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Jacob Tebes, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry (Psychology), in the Child Study Center and of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences); Director, Division of Prevention and Community Research, Department of Psychiatry; Director, The Consultation Center; Chief Psychologist, Connecticut Mental Health Center; Program Director, NIDA T32 Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Substance Abuse Prevention

Research Summary

I seek to advance equity and social justice through my research. I do so by conducting community-based studies that promote resilience, prevent substance misuse, and foster the adoption of systems- or population-based solutions to human problems due to stress, trauma, mental illness, addiction, or systemic oppression (based on race, ethnicity, gender, social class, ability status, indigenous background or other social differences). The ultimate goal of my research is to transform settings and communities so that they are more equitable and just, and better able to promote resilience, thriving, and well-being. I also have scholarly interests in philosophy of science, community research methodology, program evaluation, and team science aligned with this research goal.

My research is collaborative and often carried out in partnership with community-based organizations, healthcare settings, schools, state and municipal agencies, and community stakeholders. This work is conceptualized from an equity and social justice perspective, examines multiple levels (such as the individual, the family, peers, the school, the neighborhood or community, and the broader culture), and occurs in community settings that involve populations who are at risk, have experienced adverse or traumatic circumstances, or have a clinical disorder. Some of my research involves randomized controlled trials and some involves systematic evaluations of programs or services by public agencies or community coalitions. In my evaluation research, I often examine the operations and effectiveness of programs and services. Through my research, evaluation, and scholarly work, my colleagues and I have proposed principles for conducting research in community settings, developed innovative approaches to assess community phenomena, helped define the emerging field of community science, developed strategies for using data to inform practice and policy, described participatory approaches to interdisciplinary team science, proposed a narrative framework for understanding historical trauma, and developed a population health model for trauma-informed practice.

Extensive Research Description

Below is a more extensive summary my research and scholarly work on 1) resilience; 2) prevention of adolescent substance use; 3) incorporating equity and social justice principles into research, and 4) community research methodology, program evaluation, philosophy of science, and team science.

Resilience. Resilience is characterized by normative development despite adverse circumstances. My colleagues and I have identified risk and protective factors associated with resilience among vulnerable populations, and that promote resilience among at-risk groups. My early research examined risk processes among women who had primary caregiving responsibilities for a child as well as an elder family member, which led to a statewide randomized trial of the effectiveness of self-help/mutual support groups for these “sandwiched generation” women. This trial was among the first to examine the health impacts of self-help/mutual support groups on the children of caregivers. In other studies, my colleagues and I examined resilience processes among bereaved young adults, children of mothers with serious mental illnesses, maltreated and foster care children in the child welfare system, and multi-system involved youth.

I have also examined the effectiveness of interventions that promote community adaptation and resilience to trauma among various clinical populations. These have included randomized controlled trials of community-based programs, such as crisis-respite services for persons with serious mental illness and peer support services for persons in recovery from serious mental illness. Along with colleagues I have also studied the effectiveness of statewide services, such as community support services for persons in recovery, system of care services for children with serious emotional disorders, multi-systemic therapy for juvenile offenders and their families, and risk and protective factors for well-being among family caregivers of persons living with schizophrenia. In other studies, I have examined the impact of participatory, interdisciplinary approaches on creating environments that can promote resilience and well-being in the aftermath of trauma or adverse experiences. In one study, my colleagues and I examined how participatory public art, created jointly by adults in recovery from mental illness or addiction and neighborhood residents, can help revitalize under-resourced urban neighborhoods. In another study, we examined how a community coalition organized to prevent the negative impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can promote trauma-informed schools and services for children and families. The latter research was guided by a comprehensive population health model of trauma-informed practice. More recent research has focused on how interactive virtual stress and resilience town halls that use mutual support and psychoeducation can promote resilience and well-being in healthcare workers and their family members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prevention of adolescent substance use. My colleagues and I have also conducted school- and community-based studies to prevent adolescent substance use and problem behaviors. Most of our research with adolescents has used a social-cognitive approach to prevent substance use in which we examine the effectiveness of teaching decision-making skills in schools or after-school programs to middle and high school youth to prevent substance use. The focus of several studies has been to help youth critically examine influences from parents, peers, and the media to make their own decisions about using substances. In a series of studies, we demonstrated the effectiveness of a school-based program to prevent substance use among middle and high school students in suburban school districts. We then adapted the program for use in urban after-school settings, where it also was found to be effective. That adaptation was based on a collaboration with a youth services coalition that incorporated cultural heritage and positive youth development activities into the updated program. In other research, we developed and examined a school-based mentoring program to prevent substance use among urban, high school youth that was also effective in preventing substance use. More recently we implemented and evaluated a school-wide prevention program with urban high school students that promotes healthy decision-making. Drawing on a population health approach, this research involves a partnership that includes youth, teachers, school administrators, parents, and youth service providers, among others, to use social media and school activities to foster school-wide norms for healthy decision-making about nutrition, sleep, exercise, relationships, activity involvements, and substance use.

Incorporating equity, social justice, and anti-oppressive principles into research. Most of my research -- including the studies described above -- incorporates equity, social justice, and anti-oppressive principles into how the research is conceptualized, designed, implemented, used, and disseminated. This involves infusing the voices of public stakeholders into one or more phases of the research, as is common in community-based participatory research or in what we have called "participatory team science." Depending on the study, public stakeholders could be: youth, family, and community members; persons in recovery from mental illness or addiction; teachers, school staff, and service providers; neighborhood leaders and residents; municipal and state representatives; funders, and healthcare workers.

My research and scholarship, as well as my related practice and teaching, also seeks to incorporate an understanding of culture -- defined in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, religion, ability status, indigenous background, and other social identities – into how research is conducted, services are designed and delivered, and policies established. Incorporating culture into any professional endeavor is essential to uncovering hidden and systemic inequities, disparities, and oppression. Throughout my career, and in collaboration with colleagues, I have led seminars or workshops on this issue for Yale faculty, fellows, staff, or professional staff from community organizations. For example, my colleagues and I worked with an urban police department to train officers and command staff to identify and act on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Community research methodology, program evaluation, philosophy of science, and team science. I have a longstanding interest in how we conceptualize and conduct research in community settings, how we evaluate programs and services, and in the philosophy of science. My scholarship in these areas has examined philosophical roots of community research and community psychology, mixed methods approaches, and interdisciplinary team science, and has intersected with my research and scholarship on resilience, substance use prevention, equity, and social justice.

Professional roles that draw on research and scholarship. As a clinical/community psychologist, I feel fortunate to have been able to pursue professional roles that developed from my research and scholarship that have direct public health benefit. These roles have included: collaborator on community intervention research with colleagues and community stakeholders; consultant to national, state, and municipal agencies to promote data-driven decision making and evidence-based practice; trainer and coach to build program evaluation capacity and enhance the performance of community organizations, healthcare settings, and service systems; evaluator of public and non-profit programs and services; and testifying expert on federal class action litigation to address health inequities. These roles have allowed me to blend research and practice, and to create opportunities for teaching and mentoring doctoral and postdoctoral fellows, and early career faculty.


Research Interests

Primary Prevention; Public Health; Social Change; Social Justice; Program Evaluation; Cultural Diversity; Vulnerable Populations; Resilience, Psychological; Community-Based Participatory Research

Public Health Interests

Community Health; Mental Health

Selected Publications

  • Foundations for a philosophy of science of community psychology: Perspectivism, pragmatism, feminism, and critical theory.Tebes, J. K. (2017). In: M.A. Bond, C.B. Keys, & I. Seranno-Garcia (Eds.), Handbook of community psychology, Volume II: Methods of community psychology: Research & applications. American Psychological Association.
  • Evaluation in prevention and health promotion.Tebes J.K., Kaufman JS, Connell C, Crusto, CA, & Thai, ND. (2014). In: T Gugliotta & M Bloom (Eds). Encyclopedia of Primary Prevention and Health Promotion, 2nd Edition (pp. 69-101). NY: Springer.
  • Beauty, connection, healing, and behavioral health: The role of public art in promoting wellness.Matlin, S. L., Evans, A. C., & Tebes, J. K. (2014). In: Golden, J. & Mural Arts Associates (Eds). Mural Arts at 30: Growing Up, Growing Out, Putting Down Roots. (pp. 121-127). Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Adult Smoking Initiation Is on the Rise in the US, But Among Whom?Thompson, A.B., Tebes, J. K., McKee. S. A. (2013). Journal of Women’s Health, 22, 140.
  • Philosophical foundations of mixed methods research: Implications for research practice.Tebes, J.K. (2012). In Jason, L. & Glenwick, D. (Eds.). Innovative methodological approaches to community-based research. Washington, DC: APA Books, 2012, 13-28.
  • Convergence of sibling risk among children of parents with serious mental disorders.Tebes, J. K., Connell, C. M., Ross, E., & Kaufman, J. (2005). Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14, 29-41.
  • Service access and service system development in a children's behavioral health system of care.Tebes, J. K., Bowler, S. M., Shah, S., Connell, C. M., Ross, E., Simmons, R., Tate, D., Chinman, M. J., & Kaufman, J. S. (2005). Evaluation & Program Planning, 28, 151-160.
  • Resilience and family psychosocial processes among children of parents with serious mental disorders.Tebes, J. K., Kaufman, J. S., Adnopoz, J. & Racusin, G. R. (2001). Journal of Child and Family Studies, 10, 115-136.
  • Promoting resilience in children of sandwiched generation caregiving women through caregiver mutual support.Tebes, J. K., & Irish, J. T. (2000). Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 20, 139-158.
  • External validity and scientific psychology.Tebes, J. K. (2000). American Psychologist, 55, 1508-1509.