Counseling research team gets students excited about research in addictions field

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The Addictions Counseling Research Team (ACRT), based in the College of Education's Counseling Program, provides an opportunity for master's and doctoral students to conduct research projects related to addictions counseling. The team is comprised of 6-8 students with an interest in addictions counseling, research, or both.

"I wanted to be a part of ACRT because I am passionate about addiction and recovery and I wanted to experience research projects from start to finish," said Sage Anne Garber, team member and master's student. "Research is not something that comes naturally to me, and this group provided a safe and comfortable environment to participate and learn more about research."

The team is co-led by Amanda Giordano and Elizabeth Prosek, both assistant professors in the counseling program in the department of Counseling and Higher Education. According to Giordano, the ACRT evolved organically as students approached her with the desire to engage in research related to addictions counseling. Rather than working with each student individually, Giordano and Prosek thought a team approach would maximize the opportunity for research mentorship as well as offer the benefits of group collaboration.

"My passion for research began as a result of incredible mentorship I received during my graduate program," said Giordano, "so as a faculty member, my hope has been to create a space where students can get excited about research by working as a team and engaging in important projects. For over two years now the students of ACRT have amazed and inspired me with their dedication and ingenuity."

"As an ACRT member, I was provided with a safe environment to not only learn about the research process, but to also learn about myself as a researcher," said Emily Reader, team member and current master's student. "Drs. Giordano and Prosek allowed me to safely explore my talents, while also empowering me to grow in my analytical and investigative capabilities."

ACRT members meet weekly and learn how to generate research questions, create effective research designs, collect and analyze data, and disseminate findings through journal publications and national conference presentations.

According to Prosek, all voices are valued in weekly discussion. "We are transparent in the development of all projects, and consult collaboratively regardless of the level of experience a student may have when he or she joins the team," she said.

The team helps students advance toward their professional goals. "The ACRT has provided me with not only a rich knowledge base of research ethics, statistics, and writing skills, but also with professional and leadership experience," added doctoral student Cynthia Bevly. "ACRT has been a crucial stepping stone in my counseling career."

"I have become much more interested in addictions research, especially pertaining to use by youth," said Citlali Molina, a master's student. "I also have started to think about other studies that would be interesting to conduct. I never thought of doing research, and now I enjoy the process of contributing to our profession."   

To date, members of the ACRT have completed two large studies, examining predictors of psychostimulant use among college students as well as correlations among religious and spiritual factors. These studies have resulted in three articles published in counseling journals as well as one manuscript under review. Members of ACRT also presented their findings at a national counseling conference, and are scheduled to present at a state counseling conference this fall.

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