Faculty Mentors – For Fall 2019 Spring 2020 Admissions

The Clinical Psychology PhD Program at UMass Boston uses a clinical research apprenticeship model. Each first year graduate student apprentices with a clinical faculty member who will serve as research mentor and advisor to the graduate student.

Below is a list of the specific faculty members who are interested in accepting one or more new students for fall 2019 admissions. In order to match the clinical research interests of each graduate student with those of a faculty member, we would greatly appreciate if you could provide information as to which areas of clinical research interest you the most.

Alice Carter, PhD

hroughout my career, I have been interested in studying the identification and treatment of young children at risk for problems in social and emotional functioning. Typically, my students are interested in early emerging psychopathology and/or autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and I recruit prospective students across these two areas. In addition, I am most interested in working with students who are committed to serving underserved children and families, including those who may miss opportunities for early detection and intervention services. My hope is that an incoming student would become involved in a project that is currently funded by NIMH.  Collaborating with Abbey Eisenhower, PhD, a faculty member in the Clinical Psychology PhD program, and Chris Sheldrick, a faculty member at Boston University, we are implementing a two-stage screening process in three early intervention programs and offer diagnostic assessments to families whose children screen positive on the second stage assessment.  We hope to validate the Screening Tools for Autism in Toddlers for use in Spanish. Involvement in this project could lead to a more independent project that could become the focus of a Master's thesis and/or Dissertation research project.  The specific nature of this project would evolve through our collaborative thinking. My work with students studying young children with ASD has focused on measures and methods to improve early detection and to address health disparities in early detection, examining the impact of raising a child with ASD on parenting stress and family functioning, and improving parent-child interactions as a mechanism to optimize children’s developmental progress. I have also been working on visual attention studies that employ eye tracking technologies to document an autism advantage in visual search, with Zsuzsa Kaldy, PhD and Erik Blaser, PhD colleagues in our new Developmental Brain Sciences program. I am also committed to improving mental health services for children served by Part C, Early Intervention programs.

My mentoring style involves encouraging students to develop their own scientific voice -- informed by clinical practice.  I work best with students who are self-motivated, organized, and excited about psychological theory and scientific methodology.

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Sarah Hayes-Skelton, PhD

My primary research involves examining the mechanisms and processes responsible for change in psychotherapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapies or CBT) for anxiety disorders, in other words, how and why treatments work. My long-term goal is to model how various treatment components interact to produce therapeutic change so that evidence-based treatments can be further refined to improve treatment outcomes.  I am particularly committed to enhancing the cultural-sensitivity of these treatments. I use experimental paradigms and treatment studies to examine common and unique processes and mechanisms of change across traditional cognitive-behavioral therapies and acceptance and mindfulness based therapies for anxiety, with a particular focus on social and generalized anxiety disorders.  I also have an active collaborations with Dr. Vivian Ciaramitaro in the DBS program within the UMass Boston Psychology Department to better understand the cognitive processes underlying social anxiety that may later inform intervention approaches. 

Within this larger interest, there are several types of projects that are in different stages of development:

Mechanisms of Change within CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder

We have recently completed a treatment study examining mechanisms of change within a standard group CBT for individuals with social anxiety disorder. Within this study, there is a particular focus on the combinations of specific mechanisms and processes of change such as the role of decentering (the process of seeing thoughts or feelings as objective events in the mind rather than personally identifying with them), emotional processing, and the working alliance. In addition to the primary data being collected, there is also the potential for additional projects stemming from this study. For example, the video recordings of sessions could be coded for additional mechanisms of interest. 

Acceptance-Based Behavioral Exposure Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder

We are also beginning to collect data on an acceptance-based behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder.  Within this protocol, we are particularly interested in the combined effects of decentering and exposure on treatment outcome.

Analogue Studies of Treatment Mechanisms

Another line of research utilizes experimental paradigms to examine potential treatment mechanisms in lab-based analogue studies. For example, a recently completed study examined the role of decentering in both a mindfulness and a cognitive restructuring manipulation for an analogue sample of individuals with public speaking anxiety.

RCT for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I also collaborated with Liz Roemer and Sue Orsillo on a study comparing an acceptance-based behavioral therapy to applied relaxation for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. Within this larger, randomized controlled trial, I am particularly interested in the common and distinct mechanisms of change across the two treatments.

Student Projects

Students on my research team have recently completed projects on:

  • The development of a self-report measure of decentering
  • Differences between individuals with and without social anxiety on the prevalence and believability of negative thoughts, decentering, and willingness in response to an anxiety-provoking lab task
  • Trajectories of anxiety and depression across treatment for GAD
  • The role of social cost and probability biases in social anxiety through online vignettes
  • The role of mindfulness in promoting social support in individuals with social anxiety 
  • Qualitative interviews with clients from our treatment study examining the kinds of experiences clients have following treatment
  • A case study of cultural sensitive adaptations to CBT for social anxiety
  • The role of the working alliance across treatment for GAD
  • Patterns of anxious arousal during our impromptu speech task across treatment responders and non-responders

I am interested in mentoring a graduate student who has a long term interest in studying anxiety and/or psychotherapy and is interested in a Master’s thesis that would complement our on-going lab work. We are a team-oriented lab and so it is expected that members of the lab will work collaboratively on projects.

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Heidi Levitt, PhD

I am looking forward to admitting a new student next year.  I have three main programs of research: (1) psychotherapy research on the processes of change within sessions, (2) LGBTQ healing from heterosexist experiences, and (3) the use of qualitative methods in psychology.   On my website, I have a webpage called "For Applicants to the Clinical Psychology Graduate Program."   That webpage provides more explanation about these areas of research, describes likely upcoming projects for students, and outlines my approach to mentoring.   Please see that page at: 


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Jean Rhodes, PhD

As a community-clinical psychologist, I have been focusing on two distinct, but interrelated, programs of research:

(a) informal and formal mentoring in the lives of adolescents and young adults and (b) risk and protective factors in young adult survivors’ responses to trauma (most notably natural disaster and combat).

The overarching goal, instantiated in both programs, is to understand the role of social connections in the adaptive functioning of individuals and to specify the underlying processes by which these connections contribute to positive outcomes. To address this, Rhodes and her team explore how relational processes unfold across development and social ecologies. Although this work is grounded firmly in clinical, community, and developmental psychology, lab members’ approaches are interdisciplinary at their core, involving ongoing collaborations with sociologists, economists, and psychiatric geneticists from around Boston and beyond.

Current research projects include

1.  Collection of the largest-ever data set of children of incarcerated children. The study explores their experiences and psychosocial well-being.

2.  Comprehensive meta-analyses of youth mentoring interventions, natural mentoring, and hybrid mentoring approaches.

3.  Studies of natural mentoring with the Ad Health data.

4.  A multi-site mixed method studies of youth-initiated mentoring and mentoring for children of incarcerated parents.

5.  Several studies of marginalized students’ risk and protective factors.

6.  A multi-disciplinary, 10-15 -year follow-up of Hurricane Katrina survivors http://www.riskproject.org.

Professor Rhodes also provides research training to her graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, along with funding for assistantships, summer salary, and travel to professional meetings and statistical workshops. Her students’ rigorous work has been recognized both within and beyond the university including the Chancellor’s Distinguished Dissertation Award and the APA Division 27’s Dissertation of the Year Award. Many of her students now hold tenured or tenure-track positions at top national and international universities.

For further information, please look at my website:  http://www.rhodeslab.org/



Lizabeth Roemer, Ph.D.

Informatiion to follow.