Recent CalSouthern grad from the School of Behavioral Sciences, Debbie Vinall, PsyD, LMFT, received the Sandra E. Wilson Memorial Dissertation Grant from the EMDR Research Foundation. Her academic journey, professional endeavors and personal experiences inspired her to explore trauma among mass shooting survivors in her dissertation, Life after Death: Trauma Sequelae and Life Re-adjustment in Survivors of Mass Shootings Treated with EMDR Therapy.
This meaningful work and accomplishment began with a personal tragedy at the end of her first year of undergraduate studies in British Columbia. Vinall endured an assault prior to final exams and was unable to complete her semester. She eventually left the campus and city altogether, which negatively impacted her GPA and resulted in the loss of much needed scholarship funding. After a three-year hiatus, Vinall decided to restart her undergraduate studies and, inspired by her triumph over personal hardship, she began studying psychology in the area of trauma to help those who have gone through similar crises.
After becoming a practicing clinician with a specialty in trauma, Dr. Vinall enrolled in CalSouthern’s PsyD program in 2015. In the same year, she began working with survivors from a mass shooting and attempted bombing that took place in San Bernardino, Calif. This led to further work with trauma survivors who endured similar tragedies. As a result of this work, Dr. Vinall discovered that the impact of mass shootings on survivors had little research behind it and sought to change that.
Throughout the rigorous dissertation process at CalSouthern, Vinall underwent several alterations to her research approach for the Institutional Review Board (IRB), which was a great learning experience. The refinements paired with this unique area of study helped her receive the Sandra E. Wilson Memorial Dissertation Grant, which covered the expenses associated with research. In this time, she spoke to other clinicians across the country who had also worked with survivors of mass shootings. Dr. Vinall explored the similarities and differences in experiences among patients, which helped bolster her understanding and clinical practice.
Today, Dr. Vinall continues to treat trauma survivors in her private practice with a sub-specialty in mass shootings using EMDR therapy, a highly researched and empirically proven approach to treating traumas of many varieties.
To learn more about her dissertation, please visit the EMDR Research Foundation website at this link.
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