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Research misses those in need

23 August 2023

Misleading research findings in Clinical Psychology can perpetuate social myths and create social inequities, according to UC PhD graduate, Nadia Summers.


“Through my training and work as a Clinical Psychologist, I can see the need for change in how our mental health systems and processes work, as currently it isn’t working well for those most in need.”

Also graduating from Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) with a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology, Nadia believes a major problem with current psychology research is its focus on the statistical average.

“People such as women, trans and non-binary people, and Māori, who do not belong to dominant groups, are less likely to be represented in Clinical Psychology research. Yet we know these people are more likely to be labelled with mental disorder diagnoses and receive interventions which are developed with average data.

<img src="" alt="" style="    " class="img-responsive additional-image"> Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

“This has enormous implications for social justice and equity. For Clinical Psychology to develop as a socially responsible and robust field of research, we need to radically change the way we conduct research,” Nadia says.

“We need to develop a critical outlook, pay attention to how our culture and social values impact our research, ensuring that it addresses real-life challenges, and reflects the diverse perspectives and voices of those directly impacted.”

Nadia wants to see the development of a Māori health workforce from diverse backgrounds to meet the needs of people who access health services.

From Kāi Tahu, having whakapapa connections to Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki and Awarua on her father’s side, Nadia is grateful for the Māori academics, activists and leaders who made her academic journey possible.

“It’s important we have training programmes which are culturally safe and support Māori achievement. I can’t emphasise enough how important and transformative it is to have Māori staff and mentors for students. It was crucial in my experience.”

Nadia is currently undertaking a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship with the Department of Māori Indigenous Health Innovation at the University of Otago in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She is spending two years developing her skills as a hauora Māori researcher.

Thomas Hamilton, Kaiurungi Matua of UC Māori, says Nadia’s experiences during her PhD studies are a huge driver in her support for any ākonga Māori trying to navigate their way to higher studies.

  • Nadia was a recipient of a Ngāi Tahu Research Centre Doctoral Scholarship and the UC Matariki Doctoral Scholarship. Nadia will graduate in the University’s main Graduation Celebration and Eke Tangaroa ceremonies on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 August.

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