" The program offers a comprehensive curriculum that combines thorough clinical training with a solid foundation in forensic psychology. I was particularly excited about the opportunity to receive guidance from leading experts in topics such as violence risk assessment, psychopathy, and mentally disordered offenders, including my supervisor, Dr. Stephen Hart, PhD."

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Samantha Mason

June 11, 2024

Clinical Psychology, Forensics master's student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

I'm a first-year master's student in the forensic track within the clinical psychology program. I earned my specialized honours degree in psychology with a concentration in clinical and counselling psychology from York University in Toronto, where I graduated Magna Cum Laude.

After graduation, I worked as a Research Assistant at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in the Suicide Prevention Research Collaborative (SPRC) alongside Dr. Mark Sinyor, MSc., MD, FRPCP. Since I was young, I've been interested in untangling the intersection of mental health and law and exploring abnormal human behaviour and how it may contribute to complex legal issues.

I was born and bred in Toronto, Ontario to immigrant parents. In my free time, you can find me at a barn riding horses (show jumping) or hanging out with my retired research beagle, Whiskey. I enjoy reading fiction, travelling to new places, and honing my handy and building skills!

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

I was committed to pursuing the forensic clinical psychology program at SFU due to my strong interest in understanding and addressing the connection between mental health and the legal system.

SFU's program is renowned across North America for its forensic focus within a clinical program. The program offers a comprehensive curriculum that combines thorough clinical training with a solid foundation in forensic psychology. I was particularly excited about the opportunity to receive guidance from leading experts in topics such as violence risk assessment, psychopathy, and mentally disordered offenders, including my supervisor, Dr. Stephen Hart, PhD. This combination of clinical and forensic training is essential for developing the skills needed to assess, treat, and conduct research with individuals involved in the criminal justice system.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

I'm studying forensic clinical psychology, focusing on the intersection of mental health and the legal system. My training helps me understand and address underlying mental health issues in individuals involved in the criminal justice system. I also conduct research to improve mental health services within the legal system, aiming to make a positive impact by ensuring people receive the care they need.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

assessment (forensic personality, threat, fitness to stand trial, mentally disordered offenders), psychopathology, forensic intervention

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

I have had a rich academic journey and professional development, thanks to a combination of coursework, research assistantships, and non-academic experiences.

During my undergraduate studies at York University, I gained a strong theoretical foundation in psychology. The coursework provided me with critical knowledge in research methods, statistics, and various psychological theories, all of which are essential for my future studies in forensic clinical psychology.

Working as a research assistant at Sunnybrook has been instrumental in developing my research and analytical skills. I had the opportunity to engage in projects focusing on personality disorders, suicide, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. These experiences allowed me to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world issues, enhancing my ability to conduct rigorous and impactful research. This opportunity has allowed me to author multiple publications, which refined my ability to convey complex psychological concepts clearly and effectively.

Collaborating with the Office of the Chief Coroner to collect data on suicide deaths in Ontario has provided me with invaluable experience in hands-on research. This work has not only deepened my understanding of the factors contributing to suicide but also underscored the importance of data-driven approaches in developing effective prevention strategies.

My volunteer work at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) as a pet therapy facilitator, with my beagle, has been profoundly rewarding. This experience has highlighted the therapeutic power of animal compassion and empathy in mental health treatment.

Together, these diverse experiences have significantly contributed to my academic growth and professional development. They have equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of psychology, robust research skills, and a deep appreciation for the importance of empathy and community engagement in mental health care. As a student in the forensic clinical psychology program, I am eager to build upon this foundation and contribute meaningfully to the field.

Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and a little about how the awards have impacted your studies and/or research

University of Toronto: Reasons For Hope Research Grant. As a co-investigator for this grant, we proposed a randomized control trial for a new intervention that combines literature and CBT therapy for young people with mood and/or anxiety disorders. This grant has enabled us to implement a novel intervention in an inpatient unit and has provided compelling evidence for increased feasibility and retention of youth in CBT treatment. I was lucky enough to secure this grant through my role at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Ontario alongside multiple renowned psychiatrists.

If you could dedicate your research to anyone (past, present and/or future), who would that be and why?

I would like to dedicate my research to the people who have supported me throughout my journey. Firstly, I want to dedicate it to my partner, who has been my rock as I pursue my graduate studies. While I could have done it without him, it wouldn't be nearly as fun. Secondly, I want to acknowledge my family: my mum, sister, brother-in-law, my aunt Krista, and my two lovely nieces. With two lawyers in the family, they have surrounded me with law throughout my life and encouraged me to pursue my dreams of combining psychology and law into a fulfilling career. I would like to express my gratitude for the ongoing support of our family friend, The Honourable Justice Mr. Richard D. Schneider. Richard is a prominent figure in the field of forensics in Ontario, and his support for my research has been instrumental in opening new opportunities for me and strengthening my passion for clinical forensic psychology. Lastly, I dedicate all my research to my father. He passed away when I was an undergraduate and was the reason I chose to pursue psychology.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

If you know me, you likely associate me with a little retired research beagle named Whiskey, whom I rescued in 2020. He is my little Velcro dog, and he has seen me through many life stages. He even flew with me from Toronto to Vancouver. This one's for you, sweet boy!


Contact Samantha:samantha.masonc@gmail.com

Additional Links


This conference was the UofT Psychiatry Research Day presented by the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto