Harvard Catalyst Profiles

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Psychosocial Factors in Mental Health &Illness


This program brings together a multidisciplinary set of faculty from sociology, psychology, health behavior and health education, and biostatistics to provide research training in Psychosocial Factors in mental Health and Illness. Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Fellows are drawn both from the social sciences and from epidemiology and related biomedical sciences. The Training Program involves three elements: (1) limited and focused academic coursework; (2) a weekly Program Seminar attended by all trainees and principal faculty; and (3) intensive on-the-job research experience with one or more of many ongoing studies and relevant datasets available at the Survey Research Center or the School of Public Health. Trainees continue to develop skills acquired in their own graduate programs prior to becoming part of this Training Program. At the same time, they acquire some exposure and competence in material from other disciplines involved in the Program that are relevant to social research on mental health and illness. The goal is to foster interdisciplinary collaboration by providing a sufficiently complete body of common knowledge that a forum of common discussion exists. The Program Seminar, as well as several formal courses, provides settings in which students integrate their competence into a truly interdisciplinary perspective on mental health. The research placements are selected in such a way that interdisciplinary collaboration is required of each trainee. Methodologically, the Program focuses on the link between survey research and experimental interventions. Substantively, the Program focuses on the role of psychosocial factors in the etiology, and course of mental health and illness, including the study of life events, chronic role strains, resources for adapting to potential stressors (e.g., social support, personal competence), and the actual process of coping and adaptation. Trainees who complete the Program are prepared for research careers in the government, private or academic sectors.

Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.