Two new faculty take clinical psych to the next level

There is an influx of intellectual energy in the training of clinical psychology undergraduates with the arrival of two new faculty members, Emma Schiestl and Natasha Hansen. No matter what occupations students wish to pursue – whether it is a master’s in social work or counseling or a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or tech jobs in behavioral health at the bachelor’s level – the mission of this dynamic duo is to equip undergraduates in the new degree program with sophisticated scientific frameworks for understanding the mind and brain and with state-of-the-art, evidence-based methods for addressing mental health issues.


Emma Schiestl

As Schiestl points out, “Our goal is to put our heads together about how we envision the program moving forward and to conceptualize the core components students will need.” Overall, their approach, she says, “is geared to reducing the scientist-practitioner gap, by training people in the practice of evidence-based care models.”

Clinical Assistant Professor Emma Schiestl Photo by Jordan Morning

A newly created major in clinical psychology has four core courses that distinguish it from the psychology B.A. and B.S. One of these courses is “Foundations in Clinical Science,” a broad overview of how we can use scientific methods to evaluate treatments and programs, make sure our assessments are working in the ways we expect them to work, and provide building blocks to more advanced courses.

“We talk about reliability and validity,” says Schiestl, “specifically of our treatments and assessments, and focus on how we know if our treatments are working in the way we think they are working. Is the treatment we are prescribing the thing that is actively leading to change or is it something else?”

Schiestl comes to the position with experience teaching undergraduates as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and as a guest professor at Colorado College. At Michigan she developed a course on eating disorders and food addiction theory, the topic of her dissertation.

“My mom was a food scientist when I was growing up, so that is where I got my interest in food addiction,” she explains. But for as long as she can remember, Schiestl says, she has always been “a psychology nerd. I’ve just been really interested in human behavior.” She remembers how in middle school her parents got her Freud’s book On Dreams for Christmas. She took an AP Psychology course in high school. In college she majored in psychology and philosophy.

We talk about reliability and validity, specifically of our treatments and assessments, and focus on how we know if our treatments are working in the way we think they are working.

– Clinical Assistant Professor Emma Schiestl

As she was researching topics for her college honors thesis, she came across the idea that certain eating disorders could be better conceptualized as an addiction, which ultimately led her to the Food and Addictive Science & Treatment Lab as a graduate student. There she began to focus more on the contextual and environmental factors involved in eating disorders, such as childhood food insecurity or the way parental control during childhood can lead to binging behavior in young adulthood.

She anticipates returning to the topic at a later date, but for now, she looks forward to providing the foundations of clinical science to undergraduates, as well as higher-level clinical supervision and a skill acquisition course in which students develop the skills needed both to provide therapy and to evaluate community mental health programs.

On her off hours, Schiestl explores Bloomington’s outdoor spaces with a trail running group she joined on her arrival last summer and is actively getting to know the region.