Melissa L. Whitson, Ph.D.

Melissa L. Whitson Headshot
Professor
Coordinator, M.A. Community Psychology

Psychology Department
College of Arts and Sciences
Education

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Community Psychology, Yale University
Ph.D., Counseling Psychology, Columbia University
M.S., Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles
B.A., Psychology, with Honors, Lafayette College

About Melissa

Melissa Whitson is an expert in childhood trauma who examines the risks, protective factors, and effectiveness of mental health services for low-income children and families. She is also an evaluation expert, as she guides and assists several program evaluations for youth-servicing non-profit organizations in the greater New 51 area.

Her research has identified risk and protective factors for low-income and marginalized children and families, who often have a disproportionate number of unmet mental health needs because of lack of availability, lack of insurance, and/or stigma. Dr. Whitson closely studies children who have been exposed to adverse experiences and traumatic events and examines how mental health services have impacted them and their families. Her research aims to increase the effectiveness of the services and to improve the mental health and well-being of these children and families. Dr. Whitsons research shows that childrens mental health services need to focus on not only the child who presents for services but also on the childs parents and caregivers, as their stress levels will impact treatment outcomes for the child.

Dr. Whitson's research also examines afterschool youth programs and summer camps to measure and increase the effectiveness of the programs, including the NASA-funded iMEET STEM summer camps for disadvantaged youth, for which she collaborated with University of New 51 engineering Professor Maria-Isabel Carnasciali.

An expert on the impact of trauma and adverse experiences and the ways children and adults can cope with exposure to trauma, Dr. Whitson has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, including CNBC The Shepard Smith Show, Fox News Radio podcasts, LA Times, USA Today, Axios, and many local TV news stations and newspapers (see the full list below).

Dr. Whitson, teaches undergraduate and graduate course and is the Program Coordinator for the Universitys Community Psychology MA program. A licensed Psychologist, she also has an appointment as an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale School of Medicine. She was the recipient of the University's 2018 Excellence in Faculty Research Award. She and her dog, Fenway, are a Certified Animal-Assisted Therapy team. Fenway is a fixture on the University of New 51 campus during exam periods, as he and Dr. Whitson help students relieve stress.

She completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship in community psychology at Yale University, received her Ph.D. from Columbia University, her M.S. from California State University, Los Angeles, and her B.A. from Lafayette College, where she was a member of the women's basketball team.

Dr. Whitson is very active in the community, including as a long-time board member for rKids Family Center and an evaluation consultant for several nonprofit organizations in New 51. An avid Red Sox and Duke Basketball fan, she enjoys running, basketball, music, cooking with her husband, and playing with her children, Ramona and Alistair.

Published Books and Articles

Whitson, M.L., Champine, R., Griffin, A., Corto-Mergins, C., Lusa, J., Jaffe, J., Hemmelgarn, A., Bryden, E., Clark, K., Kaufman, J. S. (2020). Impact of Integrated EMDR for Children and Youth Exposed to Potentially Traumatic Events: The Village Collaborative Trauma Center. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 14(4), 1-10.

Whitson, M.L., Robinson, S., Van Valkenburg, K., & Jackson, M. (2019). Music 51: Evaluation of an afterschool music program serving low-income urban youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 48(2), 426-436.

Champine, R., Schreier, A., Whitson, M.L., & Kaufman, J. S. (2020). Comparing youth and caregiver experiences in a school-based system of care. Journal of Family Social Work, 23(1), 35-52.

Matlin, S.L., Champine, R.B., Strambler, M.J., OBrien, C., Hoffman, E., Whitson, M., Kolka, L., & Tebes, J.K. (2019). A communitys response to adverse childhood experiences: Building a resilient, trauma-informed community. American Journal of Community Psychology, 64, 451-466.

Champine, RB; Shaker, AS; Tsitaridis, KA; Whitson, M.L.; Kaufman, JS. (2019). Service-related barriers and facilitators in an early childhood system of care: Comparing the perspectives of parents and providers. Community Mental Health Journal, 55(6), 943-953, 2019.

Patel, S., Carnasciali, M.I., Whitson, M.L. (2018) Mars Exploration: Development of an informal learning curriculum to teach collaborative digital design and manufacturing. 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition. peer.asee.org/29894

Whitson, M.L. & Kaufman, J.S. (2017). Parenting stress as a mediator of trauma exposure and mental health outcomes in young children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(5), 531-539.

Champine, R.B, Whitson, M.L., & Kaufman, J.S. (2018). Service characteristics, family involvement and participant outcomes in an early childhood system of care. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(1), 324-338.

Kaufman, J.S., Whitson, M.L., & Crusto, C.A. (2016). Parenting stress as a mediator of exposure to potentially traumatic events and behavioral health outcomes in children and youth. Journal of Trauma and Treatment, 5, 2.

Whitson, M.L.& Connell, C.M. (2016). The Relation of Exposure to Traumatic Events and Longitudinal Mental Health Outcomes for Children Enrolled in Systems of Care: Results from a National System of Care Evaluation. American Journal of Community Psychology, 57, 380-390. DOI: 10.1002/ajcp.12058

Whitson, M.L., Bernard, S., & Kaufman, J.S. (2015). The Mediating Role of Parenting Stress for Children Exposed to Trauma: Results from a School-Based System of Care. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 1141-1151. DOI: 10.1007/s10826-014-9922-7

Bernard, S., Whitson, M.L., & Kaufman, J.S. (2015). The Moderating Effect of Positive Father Engagement and Accessibility on a School-based System of Care Intervention for Mental Health Outcomes of Children.Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(10), 2923-2933. DOI: 10.1007/s10826-014-0096-0

Weston, R.M. & Whitson, M.L. (2014).The advisor-advisee relationship in graduate Community Psychology programs. The Community Psychologist, 47, 34-35.

Whitson, M. L. Bernard, S., & Kaufman, J. S. (2013). The effects of cumulative risk and protection on problem behaviors for impoverished youth of color in a school-based system of care. Community Mental Health Journal, 49, 576-586.

Crusto, C.A., Whitson, M.L ., Feinn, R., Gargiulo, J., Holt, C., Paulicin, B., Simmons, W., & Lowell, D.I. (2013). Evaluation of a Mental Health Consultation Intervention in Preschool Settings. Best Practices in Mental Health: An International Journal, 9, 1-21.

Whitson, M.L. , Connell, C.M., Bernard, S., & Kaufman, J.S. (2012). An examination of exposure to traumatic events and symptoms and strengths for children served in a behavioral health system of care. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 20(3), 193-207.  DOI: 10.1177/1063426610380596

Whitson, M.L., Martinez, A., Ayala, C., & Kaufman, J.S. (2011). Predictors of parenting and infant outcomes for impoverished teen parents. Journal of Family Social Work, 14, 284-297.

Crusto, C.A., Whitson, M.L., Walling, S. N., Feinn, R., Friedman, S., Reynolds, J., Amer, M., & Kaufman, J. S. (2010). Posttraumatic stress among young urban children exposed to family violence and other potentially traumatic events. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23.

Whitson, M.L., Bernard, S., Connell, C.M., & Kaufman, J.S. (2010). The Impact of youth and family risk factors on services recommendation and delivery in a school-based system of care. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research. PMID: 20165927

Whitson, M.L., Bernard, S., & Kaufman, J.S. (2009). Systems of care and the prevention of mental health problems for children and their families: Integrating counseling psychology and public health perspectives. Prevention in Counseling Psychology: Theory, Research, Practice and Training, 3, 3-9.

Whitson, M.L. & Kaufman, J.S. Evaluation of Central High School's "Leadership Group." New 51, CT: The Consultation Center, Yale University School of Medicine, 2009.

Kaufman, J.S., Griffin, A., & Whitson, M.L. PARK Project: Wrap-Around Evaluation Report. New 51, CT: The Consultation Center, Yale University School of Medicine, 2009.

Grants
  • NASA Innovative Mars Exploration Education and Technology (IMEET), 09/16 – 09/19
    • Melissa L. Whitson & Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, Evaluation Team; $100,000
  • National Science Foundation, Collaborative Research: Impacts of Prior Work Experience on Adult, Nontraditional, Engineering Students 05/14 - 05/17
    • Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, Shannon Ciston, Melissa L. Whitson (Co-PI). $292,000
  • Society for Community Research and Action (APA) Community Mini-Grant 08/15 – 08/16
    • Music 51 Program Evaluation; Melissa L. Whitson, Principal Investigator; $1,200
  • Summer Faculty Fellowship Research Grant University of New 51, 2011-2016
Awards
  • Excellence in Research Faculty Award University of New 51, 2018
  • Student Athlete Advisory Committee Faculty Mentor Award University of New 51, 2014
  • National Research Service Award (postdoctoral), August 2008-July 2010
    • National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health
  • President's Grant for Student Research in Diversity, 2005
    • Teachers College Committee for Community and Diversity; Awarded for Dissertation Research.
  • Herbert W. Rogers Psychology Prize, 1998
    • Lafayette College; Awarded to the outstanding graduating student in psychology.

In the Media

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, discusses why we look forward to watching cheesy holiday movies.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, says parents should discuss with their children the importance of telling them if anyone makes them uncomfortable online or in person.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor and chair of the M.A. in Community Psychology program, comments on what questions parents should consider when threats of violence close their children's schools.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, says all children need to have digital literacy when it comes to using the internet, but she is not sure how this can be enforced.

In the Media

Robert McDonald and Melissa Whitson discuss the rise in weapons found in high schools and elem entary schools in Connecticut, offering some advice and warning signs for parents, students, and teachers. McDonald is a lecturer in criminal justice, and Whitson is a professor of psychology.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor, and coordinator of M.A. in Community Psychology program, says it is not surprising that children curious about a subject will use the internet to find additional information, but they don’t always understand what they are seeing.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, comments on maintaining a sense of normalcy for children when they have seen or heard of these violent events.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, says there needs to be a distinction between someone with mental health issues and someone who has violent behavior.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, talks about how you can help your children with the psychological trauma from the recent stabbing at a Connecticut high school and the mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, says those who may need help in dealing with the trauma over the mass shooting at a Texas school or a recent stabbing in a Hartford high school should call 211 for resources for mental health issues.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, Gabby Picon ’24, and Paige McCaffery ’22, are talking about the leaked Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, says that family therapy and child-play therapy may help parents and caregivers due to particular circumstances and experiences.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, says conversations with your children will help them understand why wearing masks might no longer be necessary at school.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, discusses the mental health anxieties that are ongoing as the pandemic continues, and she offers ways to deal with the stress.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, talks about how the TikTok video went viral across the country to threaten schools.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, comments on setting aside controversial issues for the holidays diplomatically.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, talks about how to avoid talking politics at the Thanksgiving holiday get-togethers.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, comments on the teacher's pet mentality and the danger of focusing on that validation as an adult.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, discusses the psychology that went into the design of the baby carriers.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on the anxiety as the return to masking begins.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on changes in the workplace and how employees are dealing with it.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, talks about the reasons why some people who have been vaccinated continue to wear their face masks outdoors.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on changing up a routine to help children form new habits.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on the importance of studying the effects of the pandemic on front line workers in years to come.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, talks about being proactive in reporting threatening behavior to authorities.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, talks about the reasons couples may be reluctant to start a family.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on focusing on activities that you can control.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on children missing out on peer negotiation, problem solving and general social skills while schools are still closed.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments that it is helpful to know you are not alone when feeling stress and anxiety.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, talks about the mental health impact of the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and some ways to lessen symptoms.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on changes this holiday season due to the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on having the right tools in mind to have an effective conversation about race.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on how television shows may see the fight against COVID-19 differently and may actually be calming.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on some techniques to stay grounded.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on why millennials are choosing not to buy diamond engagement rings.

In the Media

Michael Urban, senior lecturer, director of the Doctorate of Occupational Therapy Program, and Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comment on how to safely trick or treat with children.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, assistant professor of psychology, discusses the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on different strategies to relieve work from home stress.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments that the Ford Motor Co. campaign is a positive step for families and the community to take care of each other.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, talks about how mental health is just as important as physical health during the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, professor of psychology, comments on the emotional and mental health effects from the pandemic for years to come.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on the how the tropical storm power outages have added stress to the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, assistant professor of psychology, comments on what people can do to help when a natural disaster occurs during the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on how couples need to feel connected during the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on the added pressures of working from home.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on the stress of making decisions for multiple generations during the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on reasons why a positive test result may make people afraid.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on how to cope with anxiety during the pandemic.’

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on coping mechanisms amid the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, answers questions on helping children during the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, discusses how local leaders can help their community during the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on how healthcare workers can be overwhelmed during the pandemic.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, discusses the impact the pandemic is taking on mental health.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on knowing an end date to the pandemic will lessen anxiety.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on the anxiety and stress from the quarantine.

In the Media

Melissa Whitson, associate professor of psychology, comments on the psychological harm of the lockdown.

At the University of New 51, assistant professor of psychology Melissa Whitson and her small, white pooch Fenway are making themselves available to students three days during finals, starting Thursday.

The only sound in the University of New 51 library right now is a collar jingling when a small white dog named Fenway goes to work.

When an event is covered nonstop, every time you see it it can be traumatizing all over again, Whitson said.

The Boston Marathon bombing sent me back to Don DiLillo's novel 'Underworld', in which he describes the experience of watching a shooting be replayed frequently on the news.

Even for those not directly affected by these events, watching these events in a brief span of time takes a toll on the psyche, according to area mental health experts.