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Research

Current Projects

Interested undergraduate students* are encouraged to read  through the descriptions below, and otherwise reach out to the lab Research Coordinator, Ifrah Majeed (empowerlabU@gmail.com), for any remaining questions.

*Dr. Asnaani will unfortunately not be accepting any incoming graduate students applying to the 2020-2021 application cycle and the TCT lab does not have any current openings for full-time post-baccalaureate research assistants.

Community-based mental health initiatives

This is an ongoing collaboration with the Community Faces of Utah (CFU), a great community-based organization here in Salt Lake City which brings together 5 diverse communities in the city:

  • Best of Africa (African immigrants and refugees)
  • Calvary Baptist Church (primarily African Americans)
  • Hispanic Health Care Task Force (Hispanics/Latinos)
  • National Tongan American Society (Pacific Islanders)
  • Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake (American Indians/Alaskan Natives)

The CFU was established in 2009, and its member organizations conduct considerable work in the area of addressing health disparities within their own diverse communities and in conjunction with the Utah Department of Health, the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the U, and the Community Collaboration and Engagement Team within the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS).

Dr. Asnaani’s pilot grant application with her collaborators within and outside the department for this project was selected by the CCTS to receive funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NIH) in Spring of 2020. For this project our lab has worked in close partnership with CFU to conduct enhanced focus groups in each community to determine mental health definitions, barriers, needs and areas for potential intervention, and deployed more detailed surveys aimed at understanding these topics from both community member and community provider perspectives. Our lab is now analyzing the useful data gathered thus far and presenting our findings to our CFU communities in order to continue this important collaboration and discussion of mental health in these communities. Dr. Asnaani has also recently submitted a PICORI grant application as a continuation of our previous work with CFU, with the specific aim to deliver interventions to these communities in a culturally adaptive manner.

Experimental/lab-based initiatives


Building on Dr. Asnaani’s previous extensive experience in conducting mechanistic examinations of a variety of hypothesized factors underlying effective treatments for fear- and anxiety-based symptoms, there will be a series of experimental studies with community and college samples conducted in the lab. Specifically, there is an interest in increasing understanding around the psychophysiological and subjective correlates (including self-reported distress, cultural values, resilience, etc.) of different emotion regulation strategies, distress tolerance indices, and approach behavior toward feared stimuli.

Students in the lab will have the opportunity to become involved with a range of methodologies, technologies, and supervised clinical interviewing/intervention skills. Students will have the opportunity to work with study participants, administer interventions and self-reports, and collect behavioral data.

The lab’s first experimental study has completed data collection as of Spring 2021, and we look forward to analyzing this data over this upcoming summer.

Global health disparities and education initiatives

Dr. Asnaani proudly hails from the island nation of Saint Lucia, and has been conducting a series of psychoeducational programs surrounding trauma intervention, stress management, and provider self-care/support/training, conducted either in person or remotely since the Spring of 2019. Dr. Asnaani would like to expand her global research program to other regions over the next 5 years, and students in the lab would have a chance to be involved with this ongoing line of work and gain first-hand knowledge and experience regarding the joys and challenges of working in international contexts (and often from afar!).

In collaboration with a fantastic local women’s health rights advocacy organization, the HERStoire Collective, our lab conducted our first trauma education/provider self-care workshop in Saint Lucia in March of 2019. Dr. Asnaani just recently delivered a second in-person workshop (again, in partnership with HERStoire) in the region in February of 2020, which was remotely attended by participants from several other countries in the surrounding region (including providers in Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados, Antigua and Jamaica).

This second workshop was funded by the Equality and Justice Alliance (EJA), a U.K.-based human rights group which supports public health initiatives that focus on addressing health disparities for women and the LGBTQI community. The lab has also finished collecting follow-up data on how these providers are implementing the evidence-based skills for helping trauma survivors in crisis and for provider self-care, with an additional focus on assessing how providers are able to conduct their services in St. Lucia given the stress of the current COVID-19 public health crisis.

Through these and future trainings, the TCT Lab aims to better understand the effectiveness of a brief trainings in increasing knowledge about evidence-based approaches to trauma-exposed populations and reducing stigma around mental health treatment and towards trauma survivors (especially at-risk groups such as adolescents, women, and LGBTQI-identified individuals) in this region and more globally.

 

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT, WORKSHOPS, & ADVOCACY

Lab Community Engagement

  • Asnaani, A. & Sanchez-Birkhead, A.: “Successful utilization of community-based focus groups for the assessment of mental health needs in diverse communities: CFU/CCTS Mental health pilot grant as a case example.” Invited speakers to the University of Utah’s Clinical Research and Methods (CRAM) Monthly seminar, October, 2020.
  • Kaur, K., Asnaani, A., & Sanchez-Birkhead, A.: “Findings from the CFU/CCTS Mental Health Focus Groups and Next Steps.” Presentation provided to Community Faces of Utah partners in connection to ongoing pilot grant examining mental health needs in diverse communities (PI: Asnaani), September, 2020.
  • Asnaani, A.: “Exploration of Stressors in COVID-19 And Debriefing Session”. Invited Speaker and Sole Facilitator, Ministry of Education District Guidance Counsellors’ Meeting, Government of Saint Lucia, June, 2020
  • Asnaani, A.:Featured on a series of nightly news segments on Saint Lucia-based national TV channel CHOICE TV and in printed features in local magazines in reference to trauma training workshop held in Caribbean sponsored by the Equality and Justice Alliance and a separate series on mental healthcare during the COVID-19 public health crisis. March, 2020 

Workshops

  • Asnaani, A. “Weaving Together Diversity and Clinical Science: Empirically-Derived Guidelines for Integrating Diversity Principles into Evidence-Based Practice, Research, and Teaching”, Invited Half-Day Workshop, Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, MA (May 2021).
  • Asnaani, A., Hinkson, K., Kaur, K., & Gutierrez Chavez, M. “Supporting Survivors of Trauma: A Two-Part Training Series to Improve Understanding of Psychological Consequences of Trauma and Application of Practical Skills to Support Individuals in Crisis” Lead Workshop Facilitator and mentoring supervisor for graduate student workshop facilitators for a virtual series serving front-line providers in 8 different Caribbean nations, the U.K., and the U.S.. Conducted in collaboration with the HERStoire Collective and funded by a research award given by the non-profit human rights organization Kaleidoscope Trust. (February – March 2021).
  • Asnaani, A. “Expanding our Therapy Skills Toolbox: Understanding Psychological Consequences of Trauma, Learning about Effective Treatments and Practical Skills to Support Individuals in Crisis, and Improving Provider Self-Care”, HERStoire/Equality and Justice Alliance Invited Workshop, Saint Lucia (Feb, 2020).
  • Asnaani, A. “Qualitative Interview Training Session for Community Faces of Utah leaders”, Salt Lake City, UT, US (July, 2020).
  • Allire, L., Asnaani, A., Batchelder, A.W., & Feinstein, B.A. “Incorporating advocacy into psychological practice to promote the health of marginalized communities: A skills-based introduction,” ABCT Convention, Philadelphia, PA (to be presented virtually November, 2020)

Advocacy

  • Dr. Robyn Charlery-White (Director of global partner HERStoire Collective) and Dr. Asnaani presented results from our most recent trauma training workshop in St. Lucia to a regional meeting of legislators and advocates to discuss how such brief trainings can be leveraged to improve mental health infrastructure and funding allocations for mental health in the Caribbean region in March 2020
  • Dr. Asnaani has been an active member of the ABCT Taskforce to improve Diversity, Equality and Inclusion for this organization since October 2019
  • Over the past year, the TCT Lab has facilitated connections to clinical doctoral students at the University of Utah at local (Salt Lake City school district) and global (Girls of a Feather, a Caribbean-based advocacy and education group for young women) levels to increase education, mentorship, and psychological skills training services available to these organizations.

COMPLETED PROJECTS

Saint Lucia Trauma Provider Training Study, March 2019

We successfully conducted our first St. Lucian provider trauma education and skills workshop in March 2019. This one-day workshop provided training on types of trauma, typical post-trauma reactions, options for evidence-based PTSD treatment, and hands-on training for trauma crisis management and short-term interventions following trauma exposure.

Our aim for this project was to evaluate the usefulness of this relatively short workshop in improving community stakeholders’ knowledge about trauma, trauma treatment, and reducing trauma-related stigma. This was the first trauma-focused workshop to be evaluated for usefulness in St. Lucia.

We have since analyzed the data gathered from this workshop, and have published our findings (Asnaani, Charlery White, Majeed, & Phillip, 2020), along with presenting and discussing them in several conferences (APA Division 52 (International Psychology): Majeed, White, & Asnaani, August, 2020 (poster); ABCT: Majeed, White, & Asnaani, November, 2020 (symposium)).

Last Updated: 7/15/21