Graduate Citings: Tales from the Field – Xochilt

profile-picture-xochilt-alamilloThis week we’re happy to share with you the work of GSSW alumnae Xochilt Alamillo. Xochilt received her master’s degree in 2016 and is now working as a school-based therapist at Aurora Mental Health. While at DU, Xochilt’s scholarship brought attention to social justice issues surrounding health services for disadvantaged communities and as a grad student she helped develop the HIV, Alcohol, and other Drugs Needs Assessment with a community of Mexican American Indians in Washington.

Researcher: Xochilt Alamillo, alumnae from the Graduate School of Social Work master’s degree program.

Current Research: I am currently interning at the Aurora Mental Health Center as a school-based therapist, where I provide therapy services to youth of color and their families at Aurora Central High School. As a student at DU I had the privilege of working with various faculty on and off campus on different research projects, most of which involved direct work with the Latino community. Most recently, I assisted Dr. Ramona Beltran, in the Graduate School of Social Work, on an HIV, Alcohol, and other Drugs Needs Assessment with a community of Mexican American Indians in Washington.

I also served as a Family Coach on a randomized control trial team at DU that collaborates with the University of Oregon, and originates from Harvard University. Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND) is a video coaching program that aims to strengthen positive interactions between caregivers and children. It uses select clips of adults engaging with children to reinforce the kinds of responses that are the foundation of healthy development. In this position, I had the opportunity to conduct home visits with families in the program and coach them using this intervention.

It was also my great honor to serve as the Navigation Chair for DU’s Latina/o Graduate Association in 2016. As an organization we collaborated to bring a Dia de los Muertos event to campus, a La Raza Writing Group series, as well as the amazing spoken word duo, Sister Outsider. Most importantly, we helped to provide a safe space for Latinos on campus.

Collaborators: In regard to research, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Ramona Beltran on a couple of projects. Her scholarship focuses on intersections of trauma, environmental elements, and other determinants of health among indigenous communities. I have learned a great deal from her as an indigenous woman and as a scholar.

I also had the pleasure of working with Dr. Omar Gudiño, in the department of psychology on a project to explore what encourages or discourages Latino parents from seeking mental health services for their children. The impact of his work within the Latino community, and youth specifically, is truly inspiring.

Initial Inspiration: I am passionate about working with my Latino community, especially youth. I have three young children and I am inspired by them daily to go out and do what I can to contribute to our community.

Biggest Challenge: Saying no! I loved being involved at DU and there were so many interesting projects I wanted to be a part of, but I just didn’t have enough time or energy to do everything.

Research Advice: For students who might be in a program, such as mine, that does not necessarily require research the way that a PhD program might, I would advise to get yourself out there and get to know faculty and other students as much as you can. If you are interested in research, don’t be afraid to let people know that you are interested in working on projects with them, or that you have an idea for one. You would be surprised at how much people are willing to help and include you.

Graduate Citings: DURAPS Edition with Jonah Li

jonah-liGreetings grad students!
For day 3 of our DU Research and Performance Summit (DURAPS) coverage we bring you the personal experience of Jonah Li. Jonah is a Counseling Psychology grad student who will be presenting “Building Rapport Across Cultures.” In this presentation Jonah will be discussing a perception-changing counseling experience that he had with a challenging client.

Researcher: Jonah is a master’s student in Morgridge College of Education’s Counseling Psychology program.

Current Research: My research interest is in using positive psychological interventions and spirituality to build resilience and promote well-being among diverse clients and ethnic minorities, including international students and Asian students, in the lens of multicultural counseling.

My current research mainly falls into two areas: positive psychology and multicultural counseling. For positive psychology, I aim at building resilience and promoting well-being for clients in face of difficulties. One representative research, which is my master’s thesis, is exploring the moderating roles of subjective happiness and meaning in life on the relationship between perceived stress and well-being and distress. For multicultural counseling, I aim to discover strengths, positive experiences, quality of life  promotion, and quality relationship promotion among diverse clients, including LGBT clients, college students, international students, patients with Parkinson’s disease, couples etc.

Collaborators: To achieve the above research directives I work with Dr. Chao, Dr. McRae, and Dr. Owen and their research teams. While working with them I have had the opportunity to learn more about the life stories of minority groups.

DURAPS Presentation: My presentation covers a counseling experience that I had while working as a clinic counselor during the 2016 fall quarter. I was a year and a half into my master’s program when I met a middle-aged Caucasian male client who was dealing with problematic gambling behaviors and romantic relationship concerns. During our first two sessions I faced challenges in building rapport with my client in terms of my age and counseling competence. I am an international student originally from Hong Kong and also dealt with some challenges relating to my racial identity. During our sessions I heard responses like

“That movie I watched was really inspiring…oh sorry! I forgot to tell you that you were not even born that time!”
…and
“I have seen different therapists, including useful therapists and useless therapists…”

To face these challenges I used unconditional positive regard and showed a caring attitude toward my client. Concurrently, I calmed myself and tried to work with my client by exploring his gambling issues and investigating the pros and cons of his behavior. From there, my client gradually built more trust in me, feeling that my work had a positive impact on his process. He even started asking for my opinion about his problems. In later sessions, I initiated cultural dialogues and showed my humility, asking questions like

“how would my cultural identity play a role in our relationship?”
and
“you may know more about that than me. Tell me about your experience about that.”

These questions helped further address our cultural differences and helped me build rapport with my client. Finally, my client provided positive comments about my work and requested that I be his counselor for the next quarter. The whole clinic team witnessed the difference of our rapport and the client’s perception towards me, which was a really encouraging experience in my counseling practice.

Research Advice:

Think critically. This is the most important part of doing the research, in terms of research questions, designs, methods, analyses, and writing the results. You may not want to ask the repeated questions that were addressed by other researchers or not significant in the literature or practical in society, but they are incredibly important. Thinking critically helps form a good research question and generates a quality research study.

Want to present your research at DURAPS? GSG welcomes complete or work-in-progress submissions. Be sure to submit your abstract by 2/27!