A Summer with the Center for Psychotherapy Research

Cathryn Boga, COL ’23, Tampa, FL

This summer, I had the opportunity to work at the Center for Psychotherapy Research, a research department in Penn Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. Having only preliminary psychology research experience, I was excited at the prospect of further honing my research skills and developing independent research interests.

The Center for Psychotherapy Research focuses on studying the effectiveness and mechanisms of evidence-based psychotherapies and measurement-based care strategies, particularly those delivered in real-world community settings. As an aspiring researcher and clinician in the field of clinical psychology with interests in community-based interventions and treatment experiences for patients of color, the Center was the perfect fit!

The myriad of projects I worked on this summer exposed me to the entire research process, from writing grant proposals to delivering presentations of results at conferences. For instance, I had the opportunity to help my colleagues conduct research on the impacts of providing clinicians with information about their patients’ levels of trust and respect for them on therapeutic outcomes during the course of treatment. Specifically, I helped with coding the treatment span for recruited patients from community mental health centers, focusing on session attendance and psychotherapies implemented during those sessions. An interesting facet of this project explored the substantial benefits of feedback on levels of trust and respect in racially matched therapeutic pairs (i.e., a patient from a racial group seeing a clinician from that same group). These efforts culminated in a presentation at the Society for Psychotherapy Research, which also gave me the opportunity to watch virtual presentations about current psychotherapy research conducted by researchers at institutions around the globe.

Following the results of the Center’s research, a good portion of my experience involved conducting a literature review about the impacts of race matching on therapeutic outcomes, especially among patients of color. This literature review allowed me to learn how to effectively read and analyze scientific papers, teaching me the critical thinking skills necessary to parse through papers important to my work and compare them to one another. The literature I synthesized emphasized the need for multicultural interventions to ensure that all patients, regardless of race or ethnicity, receive efficacious treatments from clinicians they feel comfortable with.

Conversely, I also had the opportunity to strengthen my quantitative data analytic skills, foundational knowledge to any researcher in psychology. I received training in data coding, cleaning, and processing using software such as SPSS and Microsoft Excel. Likewise, I received training in project management in REDCap. Following hours of detail-oriented training, I gained an appreciation for the complexities of each individual step and how all of the seemingly little pieces fit together to form an enormous picture in the end, propelling the field forward to ensure that patients receiving mental health care receive the most effective treatments possible to maximize outcomes.

As I continue into the semester at the Center for Psychotherapy Research, I eagerly await the projects and findings to come. Spending my summer at the Center gave me crucial insights into what a future career as a researcher in psychology could look like. I enjoyed the experience immensely, reviving my excitement for exploring my research interests in the future. This unpaid opportunity would not have been possible without the help of Career Services, and I am so grateful for the resources and opportunities I have been able to access with their support!

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here

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Career Services