donovick is the clinical faculty member who conducts teaching, research and assessment in this area, students specializing in neuropsychology also take courses and conduct research with collaborating neuroscience faculty including Lisa Savage (psychopharmacology and behavior) and Maria-Teresa Romero (neuroplasticity, biological rhythms). Practicum experience in neuropsychology is attained in the United Health Services neurotrauma unit, the Elmira Correctional Facility and the department's Psychological Clinic.
In keeping with the goal of integrating science and practice, we do not see clinical skill development as separate from the activities listed above. However, the translation of knowledge into effective clinical procedures does require intensive supervised experience with different types of clinical problems and the ability to function in a variety of mental-health settings. Such experiences also teach sensitivity to clients' needs; the ability to communicate with patients, caregivers and professionals from other disciplines; as well as the confidence with one's skills as a psychologist to be able to develop new techniques and strategies.
Direct, supervised experience with clinical problems occurs in two contexts: the Psychological Clinic, which is a training and research mental-health outpatient clinic conducted by the Department of Psychology; and the community practicum, a consortium of local mental-health agencies.