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Higher Education
UHCL alumnus wins award for dissertation on innovative treatment for hair-pulling disorder
News Release
Tuesday, January 15, 2019

HOUSTON — Eric Lee credits the training and support he received from his professors and advisers at University of Houston-Clear Lake while getting his master’s degree in clinical psychology. He says it enabled him to bridge directly into a doctoral program at Utah State University in Logan. His dissertation, which focuses on the treatment of an obsessive-compulsive disorder related to hair-pulling, recently won the prestigious Leonard Krasner Dissertation Award, given by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies at the annual conference in Washington, D.C.

 The inspiration for what would become Lee’s dissertation, titled “Telepsychotherapy for the Treatment of Trichotillomania,” began during his time at UH-Clear Lake. “My adviser, Chad Wetterneck, steered me toward this topic,” Lee said. “This hair-pulling disorder is relatively common. About 2 percent of the population has it, similar to OCD rates.”

Lee said that he worked at UHCL’s Counseling Center, where he was able to work with clients who were struggling with the disorder. “UHCL is where I got my ‘chops’ and learned about trichotillomania. If there’s anything that got me into a doctoral program, it was those experiences,” he said. “It’s why I was chosen to do my doctorate at Utah State. The adviser there was running a study on trichotillomania and was looking for someone to oversee it. My experience at UHCL was my bridge to my doctorate at USU, which I will receive this summer.”

Lee’s thesis adviser at UHCL, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology Steven Bistricky, was instrumental in helping him complete his master’s thesis in just seven months. “I was accepted into the doctoral program while I was still at UHCL, and I had to finish very quickly,” he explained. “I really had to push myself. Dr. Bistricky sacrificed a lot to push revisions back to me very quickly. I appreciate him very much. He was very helpful and supportive, and I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Bistricky, who serves as faculty for the UHCL Clinical Psychology M.A. program and Health Service Psychology doctoral program, said he is very pleased, but not surprised about Eric’s accomplishment. “Eric epitomizes the kind of person we strive to train and mentor in our programs.,” Bistricky said.

Bistricky said that Lee is committed to advancing the field through innovative science and to helping individuals in need through evidence-based practices.  “Through his coursework, clinical practica, and research experiences, Eric has grown as a professional and is emerging as a leader, having his important research recognized by a premier professional organization like ABCT,” he said.  “We are very proud of him and what he is accomplishing.”

Lee said he’d expanded his research experiences at UHCL by adding telecounseling services for the disorder at Utah State. “The university is located in the northernmost part of the state, and it’s not very populous. We got calls from bigger cities looking for services, and we told people that unless they drove to Logan, there wasn’t much we could do for them.”

Lee won the award because his dissertation had two components that made it unique. “First, my dissertation explains how to conduct this psychotherapy with people online using a platform like Skype or Facetime,” he said. “Second, there’s a technology component. We have a smartphone app that notifies the person with the disorder every day to stop and answer a few questions about hairpulling and their urges to pull. With the app, we can track detailed data over time and it’s clinically useful so participants can better report what’s going on in the moment, rather than waiting a week for an appointment to discuss it.”

He said he felt honored to receive the award at this stage in his career.

Currently, Lee is in Houston working on his clinical internship at Baylor College of Medicine, the capstone to completing his doctorate. “I’m spending half my time at an OCD clinic, treating severe OCD behavior, which is my specialty,” he said. “The other half of my time, I am at Ben Taub Hospital in the neuro-psychiatric inpatient unit.”

Lee will complete his internship in July 2019 and is in the midst of a job search that he hopes will land him a position in higher education somewhere in the U.S.

For more information about UHCL’s Clinical Psychology program, visit www.uhcl.edu/human-sciences-humanities/departments/clinical-health-applied-sciences/clinical-psychology/. For more information about UHCL’s Doctor of Psychology in Health Service Psychology, visit www.uhcl.edu/human-sciences-humanities/departments/clinical-health-applied-sciences/doctorate-psychology/




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