Graduate school applicants: Here is a brief overview of Current Research Projects.Adolescent offending has significant costs to youth, their families, and society. Oftentimes, the legal system has struggled to respond in effective ways.
The goal of the Youth Justice and Mental Health lab is to conduct research to help improve the services that are provided to adolescent offenders and their families. Specifically, we aim to:
- Develop and test tools to guide risk assessment, reoffense reduction, and treatment planning
- Investigate strengths that help protect adolescents from reoffending and other adverse outcomes (e.g., victimization, self-harm)
- Examine the process of change in adolescents who are involved in justice system (e.g., dynamic factors, developmental pathways)
- Identify the mental health needs of adolescents involved in the youth justice system and gaps in services
- Implement evidence-based practices in assessment, risk management, and treatment
About Dr. Viljoen
Jodi L. Viljoen, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Law-Forensic Psychology at Simon Fraser University, and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Career Scholar. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Simon Fraser University in 2004. She was an Intern at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before taking a position at Simon Fraser University. In 2011, Dr. Viljoen was awarded the Saleem Shah Award for Early Career Contributions to the field of Psychology and Law. Dr. Viljoen has taught courses on adolescent offending, clinical forensic psychology, clinical assessment, and research design. In her clinical work, Dr. Viljoen has conducted assessments for the courts, provided treatment to adolescent and adult offenders.
Ongoing projects focus on violence risk assessment, protective factors, dynamic change, mental health, and risk management and treatment in adolescents. In our work, we attempt to utilize a developmentally-informed perspective which emphasizes adolescents’ strengths and protective factors in addition to their vulnerabilities. Most of the work that we do is applied in nature; current projects, for instance, focus on the development and implementation of evidence-based risk assessment and treatments. Several examples of ongoing projects are listed below.
Development and Validation of Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability: Adolescent Version
The Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START; Webster, Martin, Brink, Nicholls, & Desmaris, 2009) is a 20-item clinical guide for the assessment of seven risk domains (violence to others, suicide, self-harm, self-neglect, unauthorized absence, substance use, and victimization). Along with our colleagues, we have recently developed an adolescent version of the START (START:AV; Viljoen, Nicholls, Cruise, Desmarais, & Webster, 2014).
Implementation of Evidence-Based Risk Assessment and Risk Reduction Practices
We have collaborated with the Ministry of Children and Family Development in British Columbia to implement the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY; Borum, Bartel, & Borth, 2006), an empirically-supported risk assessment tool, throughout the province of British Columbia. In our current work, we are developing a tool called the Adolescent Risk Reduction and Resilience Work-Plan (ARROW) that is designed to bridge SAVRY risk assessments to risk reduction and intervention strategies.
Mental Health, Risks, and Strengths Study
The Mental Health, Risks, and Strengths Study is a longitudinal study of female and male adolescent offenders. It focuses on risk assessment/risk management tools, mental health needs, and dynamic protective and risk factors for adolescent offending. In this study, we conduct initial interviews with adolescents involved in the justice system, and follow-up assessments at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months to monitor outcomes. In this study, we have completed over 800 interviews with adolescents and their families.
Acting Together Project
Acting Together is a community partnership project that examines youth violence and gangs. It focuses on youths' strengths and assets (particularly character strengths). In the first wave of the study, data was collected on a sample of 400 grade 8 students at two time points. Currently, we are collecting data with at-risk and justic-involved adolescents in order to identify strengths that may protect youth against offending. More information...
Our lab includes Dr. Viljoen and a team of graduate and undergraduate students, research associates and managers.
Jennifer Beneteau, M.Sc., Ph.D. Student
Etta Brodersen, M.A., Ph.D. Student
Carmelina Barone, M.A., Ph.D. Student
Andrew L. Gray, M.A., B.S.T., Ph.D. Student
Catherine Shaffer, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student (Primary Supervisor: Kevin Douglas)
Nicole Muir, B.Ed., B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student (Supervisor: Ron Roesch)
Aisha Bhanwer, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Michelle Collins, B.A., Project Manager
Join Our Lab
We will be accepting applications for graduate students for the upcoming year - applications are due in December 2014. Dr. Viljoen generally supervises graduate students in the Clinical Forensic, Clinical Child, and Forensic Law programs. Our Clinical Forensic and Law Forensic programs are ranked among the top programs in North America (Helms, 2008).
In our lab, we look for students who are committed to improving forensic and mental health services for adolescent offenders through research, clinical work, and/or consultation. Compared to adult forensic psychology, adolescent research and practice lags significantly behind. As such, there is a particularly pressing need for assessment tools and clinically-relevant research to help guide and improve practice.
All of our work focuses on adolescent populations. However, within this area, incoming graduate students have opportunities to conduct research in a broad range of topics, including risk assessment and risk management, violence and aggression, protective and risk factors, mental health of adolescent offenders, psychopathic features, treatment programs, and youths' legal rights and competencies, as well as other topics pertaining to adolescent offenders.
For students who are considering graduate school or an Honours program, it is often important to gain research experience. At any given time, there are a number of projects in our lab that undergraduate volunteers may gain experience with, ranging from setting up databases to conducting interviews with youth involved in the justice system and their parents. Also, senior undergraduate volunteers sometimes have opportunities to help coordinate projects, complete Honours theses, and co-author conference posters. Undergraduate students in our lab have been very successful in their applications to graduate school, law school, and career positions.
To apply, you need to:
- Have a GPA of 3.4 or higher
- Have interests in pursuing a career in psychology and/or law
- Be able to commit 6 hours a week for at least one semester
To apply please contact Dr. Viljoen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lab Phone: 778 782-4362
RCB 5246, 8888 University Drive
Dept. of Psychology
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6
December 2014 - Graduate School Applications
Applications to our graduate program are due in December. Please see the Department of Psychology website for further information.
June 2014 - CPA Conference
Our lab made the following presentation at the Canadian Psychological Association Conference (Vancouver):
- The Assessment and Prediction of Change in Psychopathic Traits Among Youth (Gray, Shaffer, Viljoen, Douglas, Tweed, Bhatt, Dooley, & Gagnon)
- Linking START:AV Ratings with Adverse Outcomes in Justice-Involved Youths (Beneteau & Viljoen)
- Mental Illness, Violence, and Victimization in a Marginally Housed Population in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Barone, Viljoen, MacEwan, Buchanan, Leonova & Honer)
June 2014 - IAFMHS Conference
Our lab made the following presentations at the annual conference of the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services (Toronto):
- Comparing Gang and Non-Gang Involved Male Youth Offenders: Differences in Risk and Protective Factors on the SAVRY and YLS/CMI (Shaffer, Brodersen, Viljoen, & Douglas)
- The Child and Youth Resilience Measure in an Adolescent Offender Sample (Brodersen & Viljoen)
- The interRAI Criminality Prevention Collaborative Action Plan (CAP): Identifying Children and Youth at Risk for Involvement with the Law (Reif, Arbeau, Stewart, Viljoen, & Leschied)
- Youth offending and positive attitudes towards gangs: The influence of prosocial connections in a male and female at-risk sample (Shaffer, Viljoen, Douglas, Tweed, & Bhatt)
- Ethnic Identity as a Protective Mechanism Against Offending among Justice-Involved Aboriginal Youth (Rogers, McLachlan, Viljoen, & Roesch)
- An Analysis of the Relationship Between Adult Support, Parental supervision and Internalizing Mental Health Issues of Youth on Probation (Seida, Brodersen, & Viljoen)
- Depression and Anxiety in Adolescent Offenders and its Relationship to Developmental Assets (Spani, Brown, Pankratz, Viljoen, Banford, Seida, Bordignon, & Shaffer
March 2014 - AP-LS Conference
Our lab made the following presentations at the annual conference of the American Psychology-Law Society (New Orleans):
- Does Matching Services to Criminogenic Needs Reduce Reoffending in Adolescent Offenders? (Brodersen & Viljoen)
- The Predictive Validity of the Antisocial Process Screening Device in Male and Female Adolescents (Shaffer, Gray, Douglas, Viljoen, Tweed, & Bhatt)
- Mental Health Needs in Gang-Involved Adolescent Offenders (Spani, Viljoen, & Shaffer)
- Developmental Assets and Protective Factors in Adolescent Offenders (Banford & Viljoen)