Advanced Teams in Clinical-Community Psychology

In addition to coursework, Clinical-Community Advanced Team practica provide structured opportunities for graduate students to engage in community research and action.  Clinical-Community Advanced Teams are 16 week practica that take a community perspective to social problems.  The Team usually consists of  graduate students and the focus of the team is shaped by the interests of team members and differs each time it is taught.  Clinical-Community Advanced Teams offer a “learning laboratory” approach that allows students to decide on an interest area, learn systems entry and collaboration skills, and work with various community stake holders to achieve mutual goals aimed at facilitating social change. On a number of occasions, projects started in the context of a Clinical-Community Team have gone on to become grant-funded research projects, graduate student placements in the community, or intervention programs that are taken over by community mental health agencies.

Below are the two most recent examples of Clinical-Community Advanced Team projects to give a flavor for practicum experiences.  Click on the title to learn more about each project. If you'd like to read about more of our past projects that have been completed in practica or in our research group, click here.

Theories and research on bereavement have enumerated ways that adults cope with the death of close family members such as spouses, parents, siblings and children (Neimeyer, 2002; Parks, 1996). Yet, relatively few studies have focused on ways that adults cope with the death of close friends.  Grief and bereavement reactions are traditionally considered a “family affair” in the United States with relatively few channels for friends to express their sense of loss (Smith, 1996). Given that coping with the loss of friends is a common and inevitable part of adults’ experience, understanding ways that adults cope and make meaning of a close friend’s death is particularly important.

The present qualitative study examines narrative accounts of adults who have experienced the death of a close friend.  The study focuses on adults’ participation in traditional and digital memorials and “memory keeping” activities, the nature of support from family and friends, and ways that adults make meaning of the loss of a friend.  A qualitative research methodology was purposefully selected for the present study to give voice to the experiences of these adults and to situate their narrratives in a larger literature on adaptive coping.

This project began in the context of a Clinical-Community Advanced Team practicum.  Graduate students on the team were interested in using personal accounts as a means of promoting education and advocacy and reducing stigma about serious mental illness.  These graduate students created Speaking from Experience, a speakers group of individuals who personally experience a mental illness or who have a family member who does.  Speakers give structured presentations about their experiences with mental illness in undergraduate psychology classes. 

Speaking from Experience presentations are typically given by a team of three speakers and last for about 30 minutes.  After introductions, speakers present some myths and facts about mental illness and share personal stories about their experiences.  The team of speakers then presents information about mental health advocacy and takes questions from the audience.  Speakers provide student audiences with insights into the complex reality that they face, often discussing their experiences with medication, family and social relationships, personal setbacks and gains, and offering personal advice.  The goal of Speaking from Experience is to allow undergraduates to interact with people with mental illness and their supporters who are coping, suffering, and triumphing.

The Speaking from Experience project involves recruiting and training speakers, helping to educate psychology instructors about a recovery model of mental illness, and helping to facilitate speakers’ presentations in undergraduate classrooms.  The project has been continued by graduate students in the community psychology research group.  Currently, research is being conducted to evaluate the efficacy of Speaking from Experience in reducing social stigma and promoting education and advocacy about mental illness.