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Thursday, May 20, 2021

CFD’s Lind Nets Grant to Study Burnout Among Early Childhood Trauma Therapists

As a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Delaware, Dr. Teresa Lind completed her clinical training at community mental health agencies in nearby Wilmington and Baltimore. It was educational in more respects than one. Lind witnessed high-stress environments with therapists being driven to load up on patients and over-book themselves. 

She also witnessed the aftermath. The burnout. The early exits from the profession. 

Later, during her clinical internship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, she discovered another way. 

“I remember on one of my first days, a therapist was leaving because of her husband’s job,” Lind recalls. “She’d been there for five years and she was almost in tears saying how much she was going to miss everyone. I was like, ‘I have not experienced this in other places.’ 

“I really saw the difference that organizational climate can make.” 

Now an assistant professor in San Diego State University’s Department of Child and Family Development, Lind is leading new research aiming to reduce burnout and turnover among therapists delivering childhood trauma evidence-based practices. Her work is being funded by a five-year, $993,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. lp

“I want to improve conditions for the people who are taking on this work, which is difficult and not super-lucrative,” said Lind, who trains future therapists in CFD’s Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) program. “I want to make this an environment that people want to stay in.” 

That, in turn, will make a positive impact for children, families and public health as a whole. The idea is that, with reduced turnover, providers will spend less money and time training replacements on evidence-based practices. And the more trained therapists stay in the field, the more accessible their services will be. 

For the first step in her study, Lind will conduct interviews and surveys with childhood trauma therapists around issues such as burnout, work engagement, work demands and secondary trauma. To understand challenges in both urban and rural settings, she will conduct interviews in San Diego and Arkansas. 

Next, Lind will develop a community academic partnership committee made up of clinic directors, therapists and other stakeholders to collaboratively develop a package of strategies to address turnover and burnout. Those strategies will then be pilot tested at community clinics in San Diego. 

Lind was supported in the grant by mentors Dr. Lisa Kath (SDSU), Dr. Lauren Brookman-Frazee (UCSD), Dr. Gregory Aarons (UCSD), Dr. Alison Hamilton (UCLA) and Dr. Todd Gilmer (UCSD). She also credits her experience as a researcher with the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center (CASRC) — a regional consortium that includes COE researchers Dr. Kelsey Dickson, Dr. Rachel Haine-Schlagel, Dr. Sarah Reith and Dr. Jessica Suhrheinrich

“I definitely would not have ended up where I am and doing this grant were it not for my experience with CASRC,” Lind said. “Applying to one of these grants is so hard that there’s no way you can do it without a lot of support on a lot of levels. I think it really shows the importance of collaborations like that.”