After conducting clinical and personality psychology research at large universities, Prof. Kathy Berenson came to Gettysburg College because she craved a closer working relationship with her students. “At Gettysburg College, students have opportunities to work closely with faculty, in ways you don’t see most places,” she said. “The depth and breadth of experience that students in my department get as research assistants and independent researchers—in our advanced lab classes, working in our labs, and during intensive summer research fellowships—is really quite remarkable.”
Berenson’s research is on the processes by which social-cultural risk factors are associated with mental health problems. She’s also interested in the experiences of people living with mental illness, including stigma, identity concerns, and relationship strain. Most recently, Berenson has been studying the ways in which popular trends in our culture, such as overvaluing self-confidence, may be interfering with compassion for ourselves and others.
Over the years, Berenson has taught her students about the mental health field, and helped them understand its hidden complexities hidden in the field. “Many students have the desire to help people with mental health problems, but this is a topic so strongly linked with conflicting emotions and popular misconceptions that it can be hard for them to know where to begin,” she said. “I think my work with students, both in and out of the classroom, helps them accept that the mental health field has no easy answers, and that the complex scientific and personal challenges it presents can nevertheless be very rewarding to take on.”