UMass Boston

UMass Boston Clinical Psych Candidate Earns 2020 Distinguished Student Practice Award

04/10/2020| Colleen Locke

A doctoral candidate in UMass Boston’s Clinical Psychology PhD Program who is currently engaged in developing outreach material related to stress associated with the COVID-19 crisis has received the 2020 Distinguished Student Practice Award in Clinical Psychology from Division 12 of the American Psychological Association. Bryan Balvaneda is in his sixth year at UMass Boston.

Bryan Balvaneda
Bryan Balvaneda is in his sixth year at UMass Boston.

“ [Bryan] is constantly attending to needs on campus and beyond and addressing them with his expertise, kindness, and skill. ”

Bryan Balvaneda Currently Engaged in Developing Outreach Materials Related to Stress Associated with COVID-19 Crisis

“This award recognizes Bryan as ‘a compassionate, thoughtful, and innovative clinician and a dedicated social justice advocate,’” Professor and Chair of Psychology Lizabeth Roemer said. “He is constantly attending to needs on campus and beyond and addressing them with his expertise, kindness, and skill.”

Each year, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association gives the Distinguished Student Practice Award in Clinical Psychology to a sole graduate student in clinical psychology who has made outstanding clinical practice contributions to the profession. Recipients receive a plaque, a $200 honorarium contributed jointly by Division 12 and Journal of Clinical Psychology, and a complementary two-year subscription to JCLP & JCLP: In Session.

For the last two years, Balvaneda has coordinated research assistants and the activities of the Anxiety Mechanisms and Processes Team, headed by Associate Professor of Psychology Sarah Hayes-Skelton.

“We investigate how anxiety and other psychological processes develop and respond to treatments, with an emphasis on cultural sensitivity in treatments,” the San Diego native explained. “My own research investigates the interpersonal context of mental health processes, which for my dissertation involves me investigating how developing compassion for ourselves impacts roommate relationships.”

Balvaneda has taught undergraduates in the Psychology Department and he’s provided therapy in the University Health Services Counseling Center, but the heart of his work is with UMB-UR-BEST, where he provides coaching, workshops, and consultations on mental health issues. UMB-UR-BEST, which is an acronym for University Resources for Behavioral and Educational Skills Training, is a group of faculty members and graduate students in the Clinical Psychology PhD Program who provide coaching and workshops to members of the university community, with an emphasis on providing culturally-responsive services that are sensitive to contextual factors and promote health and well-being.

“I've appreciated being connected with so many aspects of campus to support the well-being of our community, in particular our students, and I've enjoyed seeing the drive and energy each department has for making UMass Boston a great place to learn for all people,” Balvaneda said.

Balvaneda previously trained at Charles River Community Health, providing behavioral health services in English and Spanish to members of the Allston-Brighton community, and at Fenway Health, where he worked on a treatment research study looking at methods for reducing HIV-risk, depression, and substance use in men who have sex with men. Next year he’ll be starting his doctoral internship at the University of California, Riverside, to complete his clinical training. After graduation, he plans to work in a counseling center, and he’d like to teach again at some point.

“UMass Boston has instilled in me the skills and perspective needed to pursue social justice and conduct work in a culturally sensitive manner, and I strive to continue serving underserved and culturally diverse communities wherever I go,” Balvaneda said.

As for the award, Balvaneda gives the credit to his supervisors, mentors, advisors, and colleagues.

“I couldn't do the work I enjoy doing without all their support, and I hope they all see this award reflecting their support as much as the work I do. I also hope it brings recognition to the superb quality of training we receive at UMass Boston, which was what brought me to the program in the first place,” Balvaneda said.

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s nine colleges and graduate schools serve 16,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit