University Series 004 | Western Michigan University, Part 2

Join Operant Innovations for Part 2 of their interview with Western Michigan University. This week we will be speaking with Dr. Scott Gaynor about the Clinical Behavior Program.

Contact Information:
Dr. Scott Gaynor -

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WMU Department of Psychology -


Shauna Costello (00:05):

You're listening to operant innovations, a podcast from ABA technologies. This week, we continue our visit to Western Michigan university by talking with dr. Scott Gaynor about their clinical behavior program. Dr. Gaynor is a professor in the department of psychology at Western Michigan university and co-director of clinical training, his clinical psychology internship, and one year national Institute of mental health post doctoral fellowship were completed at Western psychiatric Institute and clinic in Pittsburgh. He and students in his laboratory are currently working on intervention studies involving children, adolescents, and adults samples. His research interests include psychotherapy process and outcome and contemporary behavior therapy. He teaches courses in child development, psychopathology, and psychotherapy. He also directs the behavior research and therapy laboratory, which conducts treatment process and outcome research often with children and adolescents. And just this year in 2019, dr. Gaynor received a college of arts and sciences faculty achievement award in teaching. So without further ado, please welcome dr. Scott Gaynor. We are here with professor and the clinical co-director dr. Scott gaynor. So dr. Gaynor, thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (01:32):

It's good to be with you.

Shauna Costello (01:32):

And he is going to be talking a little bit more about the clinical behavior program at Western Michigan university, as it is a third facet that they have, they have the ABA program, the OBM program and the clinical behavior program as well. So, dr. Gaynor, go ahead and tell us about the program.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (01:55):

The program has been accredited by the American psychological association since 1991, uh, to get a PhD in clinical psychology. That's an important, uh, accreditation to have, and again, we've been fully accredited all of that time with our next reaccreditation visit scheduled for 2027. So we have a we're accredited for, uh, all of the foreseeable future and, and, uh, uh, that is certainly, uh, an important consideration for anybody thinking about a clinical program. Uh, I guess the other thing I would say that makes our program kind of distinctive is the reason that you are speaking with me today is that we are housed in a department that is behavior analytic in orientation. And our program is certainly what might be called clinical behavior analytics in its orientation, uh, with a strong evidence on, uh, contemporary behavior therapies, uh, including cognitive behavioral therapies, uh, understood maybe in a little different way than some of the developers might understand those, but certainly with no limitations on our ability to implement, uh, the best of the available, kind of cognitive behavioral interventions, uh, writ large.

Shauna Costello (03:09):

And so when you, when you're talking about, um, you know, the cognitive behavior therapy and how Western might be looking at it, and, you know, or understanding it in a little bit different way, you know, can you get a little bit more into that and what is Western doing using that and the research and how are they, you know, changing what is traditionally known as, you know, CBT?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (03:32):

Well, I mean, within CBT, I think there's a number of generations or sometimes referred to as different waves of behavior therapy. Um, and so, uh, kind of the emergence in the eighties and nineties of cognitive behavioral therapy, uh, sort of consistent with the so-called cognitive revolution was this real emphasis on sort of mediating processes. And certainly in response to that, there has been a number of developments in the area of language and cognition from a verbal, uh, from a verbal behavior and a relational frame theory perspective and sort of corresponding therapies, uh, as well. And we see that now in sort of the mainstream use of, uh, therapeutic approaches that have an acceptance and mindfulness component to them that is really sort of a change from, uh, the approach that we need to alter how you're thinking and alter how you're feeling, uh, in order to get about making the changes that you want to make in your life. That we can maybe take an approach of learning, to be present with some of those thoughts and feelings and memories and change how you relate to those rather than trying to change the content of those or how often they come up. So as to pursue, uh, what is most important to you, uh, in the world. And so certainly those are the kinds of therapies that we train our students in. Uh, and a number of the folks here are doing research, uh, related to those therapies, uh, with both sort of children, adolescent and adult populations,

Shauna Costello (05:13):

How are some of your grad students using this in their research? So what are some of, I know you said, you know, child, adolescents and adults, but where are a lot of the faculty and grad students, like, where are they focusing on?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (05:26):

Right now, there's four different primary clinical mentors in our program. So Amy Damashek's lab focuses on injury prevention in young children. So they do a lot of work in parent training, behavioral parent training, dealing with noncompliant and oppositional behavior in children, particularly using parent child interaction therapy, which is a, uh, evidence-based, uh, behavior therapy approach. Dr. Amy Naugle's lab is doing a lot of work on understanding, uh, some of these acceptance and emotion regulation kind of strategies that are thought to underpin some of the effectiveness of a number of these contemporary behavior therapies. We have a new hire who will be starting in the fall, dr. Brooke Smith, who does research, um, looking again at a number of these processes that are targeted in these contemporary behavior therapies. And she's unique in that she's done some basic human operant research on those from translational research, and then also some direct clinical outcome research. And then my lab also, uh, you know, similarly will do some, uh, at times some basic operant research at times some translational research, but oftentimes, uh, is doing, uh, clinical outcome related research. And most recently we've been working on, uh, looking at a one session, uh, model of acceptance and commitment therapy that might be used for, uh, initiating health-related behavior chain with an eye towards something that could potentially be disseminated to a primary care type setting where most people end up long before they end up in a mental health specialty environment.

Shauna Costello (07:18):

Um, and so I know that you had brought up that Western is accredited for as long as we probably can foresee in the future. Um, and that it is for a PhD standing. And so I know with, you know, my experience there, I know kind of how the clinical side works. So when students are looking at Western and they're looking at the clinical program, it's not just a master's degree, you're coming in for a master's and going straight into a PhD, correct?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (07:47):

That is correct. We don't admit students for a terminal masters at this point. So, uh, just as you said, students will acquire a master's degree along the way, but you are admitted with the idea that you will advance to candidacy and will get a PhD once you're admitted to the clinical program.

Shauna Costello (08:06):

Wonderful. And what does that kind of from the application start point to your postdoc placement? What does that look like typically?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (08:16):

Yeah, that's a really good question. I mean, typically students are on campus for five years. Uh, if they come in with a bachelor's degree and then we'll do a year of internship, um, most of the time at an APA accredited internship site, it's a sort of a 2000 hour, uh, requirements. Uh, it's very similar to the, um, residency in medicine, you go through a match procedure where you interview at places and put your rankings into the computer. And the organizational agency APEC will coordinate with the sites and then you get matched somewhere. And you do that for a year. That is often the place that then becomes the student's post doc position. Once you're to that point, there's a number of considerations that just depend on the individual's career trajectory. Uh, if the goal is for the person to get an academic position, then typically a year or two of postdoc, where you're building up your publication record, making sure that you're licensed eligible when you apply for jobs, have some supervisory experience. If you're going to get into a place that has a graduate program and you need to supervise clinical students, you're getting all of those ducks in a row. If you're going to go into more of a kind of a program director position, or an overseeing a clinical position or an academic medicine, then the postop often becomes your entry into a career placement.

Shauna Costello (09:49):

And I know you brought up a year internship and the postdoc. So when in the lifecycle of the five years, is that year internship? Where does that fall?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (10:00):

It is the last year.

Shauna Costello (10:02):

It is the last year? Okay. So it's like a last, the last year. And then they go into their postdoc easily from right from that. Okay.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (10:08):

Many folks then will just stay where they were for interns.

Shauna Costello (10:14):

Where are some of the places that, that the clinical students are being placed? Cause I know I get some updates and on social media and they seem like they're going all over the place.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (10:26):

They are, they're going all over the country. I mean, we actually have a student who was a Canadian citizen in Canada for her. So yeah. So I mean, that can be all over. And again, it really is, uh, sort of, uh, uh, depending on the student's interest. So we, uh, have students at VA hospitals all over the country. We have a number of folks who come here are interested in trauma and, uh, PTSD, and, and they typically go into VA hospital placements. Again, we had people there from as close as the battle Creek VA, uh, you know, just a half an hour down the road to folks who are in Hawaii, uh, at a VA hospital there, we have folks at many, uh, pediatric primary care placements. Uh, so Nemours hospital, uh, Yale child study center, um, the Nebraska consortium is a place where we routinely send students. So, uh, again, we have a, every year we have a number of sites where we have a very good track record and we'll often have students who will be repeat attenders at those internships. And then every year we break new ground and go to a couple of internship placements where we've never had students before.

Shauna Costello (11:38):

There's some other potential questions from students, is that how closely are, cause a lot of times at universities, the clinical program is one program and the behavior analysis program is another program. And you talked about how, you know, Western is unique in that the clinical program is housed within this behavior analysis program overall where usually it might be either the opposite or just completely separate. So how does that relationship work between, you know, the clinical program and the behavior analysis program? Are they intertwined at all? Are they, you know, how closely are the students and faculty working together?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (12:23):

Yeah, that's a challenge because, um, I mean we're conceptually intertwined. Um, and I think there's very, uh, sort of collegial and friendly relationships across the programs. One of the things that, um, sort of unfortunately silos the programs a bit are just the competing contingencies that exist when we have to answer to AB we answer to APA and the, uh, behavior analysis program answers to ABAI and BCBA. And so each program is trying to sort of meet their own accreditation requirements, which oftentimes puts our focus at the program level. And so we definitely effort to make sure that we're also being sensitive to kind of contingencies at the departmental level to sort of keep some integration between the programs and certainly keep our kind of, uh, sort of conceptual, uh, house in order, uh, with respect to those. Um, so it's always a bit of a work in progress. I mean, the programs are certainly distinct from one another, uh, but I think very friendly and collegial, um, uh, as well.

Shauna Costello (13:38):

Is there anything else that you would like to tell potential incoming students about Western or the clinical behavior program in general?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (13:51):

Uh, yeah. I mean, I guess a couple of points that I would make is that as I mentioned, we have, uh, by sort of the definitions that APA requires that we sort of use in our accreditation process. We have four core clinical faculty, including the new hire that we have coming in. We have two affiliated faculty, dr. Wayne Fuqua and dr. Lester Wright. So, you know, we have kind of six program affiliated faculty, um, and that makes us a small program. And so there's all of the benefits of a small program and some of the limitations of the small program that students should, uh, acknowledge. Again, we tend to admit a cohort of somewhere between four to six students. Uh, so we don't, uh, admit a large cohort. We're very dedicated to those students. Our attrition rates are very low. We're not the kind of program that we factor in some level of attrition in our admissions process.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (14:47):

We don't, we expect the people that we admit to, uh, be able to matriculate to the PhD. And so we have very close mentoring relationships with students. They're all integrated immediately into an ongoing lab. Uh, they have a cohort of students within their year of admission, but also within their lab group. So there's a really good relationship among, uh, the students within programs and the students between programs, uh, for that matter. Um, what that means is you will spend a lot of time seeing the four core clinical faculty in your courses, on your committees and as supervisors of you in the clinic. And so you'll have a lot of contact with those faculty who will know you well. So you won't just know your primary mentor. You will know the clinical faculty well, which is very helpful when it comes to getting letters of recommendation and other kinds of things that people can really talk about a relationship they've had with you for five years, even when you're not sort of quote unquote, one of their students or in their, uh, laboratory, uh, per se.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (15:55):

Uh, the other thing about us being a small program is that we have to be focused. And so we do clinical behavior analysis. We do intervention, uh, focused training intervention, focused research, particularly in the area of behavior therapy. And I'll put up our students against anyone in the world on doing that, uh, work. Um, but because we're small, we don't do everything, right? So we don't really have somebody who does severe and persistent mental illness. We don't have somebody who does chronic substance misuse kinds of problems. Um, so if you're really looking for, or we don't really do neuro science or neuropsychology kinds of pieces, we're not a faculty that you don't have 25 clinical faculty that cover every kind of sub domain. If you want to learn how to do behavior therapy, uh, with children, adolescents, and adults be intervention focused, do assessments that are designed to have clinical utility, uh, and do that kind of work, um, then I'll go toe to toe with anybody and I'll put our students up against anybody.

Shauna Costello (17:04):

And I think you did a really good job of explaining the general research interests of the four main clinical faculty at WMU. And I know that they can go to WMU website to get a little bit more information about the research interests and where publications have been as well. Um, and I know that you said you admit four to six students per cohort per year, and I know that we've heard about, um, and I've personally experienced the Western Michigan university interview weekend for the behavior analysis side. What should applicants be expecting for the clinical interview weekend or interview process?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (17:50):

The interview process is probably very similar to what you experienced. We typically will have students will spend a full day with us. So it typically starts, uh, in the morning and, uh, dr. Naugle and I will do sort of an over all kind of orientation to the program, uh, for about the first hour. And then students will meet with several clinical faculty, um, meet with several groups of graduate students. Other groups of graduate students are doing kind of breakout sessions on here's what practicum looks like here. Here's what it's like to live in Kalamazoo. Here's the sort of trajectory of the clinical training through the program, just to kind of fill in around that orientation. There will be some simulated lab meetings. So you'll have a lunch break with one of the labs you'll meet with another lab, uh, in the afternoon. We then typically later in the day have kind of a, just sort of a social gathering and kind of with hors d'oeuvres and just kind of, uh, meet and walk around and talk and make sure that any, uh, questions or people that you maybe didn't interview, you get a chance to meet and get a chance to meet you.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (18:59):

So it's a very interactive, uh, long, but, uh, rewarding and fulfilling, uh, day. Many students will fly in the day before or drive in the day before. And the graduate students will typically host a dinner, gathering that night just to sort of help orient people to Kalamazoo and what the next day will hold. Uh, and then at the end of that day, uh, some students who sort of drove to campus, typically you may hit the road if they're close to the home. Other students stay the night that night, and usually again, go out with some of the graduate students in the evening for, for dinner or depending on how tired they are, they go back and crash at that point. So again, it's a 48 hour period probably of, um, sort of a lot of contact with, uh, with Kalamazoo and the program.

Shauna Costello (19:47):

And I have to ask, tell me, in your opinion about, um, Kalamazoo and because, um, as Dick Mulatto is likes to say it does exist. Tell me in your opinion about Kalamazoo and what should people expect from that area?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (20:02):

Yeah, well, I've been at Western now for 18 years. If you'd have told me that I would, when I came here that I would probably spend the better part of my life in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I would have said, you're crazy. And it's, and now I'm not at all surprised. It is a really great place to be. It's extremely affordable. The cost of living here is good. It's a really philanthropic community. People may have heard of the Kalamazoo promise, uh, here where any, uh, public school student who matriculates through the Kalamazoo public schools gets free college, uh, paid for at any Michigan college, including, uh, WMU. So it's a very livable community. Uh, there's lots of activities here for students. And, uh, as we also often like to point out it's situated right smack in the middle between Detroit and Chicago. So if you do have a sense of, I need a bigger city, uh, it's a train ride away, or a couple of hour car ride away for someone to get access to those kinds of things.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (21:05):

And many of the acts that we get at Miller auditorium on campus, or at some of the other, um, kind of venues in Kalamazoo are because they're on their way from Chicago to Detroit, or they're Detroit to Chicago. And so again, giving us a lot of opportunities for, uh, entertainment and other kinds of things. And depending on what you're looking for, there's, there's one of, most things you would want in Kalamazoo. I, a place like Chicago may have 10 or 12, but you'll have one of almost everything you want, any kind of restaurant you can imagine, or any kind of activity you could imagine from kind of the more theater and arts kinds of things that I mentioned to sporting events. I mean, Western is a division one baseball and football and basketball program here. So there's that there's a independent league team, the Kalamazoo growlers for baseball.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (21:58):

So there's just a lot of activities, uh, in town to do when you're not doing all of your academic, uh, work. And I guess I, that's another thing I would say that in terms of the program, graduate school is hard and it's a lot of work. And so let's not sugarcoat that piece at all, but we certainly in the work we do here and the therapies that we practice, we talk a lot about behaving towards that, which is most important to you and identifying what's most important to you and allocating your behavior, those things, and education and academics is an important part of that. But it's not the only part of that. We expect students to have friends and a social life and time for family and time to do other kinds of values directed activity, not just their academic work, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And it's not just about publication counts or practicum hours. I mean, they'll do all of those things, but those are only one piece of what in our view, uh, leads to a life well lived.

Shauna Costello (23:03):

I know from my personal experience, Kalamazoo is a very wonderful and eclectic community that, like you said, you can find at least one of almost anything you want in that town. Um, I had a wonderful time there and still love visiting, but, uh, do you have anything else that you would like to describe about the program or Kalamazoo?

Dr. Scott Gaynor (23:26):

No. Nothing in particular. I mean, I guess there's always the sort of note to folks that, uh, you know, if, if you go to the web and look us up or have any questions, there's, you know, ways to contact, to contact us, you know, interested students are always invited to say, Hey, are you admitting a student this year or here's my background? You know, would I be, uh, would I be an interesting applicant? Uh, you know, so, uh, so the faculty here are very approachable. So students don't hesitate to, uh, to reach out.

Shauna Costello (23:57):

And that's how you suggest that's how you suggest students should do it, is to reach directly out to the potential professors that they are looking to study under and, you know, giving maybe a slight background about, you know, what they've studied or what they're interested in studying and see if the faculty is admitting students. And if those research interests are in line,

Dr. Scott Gaynor (24:18):

If they have identified that person, it never hurts. Now again, because our program tends to have some overlap and sort of a shared conceptual framework. It's not uncommon for students to have some interests that might overlap with, with multiple faculty. And again, we get along well enough that when in doubt I would say apply and we'll kind of sort it out as we go forward. But if you have someone that you're particularly interested in, it never hurts to reach out. Um, but every year there's also plenty of people who haven't reached out and we scour the applications and look at what they're interested in. Look at the, you know, who wrote their letters of recommendation? How good are they? What is their background? And, and, uh, how well do they fit with our program? So it's by no means is it something that students have to do. Um, but if, you know, particularly someone you're interested in, uh, it never hurts to make that interest known.

Shauna Costello (25:08):

Wonderful. And it's nice to hear that you guys are scouring the applications to make sure that you guys are finding the right fit, because I know that, you know, from my experience, Western really is a, it really is a family with your, with other grad students. And even the faculty, if you're, if you go to Western, you are, if you're in the program, you are in the program and you have friends and family in the program, and they're very close knit community, even after you leave.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (25:37):

Yeah. I mean, that's a great point, I guess I would follow up by saying you work very hard to have a culture of collaboration, and it's not a zero sum game here. It's not a competitive atmosphere where in order for you to do well, you have to get ahead of the other students in some way. Uh, uh, it really, there's nothing done here to foster competitiveness. It's all about fostering cooperation, uh, collaboration, uh, because the, you know, sort of the game we're playing is one where, uh, everyone can win and we're all better off for winning together.

Shauna Costello (26:13):

Very good point. Well, thank you again for taking some time out of your day to talk with us about western's clinical behavior program. And I think it will be a very nice addition and some hopefully new knowledge to some individuals out there that might not know that this type of behavior analytic work is out there, and it's not just clinical and cognitive versus behavior analysis that there is, there is actually a nice mixture of the two and where they can get it from.

Dr. Scott Gaynor (26:44):

Well, that's great. And thank you so much for having me. And I guess again, the last sort of plug is if you are somebody who is interested in addressing socially significant problems that typically have been, uh, understood as disorders treated in outpatient psychotherapy, like depression, anxiety, uh, relationship problems, problems with impulse control, uh, noncompliance, child disobedience, uh, and you want to look at those things, uh, and how to intervene on those things from a behavior analytic perspective. Uh, that's what we do.

Shauna Costello (27:24):

Thank you for joining us for week two at Western Michigan university, we're still not quite done yet. We still have dr. John Baker and dr. Heather McGee to speak with. So stay tuned to learn more about the hybrid program and the IOBM program. And as always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at


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