Kate Magnuson

Kate Magnuson

Every year, the Hogg Foundation gives the Frances Fowler Wallace Memorial Award for Mental Health Dissertation Research to eligible doctoral candidates at institutions of higher education in Texas. Awardees receive a scholarship to help cover research-related expenses.

One of our 2020 recipients is Kate Magnuson. Kate is a fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Baylor University. Her research interests broadly include the role of parent and caregiver engagement in clinical treatment of children and adolescents and the use of mobile technology to disseminate evidence-based treatments to youth and families. We talked with Kate about her latest research.

Your project is about developing a mobile phone-based aftercare program for caregivers of teens discharged from substance use treatment (iParent). What led you to take a professional interest in this topic, and what questions are you trying to answer with this research?

I took interest in this topic while providing clinical services to underserved and hard-to-reach adolescents and their families. Throughout my clinical training experiences, I saw and experienced how treatment for these adolescents and families was often disrupted by significant logistical and structural barriers to initiating and engaging in care. Because of barriers, many underserved adolescents do not receive the appropriate evidence-based treatments to match their substance use treatment needs. I was motivated to both contribute to mitigating these barriers and address a service gap for caregivers of youth in substance use treatment.

I found a pathway to do so through joining my graduate school mentor, Dr. Stacy Ryan-Pettes, in the process of designing a mobile application for caregivers of adolescents with substance use conditions. As I followed this research direction, our work demonstrated that caregivers of youth with a history of substance use need additional support and accept this support being delivered via smartphone applications. Broadly, I am hoping to merge critical, evidence-based behavioral parent training components with caregiver experiences and opinions to generate content for a mobile application that is tailored to the population it aims to serves.

How do you think your research methods and approach will help you answer the questions you’re posing?

My research uses quantitative and qualitative methods. It is not common to see qualitative methods used in addiction research or in psychology. However, qualitative research is critical when a researcher is trying to gain new ideas and insights for research. In my own clinical work, I take time and care to make the content in the manuals I use relatable for my clients. Since an application removes the face-to-face interaction, it is even more critical for the content to be relatable. With my dissertation, my central question is about how caregivers relate to content that appears in evidence-based treatments for parents. The only way to get an in-depth perspective is to use participant-driven, qualitative research methods.

Results from a previous study showed that caregivers want a mobile application that is tailored to their child’s age, gender, and treatment history. Leaning on a foundation of participant-driven design, my research methods consider the caregiver in each step of development, including the creation of treatment content. 

What, from your perspective, is the biggest area of need — or the greatest opportunity — related to this topic? In other words, how could we really move the needle on this front? 

From my perspective, I believe the greatest opportunity in this field is the creation of mobile health applications that deliver evidence-based treatments but are participant-driven in nature. The intervention approach needs to match the perspectives and treatment needs of the end user in order to encourage relatability. This relatability may translate into greater engagement with the treatment content because it helps the end-user feel as though the mobile application was designed for their needs.

Can you suggest a few readings/resources for those who are interested in learning more about this topic? 

Ryan-Pettes, S. R., Lange, L. L., & Magnuson, K. I. (2019). Mobile phone access and preference for technology-assisted aftercare among low-income caregivers of teens enrolled in outpatient substance use treatment: questionnaire study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth7(9), e12407.

Smith, J. M., Bright, K. S., Mader, J., Smith, J., Afzal, A. R., Patterson, C., … & Crowder, R. (2020). A pilot of a mindfulness based stress reduction intervention for female caregivers of youth who are experiencing substance use disorders. Addictive Behaviors103, 106223.

Breitenstein, S. M., Fogg, L., Ocampo, E. V., Acosta, D. I., & Gross, D. (2016). Parent use and efficacy of a self-administered, tablet-based parent training intervention: A randomized controlled trial. JMIR mHealth and uHealth4(2), e36.

Jennings, H. M., Morrison, J., Akter, K., Kuddus, A., Ahmed, N., Kumer Shaha, S., et al. (2019). Developing a theory-driven contextually relevant mHealth intervention. Global health action12(1), 1550736.