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A seven-year-old boy wakes up in the middle of the night complaining of a stomachache. Mom takes the boy to the family doctor, who runs tests, asks routine questions, prods and probes, and concludes there’s no apparent physical reason for his distress. But what about his mental state?

In that quick 15-minute patient visit, no one ever mentions to the doctor that mom and dad are going through a vitriolic divorce and the family has just moved. The boy is asked only to describe his physical symptoms, not how he is coping emotionally with the situation at home.

Oversights like this are common – in fact, of the 10 most frequent physical complaints people go to the doctor for, only 15 percent are found to have a physiological cause. Addressing both physical and mental issues might help explain some symptoms and indicate that the patient needs to see a behavioral health specialist in order to get better.

To prepare behavioral health specialists to work as part of a close-knit, interdisciplinary team The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education has launched an Integrated Behavioral Health Psychology Program in the Department of Educational Psychology. Graduates of this program will be prepared to smoothly segue into a very different kind of health care environment, one in which mental and physical health services are not separate.

This new approach to medical care is referred to as “integrated health care delivery.” For the patient, it’s a very convenient form of one-stop-shopping and for a health care professional it’s the best way to get the patient’s whole health story.

“Health care in the 21st century will treat the patient not only as a whole person but also as a member of a family and community that are actively involved in treatment,” said Cindy Carlson, chair of the Department of Educational Psychology. “Being a psychologist who offers psychotherapy in a private practice office and confers, when necessary, with other providers and being a team member in a primary care office where the team is collectively responsible for the outcome are two very different job experiences. In universities, we’ve been training students for the former, not the latter.”

Cindy Carlson Group Photo

Regional Advisory Board for Cindy Carlson’s integrated behavioral health grant: Front row (left to right): Michele Guzman, PhD, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health; David White, Texas Psychological Association; Michael Carey, PhD, Scott & White Healthcare; Cindy Carlson, PhD.

To prepare them for this different role, the one-year program teaches doctoral psychology students how to deliver culturally and linguistically competent, evidence-based behavioral health services in a community clinic setting as part of a blended health care team. Instruction focuses on the best ways to assist vulnerable and underserved populations, a particularly important aim since studies show these groups are typically the least likely to access behavioral health services.

The award finances the planning, development, and operation of a 15-hour program emphasis in integrated health services delivery, with preference given to applicants who are bilingual (Spanish-English) and/or members of ethnic minority groups.

Student Fellows complete 10-12 hours of supervised clinical practice in integrated healthcare settings at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) like Lone Star Circle of Care, People’s Community Clinic, and Seton-Blackstock Family Clinic. The Fellows take additional course work for a curriculum emphasis in integrated behavioral healthcare, including a course devoted to inter-professional healthcare teams, and they receive training in motivational interviewing, which has proven effective in helping patients make health behavior changes.

Even though there are challenges to placing behavioral health experts in integrated healthcare settings, the benefits to patients far outweigh them, according to Carlson and other experts. In some blended healthcare setting, the patient sees the same front desk check-in person at each visit, for example, whether she’s there for depression or the flu, and her clinical records are shared among the entire health care team.

As Carlson points out, an enormous benefit of the team approach is that “proximity breeds familiarity” – simply being in the same physical environment tends to encourage more communication among team members. The cardiologist has access to information about a patient’s anxiety disorder, and the general practitioner knows that another patient just lost her son in a skateboarding accident, which may explain her blinding headaches, sleeplessness, and weight loss.

“The health care team approach has so many positive aspects,” said Elizabeth Walsh, a doctoral student in the UT Austin program and one of Carlson’s research assistants. “There’s a lot of evidence that having integrated health care teams ends up cutting healthcare costs and reducing employee and student absenteeism, for example, and both providers and patients report that the quality of care is much better.

Taking a Team Approach

IBHP trainee Leann Smith, Elizabeth Walsh, and Brittany Linton consults with Celia Neavel, MD, of People’s Community Clinic. (Photo by Megan Stanfield)

“Studies show that the majority of people don’t go to a mental health professional, even when their family doctor refers them, so there are a tremendous number of people walking around with unaddressed health problems. If the behavioral health specialist is right there, in the same building as the general practitioner, that becomes almost a non-issue. I’m really excited about becoming part of a health care team – as a behavioral health care specialist, you’re an absolutely integral member of that group.”

With her grant funding, and as part of the ongoing training of doctoral students like Walsh, Carlson convened a May meeting in Austin that drew integrated health care experts from all over the country. The experts talked one-on-one with students and shared presentations on what it’s like to be a behavioral health specialist on a multi-professional team.

“This is the scenario of the future, and what particularly excites me is the movement to locate health care in close proximity to the patient, such as in school-based clinics,” said Carlson. “Integrated health care teams will soon be the norm. Right now, here at UT Austin, we’re ahead of the curve in preparing top-notch, highly skilled students who can enter that environment and immediately start contributing.”

Kelly Banneyer was in high school when she first became fascinated with the fact that your brain can be the source of sickness. One of her friends was suffering from a mental illness and Banneyer saw, firsthand, the way the disease can take away much of what’s good in a person’s life.

That epiphany’s fueled her studies for seven years, all the way into what’s now her fourth year of a doctorate in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology.

As part of her doctoral program, Banneyer works at the college’s Texas Child Study Center (TCSC), Central Texas’s premier pediatric mental health service facility. The Center was created in partnership with Dell Children’s Medical Center and, in addition to seeing patients, offers training for future psychologists and psychiatrists like Banneyer.

Kelly Banneyer“I’m a graduate assistant for Dr. Kevin Stark, the co-founder and current director of the Center,” said Banneyer, “and I’m working with him on a major treatment study of anxiety in children. This means I get into the nitty-gritty of collecting and analyzing data, in addition to recruiting, assessing, and working with study participants. I also supervise a team of 11 undergraduate and 12 graduate students, whom I recruited and who are being trained at the Center. And I see around 8-10 patients per week.”

Although Banneyer’s focus of study is anxiety, students with a wide array of interests can be accommodated by the Center. Whether a doctoral student wants to specialize in obesity and behavioral health, oncology and mental health issues, or autism, the Center’s partnership with Dell Children’s opens the door for topnotch training opportunities.

“You can’t imagine how often parents come in and say, ‘My child is exactly the way I was at that age and I’d give anything to have had the help he’s getting. They tell us we’re lifesavers. Who wouldn’t want a career like this?” – Kelly Banneyer

“It’s amazing how many choices we have,” said Banneyer. “I like working with children who suffer from anxiety, specifically, because it’s so debilitating but so treatable. There’s definitely help and hope. One of the most promising aspects of the treatment we use is how effective the parent training portion is – when you couple parent education with therapy for the child, the outcomes are very positive.”

Banneyer relates the story of one little boy she treated who had such severe separation anxiety that he couldn’t go to school without his parents. Either mom or dad had to be in the classroom and on the field with him when he was playing sports, and when he was at home he couldn’t remain in a room alone. By working with the child, in stages, on having his parents physically away from him and giving the parents strategies they could use at home to model desirable behavior, Banneyer saw her patient’s behavior steadily improve.

Another child she’s helped had a debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder that was triggered when anyone was physically near him. He was constantly moving, multiple times a minute, and couldn’t do simple things like sit with the family on the couch and watch TV. Or ride in the car with others. Or be hugged by his parents. In fact, when he initially went to the TCSC, he could not sit in a therapy room with his parents and the therapist – the rooms simply weren’t big enough.

Kelly Banneyer Group Photo“He’d always had a few behavior quirks but nothing that disrupted his life to this extent,” said Banneyer. “When he entered middle school, though, that was the stress trigger that set off this extreme reaction. We’ve noticed that middle school can be one of the top triggers for the presentation of anxiety disorders in boys.

“Fortunately, our therapy seems to be working and now when you see him out in the waiting room he’s leaning comfortably against his dad and playing with his phone. He’s even gone on several road trips with his family.”

It’s students like Banneyer, ones with excellent research and clinical skills, who have helped the TCSC gain a national reputation as a great training facility.

“Our graduate students are obtaining degrees in school psychology, and normally school psychology students don’t get the plum, more competitive clinical internships, but ours are being placed at the top internship sites in the nation.” – Kevin Stark

“Our graduate students are obtaining degrees in school psychology, and normally school psychology students don’t get the plum, more competitive clinical internships,” said Stark, “but ours are being placed at the top internship sites in the nation. Since we opened the Center, our trainees have consistently completed their internships at Harvard/Boston Children’s Hospital and at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is the number one internship in the country.”

Banneyer’s ultimate aim is to be director of an anxiety disorders research center, combining her love of research with the actual application of it. Right now she’s gathering copious amounts of data for the anxiety study, writing many papers, and presenting at conferences around the nation in preparation for attaining that goal.

“You can’t imagine how often parents come in and say, ‘My child is exactly the way I was at that age and I’d give anything to have had the help he’s getting,’” said Banneyer. “They tell us we’re lifesavers. Who wouldn’t want a career like this?”

David Scheinfeld is a doctoral student who’s using his research and practice as well as his “9-5” job at Outward Bound for Veterans to help returning service members and veterans adapt to life at home after military service. Outward Bound offers wilderness courses that draw on the healing benefits of teamwork and challenge experienced in a natural environment, with all of the participants working together toward a common objective.

How did you get involved with Outward Bound for Veterans?

My parents instilled a love of nature in me and showed me how it has the power to shift one’s perspective about the world. I had attended two Outward Bound courses in high school and those ignited my passion for the organization. I developed an even greater love of outdoor education while in college at the University of Puget Sound and then took a job as an instructor at Outward Bound in 2003 – I’ve been working with them in one capacity or another ever since.

What’s the work with Outward Bound for Veterans like?

Currently, I’m primarily instructing Outward Bound backpacking and rock climbing courses in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I’ve also been an instructor for a Florida Keys sailing course and a Boundary Waters canoeing course in Minnesota, as well as with Montana Outward Bound and North Carolina Outward Bound. Unfortunately, there are no Texas courses right now. Veterans from any state can apply for a course and if they’re accepted, Outward Bound for Veterans will pay for their airfare and all associated costs.

How is your doctoral work intersecting with what you’re doing at Outward Bound?

The majority of my time right now is spent at the Austin Veterans Health Administration completing my clinical internship for a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. With veterans’ posttraumatic stress (PTS) becoming a growing public health concern, my clinical passion is helping veterans address and reduce PTS. There are a large number of returning veterans who could benefit from mental health services but tend to underutilize them or drop out prematurely. To deal with this issue, it’s critical to look at alternative programs and interventions that will address their mental health concerns while also increasing their motivation to seek out mental health assistance. Outward Bound for Veterans, which is a therapeutic adventure intervention, is an alternative approach that’s shown a lot of promise. With Outward Bound, I’m an instructor as well as a researcher.

After you get your doctorate, what do you plan on doing?

It would be great to keep researching alternative and complementary mental healthcare approaches for veterans. Through Outward Bound for Veterans, I hope to work with veterans who are more resistant to traditional forms of therapy while also working as a therapist and researcher at the VA. I’d like to develop programming that uses therapeutic adventure as a complementary and alternative approach to traditional therapy– the therapeutic adventure component wouldn’t be a stand-alone experience, but rather a springboard to bolster veterans’ mental healthcare outcomes.

If you weren’t pursuing this particular area of study and career, what would you want to do?

I’d love to be drummer in a famous band … that didn’t travel too often.

Depression isn’t the same for everyone – the way you experience it can vary according to your age, gender, and life circumstances. Three educational psychology researchers have been looking specifically at depression in men and young girls and at how to uncover depression in people who don’t even know they have it.


Aaron Rochlen:

Aaron Rochlen is an educational psychology professor whose research focuses on men’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Here, he explains how depression is different for men than it is for women and what can happen if men don’t get the help they need.

“There’s just a lot of stigma around men seeking help for any kinds of mental health problems as well as physical issues. While women have traditionally been diagnosed with depression 2-3 times more often than men, men are committing suicide at rates of 4-6 times more often.”


Kevin Stark:

Pediatric behavioral health expert Kevin Stark is nationally known for his research on depression in children. In this clip, he describes why it’s so important to catch depression early in girls and the best way of treating it.

“The rate of depression among females is at least twice that of males.”


Stephanie Rude:

Stephanie Rude examines ways of detecting depression in people who don’t realize they have depression and preventing recurrences of the condition. Find out the simple but revealing strategy she uses to uncover “masked” depression.

“When people are able to take a couple of steps back and see the difficult situations that they are in from a larger perspective – kind of a wide angle lens view – they seem to be able to realize that they are not the only ones suffering.”

Jane GrayPsychologist Jane Gray is Director of Behavioral Health at the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity, Director of Psychology Training at the College of Education’s Texas Child Study Center, and a clinical assistant professor in the college’s Department of Educational Psychology. Gray’s positive experiences with faculty, research, and coursework in the College of Education compelled her to maintain strong connections to the college even after graduation and into her career.

Your Story

The educational psychology doctoral program was excellent training for a career in clinical work, training, and research. It prepared me very well for my internship at a pediatric hospital, postdoctoral work on clinical research projects, and my current position at the Texas Child Study Center. As a student I was a research assistant for various research projects, including Dr. Kevin Stark’s ACTION project. Working with the ACTION project allowed me to fine-tune my skills in cognitive behavioral therapy and offered an opportunity for program development and supervision of peers. I then went on to explore research interests of my own in the areas of internalizing disorders and the dissemination of evidence-based practices. Additionally, my work with the college’s Texas Autism Project rounded out my assessment and therapy skills and helped me develop an integrated perspective on the patient’s identified problems.

Why UT?

I applied to graduate programs during my last year as an undergraduate and, although I was fairly sure of my interests, I cast a wide net and applied to a variety of clinical and school psychology programs. I was drawn to UT in particular because it had a great reputation as a strong, highly ranked school psychology program that integrated a child clinical perspective, and there was a match between my interests and the faculty’s areas of research. The quality of the training and faculty was immediately apparent when I met with faculty and current students. In addition to being active in research, faculty members were licensed psychologists in their own practices, and they were involved in professional organizations like the American Psychological Association. The students reported feeling well-supported in their training, and I could sense the camaraderie among students, which was very important to me.

Life After UT

I did postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School’s Judge Baker Children’s Center, and that was invaluable in helping me refine my research skills and become better at training and supervision. During that time I also was an instructor for an undergraduate course in development across the lifespan. When I returned to Austin, I was one of the first psychologist hires at the College of Education’s Texas Child Study Center. I began to develop an obesity program for Dell Children’s Medical Center, became director for the psychology training program for the Texas Child Study Center, and created a new psychology internship program. Being part of the obesity program has allowed me to become involved in national initiatives to develop best practices in the assessment and treatment of youth with obesity. I’ve been part of a national focus group of 25 pediatric obesity programs and I serve on the American Psychological Association’s obesity panel to create clinical practice guidelines for professionals.

Advice For Students

My recommendation to students would be to carefully assess your skills and interests, then determine where to focus your academic energy based on your goals and objectives, not based on where your peers are focusing their energies. Graduate school is a time to take opportunities that are available and challenge yourself, but it should be a focused effort. Take advantage of professional development opportunities and definitely use mentors to learn how to be an effective professional because even the most skilled clinician or researcher may experience trouble finding a job because of deficits in the area of professional behavior. It’s also a good idea to stay in touch with those mentors even after you graduate.

Victor Saenz

Victor Saenz

Two University of Texas at Austin College of Education research groups have been included in a response to a task force report on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a project established by President Obama. My Brother’s Keeper has a goal of bringing together private sector and philanthropic organizations to improve life outcomes for boys and young men of color.

The response addresses a recently-released task force report Get Adobe Reader about the initiative and is a joint effort of seven university-based research centers:

  • Project MALES and the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color (UT Austin)
  • The Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Minority Male Community College Collaboration (San Diego State University)
  • Morehouse Research Institute (Morehouse College)
  • Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male (The Ohio State University)
  • UCLA Black Male Institute (University of California, Los Angeles)
  • Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

The centers focus on the study of factors that help and limit educational, social, and occupational opportunities for boys and young men of color.

Dr. Victor Saenz, an associate professor in the UT Austin College of Education’s Department of Educational Administration, is co-founder and executive director of Project MALES as well as the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color.

Below is the task force report that was issued:

As Black and Latino male professors and research center directors, we salute President Obama as well as the many philanthropic and private sector funders for their commitment to improving the conditions of our nation’s boys and young men of color.

The task force report offers a commendable articulation of challenges and opportunities for young men of color and various agents who play some role in their life outcomes. Recommendations offered therein are appropriately informed by research from a range of academic disciplines.

As our nation prepares to enact recommendations from the task force, we call for programs, policies, and services that are guided by research and documented effectiveness. We caution, for example, against the widespread replication of mentoring programs that haphazardly match young men with adults, as evidence concerning the outcomes of such programs is mixed. Moreover, we believe interventions should focus on better understanding and remedying systemic inequities in policies, schooling and social practices, and structures that persistently undermine the success of boys and men of color. More significant investment in the dissemination of existing research on what works, as well as funding new studies on promising policies and practices, would help ensure the success of My Brother’s Keeper and the Americans it aims to effectively serve.

We urge private foundations, federal funding agencies (i.e., the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health), and other entities that invest in projects associated with My Brother’s Keeper to take seriously the evidence base of initiatives that are proposed, as well as rigorous evaluations of newly funded projects. Funds are needed to facilitate productive collaborations among research centers such as ours, and to connect researchers with agents who lead organizations and initiatives for young men of color across our nation. The success of My Brother’s Keeper depends heavily on the quality of research produced about its effectiveness. Ultimately, strong cultures of evidence and efficacy should guide all programs, services, and interventions associated with the initiative.

My Brother’s Keeper affords our country an important opportunity to reframe hopeless, deficit-oriented narratives about boys and young men of color, schools that educate them, and communities in which they live. We are hopeful that the initiative will produce replicable models of success, but doing so requires more investment in studies of what works. To ensure the success of My Brother’s Keeper, our research centers stand ready to serve as resources to its funders and the Obama Administration.

The George W. Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center announced the selection of eight new schools to participate in the second year of Middle School Matters Institute.

The Middle School Matters Institute, implemented in partnership with The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at The University of Texas at Austin (MCPER), now encompasses a total of 16 schools in four states. The schools receive high quality research-based school improvement strategies from the Bush Institute’s national experts, yearlong professional support from MCPER, and an invitation to the three-day Middle School Matters summer conference.

Using a rigorous selection process, the Bush Institute chose eight new schools, including six Texas schools, from a nationwide pool of applicants:

  • Baytown Junior School of Goose Creek CISD in Baytown, TX
  • Grant Middle School of Corpus Christi ISD in Corpus Christi, TX
  • Lee Middle School of San Angelo ISD in San Angelo, TX
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in Pharr, TX
  • Trinity Middle School of Trinity ISD in Trinity, TX
  • Wilkinson Middle School of Mesquite ISD in Mesquite, TX
  • Woodward Elementary School of Manteca USD
  • Advanced Studies Magnet-Haut Gap Middle School

Sharon Vaughn, MCPER’s executive director, said, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such progressive middle schools that are committed to using proven strategies for success in the middle grades with our teachers and school leaders across the nation.”

Hot on the heels of being named a Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow by the National Academy of Education (NAEd), Sarah Powell has scooped up another honor. The first-year assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Special Education was one of four Texas university faculty selected as a Greater Texas Foundation Faculty Fellow.

The three-year program provides each fellow with a $30,000 per year grant to support a research agenda aligned with the foundation’s mission to support postsecondary preparation, access, and completion for Texas students.

After being nominated through an invitation-only nomination process, Powell was asked to participate in a competitive proposal process in which she was required to demonstrate significant potential in and commitment to a career in research and teaching at the postsecondary level.

“The Greater Texas Foundation Faculty Fellowship provides me with the opportunity to extend my interest in algebraic development to students at the college level,” said Powell. “During the three-year project, I plan to work with college students with math disabilities or difficulties, a sample of students that is rarely studied. I want to learn how the math performance and math experiences of college students contribute to preparation for and success in college.”

In addition, Powell was required to identify a mentor to assist her throughout the three-year fellowship. Powell selected Sharon Vaughn, executive director of The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk.

“As Dr. Vaughn is one of the best empirical researchers in special education, I feel very fortunate that she agreed to be my mentor over the next three years,” said Powell. “Under her direction, I am confident I can get my project up and running and complete it successfully.”

Sarah Powell

Sarah Powell, Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow

Sarah Powell, a first-year assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Special Education, has been named a Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow by the National Academy of Education (NAEd). Powell was among 25 honorees chosen from a pool of more than 200 applicants.

The prestigious Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship program supports early career scholars working in critical areas of education research. Fellowships, which carry awards of $55,000, are funded by a grant to the NAEd from the Spencer Foundation, a private foundation that supports research to improve education.

Powell’s research focuses on developing and testing interventions for students with mathematics difficulties. She is particularly interested in peer tutoring, word-problem solving, and the role of symbols for understanding mathematics. Powell was selected for the fellowship based on a two-year research proposal she submitted that asks how math symbol and vocabulary understanding influence math performance.

“I am extremely honored to receive this fellowship,” said Powell. “It will allow me to delve into the area of math symbols and vocabulary. By collecting data across four grade levels, I can learn how math symbol and vocabulary knowledge change from early elementary to late middle school. I hope this knowledge can be used to improve math instruction for students.”

Not only are College of Education faculty and students nationally recognized for their landmark research on topics like racial inequality in schools, but also for pioneering programs like Uteach and the Kinesiology and Health Education Department’s rigorous athletic training program. Check out this sample of media coverage our top-ranked college has received from MSNBC, KUT, Alcalde and KNOW.

MSNBC
Julian Vasquez Heilig
“What’s causing racial segregation in schools”
http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/whats-causing-racial-segregation-in-schools-258597955928

“Demography determines destiny … those schools that are triple segregated are more likely to be low performing and this is a really big issue.”

 

KUT
Richard Reddick
“Why Do Black Students Get More Suspensions?”
http://kut.org/post/why-do-black-students-get-more-suspensions-here-are-3-possible-reasons

“‘So often, schools require students to leave their culture, leave their heritage at the door and convert to what we have, instead of saying, ‘We embrace what you have,” Reddick says. “‘And that doesn’t happen unless you have a clear understanding of what the community does.'”

 

Alcalde
Uteach
“UT’s Award-Winning Teacher Education Program Goes (Even More) National
http://alcalde.texasexes.org/2014/02/uts-award-winning-teacher-education-program-goes-even-more-national/

“The U.S. faces a shortage of 283,000 science and math teachers by 2015. Increasingly, educators are agreeing that one of the best ways to bridge that gap is a program that started on the Forty Acres.”

 

KNOW
Athletic Training Program
“Open Up and Say ‘Hook’em'”
http://www.utexas.edu/know/2014/05/13/open-up-and-say-hook-em/

“Students in the university’s undergraduate athletic training degree program in the College of Education help provide support to athletic training and sports medicine staff, providing care to UT’s hundreds of student-athletes. They have to be jacks-of-all-trades, working on everything from setting up fields and courts for practices and games to providing first-aid treatment to assisting in rehabilitation for injured athletes.”

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