Commencement 2021 Profile: Rhea Wagle provides mental health care to children

Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Rhea Wagle

Rhea Wagle graduated with a Ph.D. from the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology. After graduating, she will be doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She hopes to provide mental health services to all children and families and to reduce the barriers for mental health care to underserved populations.

GGSE: Tell us a bit about your dissertation: why are you proud of it?
Wagle: My dissertation was a two-part study that addressed the gaps in the literature on school belonging in primary and secondary school settings. More specifically, (1) I conducted a Latent Profile Analysis on elementary school students’ school belonging experiences and analyzed how the resulting profiles corresponded to mental health outcomes, and (2) I studied the relations between academic achievement, complete mental health, and school belonging in high school students. I am most proud of my first study, in which I found that the majority of students experienced low and medium levels of school belonging, which corresponded to lower mental health outcomes, indicating that they are in need of additional support. This finding deviates from the assumption that elementary school students generally experience high levels of school belonging, and suggests that further research is needed to understand how to improve elementary school students’ experiences. I am also proud of the fact that I learned and conducted structural equation modeling in my dissertation!

GGSE: How did your predoctoral internship at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services help you develop as a professional?
Wagle: My predoctoral internship at Didi Hirsch helped me deepen my skills as both a clinical and school psychologist. I conducted individual, collateral, and family therapy; interdisciplinary consultation; psychological assessments; clinical supervision; and community outreach. I also learned how to combine my expertise of school psychology with my passion for community mental health by advocating for my clients in school settings and consulting with school personnel. Additionally, I learned how to provide almost all of these services remotely due to the pandemic. These are all skills I will utilize as a professional when I am a licensed psychologist providing services in a school or community-based setting.

GGSE: What do you hope to do after you complete your post-doctoral Fellowship at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles?
Wagle: I would like to be a licensed psychologist in a setting that allows me to provide direct services to children and families, supervise and teach practicum students, and provide interdisciplinary consultation. My passion lies in reducing the barriers to mental health services for all families, so I hope to continue working with diverse and underserved children and families in either a school or community setting.

GGSE: What's one of your favorite memories from graduate school?
Wagle: It’s hard to choose one memory since I was lucky enough to meet some of my best friends through graduate school. My favorite memories include countless celebratory dinners at some of my favorite restaurants in town to celebrate all of our milestones: second year projects, research festival presentations, passing qualifying exams, successful dissertation proposals, birthdays, engagements, and more. I could not have gotten through graduate school without my core group of friends. We were always there to cheer each other on and provide support when we needed it most.

GGSE: Who at the GGSE would you like to thank?
Wagle: I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Dowdy, for all of her support and guidance in my development as a researcher and psychologist. I would also like to thank Dr. Nylund-Gibson, Dr. Sharkey, and Dr. Furlong for providing their expertise on my research. Additionally, I would like to thank my close friends in the program and my labmates for making this journey a lot more fun and reminding me to continue living my life through all the work!