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Division of Psychology

The focus of the Division of Psychology is the development and testing of psychosocial interventions for individuals with mental health disorders, with a particular emphasis on treatments for individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring somatic, health, social, and neurocognitive deficits. The Division houses The Center for Behavioral Treatment of Schizophrenia (CBTS) which focuses on the development, empirical evaluation, and dissemination of social learning (behavioral) treatment strategies that are suitable for people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.
Division investigators have been funded for work in the development of interventions to address topics related to health behavior change in areas including drug abuse, alcohol use disorders, smoking cessation, and non-adherence to HIV medications. Work in intervention development has addressed social skills training (SST); innovative treatments for illicit drug use, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking in people with mental health disorders; and use of motivational enhancement strategies to instigate health behavior change. Currently, the Division is involved in the Implementation and Support Services component of the Maryland Early Intervention Program, a state-funded center of excellence offering specialized programs in the treatment of adolescents and young adults in the early stages of a mental illness with psychosis. Work in this area has involved training mental health treatment providers in Maryland to implement evidence-based practices in their work with young adults experiencing an early episode of psychosis in line with a Coordinated Specialty Care model. Clinical projects using behavior change methods have been conducted in a range of settings including: improving motivation to work among individuals with SMI and who are beginning a supported employment program, meeting with Veterans with SMI who are seeking treatment in primary care clinics to enhance motivation to quit smoking, and working with individuals who are hospitalized on inpatient psychiatric units to plan for health behavior change following hospital discharge.
An additional focus of the Division is the development of new assessment tools and examination of factors that contribute to poor social role functioning in the community. Assessment work has included the development of measures to assess social role functioning (the Maryland Assessment of Social Competence), substance use and the effects of substances use (the Substance Use Evaluation Scale for Serious Mental Illness), and recovery (The Maryland Assessment of Recovery in Serious Mental Illness). The work of Division investigators has been funded by The National Institute of Mental Health, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Division of Psychology is a center of training, teaching, and mentorship of researchers and clinicians interested in working with individuals with mental health disorders in community settings and becoming knowledgeable about and expert in the use of evidence-based psychosocial interventions for these consumers. The Division is part of the VAMHCS/UMB Psychology Internship Consortium and provides coordination and primary supervision of the UM Adult Track interns during their internship year. Investigators within the Division have active training collaborations with other Divisions within the Department, including programs within the Divisions of Community Psychiatry and Adult Inpatient Programs, and also regularly provide training in psychosocial interventions to community agencies and programs.
Investigators in the Division of Psychology frequently collaborate with other campus centers of research on social and neurocognitive functioning, including with the Department of Psychology and Maryland Neuroimaging Center at the University of Maryland, College Park and VA Neuropsychology. These collaborations focus on the study of neurobiological components of social functioning and use of neuropsychological and imaging methods to examine treatment outcomes. This work seeks to understand brain function and etiology of deficits in serious mental illness as well as develop and test rehabilitation strategies to improve cognitive functioning and functional capabilities in these groups.


Melanie Bennett, Ph.D.

Leila Islam, Ph.D.

Emerson Wickwire, Ph.D.

Volunteer Faculty:

Amy Drapalski, Ph.D.

Erin Romero, Ph.D.

Jade Wolfman-Charles, Ph.D.

Amanda Peeples, Ph.D.

Anjana Muralidharan, Ph.D.

Current research projects:

Funded studies:

Pharmacogenetic Treatment with Anti-Glutaminergic Agents for Comorbid PTSD & AUD (NIAAA R01, Johnson and Bennett, co-PIs)
Improving Negative Symptoms and Community Engagement in Veterans with Schizophrenia (VA RRD MERIT, Bennett PI)
Understanding Social Affiliative Deficits in Psychopathology (NIMH R01, Bennett co-Investigator, data collection and management being done within the Division via a subcontract with UMCP)
Optimizing Smoking Cessation Treatments in Smokers Living with HIV/AIDS (NLHBI R01, Bennett co-Investigator, training and supervising staff in behavioral smoking cessation intervention)
Multifamily Group to Reduce Marital Conflict and Disability in Veterans with mTBI (Drapalski, VA HSR&D MERIT)
A Healthy Step to Reducing Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure for Our Babies, Mothers, and Families (Islam, Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control, Maryland DHMH)

Pilot studies:

Brain Imaging and Social Cognition in SMI (Bennett, pilot funding from UMCP)
StayQuit from Smoking: A Pilot Study of Telephone Counseling for Smokers with SMI Following Psychiatric Hospitalization (Bennett, pilot funding from the MIRECC)