Multicultural Mental Health

Program Description

Eliminating racial/ethnic and cultural-linguistic disparities in the delivery, quality and utilization of health care services has emerged as a national and Massachusetts Department of Mental Health priority.

Our multicultural research and dissemination activities focus on developing knowledge and culturally-informed interventions aimed at promoting behavioral health and wellness among members of racial/ethnic minority, immigrant populations and the Deaf Community. Current areas of research include:the development and evaluation of culturally- and linguistically-tailored interventions for posttraumatic stress disorder and co-occurring disorders, tobacco dependence treatment, and addiction treatment; innovations in addiction treatment; and, improving access to behavioral health services and vocational rehabilitation programs.

We are interested in: 

  • Promoting clinical services, research, and evaluation initiatives for improving health and wellness among sociolinguistic minority groups.
  • Providing expertise to community health organizations on culturally-competent implementation of evidence based treatments for racial/ethnic minority clients, immigrant clients, and Deaf American Sign Language users.
  • Conducting rigorous research to develop, adapt, and evaluate culturally- and linguistically-accessible behavioral health interventions.
  • Translating knowledge gained from our research into recommendations for public policy and clinical practice.
Stone ImageRosalie Torres Stone, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Melissa AndersonMelissa L. Anderson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Ongoing Research Projects

Clinical Research Scholar (K12) Award: Treatment of Trauma & Addiction in the Deaf Community

Title: Clinical Research Scholar (K12) Award: Treatment of Trauma & Addiction in the Deaf Community
Funder: University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical & Translational Science
Funding: $429,659
PI: Melissa Anderson, Ph.D.

Description: My life-long goal is to tackle the severe behavioral health disparities experienced by the U.S. Deaf community by developing, evaluating, and disseminating culturally and linguistically Deaf-accessible evidence-based psychotherapy interventions. Markedly elevated rates of mental illness and addiction are observed within the Deaf community, a minority group of at least 500,000 Americans whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL).3 Deaf adults are 2 to 2.6 times more likely to experience mood and anxiety disorders compared to the general population. They are especially susceptible to trauma and addiction, with nearly twice the rate of trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder (SUD).Deaf psychiatric inpatients experience higher rates of PTSD (29.7% vs. 6.6%), polysubstance abuse (9.4% vs. 4.4%), and polysubstance dependence (6.3% vs. 1.1%) than hearing inpatients. Yet, to address these disparities, there are no evidence-based behavioral health treatments that have been empirically tested for efficacy with Deaf people. Deaf people have unique clinical needs with regard to their language, culture, learning style, and fund of information gaps; evidence-based interventions developed by and for hearing populations fail to adequately meet these needs, resulting in limited efficacy. Because trauma and addiction are widespread in the Deaf population and underlie a broad spectrum of mental health problems, developing Deaf-accessible interventions for trauma/addiction is a logical first step to reduce the behavioral health disparities experienced by this group – as such, these behavioral health problems will be the primary focus of this K12 award and my early career program of research.

The proposed research objectives are to develop and evaluate feasibility for a Deaf-accessible behavioral therapy version of Seeking Safety (SS). SS is an established, highly validated, present-focused therapy that offers coping skills and psychoeducation to help people attain safety from PTSD and addiction. My clinical experience using SS with Deaf clients has elicited satisfaction with SS’s structure, focus, and available topics, but has also revealed important barriers for the Deaf population – language (use of written English materials inaccessible to the average Deaf person who reads at a fourth grade level) and the need to account for cultural and experiential differences of the Deaf population. Therefore, my K12 research objectives are: (1) create and open pilot a linguistically and culturally Deaf-accessible behavioral therapy version of SS, which includes a therapist guide and a population-specific client toolkit, Signs of Safety, using NIDA behavioral therapy development approaches; and (2) to conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Signs of Safety versus the original, unsupplemented SS. The proposed aims will provide necessary feasibility data to support an R01, R21, and/or R34 to conduct a large RCT of Signs of Safety, and lay the groundwork for future research to develop and evaluate Deaf-accessible evidence-based treatments.

Joseph P. Healey Award Community-Engaged Research to Address Deaf Behavioral

Title: Joseph P. Healey Award Community-Engaged Research to Address Deaf Behavioral

Dates: 8/1/2015 – 7/31/2016

Funder: UMMS - OOR

Funding: $5,977

PI: Melissa Anderson, Ph.D.


The objective of the current proposal is to sustain our community-engaged research efforts by funding the continued involvement of a Deaf member of our research team. We received funding for a part-time research coordinator, Kelly Wolf Craig, PhD, a Deaf clinical psychologist. Dr. Wolf Craig earned her doctorate at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the sole university for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students; completed her clinical internship at the Deaf Wellness Center in Rochester, NY; and is currently employed by the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services. Capitalizing on her Deaf mental health expertise and her experiences as a Deaf person, Dr. Wolf Craig will assist with ongoing research studies and collaborate on grant proposals to be submitted in the coming year. 

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