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Home › Graduate › Ph.D. Clinical Psychology › Research Labs › Cultural Transitions

Culture, Community, and Global Mental Health Research Group

Dr. Sita G. Patel (spatel@paloaltou.edu)

Research Group Website: http://researchgrouppau.wixsite.com/drpatel

Overview:  The Culture, Community, and Global Mental Health Research Group examines the intersection of culture and mental health through both a clinical and a community/ social ecology framework.  Students interested broadly in cultural psychology, immigration/ refugee issues, global mental health, and community collaborative work are encouraged to apply.  Research in this group includes secondary analysis of quantitative and qualitative (interview) data collected in various community settings (e.g., public high schools and community clinics), as well as the collection of primary data in schools and community mental health settings.  Members of this research group are expected to attend research group meetings (about 2x per month), collaborate with peers on all aspects of research projects including data collection, literature, analysis, writing and presenting, and be able to work in community settings.  Students with foreign language skills, and/ or experience with international populations, are particularly encouraged to apply.  Mentorship and supervision includes research processes as well as guidance with practicum applications and interviews, teaching and leadership, presentation skills, and other general domains of professional development.


Current Research Projects:

  1. Risk & Resiliency Among Adolescent Immigrants: This area of research includes several projects:

a.     A community-based collaboration with San Francisco and Oakland International High Schools, to assess needs and learn about trajectories of risk and resilience for newcomer immigrant adolescents, many of whom are unaccompanied minors from Central America.  Data collection is ongoing and research assistants are on site at both locations collaborating with school personnel and interviewing/ collecting data from high school students (in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Cantonese, Farsi, Arabic, Tigrinya and Karen).  Data will be collected annually through 2019.

b.     An archival quantitative dataset includes 200 newcomer immigrant high school students from 40 countries of origin.  Quantitative data include information on daily stressors for inner-city minority youth (e.g., discrimination, family conflict, socioeconomic problems), DSM-related symptom profiles (anxiety, depression, behavioral problems), academic achievement and school engagement, coping strategies, neighborhood composition, and ethnic identity.

c.     Qualitative, interview data include narratives about family, school, coping with stress, and general stories related to immigration and acculturation.  Research group members are involved in conceptualizing and carrying out studies based on this data, presenting at conferences, and writing manuscripts for publication.

Student Project Manager: Maggie del Cid (mdelcid@paloaltou.edu)



        2.       Refugee Mental Health:  This is a community collaboration project with the Center for Survivors of Torture, a refugee mental health clinic housed within the Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) in San Jose.

 a.      Database includes clinical chart information from ~400 adult refugees from around the world with information related to risk and resiliency, treatment  trajectories, and psychosocial functioning across a broad spectrum of indices (e.g., adaptive functioning, mental health, coping, etc.).  Current student  projects drawn from this data include a program evaluation of community outreach and engagement efforts for a diverse population of adult refugees (e.g.,  stigma-reduction videos), refugee coping strategies, and an evaluation of treatment outcomes over time.  Research group members continue to work on  studies for conference presentations and future manuscripts. 

 Student project manager: David Reed (dreed@paloaltou.edu)


         3.        International Community Mental Health: Dr. Patel is involved in two global mental health projects aimed at understanding and treating psychological problems in Africa.

a.     First, is a USAID-funded trauma healing and peace education program in the Central African Republic (CAR), in collaboration with local NGO’s and other PAU faculty (Drs. Froming, Froming & Brown).  In 2016, project faculty and two students participated in on-site project development and on-going data collection in Bangui. Pending funding and project needs, additional travel may be required.

b.     Second, is an ongoing collaboration with the Africa Mental Health Foundation (AMHF) in Nairobi, Kenya. Current projects include a study of traditional healers as mental health referral source, and investigation of trauma treatment in Kenya. Dr. Patel and two current students engaged in on-site service provision, delivered trainings and workshops in Nairobi in 2016.  Opportunities for future student involvement in AMHF are available upon request.

                     Student project manager: Isabel Unanue (iunanue@paloaltou.edu)

Student Research Projects:  As part of this research group, students are expected to assist in local field work (data collection, community collaboration, etc.) and to develop an independent research project with archival data.  Students will spend their first year in the group learning about and developing skills in literature review and data analysis (with a focus on mixed methods and qualitative analysis), and carrying out a project in the form of a conference poster, symposium, and/ or paper for publication.  Following this first project, most students choose to be involved in additional projects (e.g., posters, book chapters, manuscripts, symposia).  Student dissertations may be on a topic of one’s choosing.  Recent student dissertations included original data collection on topics such as discrimination and intersectionality among Black gay men and women, cognitive assessment among South Asian children, and a program evaluation for a youth soccer program designed for newcomer immigrant adolescents.

Apply: There will be 2-4 openings to join the group in Fall 2017 (start date is usually Spring or Summer).  Students interested in joining the group are asked to submit the following items to Dr. Patel (via email):

1)    Curriculum Vitae (please include email contact information for 2 references)

2)    Cover letter (1-2 pages) discussing any past research (or related) experiences, current and future research interests, goals for research group, and broader career goals for the future.

3)    Unofficial PAU transcript.



1791 Arastradero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Phone: (800) 818-6136 Fax: (650) 433-3888





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