Maria M Santos
I was born in Los Angeles to Guatemalan-born parents. I was raised in the West Los Angeles and working-class West Adams neighborhoods. I attended Alexander Hamilton High School and subsequently earned a BA degree in Political Science from University of California, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate, I developed an interest in conducting research on mental illness, psychosocial treatment, and mental health services that considers the needs of underrepresented and underserved U.S. ethnic/racial minorities. I went on to complete graduate studies in clinical psychology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). After earning my doctoral degree in 2016, I joined the Culture & Mental Health Lab in the Department of Psychology at University of Southern California (USC) as a postdoctoral scholar. I joined faculty in the Department of Psychology at CSUSB in 2018.
I enjoy spending time with my husband and our family and friends. I also enjoy spending time outdoors, eating delicious food, and listening to and learning from people’s stories.
PSYC 386 Introduction to Psychotherapy
PSYC 387 Community Psychology
PSYC 390 Abnormal Psychology
PSYC 422 Advanced Seminar in Clinical Psychology
PSYC 688 Evidence-based Practice in Marriage and Family Therapy
Research and Teaching Interests
My research to date has centered on improving mental health services for Latinos. At UWM, I conducted psychosocial treatment research on an empirically-supported treatment for depression, Behavioral Activation (BA), developed for Latinos. My interests were in identifying factors that moderate the relationship between treatment and outcome and examined how BAL works to achieve good outcomes. During this time, I also sought to identify factors that contribute to the successful engagement of depressed Latino clients in psychotherapy treatment, with a particular focus on the therapeutic alliance. At USC, I solidified my interest in addressing engagement issues particularly for individuals with first-episode psychosis (FEP). Given BA’s effectiveness at engaging depressed clients and evidence of the positive effects of BA on individuals with psychosis, I took a first step to examine the applicability of BA to FEP. My postdoctoral research focused on empirically investigating whether a relationship exists between activation and FEP-relevant outcomes. I examined the relationship between self-reported and observer-rated activation and treatment engagement, symptoms, and functioning in the R01 sample of individuals with FEP. As part of an NIMH-funded career development award, I will compare a 12-session BA protocol modified for FEP to treatment-as-usual delivered over 6 months with a sample of Latinos with FEP and their families. The study will also examine BA mediators of the intervention-engagement relationship and develop a dynamic model of engagement to guide future engagement research.