Div. 37 Interview

Interview with Jessica Bartlett, PhD

Bartlett, current senior research scientist at Child Trends and former recipient of the section's Dissertation Award, offers advice to graduate students studying child maltreatment.

By Ciera Schoonover

Jessica Bartlett, PhD Jessica Bartlett, MSW, PhD, is a senior research scientist at Child Trends in Bethesda, Maryland, a leading nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth and their families. She completed her doctorate in child study and human development at Tufts University after completing her masters in social work at Simmons School of Social Work. She earned a doctoral fellowship award from the Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood and a Div. 37 award for her dissertation research on discontinuity in intergenerational cycles of child maltreatment.

Regarding her decision to pursue a master's degree in social work, Bartlett explained that there is “no substitute for hands-on research with children and families” and that it was “integral to her career path” to have clinical experience working directly with children and families. While she was working as a clinician, she began to have ideas of moving beyond the one-on-one interactions of applied clinical practice with the hopes of having a broader impact. She was determined to learn the best approaches to treating children and families and become a proponent of evidence-based practice. These goals led her to Tufts University, where she earned her PhD.

Bartlett's research interests include child abuse and neglect, child trauma and other childhood adversities. She is specifically interested in evaluating primary and secondary prevention programs for children who have been exposed to various types of adversity and examining the factors that promote resilience among children and families. She is also interested in understanding systems of care and how those systems can work together to benefit families and support healthy parenting, given that many children who experience adversity have families who are engaged in multiple services. She has extensive experience as a child and family psychotherapist, having worked in private practice for over a decade prior to obtaining her PhD.

Currently, Bartlett is serving as co-principal investigator on a multi-state longitudinal randomized controlled trial study of resilience to child abuse and neglect in Early Head Start. She is also working as an evaluator for an evidence-based training initiative to prepare professionals to help young children who have experienced trauma, among other projects.

Bartlett shared that this area of work can be challenging and self-care is crucial to her success. She believes that, as a profession, we do not talk about self-care and the mental health of the people who are working with and on behalf of children and families enough. She maintains that particularly if you are in a field in which you are providing services to individuals, you should seek support for yourself. Part of her self-care has included receiving therapy to understand what it is like for her clients and also as a means of reducing secondary stress experienced from working with challenging populations. In addition, an integral part of her self-care involves staying connected with friends and maintaining her social network. She expressed that her friends give her important support and help her to feel rejuvenated no matter how challenging work can be. Finally, she explained that engaging in hobbies is a vital part of her self-care. As for her hobbies, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her family, friends and dog.

Bartlett's advice to students is to seek out professionals who have more experience to understand different career options. She recommends interviewing professionals of different career paths to gain a solid understanding of what those careers entail. As she was making decisions about her own career path, interviewing professionals from different areas, such as academia, nonprofit, research, policy and government, broadened her scope so that she could understand the “full landscape” of the careers she might pursue.

Bartlett has already made impressive contributions to the field of child maltreatment through her clinical service and research. She is passionate about her multiple roles and community-based work where she can immediately translate her research on the ground to families who need it most. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors and thank her for her insights to our students and early career psychologists.