Professor Makes Career In Assisting LGBTQ+ Community

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How research in psychology is helping Lauren Cattaneo effect change


For Lauren Cattaneo, the field of psychology is one where real change for real problems can occur.

“My interest in psychology, more broadly, has always been in social justice and thinking about how social arrangements influence people’s experience and wellbeing,” she stated.

As an associate professor within the Department of Psychology, she has researched “barriers to help seeking” following intimate partner violence within the LGBTQ+ community and the help seeking experiences of sexual assault victims in college.

Cattaneo recalled that her interest in empowerment stemmed from her research into dating and relationship violence.

She stated, “A lot of organizations will say that empowerment is a value that they have or something they do, but I got frustrated with the fact that it wasn’t clear that we all meant the same thing, and we said ‘empowerment,’ but it wasn’t clear how to measure it. So from my work in intimate partner violence, I got interested in that concept.”

Cattaneo cares about working to immediately solve harmful issues impacting people in the LGBTQ+ community.  

“I am much more interested in what are the problems that organizations working with survivors face, and how can my work contribute to supporting their efforts or answering questions they might have in trying to serve survivors [to] the best of their ability,” she explained.

Cattaneo believes that psychology helps to both find a cause for social injustices and influence existing treatment so lasting change can be made. She also uses her skills in order to effect change the best she can, with her work in the field as well as teaching.

“I know how to teach. I know how to explain things, so I think a lot about the social problems that I think are really compelling, what can I do about them from where I am with the skill set I have,” Cattaneo said.

She tries to be hands-on with her research, often directly interacting with subjects participating in her research studies.  

“I think it’s really important to understand your data on that level, and to—this is a qualitative study, and I just can’t sit in the room and think about what the data means if I haven’t had any real rich contact with it, so I will actually do some data-collection myself and interview folks myself,” Cattaneo continued.

Currently, Cattaneo is working on a housing study as well as analyzing data collected from one of her classes, supervising her graduate students and finishing up two papers. She also wishes to research college students’ finances stress as well as their experiences with poverty.

“Where I really get motivated in terms of doing research is when it’s clear that there’s a question that needs to be answered,” she said.