2019 Program

In 2019 the On the Shoulders of Giants Scientific Symposium celebrated the work of John Weisz, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and Recipient of the 2019 Sarah Gund Prize for Research and Mentorship in Child Mental Health.

The 2019 On the Shoulders of Giants Scientific Symposium honoring John Weisz, PhD, was held on October 16, 2019, at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

The 2019 symposium celebrated the trailblazing work of Harvard professor and psychotherapy researcher John Weisz, PhD. Dr. Weisz presented on his work developing and testing a system to deliver personalized, modular treatments for anxiety, depression, trauma and conduct disorders. Dr. Weisz is the winner of the Child Mind Institute’s 2019 Sarah Gund Prize for Research and Mentorship in Child Mental Health, which recognizes outstanding contributions to child and adolescent psychiatry, psychology or developmental neuroscience.

Dr. Weisz’s presentation outlined the promises and pitfalls of evidence-based treatments in child and adolescent mental health. Though the evidence base is strong for many treatments, the benefit of these manualized approaches fades in real world application. Furthermore, many therapists prefer to use their usual treatments. Dr. Weisz’s approach has been to take the best pieces of many therapies and fuse them into adaptable modules that are easily deployed and tailored. His focus is on honing the simplest approach that provides the most benefit.

That focus has been passed down to the investigators who stand on Dr. Weisz’s shoulders. Joining him to present were two young researchers who have benefitted from the research base he has established. Jessica Schleider, PhD, gave a fascinating talk on the development of web-based, single-session interventions that may reduce and potentially even prevent mental health symptoms. Dr. Schleider’s lab is working with the Child Mind Institute’s Healthy Brain Network study to further evaluate these interventions. Dr. Schleider’s student Mallory Dobias reported on using data to predict access to care.

The symposium closed with a genial panel discussion featuring questions from the audience and the guidance of Paul Mitrani, MD, PhD, clinical director of the Child Mind Institute, and Adriana Di Martino, MD, founding research director of the Autism Center at the Child Mind Institute.

About the Presenters

John Weisz, PhD

Harvard University, Professor, Department of Psychology, Recipient of the 2019 Sarah Gund Prize for Research and Mentorship in Child Mental Health

John Weisz was born and raised in Mississippi and received a BA from Mississippi College. Along with his wife, Jenny, he served as a teacher in the U.S. Peace Corps in Kenya. Dr. Weisz later studied at Yale, where he received a PhD in clinical and developmental psychology. He held faculty positions at Cornell, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and at UCLA, where in partnership with several local mental health clinics, he focused on studying youth mental health care in community settings. Those

partnerships produced 14 years of research on psychotherapy process and outcome in everyday clinical practice, and multiple randomized trials of cognitive behavioral therapy for youth depression and anxiety. In 2004, Dr. Weisz expanded his partnerships to the state of Massachusetts, where he served for eight years as President and CEO of the Judge Baker Children’s Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. While at Judge Baker, Dr. Weisz accepted numerous academic appointments, and now works full-time as a professor in the Harvard Psychology Department, expanding his body of research on strategies for improving youth mental health care.

Dr. Weisz’s most recent work involves development and testing of trans-diagnostic approaches to youth psychotherapy, including treatment that uses modular design and treatment guided by a small number of broad principles of psychological change. He is especially interested in integrating evidence-based practices with strategies for personalizing treatment to fit individual youth and family characteristics. Weisz’s meta-analyses provide a broad picture of the state of youth psychotherapy research and address specific questions about moderators of psychotherapy benefit. His books include Psychotherapy for Children and Adolescents: Evidence-based treatments and case examples (Cambridge University Press) and Evidence-based Psychotherapies for Children and Adolescents (Co-edited with Alan Kazdin; Guilford Press).

Jessica Schleider, PhD

Stony Brook University, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

Dr. Schleider completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Harvard University, along with a doctoral internship in Clinical and Community Psychology at Yale School of Medicine. She is also an academic consultant for the Education Global Practice at The World Bank, where she works with international collaborators to design school-based interventions for students’ emotional health. At Stony Brook, Dr. Schleider directs the Lab for Scalable Mental Health (www.schleiderlab.org), where she and her team develop and evaluate brief, accessible interventions for youth depression and anxiety.

Dr. Schleider has published more than 30 scientific articles and book chapters and delivered dozens of professional talks for scientists, families, and providers across the country. She has developed or co-developed web-based, virtual reality, and school-based interventions for youth, and her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychological Foundation and the Harvard Center for the Developing Child. Drawing on her research to date, she is currently authoring a therapeutic self-help workbook for adolescents to be published by New Harbinger Publications in 2020.

Mallory Dobias

PhD candidate, Stony Brook University

Mallory Dobias graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2016 with a BS in Psychology. Mallory has contributed to the development and/or dissemination of seven different mental health interventions for depression, anxiety, and smoking cessation. She coordinated a large-scale National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded clinical trial targeting internalizing symptoms in high school freshmen which resulted in the dissemination of an online growth mindset program for depression and anxiety to over 2,600 ninth graders across seven public high schools.

Dobias has presented at national research conferences on adolescent depression and a distress-tolerance intervention for college students, and has contributed to research examining relationships between self-compassion, mindfulness, and depression in youth. Her most recent position was clinic coordinator of the Anxiety and Stress Clinic at UT Austin. She is currently co-authoring a therapeutic self-

help workbook for adolescents with Dr. Jessica Schleider, to be published by New Harbinger Publications in 2020.