At Drexel, Psychology Grad Student Carves Her Own Niche
March 29, 2013
By Maria Zankey
As a student of psychology, Adrienne Juarascio wasn’t satisfied with the current treatment for eating disorders.
“It seems like our standard treatments just aren’t enough,” said Juarascio, a student in the clinical psychology doctoral program. “There’s a lot of room for improvement. There are cognitive behavior therapies, but they’re not entirely effective.”
Juarscio, in turn, has devoted her graduate school career at Drexel to developing new and more effective treatments that target more than just one factor in the spectrum of eating disorder influences.
For her work, Juarascio was recently notified that she would receive the prestigious Theodore Blau Early Career Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Clinical Psychology in 2013. The honor—which will be awarded to her later this summer in Hawaii—is jointly presented by the Society for Clinical Psychology and the American Psychological Foundation.
Juarascio’s interest in psychology dates back to high school, but she developed her specific interest in eating and weight disorder treatments while studying with a professor at the University of Pennsylvania during her undergrad.
“Within my first couple of weeks I was working with Dr. Alix Timko, a former Drexel student, and did some work in eating disorders,” Juarascio said. “I ended up working with her for three years and became extremely interested in that area. It was she who encouraged me to apply to Drexel while at Penn.”
Currently, Juarascio is working to complete an internship at the Medical University of South Carolina, but she said she’s looking forward to returning to Drexel and hopes to stay in Philadelphia for the long term.
“I’ll be applying for some grants through the National Institute of Mental Health that will hopefully fund some of my research in developing more intensive treatments, like the treatment I developed for my dissertation,” Juarascio said.
Her dissertation was an eight-week, group-based project that examined whether the addition of acceptance and commitment therapy groups to a residential treatment facility for eating disorders can improve treatment outcome. She’s hoping to extend that research to individual treatment for anorexia eating. It’s a unique topic that Drexel has allowed her to thrive in exploring, she said.
“Drexel is an ideal place to be doing this type of niche research,” Juarascio said.
She added that the research opportunities—in addition to the mentors she’s had along the way—have contributed to the value of her doctoral education.
“Most graduate students wouldn’t get the opportunity to do a dissertation in such a large-scale clinical study,” Juarascio said. “That’s pretty rare for graduate students, especially in such an intensive study. And with mentors helping me get funding, at Drexel, I’ve had access to all the resources I’ve needed.”