New unit offers clinical, social and health psychology research opportunities

Jun 7th, 2022

Elizabeth Furey

The Student Wellness and Counselling Centre (SWCC) wasn’t just running rapid testing clinics or administering vaccines during the pandemic.

A new research unit based in the clinic has also been producing significant results.

Aspects of psychology

The Psychosocial Collaborative Research Unit (PCRU) at the SWCC launched in October 2020, with the goal of supporting students, faculty and applied researchers with an opportunity to conduct collaborative applied research in the areas of clinical, social and health psychology.

“We had an interest in conducting research through the centre, so we put a call out to honours students in the Department of Psychology and were overwhelmed by the response,” said Dr. Ken Fowler, director of the SWCC. “We picked seven students, all of whom were eager to work on the project.”

The director of the PCRU, Dr. Pamela Button, is a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor at the SWCC.

She says that, with Dr. Fowler as director of the SWCC and through the Faculty of Science, the group has access to a significant amount of data.

“Our honours students collaborated with our faculty and the Faculty of Medicine, as well as having master’s in applied psychological science graduate students complete both work projects and work terms with us,” Dr. Button said.

‘Tailor the topic’

The student research projects all focused on mental health, but the finer details varied.

Cailyn Fridgen, a spring 2022 bachelor of science graduate, was one of the students who worked in the PCRU.

She says her interest in women’s health and wellness are what drew her to the project.

“The Student Wellness and Counselling Centre uses data collected from the Canadian Community Health Survey, so we have access to so many different physical and mental health variables as well as demographics, which meant we could really tailor the topic of our research to our personal research interests.”

Bethany Torraville, a psychology student who also graduated this month with a bachelor of science degree, is another student who conducted research with the PCRU.

She says she was attracted to the work because of her interest in clinical psychology and a clinically focused research unit.

“My research was focused on the gender differences in adolescents and emerging adults with ADHD,” said Ms. Torraville. “Research that includes females with ADHD is very limited so I have been very grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Fowler and Dr. Button, and been able to work towards filling this gap and advocating for better awareness and practices for this population.”

Dr. Button says it was important to everyone in the unit to conduct research that gave students experience in doing applied research, and research that could be used in the future.

“Dr. Fowler and I wanted to make the unit something that was sustainable, and foster collaborative relationships with other areas of the university,” she said.

“Completing my thesis under the supervision of clinicians with ample experience who work directly in this area was a great learning opportunity,” said Ms. Torraville. “There have already been several opportunities for me to share my research, and Dr. Button and Dr. Fowler have really encouraged me consistently during this process.”

Going forward, Dr. Button and Dr. Fowler hope to expand the unit and work with more faculty and collaborators across the university.

“The number of students we can accept depends on the number of collaborators we get to participate, so we’re eager to grow and conduct more research with honours students, as well as graduate students,” said Dr. Fowler.