Highlighting Faculty Member Anna Lau
Date published: 2/2/2016
When a child has an emotional or behavioral problem, there are many obstacles to getting effective care. Mental health problems among youth are hard to identify, and even when identified, few parents or even health professionals are aware of effective treatments. Finally, when a child’s needs are understood, access to care is limited and barriers are pronounced for ethnic minority children.
My research team focuses on understanding disparities in children’s mental health to identify strategies to improve access to effective care. We study a range of determinants of disparities, at the levels of family, schools, and mental health systems.
Children and families. We study factors that shape emotional and behavioral outcomes of children in immigrant and ethnic minority families. We examine family relationships in which parents and children navigate distinct cultural contexts. In addition, we study how cultural values shape emotion regulation and support seeking. Within an international study, we identified emotion suppression coping and family relationship strain as key modifiable risk factors predicting internalizing problems of depression and anxiety. These findings are informing the implementation of school-based interventions for culturally diverse adolescents.
Schools. Increasingly, schools are a venue where mental health needs are identified and addressed. Situating interventions in school contexts can reduce barriers to care. However, even in the school context there remain significant disparities in who gets care. We are examining the potential of mental health screenings and preventive interventions for reducing barriers for underserved youth. We are also testing the effects of school based preventive interventions targeting risk factors for depression and anxiety identified in our previous research. We have ongoing trials of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Interpersonal Therapy for Adolescents in diverse public high schools.
Mental Health Systems. The research-to-practice gap refers to the problem that treatments that have been shown in research to be effective are typically not delivered in community settings. Furthermore, ethnic minority children may be even less likely than White children to receive evidence-based treatment (EBT). Even when community therapists receive training in EBTs, they may not adopt or sustain them in their practice. Together with collaborators from UCSD, 4KEEPS study is identifying conditions under which community therapists in Los Angeles sustain delivery of multiple EBTs. With a focus on disparities, we are examining challenges to therapists’ implementation of EBTs with ethnic minority families.
I grew up in Toronto, Canada and received my B.S. in Psychology from the University of Toronto. I received my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2000 from UCLA and joined the faculty in 2003. I am lucky to live in Westwood with my partner, Steve, and our two wonderful daughters, Kasey and Cameron.