Research

The empirical research occurring in our lab falls into four main groups: (1) understanding treatment-seeking behavior of low-income Latinos, (2) elucidating sociocultural influences on both normative and pathological psychosocial processes, (3) examining the role of culture in psychotherapy, and (4) developing and evaluating depression prevention programs for individuals from low-income, cultural minority backgrounds.

Understanding Treatment-seeking behavior Publications

It has been well-established that mental health care disparities disproportionately affect individuals from low-income and cultural minority backgrounds. While some of these disparities can be explained in terms of systems issues, it is important to understand the lived experiences of individuals who may be seeking mental health services. This research has been funded by a variety of sources, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the NIMH.

Ongoing Projects:

Treatment-seeking for depression among low-income, Latino men (PI: Cardemil)

This mixed-methods investigation is being funded by the NIMH (R34MH082043) and is a collaborative effort with Dr. Michael Addis. It is a systematic investigation of the culture- and gender-based psychological variables underlying the underutilization of depression treatment by low-income, Latino men experiencing clinically significant symptoms of depression. A central focus of this investigation is to measure culture- and gender-based psychological variables that we predict will be associated with more proximal predictors of treatment-seeking behavior.

Follow-up to mental health care among Latinos (PI: Zack Ishikawa)

This NIMH-funded project investigates Latino primary care patients' follow up to mental health specialty care, with a particular emphasis on the association between the primary care provider - patient working alliance, provider cultural competency, and treatment follow-up.

Religion, spirituality, and mental health help-seeking among Latinos (PI: Moreno)

This research uses qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the role of religion and spirituality on attitudes towards and use of formal mental health services. Both the qualitative and quantitative phases are underway, with the qualitative phase nearing completion.

Recently Completed Projects:

Local mental health needs assessment (PI: Sanchez)

This community-based participatory research project is being funded by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation. It is a collaborative project resulting from the combined efforts of several local community organizations. The aim of the study is to assess Latino and Brazilian adults’ current and prior mental health problems, as well as understand their experiences and attitudes towards relevant mental health services. We are currently writing up these results for publication.

 

Sociocultural Influences on Psychological Processes Publications

Considerable research is documenting how sociocultural factors influence psychological processes in important ways. Much of our attention has focused on depression among low-income, urban minority children among whom some research is documenting lower-than-expected rates of depression given the increased risk for experiencing negative life events. More recently, we have been collaborating with Dr. Wendy Grolnick to examine the sociocultural influences on one dimension of parenting behavior: the provision of structure. This research has been funded by NARSAD and the William T. Grant Foundation.

Ongoing Projects:

Parental Structure in Families of Adolescents (PIs: Grolnick & Cardemil)

This project is seeking to delineate the way parents provide structure to their children in three different domains of life: academics, unsupervised time and responsibilities. 100 European American and 100 Latino mothers and their children participate in an interview and self-report study designed to assess how families implement structure in their cultural and ecological contexts.

Recently Completed Projects:

Emotional expressivity and adjustment in urban, adolescent males (PI: Pollastri)

Using a multi-method (videotaped interactions, questionnaires, interviews), multi-informant approach (self-report, peer report, observational coding), this study explored the relationship between emotional expressivity and social-emotional adjustment in a sample of 183 late adolescent males living in a low-income, urban environment. Results generally indicated that urban boys who exhibit low emotionally expressivity can be protected from poor socio-emotional outcomes as long as they exhibit flexibility to express vulnerable emotion when in a safe context; i.e., when they are disclosing to trusted friends. We are currently writing up these results for publication.

Cultural values, emotion suppression, and adjustment in urban adolescents (PI: Davidson)

This study examined the extent to which adherence to particular cultural values might affect the relationship between emotion suppression and adjustment in a sample of urban adolescents. Contrary to prior research that had consistently documented the negative effects of emotion suppression, this study found that emotion suppression was only associated with negative adjustment in the presence of negative life events. Further, when adolescents experienced high levels of negative life events, adherence to the cultural value of familismo buffered the negative effects of emotion suppression, while adherence to European American values adversely influenced these negative effects. We are currently writing up these results for publication.

 

Examining the Role of Culture in Psychotherapy Publications

Despite the increased attention to the development of culturally sensitive clinical services, there continue to remain significant mental healthcare disparities in the U.S. We suggest that one explanation for these continuing healthcare disparities may be found in the difficulty the mental health field has had in conceptualizing how best to integrate cultural considerations into clinical work. Our approach conceptualizes cultural research into efforts that focus on therapist attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors; efforts that attempt to adapt existing interventions for different cultural groups; and efforts to develop culturally specific interventions de novo for particular cultural groups. We have written about each of these approaches.

Ongoing Projects:

Cultural competence and the working alliance in counseling (PI: Sarmiento)

This study is being conducted at seven different college counseling centers across the U.S. Its focus is the elucidation of the relationships among cultural competence, working alliance, and outcome in a sample of 120 cultural minority college students receiving college counseling services.

 

Depression Prevention Publications

Developing culturally appropriate and efficacious depression prevention programs can help reduce the mental healthcare disparities in the U.S. by reaching individuals who might not otherwise seek formal mental healthcare services. Previous work has focused on low-income urban children. Our more recent work has been conducted with low-income, Latina mothers. This research has generally been funded by the NIMH.

Recently Completed Projects:

The Family Coping Skills Program (PI: Cardemil)

The FCSP is a novel depression prevention program that we developed and have evaluated in a small, randomized controlled trial. The FCSP is a group-based cognitive-behavioral intervention with six weekly group sessions, lasting approximately 2 hours each. The two primary goals of the group sessions are for the participants to learn a set of concrete skills that can help them more effectively regulate negative emotions, and for the participants to experience a supportive environment through exposure to other mothers who share common experiences. In addition, the FCSP integrates two separate family sessions whereby each participant and one adult family member (e.g., spouse, partner, other supportive adult) meet with the intervention leader twice over the course of the program. The primary goals of the family sessions are to introduce the program staff to family members, and to provide some psychoeducation around depression and stress, stress management, and problem-solving. Results generally support the efficacy of the FCSP re: depressive symptoms. We are currently writing up these results for publication.

Contact Information

mentesana@clarku.edu
Mental health, culture, and community research program

Esteban Cardemil, Ph.D.
Clark University
950 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01610
508-793-7264

Get Involved