California State University, Long Beach
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Ghafoori Receives $20,000 Grant to Support
Disaster Mental Health Research and Training

Educational Psychology, Administration and Counseling’s Bita Ghafoori recently received a $20,000 grant to support disaster mental health research and training from the National Institutes of Mental Health through a research education grant to Dartmouth College.

Ghafoori explained that the grant is intended to increase the quality and utility of disaster mental health research by informing, advising and mentoring disaster researchers. Ghafoori is working with a senior level researcher at Columbia University who serves as a mentor over the two year period.  The award provides opportunities for statistical training, participation in professional conferences, and collaboration on research projects.

Ghafoori feels one reason for her proposal’s acceptance was her long experience in researching trauma. “Trauma is anything that causes an individual to be frightened enough to develop a different state of awareness,” she said. “That could be anything from a motor vehicle accident, a terrorist attack, or being a victim of hurricane Katrina. Ghafoori’s work has led to several publications, and her most recent manuscript, “The role of adult attachment, parental bonding, and spiritual love in the adjustment to military trauma” will be published in The Journal of Trauma and Dissociation in January. In fall 2006, she received a Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award to study “Altruistic Intent, Adult Attachment and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Trauma Survivors.”

She earned her B.S. in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine, her M.A. from Pepperdine University, and her PhD in Psychology in 2000 from the California School of Professional Psychology. Her dissertation described how cognitive-behavioral therapy helps to reduce disruptive behavior disorders. Prior to coming to CSULB, she served as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Francisco Fresno Medical Education Program and as a staff psychologist at the Veteran’s Administration Central California Healthcare System in Fresno. Ghafoori plans on developing a research program that may be implemented in the aftermath of a disaster and to network with other mental health researchers. “Plus, what I learn from the extensive training I receive, I will incorporate in my courses on assessment, treatment planning, and psychotherapy techniques,” she said. CSULB students are thirsty for knowledge and participation in projects like this helps students to know how to provide evidence based therapeutic services after a disaster.”

Student participation in Ghafoori’s research program begins this fall when they accompany Ghafoori to UC Irvine where they will join her in Psychological First Aid training with an acknowledged expert. “What I hope for these students is for them to become potential responders after a disaster,” she explained. “A lot of master’s – level clinicians are first responders. I think we have the opportunity here to develop a local network of people who are adequately trained in disaster mental health.”  Ghafoori has also joined the Local Multidisciplinary Research Team, a team of local mental health experts who are receiving additional training on terrorism and disaster research in order to respond and conduct ethical research in the aftermath of a local disaster.

Research support like this is especially important to the faculty of a teaching-oriented institution like CSULB. “Research lays the foundation for all our teaching,” she said. “New knowledge has changed the way I teach.”