Our Lab aims to:
- Build a better understanding of the mechanisms that maintain and underlie meaningful change in fear-based symptoms (anxiety disorders, OCD and PTSD). Mechanisms of interest include: emotion regulation, anxiety sensitivity/distress tolerance, resilience, cultural values/systems, psychophysiological correlates.
- Improve outcomes that matter to a wider diversity of individuals in an effort to empower our communities and reduce ongoing health disparities. Outcomes of interest include: quality of life, functional impairment, employment, school attendance, interpersonal conflict, and anger management.
- Leverage latest technological and other innovations in order to expand the scope and access to evidence-based interventions on a local and global scale. Such innovations include use of: smart technology, mobile and wearable devices, ambulatory measurement tools, iterative and agile study approaches.
Several current projects are currently in the planning phases, and interested students at the graduate, post-baccalaureate, or undergraduate level are encouraged to read through the descriptions below, and otherwise reach out to the lab PI, Dr. Anu Asnaani, for any remaining questions.
Community-based mental health initiatives
This is an ongoing collaboration with the Community Faces of Utah (CFU), a great community-based organization here in Salt Lake City which brings together 5 diverse communities in the city: Best of Africa (African immigrants and refugees), Calvary Baptist Church (primarily African Americans), Hispanic Health Care Task Force (Hispanics/Latinos), National Tongan American Society (Pacific Islanders), and Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake (American Indians/Alaskan Natives). The CFU was established in 2009, and its member organizations conduct considerable work in the area of addressing health disparities within their own diverse communities and in conjunction with the Utah Department of Health, the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the U, and the Community Collaboration and Engagement Team within the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS).
Dr. Asnaani is currently writing a pilot grant application in close partnership with CFU to conduct enhanced focus groups in each community to determine mental health definitions, barriers, needs and areas for potential intervention, in order to submit a larger multi-year NIH grant that will test a culturally-responsive treatment for the identified target area(s) across all five communities. These projects will have a central place for students and research assistants to get involved to learn the most effective ways to engage in community-based participatory research.
Building on Dr. Asnaani’s previous extensive experience in conducting mechanistic examinations of a variety of hypothesized factors underlying effective treatments for fear- and anxiety-based symptoms, there will be a series of experimental studies with community and college samples conducted in the lab. Specifically, there is an interest in increasing understanding around the psychophysiological and subjective correlates (including reported distress, cultural values, resilience, etc) of different emotion regulation strategies, distress tolerance indices, and approach behavior toward feared stimuli. Students involved in the lab will have the opportunity to become involved with a range of methodologies, technologies (including smart applications and mobile wearable devices), and clinical interviewing/intervention skills. The first experimental study is slated to start data collection in Spring 2020.
Global health disparities and education initiatives:
Dr. Asnaani proudly hails from the island nation of Saint Lucia, and has recently begun a series of psychoeducational programs surrounding trauma intervention, stress management, and provider self-care/support/training conducted in person or remotely in the past year. Dr. Asnaani would like to expand her global research program to other regions over the next 5 years, and students involved in the lab would have a chance to be involved with this ongoing line of work and learn first-hand about the joys and challenges of working in international contexts (and often from afar!).
Currently, Dr. Asnaani is starting analysis from her most recent trauma education and provider self care workshop conducted in Saint Lucia in March 2019 to better understand the effectiveness of a one-day workshop on increasing knowledge about evidence-based approaches to trauma-exposed populations and reducing stigma around mental health treatment in this context.
Aside from publications/presentations in academic & peer-reviewed outlets, Dr. Asnaani’s work has been featured in several alternative media settings in the past year:
- Global health work: Dr. Asnaani was featured on local nightly news segments on Saint Lucia-based TV channels (DBS and CHOICE News) and in printed features in local newspapers (The Voice Saint Lucia and The St. Lucia Star) in reference to trauma and self-care workshop conducted with mental health providers, counselors, advocates, public health educators, and government administrators on the island in March, 2019.
- Outreach to university populations: Dr. Asnaani was interviewed by reporter Lucia Limanni in Trauma and Mental Health - Reporter who cited her expert opinion around the need for specialized and evidence-based treatments for students struggling with emotional disorders who present to school-based counseling services in October, 2018. - view here
- Involvement in education efforts around conducting community-based treatments: Dr. Asnaani is the current Chair of the Continuing Education committee at the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), tasked with providing diverse education topics for professionals in the field. Related to this, she served as Moderator for a webinar provided by invited speaker Dr. Lynn McFarr (UCLA) entitled “Stuck Points in CBT Training in Community Mental Health” in August, 2018. - view here
- Contemporary writings on mental health issues faced by immigrant populations: Dr. Asnaani was asked to write a blog post for the American Psychological Association Division 12 Society of Clinical Psychology as part of her role on the Diversity Committee in March, 2018. - view here