Last spring, Stephanie Wells ’10 set out to find an internship studying child abuse and the effects it has on a child’s development. She found Dr. Glenda Kaufman-Kantor, a researcher at the Family Research Lab at the University of New Hampshire, who had years of experience studying abuse and substance abuse. However, at the time she was studying the military and looking at mental health in the military and the stigma surrounding treatment. The work interested Wells and she applied for and obtained the internship.
She spent the summer working on the military health study, which had two phases of evaluation. The first phase included an evaluation of the Screening for Mental Health Inc. Mental Health Self-Assessment Program – the military’s National Alcohol and Depression days. The second phase entailed gathering research surrounding family resiliency kits to best support the families of the Armed Forces and find out how satisfied they were and how they used the kits.
Regarding the first phase, Wells recalled many days spent calling military personnel at installations all across the country and across all branches of the Armed Forces. She conducted 15 to 20 minute phone interviews regarding the military’s National Alcohol and Depression Day events, asking questions regarding location of events, recruitment methods, confidentiality accommodations, counseling referrals, and emergency backup plans, among other topics. “The purpose of these interviews was to evaluate whether or not these events were successful in their mission and if they were providing useful information for the soldiers as well as privacy and confidentiality.”
Wells collected data on the areas which included the type of event, level of privacy, characteristics of screening, provision of counseling and referrals. Data was abstracted in the forms of narrative summaries and quantitative files. In addition, Wells entered more than 1,000 National Alcohol Screening Day Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test forms (AUDIT) using an optical recognition scanning software program template. She then summarized several chapters of the 2005 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel and discussed her findings.
For phase two, Wells conducted another round of phone interviews to gather feedback about the Military PathwaysTM Family Resiliency Kit. The Family Resiliency Kits included materials and information on PTSD, stress, alcohol use, depression, homecoming (returning from deployment), coping with deployment, and how to help children with deployment. Wells says her role in this evaluation was to see if these resiliency kits were helpful to the families.
“After this internship, I had great respect for those who conduct military research,” she says. “I gained a significant amount of knowledge about the stigma surrounding mental health in the military. In regards to future plans, this internship provided me with some of the necessary research skills needed for admittance to a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program.”
Wells’ goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She is considering career options that include: working with children under the age of five that have been traumatized or abused; working as a psychologist at a hospital, possibly in the oncology department, in developmental disabilities in children (i.e. autism); and conducting her own research in a university setting.
“This internship provided me with new skills, including interviewing, and also taught me about the intricacies of military policies,” explains Wells. She notes conducting research always has confidentiality rules, but in the case of military research the rules are more stringent due to the sensitivity of the material. “I learned about the obstacles of conducting military research because of the level of clearance you need to provide to the Department of Defense when asking for information. The clearance process alone took my boss about nine months!”
At Hobart and William Smith, Wells is involved in many activities, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Campus Peer Ministry, Koshare and the Sidekick program. She has served as an ARAW facilitator, president of Hugs Across America, a member of William Smith Congress and a Common Ground mentor. Wells has additionally been involved with Community Lunch Program and co-coordinated a vigil for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. She is currently a Senior Intern for Admissions (interviewing prospective students) works at the Psychology Department Office.
“This internship was an amazing experience,” she says.