Alcohol and PTSD Research: Psychology Student Receives Prestigious Fellowship
Too often, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) take a bottle to soothe the pain of their symptoms. Such a choice not only ends up worsening their mental health, but can also wreak havoc on their relationships.
A fifth-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program at Binghamton University, Eileen Barden studies this painful intersection of addiction, PTSD, and relationships. In addition to doing clinical work, she conducts research in Assistant Professor Christina Balderrama-Durbin’s Couple Adjustment to Stress and Trauma (CAST) lab, which examines trauma and stressors that affect different populations, including military.
“Coming from a military family, I am particularly interested in working with the veteran population,” Barden said.
Recently, she received a prestigious two-year scholarship from the Enhancing Diversity in Alcohol Research (EDAR) training program, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The scholarship provides support for applying for pre-doctoral internships; Participants also gain hands-on research experience while working with data and completing a project with guidance from their EDAR mentor.
EDAR serves a diverse cohort of graduate students from across the United States. Diversity is a strength in research, both in terms of researchers and study participants, Barden pointed out.
“By being more inclusive, we are better able, as a field, to better understand how alcohol can influence different aspects of people’s lives, which can help inform evidence-based treatment. Bringing in more diversity can also help improve the way we measure different research concepts and are able to ask the right research question in general, ”she explained.
Born in Japan, Barden came to the United States at the age of 5 and grew up in the Baltimore area, where she went on to earn her BA in Psychology from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC). Prior to her doctoral program, she worked as a laboratory manager examining emotional regulation processes in relation to PTSD and depression at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro, and also as a research analyst. at the Medical University of South Carolina reviewing the treatment of PTSD and substance use.
She came to Binghamton specifically to work with Balderrama-Durbin and learned a lot from her mentor, from formulating research questions and designing studies to the ins and outs of academic publishing. In addition to Balderrama-Durbin, she also drew inspiration from psychological clinic director Thomas Harding for her commitment to training students to excel in the field, she said.
Barden’s initial interests centered on how individuals can survive and thrive after experiencing trauma and chronic stressors. During her research and clinical practice, she has learned more about the pervasive nature of drug addiction that often coincides with PTSD, especially alcohol, and how romantic relationships can influence outcomes.
“Throughout my training, it became clear to me that in order to better understand the trajectories of PTSD, it is important to use a global perspective,” she explained. “I generally approach research and clinical practice from the biopsychosocial model. “
After earning his doctorate, Barden plans to continue his clinical work in the service of veterans and to conduct research on PTSD and alcohol use at a Veterans Administration medical center.
“Eileen has built an impressive record of scholarship and is so deserving of this type of recognition. She has an exceptional dedication to improving the mental health of historically marginalized and high-risk populations exposed to trauma, ”said Balderrama-Durbin. “Without a doubt, thanks to Eileen’s determination and skill, she will continue to emerge as a leader in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol use. “