About Me

Hi. I’m Erik.

I am an assistant professor at the University of Houston Clear Lake, where I’m faculty in the combined school/clinical health service psychology doctoral program and in the specialist-level school psychology program. I’m a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) in Texas and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. Although trained as a generalist in evidence-based school psychology, my particular interests include school-based mental health services, youth suicide, behavioral interventions (e.g., ABA, DBT, ACT), and psychometrics.

I completed my postdoctoral fellowship with the Department of Psychological Services at the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, where I also completed my APA-accredited doctoral internship. I earned a PhD in school psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst under the guidance of Sara Whitcomb, PhD. Prior to my PhD, I earned a master’s degree in social justice education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia University. While at Columbia, I completed my student teaching practicum and gained initial certification as a secondary English Language Arts teacher in New York.

Before internship, I was an advanced practicum student at the UMass Psychological Services Center where I served on two teams. On the School Team, I provided behavioral consultation to local schools – including Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) implementation technical assistance. On the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Team, I provided adherent, full-protocol DBT (i.e., individual counseling, skills group facilitation, phone coaching, and clinician consultation team) with college students and adults with suicidal behavior, non-suicidal self-injurious behavior, and/or borderline personality disorder. On the DBT Team, I was supervised Katherine Dixon-Gordon, PhD LP – a DBT-Linehan Board certified clinician.

I have experience working in a number of K-12 schools in New York, Massachusetts, and Texas, an adolescent behavioral treatment residence, a homeless shelter, a rape crisis center, a university psychology training clinic, college residence halls, and serving on foster care review panels. Much of my work has been with children, adolescents, and young adults who have substantial emotional and behavioral challenges – both directly and through supporting their teachers and paraprofessionals.

I’m a member of the American Association of Suicidology, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Psychological Association, and the International Network of Early Career Researchers in Suicide and Self Harm

Dissertation (Ph.Done.)

My dissertation has been uploaded online by the university and can be viewed/downloaded here.

The study developed and collected/analyzed initial validity evidence for a measure that quantifies the attitudes school principals hold about suicide prevention. Eventually, work like this might enable school mental health professionals and suicide prevention specialists to target their implementation strategies and interventions to match pre-existing attitudes.

While this is a first step and the measure is not ready for prime-time, I’m hopeful that future research can push this area forward and ultimately prevent suicide. Feel free to take a look at the link above and explore the study.

Organizing school mental health services for prevention

Why prevention?

Schools are busy places. One school psychologist serves hundreds of children. There is a Farside cartoon one of my professors is fond of: It’s a building on fire, floating down a river, about to fall off a waterfall, with a sign that says “Crisis Clinic”.

Ask a group of people who work in a high needs school if they feel like this cartoon reflects their day to day life and watch the hands go up.

Organizing school mental health services for prevention

How prevalent is child maltreatment?

Content warning: child maltreatment and sexual assault statistics.

If you work with children, chances are you’ll meet kids who have experienced maltreatment. Child maltreatment includes abuse — physical, sexual, and emotional — and neglect. All 50 states have laws that protect children against maltreatment.

Although all states have their own specific laws about what constitutes maltreatment, the definition in federal law is:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

One way reachers study areas like child maltreatment is by putting numbers to the size of the problem. We call this the prevalence. Prevalence is often described in two different ways: yearly prevalence and lifetime prevalence. Yearly prevalence is straight forward: this is roughly the amount of children who experience maltreatment in any given year. Lifetime prevalence is the number of children who experience maltreatment at any time in their lives. For children, this usually means from birth to 18 years old.

How prevalent is child maltreatment?

You’re who? The school psychologist.

School psychology is a broad field. Its researchers and practitioners have a wide range of training and expertise. This can make it hard to explain exactly who school psychologists are, but it’s also one of the field’s greatest strengths.

A quick google search will tell you a lot about who school psychologists are not. We’re not guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, social workers, or psychiatrists (MDs) — although we may work with each of these professionals. Sometimes we’re both school psychologists and licensed health service provider psychologists. Some school psychologists hold specialist degrees (MEd/CAGS or EdS) and some hold doctorates (PhD or PsyD). Sometimes school psychologists are also behavior analysts (BCBAs). Some states have separate licensure for educational psychologists. Confused yet? You’re not alone.

You’re who? The school psychologist.