Div. 37 Interview

Interview with Samantha Brown, PhD

Samantha Brown, currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver, offers her advice to graduate students in child maltreatment research.

By Ciera Schoonover

Samantha Brown, PhD Samantha Brown, PhD, is a post-doctoral fellow in the Stress, Early Experiences and Development (SEED) Research Center in the department of psychology at the University of Denver. She completed her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Denver in the Graduate School of Social Work after earning her masters in psychology, also at the University of Denver. She is a licensed professional counselor and certified social caseworker in the state of Colorado. Her research interests include understanding the developmental and behavioral health trajectories of children, youth and families exposed to early adversity and translating this knowledge into the development, testing and evaluation of family-based programs. Further, she aims to understand how protective factors shape health outcomes among children and families exposed to early adversity.

Currently, she is continuing the development of a mindfulness-based program aimed at improving the lives of families in the child welfare system. She hopes to use this intervention as a method to enhance family well-being and reduce child maltreatment. What began as her dissertation project entitled “A Mindfulness-Based Intervention to Improve Family Functioning Among Child Welfare-Involved Families with Substance Abuse,” Brown continues to investigate the impacts of this program on families in the child welfare system in the community.

Brown describes her work as interdisciplinary in nature. Initially, she was drawn to psychology because of her interest in doing clinical work. Her training in social work complements her psychology training, and allows her to integrate her clinical practice with community-based work.

She has extensive experience in working with children exposed to trauma and has worked closely with families court-ordered to treatment and those within the child welfare system. Throughout her work in the field, she realized these families face a number of barriers to attending and completing treatment. Engaging with families, she says, is a key first step in overcoming those barriers. This involves understanding the systems with which families are involved, and building rapport early on. Further, asking “what are the needs of the family?” is important in reaching families in this system. Brown puts this approach to practice in the development of her mindfulness intervention. This program is individualized to each family it serves. Further, because it takes place in the home, it reduces logistical barriers and allows for the opportunity to engage one-on-one as opposed to a group setting where you may not be able to focus on a family's unique needs. She looks forward to continuing implementation and dissemination of this intervention to help reach other families in need.

As a post-doctoral fellow, this year has been predominantly focused on research. Brown has publications on risk and protective factors affecting behavioral health outcomes on children and youth. Currently, she is working with her post-doctoral mentor to examine coping mechanisms and responses to stress at a more physiological level (e.g., examining cortisol levels).

Following her post-doctoral fellowship, Brown hopes to continue her interdisciplinary work in a tenure track faculty position, where she can integrate clinical work, research, and teaching. Her training provides her with unique opportunities for a career in social work, developmental psychology, or human development and family studies.

In giving advice to students, Brown explains that the most important thing is finding something that you are passionate about. She adds that in academia it is easy to be uncertain about your interests, as you frequently have professors and advisors suggesting different directions for your work. Find your passion, and getting through the inevitable difficult and stressful times will be made easier if you can bring it back to why you are doing it. Brown recommends that you take advantage of the amazing mentors available to you. She shares that obtaining multiple mentors is also important because it allows you to get multiple perspectives in your training, which can in turn inform your work.

Brown shares that this area of work can sometimes be challenging, and self-care is crucial to success. Her self-care strategy is hiking and running. She shares that it is important for her to schedule time to do those things, just like she would schedule time for writing in her day. She advises students to make self-care strategies a priority.

Brown has already made impressive contributions to the field of child maltreatment through her clinical service and research. She is passionate about her multiple roles, interdisciplinary approach, and community-based work. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors and thank her for her insights to our students and ECOs.