Professor Offers Happy Ending to Stressed Students

by Manuel Ramirez

Dr. Kathariya Mokrue, an assistant professor of Psychology at York college, conducts a stress-reduction workshop at York College as part of her ongoing research, where she incorporates mindfulness mediation, an approach used to help people become aware of thoughts and feelings.
The workshop teaches students skills like radical acceptance and self-care to help reduce the effects of stress, regulate emotions, and to feel more in control of their lives. Her workshop series is currently in its fourth year.
Mokrue’s research involves evidence-based interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT), a psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients to understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors and mindfulness-based stress reduction programs, an approach used to focus on becoming aware of incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them. She focuses on adapting these interventions for use among underserved and overlooked populations, addressing barriers, such as socioeconomic status, insurance coverage, dependability of treatments and improving access to these therapies and programs by offering free stress reduction workshops and developing a manuscript to receive funding to provide these programs on a larger scale at no charge.
The workshops are derived from a pilot study that Mokrue conducted with Dr. Mary Acri., a professor for the department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center, in order to examine the effectiveness of brief cognitive behavioral skills group in reducing anxiety, depression and worry among a sample of low-income, predominantly ethnic minority college students. The pair co-authored an article that looked at feasibility and effectiveness of CBT groups on diverse campuses published in the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy
“CBT is a category of psychological interventions demonstrated to be effective in treating a wide range of psychological disorders,” said Acri.
During the pilot study both Mokrue and Acri worked together to best incorporate CBT in a setting where participants would feel best suited to engage in the therapy.
“We chose to deliver the CBT skills group in classroom settings in order to decrease the stigma associated with psychotherapy,” said Acri. “An associated objective was to determine whether college students were satisfied with the skills group and whether they found certain skills to be more effective and user-friendly than others.”
The results of the study support the use of a brief cognitive behavioral skills group to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and worry. The pilot study received funding from two PSC-CUNY grants with a combined total of more than $5,000.
“Few studies have focused on college students from diverse ethnic backgrounds,” said Acri.
“I hope that this program can be made available to more individuals,” said Mokrue.
In an effort to further her research findings and expand on her interests, Mokrue has collaborated with professionals in her field outside of the United States. One of her co-authors, Dr. Yung Chen, a faculty member involved in many studies, examines impulse control and emotion regulation in Taiwan.
Although she would like to explore other fields, Mokrue realizes that there are only 24 hours to each day and it is unlikely that she would be able to explore every area of research.
“This is why I enjoy working with independent study students,” said Mokrue. “It allows me to explore other research areas. Each person brings a unique perspective to the course, with different research interests. I enjoy encouraging students to explore these areas in greater depth.”
When asked if she could no longer continue working in field of psychology, her reply was simply to continue helping others.
“I enjoy traveling, meeting new people from all walks of life, and being surrounded by nature. A recent travel experience comes to mind: a visit to a small town in the Masaya area of Nicaragua. La Mariposa School is involved with several projects that benefit the local community,” she said. “I can see myself being a part of that endeavor.”

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