IMH Showcase

June 2024

Meet Dr. Clare Killikelly, an IMH Marshall Fellow and Clinical Psychologist addressing prolonged grief and the psychological impacts on refugees. This summer, she will be hosting focus groups using participatory action research to examine migrants’ grieving experiences and explore the role of technology and online support. Dr. Killikelly is passionate about developing culturally informed, accessible mental health assessments and interventions, and enjoys mentoring motivated students who contribute valuable cultural insights to her research.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Originally from Victoria BC, Canada, I studied cognitive neuroscience at Cambridge University (PhD) and completed my psychotherapy training (DClinPsy) at King’s College London focusing on refugee mental health. This sparked my interest in developing accessible, scalable, and evidence-based tools to assess and treat mental health disorders. My current research focuses on a newly introduced mental health disorder, prolonged grief disorder, and the psychological sequalae.

Can you describe what kind of research you are involved in?

In 2021, I was awarded a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Post-Doc Mobility grant to work at the University of British Columbia to examine the relationship between grief, indicators of mental health and post migration living difficulties in refugees in Canada in comparison with Swiss, Dutch and German cultural contexts:

Prior to this, my research group at the Universität Zürich, Switzerland examined the clinical utility and global applicability of the new ICD-11 Prolonged Grief Disorder. Along with establishing the validity of the new symptom criteria in international contexts, my research seeks to better understand the nature of suffering and distress in different communities in order to develop accessible and culturally informed assessments and interventions.

Can you tell us about an interesting project or initiative you are working on?

This summer I will be hosting a series of focus groups exploring migrants’ experiences of grieving and bereavement while away from their homeland. We will use participatory action research methods (co-development, co-creation of knowledge) to better understand the types of support resources migrants currently have access to and what is lacking. We are particularly interested in the use of technology and online support.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most, or find most exciting?

I really enjoy working with motivated and engaged students. During my time at UBC I have worked with countless student volunteers who demonstrate a keen willingness to learn more about grief research, especially as many students come from migrant backgrounds. These students are able to share important insights as cultural brokers to help develop the study procedures in a culturally sensitive way.

What is the best piece of advice you can share with colleagues new to your department or UBC?

There are a lot of opportunities for small project funding and resources to support innovative ideas for teaching and student support. This is a great way to get involved in the UBC community.