Matthew Yalch, PhD, Honored with WPA Enrico E. Jones Award

April 28, 2022
Matt Yalch Palo Alto University Faculty
Over the weekend, Matthew Yalch, PhD, assistant professor and researcher at PAU since 2018, won the Enrico E. Jones Award at the Western Psychological Association (WPA) 102nd Annual Convention in Portland, Oregon. The Enrico E. Jones Award recognizes the scholarship of a WPA member who is an early career researcher (10 years or less post-doc), whose research in clinical psychology has applications to the practice of psychotherapy. 
“It’s a tremendous honor,” says Dr. Yalch. “To be recognized, in general, is very humbling. For a lot of reasons, I feel very honored.”
Dr. Yalch attended the convention along with more than 20 PAU faculty, students, and alumni. PAU faculty members Liz McConnell, PhD, and Sheila Park, PhD, were speakers at the convention. PAU professor Lisa Brown, PhD, led a mentoring session where PAU PhD students mentored undergraduate attendees about graduate school education. Dr. Brown along with the chair of PAU’s Department of Psychology, Dr. Rowena Gomez, were among those who nominated Dr. Yalch for the award, as was Dr. Kris Burkman, Dr. Yalch’s mentor at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he completed his clinical internship and postdoctoral clinical training in therapy for PTSD and SUD.
“Although the award is given to one person, I’ve had really supportive mentors and colleagues at PAU and the San Francisco VA,” says Dr. Yalch. “So even though I’m receiving this award, it won’t go to my head, because everyone around me has helped me get to where I am.”
It is especially meaningful for Dr. Yalch to be awarded the Enrico E. Jones Award because Dr. Jones’s book Therapeutic Action: A Guide to Psychoanalytic Therapy was highly influential for him as a graduate student. The late Dr. Jones was an esteemed psychology professor at UC Berkeley and a pioneer in the study of the relationship between therapist and patient. 
“There are big shoes to fill when you receive an award named after someone like Dr. Jones,” says Dr. Yalch. “I think about awards as being, in part, recognizing what I’ve done in the past, but also motivating me for future work. Winning this particular award is providing even more motivation to continue my research.”

Trauma and Personality

Since his start at PAU in 2018, Dr. Yalch has managed the Trauma and Personality Studies (TAPS) lab, which focuses on the intersection of trauma and personality. While earning his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Michigan State University, Dr. Yalch had two advisors—one that focused primarily on trauma and the other on personality assessment. The TAPS research group is a fusion of these two fields, studying how trauma impacts personality and how personality impacts one’s response to trauma. 
“Even though my focus is with veteran mental health, I don’t expect or want my students to be research clones of me,” says Dr. Yalch. In the TAPS lab, some students are interested in personality, some in particular types of trauma, and some in both personality and trauma. “The students really drive the research and most of my recent publications are co-authored with students.”
Previous to his work as a psychologist, Dr. Yalch was an Army officer, serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan. This experience informed his interest in working with trauma, veterans, and how trauma influences personality. After completing his postdoctoral training at the San Francisco VA, Dr. Yalch spent a year as an assistant professor at Marian University in Indianapolis before coming to PAU.
“Being in the military brought up my interest in the effects of traumatic experiences and working at the San Francisco VA felt very natural,” says Dr. Yalch. “At the VA, I worked with many students from PAU, so I was thrilled to accept the position at PAU a couple of years later. It was exactly the job I wanted.” 

Looking into the Future

In the future, Dr. Yalch wants to explore the potential therapeutic value of personality assessment in the context of trauma treatment. He believes that it’s important for psychotherapists to better understand the relationship between personality and trauma because different personality profiles may respond differently to various interventions. Dr. Yalch would like to conduct research regarding ways for psychotherapists to select trauma interventions based on their client’s personality assessments. 
“I’ve done work in several different areas and my hope is that my research support folks who’ve experienced trauma, both in the military and in civilian life,” says Dr. Yalch. “I wouldn’t say that anything I’ve done has been a cure for anything, but hopefully, it can contribute to helping people in some way.”