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MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES RESEARCH DOCTORAL TRAINING PROGRAM

EDWARD J MULLEN, PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Willma and Albert Musher Chair Professor


National Institute of Mental Health Institutional Training Grant # 05 T32 MH 014623

Three-year fellowships available for full-time PhD students admitted to the Columbia University School of Social Work Doctoral Training Program for Fall 2006.

The Mental Health Services Research Doctoral Training Program at the Columbia University School of Social Work anticipates receipt of National Research Services Award traineeships from the National Institute of Mental Health for the 2006-2007 academic year. The traineeships are at the predoctoral level of support. Funding is provided for a 12-month stipend of  approximately $20,772 plus a substantial portion of tuition, fees and health insurance to the extent funding is available (currently estimated to be $14,893). Trainees are appointed for 12 months. At the discretion of the Program Director trainees may be appointed for three consecutive 12 month periods. Appointees must be committed to pursuing a career in mental health services research. In addition to completing all of the normal Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. requirements appointees must complete additional course and practicum requirements including advanced training in mental health content, statistics and quantitative research methods.

A description of the program can be found below . Those interested in further information or in applying should contact the Program Director, Edward J Mullen at ejm3@columbia.edu.

Subject to receipt of a formal notice of award and funding sufficient to provide support. It is anticipated that the program will be funded under grant 2 T32 MH14623 through August 31, 2007.



Abstract

This doctoral program is designed to prepare social work research scientists to conduct research in mental health services research. Awards are  made to entering doctoral students who show exceptional promise for research and scholarship in mental health services research. It is expected that four awards will be given for the 2006-2007 academic year. Funding is provided for a 12-month stipend of  approximately $20,772 plus a substantial portion of tuition, fees and health insurance to the extent funding is available (currently estimated to be $14,893). Each award is given for 12 months. Subject to satisfactory performance and adequate funding, the award is renewed for up to three years.

Building upon twenty-five years of experience educating mental health research scientists supported by the NIMH NRSA program, this program focuses on issues of mental health clinical services and service systems research. Within this broad designation, three specific areas have been selected for study. They are mental health issues related to: (1) assessment; (2) special populations; and (3) social work and social policy analysis in mental health services research. These three areas have been selected because of their current importance to the field, their span of clinical services and service system concerns, and the presence of courses and senior faculty with ongoing research in each area. Training emphasizes applied intervention research of relevance to practice in mental health service systems. Bridging the gap between research and practice is of central concern. The goal is to educate social work researchers with academic preparation in both clinical services and service systems, knowledge of sophisticated methods of empirical research, and supervised research field experience. These research field experiences are provided in research conducted at the Columbia University School of Social Work, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and other New York City mental health research sites.


Overview

This program has been training doctoral students in mental health research since 1976.  Accordingly, this is the oldest NIMH supported predoctoral training program in social work. Dr. Shirley Jenkins directed the program through 1988. Dr. Edward Mullen has directed the program since 1989. The program has contributed significantly to the training of social work scientists in mental health research. While there are several NIMH NRSA training programs at Columbia University this is the only program preparing social work research scientists and it is one of only a few to do so in the United States. The program focuses on issues of mental health clinical services and service systems research.  Since this is a social work training program, the emphasis  is on applied, intervention-relevant research with special attention to disadvantaged populations. Accordingly, issues such as how research findings from clinical research and from the social and behavioral sciences can be applied in practice settings, as well as how adherence to mental health interventions can be enhanced are of special concern. These focuses have been selected because of their current importance to the field, because they span clinical services and service systems, and because of Columbia Universityís strong research curriculum and faculty resources in these areas.  Specification of these training areas for special study does not exclude others that may be of interest to trainees and faculty.  Nevertheless, the program represents a concentrated effort to provide in-depth training around selected issues and target areas relevant to mental health services research.

The goal of the program is to prepare social work researchers who are well trained with regard to sophisticated methods of empirical research, clinical services, and policy analysis, and to impart in-depth empirical research field experience through supervised research practicum training during each year of support.  To achieve this goal the program recruites nationally for outstanding candidates who have a master's degree (preferably in social work), post-masterís degree experience, and a career commitment to mental health services research.  We shall continue and intensify these recruitment efforts. The program includes required course work in research methods, advanced statistics, and an ongoing seminar in mental health services research.  We offer course work in advanced clinical services, social policy, and social sciences, with a clear focus on key applied mental health issues.  A research practicum is required during each year of support and will include a minimum of seven hours of direct research experience per week under the direction of a senior research scientist most often associated with the School of Social Work, or with programs located at the Columbia University Health Sciences campus, or with the New York State Psychiatric Institute.  A mental health services research field of practice examination, a social science qualifying paper, a comprehensive examination, and a scholarly dissertation in mental health services are requirements to complete the training program.

Historical Background

Since the inception of its doctoral program in l947, the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) has had a strong commitment to research training for social workers.  This commitment has evolved through several historical phases.  In the early years special support from the Russell Sage Foundation helped to produce pioneer social work researchers who added to knowledge and to the research faculties of major graduate schools of social work. A second emphasis in research training emerged in the decade of the sixties with the expansion of federal funding for poverty programs and community mental health centers.  There was a pressing need to train social work researchers in sophisticated methods of evaluation research.  The inauguration of the NIMH research-training program at CUSSW in l976 initiated a third phase of research training.  The program yielded substantial benefits, including the institutionalization of advanced research studies, and achieved high regard because of its sophisticated methodology and quantitative methods, and its emphasis on clinical services research.  These three phases--preparation for research education, evaluation research, and clinical services research--all remain strong and continuing areas of interest at CUSSW.  A fourth phase was initiated in 1989 moving the training program from a general focus on preparing social work researchers to a specific focus on preparing social work clinical services and mental health services system researchers.  A greater depth of knowledge and research skill pertaining to mental health services and systems was explicitly sought.  In this fourth phase trainees systematically studied the mental health services research literature through a three-year seminar, a one-semester readings tutorial, and a specialized examination regarding knowledge of the mental health services research literature. In addition, much more extensive in-depth research experience was provided over the course of a longer period of training, especially through the addition of the mentored research practicum spanning three yearsA fifth phase was implemented in 1996. The doctoral program was converted from a DSW to a PhD Graduate School of Arts and Sciences degree program, thus increasing its interdisciplinary character as well as its research orientation.

The interface between mental health clinical services and service systems research is especially salient in mental health service delivery.  Expertise regarding the design, planning, management, and evaluation of service systems is crucial to the implementation of policy and the utilization of clinical services research.  We remain convinced that researchers must understand these essential activities in order to deal effectively with the complex problems of mental health service delivery. The CUSSW training program builds on past efforts and current strengths of the School that promote the integration of research about clinical services and service systems.  In the field of mental health, as in other human service arenas, we have learned that policy-making, no matter how well intended, cannot be successful without careful attention to the multiple aspects and phases of program implementation, which include needs assessment, program design, planning, management, and evaluation.  In this manifold process, knowledge, skills, and readiness for changes in clinical practice are vital. Clinical services knowledge, no matter how valid or potentially useful, cannot exert a significant impact on service delivery without first being adapted to the organizational and service system environments.  The effective use of clinical research requires attention to the complex process of knowledge utilization on the part of decision-makers. The current concerns regarding closing the gap between research and practice, as well as issues of adherence, are examples of this complexity and interdependence. Translating clinical research findings to the realities of community-based practice requires collaborative partnerships with service delivery systems and community groups. Without such collaboration it is unlikely that effective interventions will be accepted or followed. Future researchers need to understand the complexity and interdependence of these variables when studying and shaping mental health systems of care.

Program Requirements

Each trainee's program is individually arranged.  It includes courses required of all doctoral program students.  However, the program for trainees includes additional requirements.  A wide range of electives is available at CUSSW and at related professional schools and graduate divisions of the University.  All doctoral students must pass examinations in a field of social work concentration, in a related behavioral or social science, and in a substantive field of practice.  For trainees in this program, the latter is mental health services research.  An acceptable dissertation must be prepared and defended before a committee comprised of five faculty from CUSSW and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.  Trainees are required to complete dissertations that examine mental health service problems. Columbia University requires completion of at least 30 points within the University to qualify for the PhD degree.  In fact, to complete the School's minimum PhD requirements 48 credits must be completed beyond the master's degree.  A typical minimum PhD program includes at least 9 credits in the student's social work method of concentration, 9 credits in a social science specialization, 18 credits in statistics and research, and 3 credits in social welfare history and philosophy.  In addition, all students complete a non-credit dissertation seminar, 3 credits in a field of practice tutorial, and 6 credits of dissertation study.  All candidates are required to spend at least three consecutive terms in full-time residence. Like CUSSW other doctoral students, all trainees are required to complete 3 statistics courses (T8501, T8504, and an advanced statistics course such as TM6122); 3 research methods courses (T8502, T8508, and one specialized methods course such as in epidemiology); Social Welfare History and Philosophy (T8501); the non-credit two semester Dissertation Seminar; and 6 credits of dissertation study (T9800).  In addition, like other PhD students trainees are required to select a social science specialization completing a minimum of 3 courses; select one social work specialization offered in the PhD program and complete the required courses in that specialization (Advanced Clinical Practice, Social Policy or, its sub-specialization in administration); and, complete a field of practice tutorial, which for trainees is Mental Health Services Research. Beyond these common social work PhD, requirements trainees are required to complete the three-year Mental Health Seminar and Practicum series (including summers).  In addition they are required to complete a non-credit course in the conduct of science offered to all university NRS award predoctoral trainees. Accordingly, trainees must complete both core PhD requirements as well as those in their social science and social work specialization of choice. For social policy students, in addition to the three core social policy courses offered at the School of Social Work, additional required courses are offered outside of the School. Social policy trainees are required to complete a course in Microeconomics and Policy Analysis (U8216). For trainees selecting economics as their social science, two semesters of Microeconomics and Policy Analysis (U8216) is required as well as an additional elective in economics. In sum, all trainees are required to complete 48 credits in a set of common core courses, an additional 9 credits in an elective social science area, and from 9-18 additional credits in their respective area of social work specialization (i.e., Advanced Clinical Practice-9 credits; Social Policy-18 credits; Social Administration-12 credits).   Over 9 semesters (3 years) trainees earn a minimum of from 66 to 75 credits depending on their social work specialization choice.  This load compares with a minimum of 48 credits for CUSSW PhD students who are not trainees in this program.  In addition, trainees typically complete additional electives.

The Mental Health Services Research Seminar and Practicum is central to the students' training.  This course consists of biweekly seminars and a seven-hour per week research practicum. It is designed to further identify and develop research-based knowledge and skills for mental health services.  The seminar-practicum is required throughout the three years of training including summers. The seminar is linked with each trainee's research practicum and provides students with an opportunity to consider a wide range of methods, designs, and issues in mental health services research.  The seminar has fostered the identification of research problems for doctoral dissertations. Faculty, research scientists, and previous trainees have presented their current work in mental health research and the trainees have presented their internship research for critical discussion.  In addition, there have been topic-focused sessions examining pertinent mental health services research areas. In addition to seminars, this course also includes a research practicum. During each semester in residency, trainees are required to complete a research practicum in which they conduct mental health services research under the direction of a senior research scientist.  The internship normally requires the equivalent of one day per week throughout the academic year and summer months.

Trainees complete a readings seminar in the field of practice designated as mental health services research.  This seminar is designed to prepare them for the required mental health services field of practice written examination.  All trainees are required to select a social-behavioral science specialization and to take at least three courses in the selected area.  A qualifying social science-behavioral science paper in that area is required after completion of three courses.  This paper is reviewed by a faculty member of CUSSW and by a member of the University faculty in the social-behavioral science area. Upon completion of all course requirements, and with appropriate recommendations from the faculty, students take oral and written comprehensive examinations.  These exams occur at the beginning of the Spring and Autumn terms.  Dissertation topics must be approved and proposals must be completed no later than one year after the comprehensive examinations.  The doctorate is awarded after the dissertation defense.