KINGSTON, R.I.—Nov. 14, 2023—Aradhana Srinagesh, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., a doctoral student in the University of Rhode Island’s clinical psychology program, has been awarded a $10,000 Bridging the Divide scholarship from the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI). Srinagesh’s research focuses on how social and regional influences impact an individual’s substance-related behaviors.
The aim of the scholarship program is to increase the number of graduate students from diverse backgrounds studying in behavioral health programs in Rhode Island—with the goal of diversifying the state’s pool of mental health professionals, thus increasing access to treatment and services for under-represented groups. Research shows that people are more likely to report positive experiences in treatment when they share the race, ethnicity, or gender of their provider.
“To me, the significance of this scholarship lies in its recognition of individuals such as myself within the field, affording us the capacity to mold a more inclusive and diverse system of care, thereby effecting change within historically underserved and neglected communities,” said Srinagesh.
Srinagesh’s research explores the individual, contextual and social factors associated with alcohol use among Asian Indians in Rhode Island. She seeks to refine adaptive interventions, tailored specifically to recipient needs that will mitigate barriers preventing those from marginalized communities from seeking help and support a transition to more healthy behaviors. She is applying for a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award through the National Institutes of Health to help support her work.
This project is consistent with previous research Srinagesh has conducted on the effectiveness of disseminating mental health resources through mobile technology. These online resources, known as JITAIs and EMAs—an acronym for “Just In Time Adaptive Interventions” and “Ecological Momentary Assessment”—leverage technology to help affect hard to reach populations. Srinagesh says the technology is an asset in supporting patients who struggle with addiction because it allows them to access support services in real time and navigate the arena of mental health without the stigma they might feel seeking counseling in person.
Srinagesh, a first generation Asian Indian-American who grew up in South Brunswick, New Jersey, is also the co-founder of “Psychin’ Out,” a grassroots collective that serves as a global hub of programming and resources to help underrepresented aspiring applicants enter psychology Ph.D. programs.
“Psychin’ Out” holds a yearly free virtual “bootcamp” that educates potential applicants on applying to doctoral programs. The organization also has free mentorship programs that support BIPOC students in their endeavors toward a doctorate in psychology, in order to close the gap between white providers and counselors of color.
Speaking as someone who applied several times to a doctoral clinical psychology program and was discouraged from pursuing higher education, Srinagesh says, “A lot of the clinical training and clinical manuals that have been created are written from this elitist perspective that is geared toward white populations.”
Srinagesh believes “Psychin’ Out” takes a holistic approach to the experiences of BIPOC students at primarily white institutions and in academic settings, enabling them to flourish in the field of psychology in higher education.
Ultimately, Srinagesh hopes to create greater understanding among providers for those “cultural nuances that clients may bring into treatment”—both through her research and by working to bring more providers of color into the profession.
This story was written by Samantha Melia, a senior journalism and political science major at the University of Rhode Island and an intern in the Department of Marketing and Communications.