Counseling research project will assess experiences of women of color in medical treatment settings

Investigating the experiences of women with invisible illnesses in medical settings: A comparison of intersectional identities
RANA YAGHMAIAN

Assistant Professor Rana Yaghmaian will expand her work in rehabilitation counseling with this new grant from the Dean’s Funds for Excellence.

It was the experience of a close family member that sent Yaghmaian’s career on this trajectory. This person lived nearly three decades with an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, consistently being told by medical personnel that her symptoms were psychosomatic in nature.

Yaghmaian’s work focuses on women with chronic, ambiguous, and invisible illnesses. She states that there is very compelling evidence that women with chronic illnesses must constantly adapt to, negotiate, and interact with the social environment, specifically medical settings, in ways that are intimately connected to the intersection of gender and illness. Studies reveal that women in general are perceived as overly emotional and burdensome in medical settings, and Yaghmaian has stated that this is especially true for women with the types of conditions she studies. According to her research, when medical practitioners fail to diagnose a problem through conventional methods, women are often told legitimate physical symptoms are “all in your head.” As a result, women can feel invalidated and disempowered. This messaging leads to delayed and ineffective care, and could impact the individual’s ability to participate fully in important life roles and achieve good a quality of life. Yaghmaian will continue her line of research around this topic, specifically focusing on ways in which the experiences of women of color compare to those of women with privileged racial identities.

Yaghmaian plans to conduct her research using quantitative and qualitative research methodology, specifically investigating the experiences of women who seek conventional medical care. This grant will give Yaghmaian the opportunity to design and develop the project over the next year and to nurture University and community partnerships to collaborate and expand the work. Her ultimate goal is to organize a research team that can move the project forward for possible federal funding. This could provide opportunities for PSU students to work on an important project that is relevant to the community, and at the same time reflects the GSE’s and the University’s emphasis on diversity and social justice.

“The overarching purpose of this project, and the reason I’m so interested in this line of research, is that I want to use this work as part of my commitment to advocacy for women and women of color with chronic illness and disability,” said Yaghmaian. “I want to explore intersections of gender, race, and illness to ultimately improve quality of life for these women.”

Yaghmaian is the coordinator of the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program in the Counselor Education Department.

This is one of a 4-part series of projects funded by the 2018 Dean’s Fund for Excellence. For more information or to contribute to the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, or any other GSE fund, please contact Scott Shlaes, shlaess@psuf.org, or call 503-725-4789.

NEXT: Two ground-breaking GSE programs collaborate on “what’s possible?”

Commencement speaker focused on family finds support at PSU

Mona (left) and Mania Asadi Zadeh, ’17, celebrate a new beginning in America.

For the GSE’s Mania Asadi Zadeh, this year’s PSU student commencement speaker, life is all about family. She grew up in a multigenerational household in Tehran, Iran, so when her older sister Mona wanted to join her in the United States, Mania was thrilled. She was not expecting her sister to become caught up in an immigration crisis that made national news. Mania, a GSE counseling major had a real-life problem that would require all of her years of training to solve.

Mania did not start her undergraduate college career wanting to be a counselor. She envisioned a high-paying profession, like pharmacist, so she could help support her family. She took every science course she could at PCC and transferred to Portland State as a junior in 2012. In 2014, Mania earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at PSU. Working with PSU advisors in her undergrad years and mentoring other students had taught her that she liked to take care of people. She had realized that her graduate degree should be in counseling and the GSE’s Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling specialization was a perfect fit for her. Continue reading

GSE counseling student receives national fellowship

marie-mcmahonPSU student Marie McMahon is the recipient of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship. She is in the Clinical Mental Health program in the GSE and also working toward the GSE Certificate in Trauma-Informed Therapy. The NBCC award covers a substantial portion of her graduate-level tuition at PSU.

“We are all very proud of Marie’s efforts and thankful she is part of our program,” said Assistant Professor Joel Lane, who teaches in the program. “Marie has a creative spirit and an interest in using art as a therapeutic tool, which I think will be very powerful in her work with underserved transition-aged youth.” Continue reading

PSU school counseling alumna Holly Vaughn-Edmonds receives statewide honors

holly-vaughn-edmondsFranklin High School Counselor Holly Vaughn-Edmonds, ’02, was named the 2016 Oregon School Counselor of the Year by the Oregon School Counselor Association (OSCA). She received the honors at the organization’s fall conference in October. She is a graduate of the GSE’s School Counseling Program. She has been a practicing school counselor for 17 years, most recently at Franklin High School where she focuses on career and college readiness.

“Holly’s creative spirit and big heart make for strong collaboration with her colleagues, partners, and college resources,” said Juanita Valder, Franklin High School principal.

As the Oregon School Counselor of the Year, she is automatically a nominee for the American School Counselor Association National School Counselor of the Year. Continue reading

Associate Professor Lisa Aasheim receives statewide counseling award

joal-and-lisa

Lisa Aasheim is congratulated by incoming ORCA president and GSE faculty member Joel Lane

Associate Professor Lisa Aasheim is the 2016 recipient of the Leona Tyler Award from the Oregon Counseling Association (ORCA). This is the organization’s highest award and recognizes counselors who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and whose work has had statewide implications for counseling. She received the award at their fall conference in Portland, November 5, 2016.

Aasheim is an ’02 graduate of the PSU Marital, Couple & Family Counseling program and holds a PhD in counselor education and supervision from Oregon State University.

She teaches in PSU’s counseling program, is the director of the PSU Community Counseling Clinic that provides low-cost counseling services to the PSU community, and has a private practice in marriage and family counseling. Continue reading

Coloring book helps African children with grief

Susan Halverson bookImages of grieving orphans in Third World countries are common on the television, and while they may tug at our hearts, it’s difficult to find an appropriate response or know how to help. But the GSE’s Susan Halverson-Westerberg did just that.

In 2013, Halverson-Westerberg visited Kenya, where she met with Reverend David Chuchu, director of the Diakonia Compassionate Ministry in Kisumu, which provides support for children who have lost their parents due to conflict, famine, or illness. Halverson-Westerberg’s local church, Zion Lutheran of Portland, Oregon, supports this mission, and she and her husband Jim traveled there to see the newly built Rescue Center.

Susan Halvorson-WesterbergHalverson-Westerberg had another reason for her trip. As a faculty member in the Counselor Education Department, she researches the impact of grief and dying on children and families. She wanted to use this trip as an opportunity to better understand how another culture deals with grief and to gain insight to develop supports and curriculum for students and children in her work locally.

“When I visited Kenya in 2013, I was very taken with the many beautiful orphans who had lost one or both parents due to illness and accidents. If there are no other family members left to help, even losing one parent can land a child in an orphanage or rescue center since that one parent cannot work and care for the child,” Halverson-Westerberg said. “I felt there was a need to give something to these children to help them feel they are still part of a larger family, since family is so important in Africa.”

Halverson-Westerberg decided to write a book that could be used as a tool to develop dialog with children who have lost one or both parents. Her book, Margaret’s Family Tree: A Story of Hope and Belonging (2016), is a coloring book designed to help children work through their grief in a constructive way and to help them acknowledge feelings about their lost loved ones. The book is written in both English and Swahili. It is illustrated in black and white by Oregon artist Edna M. Kennel. Halvorson-Westerberg is offering it free for duplication to anyone working with children, especially in African countries. A second version in color is planned for release soon.

Halverson-Westerberg is an associate professor and coordinator of the Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling specialization. She has a PhD in counselor education from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and has taught at PSU since 1999.

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