Kelly Whaling, a doctoral student at the Gevirtz School, has received the Graduate Research Mentorship Program award from UC Santa Barbara. The award provides an academic year fellowship for a continuing graduate student. It is intended to assist recipients in acquiring and developing sophisticated research skills under faculty mentorship. The fellowship’s goal is to increase the number of students who contribute to the diversity mission of the university, who persist towards the doctoral degree and show promise as candidates for faculty appointments.
Her research project, “Studying the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Activities on Mental Health Outcomes for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC),” explores the relationship between mindfulness-based activities such as grounding, directed writing, meditation, or yoga and emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and self-acceptance in youth. The anticipated results for the research are that in addition to the benefits that mindfulness itself offers, using broaden-and-build theory, youth will receive an additional benefit in mood from the activities that will allow them to be more open and flexible to other positive experiences and resources. Thus, the behavioral and emotional needs, as well as risk behaviors, of CSE youth should decrease, while it is predicted that there will be an increase in the youth’s strengths.
Kelly Whaling is a doctoral student in the Department of Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology with an emphasis in counseling. Whaling’s research interests broadly regard examining issues pertaining to Latin@ mental health from social justice frameworks, and specifically, access to mental health care and community outreach/interventions for Latin American immigrant youth who have experienced trauma, depression, and/or suicidality. She is working with Dr. Jill Sharkey on this project exploring the effectiveness of mindfulness-based activities, which are easily accessible to underserved communities as they can be carried out by lay individuals and youth themselves, with the goal of improving trauma symptoms and other outcomes for commercially sexually exploited children, a group of youth who are predominantly multiracial and LGBT.