Division 53 | Past Columns - Andrea Letamendi

Past Columns - Andrea Letamendi

Andrea Letamendi, Ph.D.

Andrea Letamendi, Ph.D.
Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services,
Pasadena, CA

1. What is your current occupation?

I am an implementation scientist, educator, and manager at Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, a large, private, non-profit child and adolescent serving mental health agency in Los Angeles County. I am also a private consultant and subject matter expert for media projects focusing on psychological science, clinical psychology and related fields.

2. What do you do? / Describe your role.

I provide education, training, consultation and evidence-based clinical support to over 500 mental health providers serving children, adolescents, young adults and families facing serious life challenges. I build curriculum related to best practices in youth mental health care and disseminate policies, procedures and clinical skills training to ensure high quality services that help consumers and families thrive. I advance public knowledge of psychological science through social media, journalism, consultation, and private and public speaking at universities, community agencies, and pop culture conventions such as Comic-Con.

3. How did you learn about your job? 

When I was a postdoctoral scientist at UCLA, I assisted in the coordination of the Child STEPs multi-site clinical trial, which collaborated with multiple community mental health agencies. My professional relationships with the Child STEPs team led to opportunities with private agencies who, as part of their partnership with UCLA, demonstrated commitment to implementing evidence-based practices.

4. How have you navigated your career? As in, what was the process that you took to get to your current position?

The process involved understanding (and in some cases, establishing for the first time) my own professional values and identifying key components of my own personal career goals, e.g., serving as an educator, scientist, and leader, and being willing to think outside the traditional academic box. It also involved exploring the values and philosophies of community mental health care--acknowledging that being directly involved with service provision represents an essential ingredient in implementation science. Finally, speaking with mentors and other members of the scientific community was paramount in helping to elucidate the right career "fit." 

5. Are you a member of Division 53?  If so, how has being a member of Division 53 been helpful to you?

I have recently joined Division 53 and look forward to participating in new connections and collaborations related to child and adolescent psychology.

6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job? Why?

The most enjoyable aspects include opportunities to exercise innovation and work closely with a team that champions the cultivation and dissemination of science. Additionally, a fulfilling aspect is the ongoing relationships with members of the direct service staff as a trainer, educator and consultant. The ability to actively participate in narrowing the gap between science and practice is a larger-than-life experience!

7. What is a tough aspect of your job?  How have you handled it?

The most challenging aspect of the job is developing a capacity to support staff around trauma-informed care. The youths and families who participate in our services are often experiencing multiple challenges, hardships, and stressors, and the compassion extended by our staff as professional caregivers is nothing short of superheroic. Building more support and agency-wide strategies to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue is a huge part of our vision.

8. What is one thing that you wish you had known as a graduate student or post-doc/early career psychologist that would have helped you navigate your career?

I wish I had learned more about trauma-informed care and general professional self-care. Burnout is real, folks!

9. What advice would you give to students (including undergrads and grads) who may be interested in doing what you do?

I would encourage students to expand their conceptualization of academic roles, and continue to engage their own creativity, innovation, and eccentricity. Make a commitment to something you are passionate about, and never stop making that commitment known to those around you.

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