WOU Research Project Helps Grow Pipeline of Minority Researchers

WOU Research Project Helps Grow Pipeline of Minority Researchers

Posted on April 8, 2016

1 comments 1346 Views

By Carol Dennis

Breaking an Historical Bias

Throughout its history, psychology research has been dominated by white Western culture. When white researchers research people of color, using elements from the dominant culture to measure or evaluate diverse populations, the findings may be less than flattering, even racist, and often causing great harm.

Dr Hoover stands next to a man who is handing her an envelope

Dr. Stephanie Hoover (Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Western Oregon University) and her team are helping break this historical bias.

In the summer of 2015, Dr. Hoover was awarded the Charles J. Gelso, Ph.D. Psychotherapy Grant from the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy. This $5000 grant is allowing Dr. Hoover to continue her research into culturally accommodated therapy for Latino adolescents.

Changing the pipeline

All three of the undergraduates assisting Dr. Hoover with this research identify as Latino, and are exploring the responses of Latino adolescents in the group therapy sessions being studied. “That makes for an uncommon dynamic,” says Dr. Hoover.

Their participation in this research study represents an important element needed to change the field of psychology. “Involving historically underrepresented students as part of the research team means that we change the pipeline - increasing racial and ethnic diversity within the field of psychology,” Hoover continues.

As a white, non-Latino person, Hoover feels strongly about collaborating with Latino researchers on this project. “This is multicultural counseling research at its best,” she emphasizes.

The focus of the study

Culturally accommodated therapy is psychotherapy that pays attention to culture. Dr. Hoover says, “It’s about delivering mental health services that make sense and are effective with diverse communities.”

The research team standing on an outside staircase

Research Assistants Xavier Rubio, Edgar Guerrero, and Cyntia Rodriguez, along with Dr. Hoover are exploring the research question - What do Latino adolescents disclose in the final group session of substance abuse treatment?

The research team is looking at the transcripts from the final session (in a series of 12), which is considered a therapeutically important session. The adolescents are ending the group experience and trying to figure out next steps for themselves to reduce the risky behaviors that led to substance use and trouble with the law. 

Building on previous study

This work builds on a research study that Hoover was involved with during her time at the University of Utah (UT). "The focus of the treatment outcome study from UT (with Jason Burrow-Sanchez as the Principal Investigator) was: Which active treatment (standard or culturally accommodated sessions) yielded the better treatment outcome of reduced substance use?" Hoover says.

The culturally accommodated treatment outcomes in the initial study were considered successful - that is to say that after treatment, participants reported reduced substance use. 

Dr. Hoover’s team is exploring the Latino adolescents’ disclosures, which provide a unique perspective – that of the participants themselves.

Combing through the transcripts

The team is working with transcripts from both standard and culturally accommodated sessions. The following are the preliminary domains that the team pulled out to help identify what the Latino adolescents learned from being in therapy.

  • Relationships and support within group
  • Relationships and support outside of group
  • Applying problem solving techniques to their own lives
  • Skills learned in group and their feedback about the therapy

The next step is to create categories that will be nested within each domain. The final categories and domains will provide an aggregate picture of what the Latino adolescents say they learned in group.

The great thing about our team is that we have different knowledge bases that all contribute positively to the advancement and understanding of culturally adapted treatment.” ~ Cyntia Rodriguez

A woman and a man standing in front of a projector screen showing a slide from their presentation

Research Assistant, Cyntia Rodriguez, says she feels that being Latina herself allows her to contribute a different perspective and a cultural understanding than perhaps someone who is not Latino. “The great thing about our team is that we have different knowledge bases that all contribute positively to the advancement and understanding of culturally adapted treatment,” Rodriguez continues.

“Since joining this research project,” Rodriguez says, “I see how little research has been done on culturally adapted treatment. Just as we prescribe medical treatment based on individuals’ specific needs and physical background, it makes sense to develop therapy that meets the needs of individuals with diverse cultural backgrounds.”

Presenting their findings

Dr. Hoover’s research team presented at Oregon Academy of Science (OAS). Two of the team members had family members come. They got to share their preliminary results with their families, WOU peers, WOU faculty, and other attendees at OAS, like graduate students at Pacific University.

The team is looking forward to presenting at WOU Academic Excellence Showcase at the end of May.

Download the slide presentation here: What Is It Like for Latino Adolescents to be in Group Therapy for Substance Use?


Congratulations, Stephanie and team! This is important work and it is delightful to share the same workplace!

Patti Blasco

Patricia  Blasco

Posted Apr 19, 2016 by Patricia Blasco

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