McKenzie Braley

IRC Member in 2020-2021, 2021-2022, 2022-2023

My name is McKenzie Braley. I am Nehiyaw/Cree from my father’s side and have European settler ancestry from my mother’s side. I am a member of Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta. Currently, I am a PhD student in the Clinical Neuropsychology program at SFU. Supervised by Dr. Jodi Viljoen in the Adolescent Risk and Resilience lab, my doctoral dissertation focuses on culturally safe ways for mental health clinicians to do clinical interviews with Indigenous Peoples in the justice system. Broadly, my interests include neuropsychology, forensic psychology, Indigenous cultural safety, and the intersections of these areas. In my career, I aim to do clinical and research work with individuals who have neurological, medical, and psychiatric conditions, and also with those involved in the justice system.

I am also a Graduate Student Representative for the Indigenous Reconciliation Committee in the Department of Psychology. I enjoy sharing my unique experiences as an Indigenous graduate student with others, and contributing towards reconciliation, Indigenization, and cultural safety in my department.

What motivated you to pursue your MA/PhD studies in Clinical Neuropsychology? 

When I started my undergraduate degree in psychology, I knew that it was my passion to help people with mental health and related challenges. However, at that time, I didn't know what this would mean. As I took more courses and started working as a research assistant, I realized how interested I was in the brain. I chose to complete a PhD in clinical neuropsychology in order to pursue my interests in the brain-behaviour relationship, while simultaneously helping those with mental and medical conditions.

What are you enjoying the most about your studies/research at SFU? 

In the clinical psychology program, we have so many opportunities for exciting and unique clinical experiences! In 2020-2021, I absolutely loved doing a neuropsychology practicum at UBC Hospital’s BC Psychosis Program Inpatient Unit, where I did neuropsychological assessments of inpatients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders.

Could you tell us a bit about your research in the Adolescent Risk and Resilience Lab? 

In the Adolescent Risk and Resilience Lab, we work on various projects related to adolescent violence and offending. Currently, I am leading a project assessing how probation officers write case formulations as part of violence risk assessments for Indigenous and White youth on probation. Specifically, we are interested in the differences in how probation officers explain offending between Indigenous and White youth, and how these differences are reflected in their assessments and formulations. 

Do you have any tips/advice for prospective psychology graduate students? 

If you’re considering graduate school, get involved in a research lab to gain important experiences and to help you decide what you like (and don't like!). However, don’t get too caught up in thinking that you need to have everything figured out as an undergraduate student. Take your time to find what you enjoy and go from there. Remember that graduate school is not a race; everyone works at their own paces and has their own unique stories. Above all, enjoy the journey and have confidence in yourself as an applicant!