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 in 2003-2004, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 2004-2006. 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: Nicholls, Viljoen, Cruise, Desmarais, & Webster, 2010; Viljoen, Nicholls, Cruise, Desmarais, & Webster, in progress). Read more...
Implementation of Evidence-Based Risk Assessment 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 upcoming work, we are focusing on strategies to bridge risk assessment to risk management, and to increase the uptake of effective reoffense reduction 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. Thus far, 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 initiating data collection on an at-risk sample 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. (See Photos of our Lab.)
Andrew Spice, M.A., Ph.D. Student
Jennifer Beneteau, M.Sc., Ph.D. Student
Etta Brodersen, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Carmelina Barone, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Billie Joe Rogers, M.A., Ph.D. Student (Supervisor: Ron Roesch)
Andrew L. Gray, M.A., B.S.T., Ph.D. Student
Catherine Shaffer, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student (Supervisor: Kevin Douglas)
Michelle Collins, B.A., Project Manager
Lab Alumni and Graduates
Erika Penner, M.A., Ph.D.
Erik Gulbransen, B.A. (Hon.), M.H.S. Student
Richelle Isaak, B.A., M.A.
Natalie Harrison, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Stephanie Fowler, B.A. Student
Sarah Mordell, M.A., Ph.D. Student (Supervisor: Ron Roesch, Ph.D.)
Sara Wagner, B.A.
Sarah Farstad, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Alexandra Andrisoi, B.A.
Kiilea Saunders Mason, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Emily MacDougall, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Allison Crosby, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Danicka Overmars, M.A., Ph.D. Student
Kaitlyn McLachlan, M.A., Ph.D.
Adana Mallie, B.A. (Hon.), M.A. Student
Twila Wingrove, Ph.D., J.D., Assistant Professor
Natasha Elkovitch Latzman, Ph.D., Research Scientist
Join Our Lab
We will be accepting applications for graduate students for the upcoming year - applications are due in December 2012. 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 2012 - Graduate School Applications
Applications to our graduate program are due in December. Please see our website for further information.
May 2012 - Congratulations to Students!
Congratulations to Megan Banford and Taryn Urquhart who were recipients of the VP Undergraduate Awards for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Erik Gulbransen who received the CD Nelson Entrance Scholarship. Also, congratulations to Andrew Spice who has received an internship at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health; Erik Gulbransen who accepted an offer to the Masters of Health Sciences program at Simon Fraser University, and Natalie Harrison who will be starting graduate school in the Clinical Forensic Psychology program at the University of Alabama.
April 2012 - IAFMHS Conference
Our lab made the following presentations at the annual conference of the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services (Miami, Florida):
- Assessing Protective Factors in Adolescent Offenders: A Comparison of the SAVRY, YLS/CMI, and START:AV (Viljoen, Beneteau, Brodersen, Gulbransen, Cruise, Nicholls, Desmarais, & Douglas)
- Strengths in Adolescent Offenders on Probation (Fowler, Banford, Viljoen, Urquhart, Wagner, & Harvey)
- Reducing Risk of Reoffending in Adolescent Offenders with Substance-Related Difficulties: The Role of Resilience Factors (Brodersen, Barone, & Viljoen)
- Homelessness in Adolescent Offenders: The Role of Mental Health Factors (Fowler & Viljoen)
- Psychopathic Features and Gang Involvement in Adolescent Offenders (Banford, Viljoen, & Brodersen)
- Shame, Self-Harm, and Suicidal Behaviour Among Adolescent Offenders (Viljoen & Spice)
March 2012 - AP-LS Conference
Our lab made the following presentations at the annual conference of the American Psychology-Law Society (San Juan, Puerto Rico):
- Correlates of Functions of Aggression in Male and Female Young Offenders (Mordell, Viljoen, & Douglas)
- Assessing the Risk for Suicide and Self-Harm: A Look at the MAYSI-2 and the PAI-A (Gulbransen, Viljoen, Brodersen, & Fowler)
- The Ability of the Antisocial Process Screening Device to Predict Reoffending in Youth Offenders (Brodersen, Gulbransen, Viljoen, Douglas, & Fowler)
- Descriptive and Psychometric Characteristics of START-AV Assessments: Findings from a Pilot Implementation Study (Desmarais, Sellers, Dvoskin, Viljoen, Cruise, & Nicholls)
- Change in Dynamic Items and Risk Estimates over Time: Findings from a Pilot Implementation of the START-AV (Sellers, Desmarais, Dvoskin, Viljoen, Cruise, & NichollS)
March 2012 - SRA Conference
Our lab made the following presentations at the Society for Research on Adolescence (Vancouver, British Columbia):
- Impulse Control and Disinhibition: Examining Age Differences and Forms of Aggression in Justice-Involved Youths (Beneteau, Viljoen, & Fowler)
- The Stability of Psychopathic Traits Over 6-months: Are There Significant Fluctuations During Adolescence? (Isaak, Beneteau, Brodersen, Viljoen, Lee, & Douglas)