Shannon Dorsey is an Associate Professor of Psychology and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Her research focuses on the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based treatment, especially Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for children and adolescents with mental health disorders. Rather than studying the effectiveness of the treatment itself, she examines the way in which providers best adopt and deliver the treatments. Her projects span a wide geographical region that includes the U.S., Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Iraq, Thailand and Columbia.
What does Dr. Dorsey consider rewarding about her work? “I feel really good helping kids get treatments that make them feel better and get back to their daily lives. Kids learn that they don’t have to be defined by the traumatic things that they have been through.”
In an interview with UW ADVANCE, Dr. Dorsey discusses her current research and reflects on the role of gender in her international work.
Q&A: Current work and women in science
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: One of my research projects, based in Washington State, studies the effectiveness of supervision strategies in community-based settings. My colleagues and I collaborate with more than 30 community mental health agencies on this project. Very little is known about supervision in relation to evidence-based practices, so we are working to uncover more information and disseminate it to communities of interest. There are two phases of the study: the first phase examines what people do during supervision sessions—what they talk about (content) and how they talk about their subject matters (technique). The second phase involves a randomized controlled trial of two different supervision conditions. We’re basically asking if clinicians will be more effective with evidence-based practices if their supervision improves, and if/how those improvements affect children’s mental health outcomes.
Another research project, located in Tanzanian and Kenya, studies the effectiveness of an Apprenticeship Model of mental health training. Prior to this project, I had trained a group of lay counselors, who had little to no experience in mental health interventions, to deliver Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to orphaned children. In the current study, these counselors now serve as supervisors to new lay counselors. This is called an Apprenticeship Model because the initial counselors moved up to become supervisors. The supervisors receive training from my colleagues and me on working with and supervising new counselors and then complete all of the supervision themselves, under supervision from me. They do their work in Swahili, but communicate with me in English.
Q: What, in your opinion, are the benefits of being a woman in science?
A: For my international work, there are benefits to being both a woman and, more recently, a mother. For example, in Tanzania I became a “mama” once I had my son, which both reflects having a child but also a certain status, which carries a higher level of respect. My son now has a Kenyan/Swahili name which means “bountiful harvest.” Like here, women hold the primary responsibilities for raising children and in some countries bring their infant to the training (with someone to help watch him/her), so it is helpful to be a woman and mother. Also, most mental health providers in the geographical regions in which I work are women and mothers.