Volunteering in a South Korean psychiatric hospital inspired Derek Griner's award-winning dissertation, "Culturally adaptive mental health treatments: A meta-analysis."
Before beginning his undergraduate work, Griner, a Brigham Young University fifth-year counseling psychology student, spent two years as a Mormon missionary in Korea, where his service included proselytizing, providing basic nursing care at geriatric hospitals, tutoring students with disabilities and even working in rice fields.
It was his work in several psychiatric hospitals that had the greatest effect on his career. Griner observed that in Korea, families were very involved in treatment and wondered whether the traditional care immigrants received in the United States was as effective as culturally modified treatment.
To answer that question, he conducted a meta-analysis of 80 published and unpublished quantitative studies of culturally adapted therapy-work that garnered him the 2007 Jeffrey S. Tanaka Memorial Dissertation Award in Psychology, awarded by APA's Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs.
Griner found that for ethnic-minority clients, receiving therapy in their native languages was, on average, twice as effective as therapy done in English, and that treatmentsspecifically modified for a particular cultural group were four times more effective than ones designed to address the needs of several minority groups at once.
"There is empirical evidence that indicates culturally modified treatments are very valuable," he says. "They are at least as effective as other treatments and sometimes more effective."
In his future career, Griner aims to work in a campus mental health center at a culturally diverse college or university. He also wants to teach and continue to do multicultural research.