Research & Publications
Extensive Research Description
Dr. Desai’s research focuses on cultural, community, and social justice perspectives on mental health. This work spans multiple inter-related domains. The first domain involves examination of institutional bias, racism, and inequity, particularly the hidden, bureaucratic, and group psychological ways in which they proliferate. This research culminated most recently in the development of a novel concept of “implicit organizational bias.” Dr. Desai has received two major grants to extend this work: a K01 Award from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities/NIH and a Pioneering Ideas Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
A second domain of Dr. Desai’s work involves the development and conduct of community-based and community-engaged research. One major project—funded by a Yale Center for Clinical Investigation Junior Scholar Award (NIH KL2) and a grant from the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia University/Templeton Foundation—has featured participatory research on depression, culture, and structural racism with local African American faith communities. Past projects also include participatory research training initiatives conducted in collaboration with persons in mental health recovery.
A third domain of Dr. Desai’s work involves the development and articulation of anti-racist and anti-oppression methodologies, disciplinary frameworks, and philosophies of science. Central to this work has been the book Travel and Movement in Clinical Psychology: The World Outside the Clinic—which examines the relation between mental health and structural problems like racism, climate change, and poverty—and the upcoming co-edited collection Fanon, Phenomenology, and Psychology (with Leswin Laubscher and Derek Hook).
A final domain has involved a series of empirical studies focused on the cultural, social, ecological, and experiential dimensions of a wide range of mental health challenges, including depression, trauma/PTSD, and autism spectrum disorder. This work has often featured qualitative, phenomenological methods, with an emphasis on understanding persons’ experiences and structural contexts, from their own perspectives.
- Travel and movement in clinical psychology: The world outside the clinicDesai, M.U. Travel and movement in clinical psychology: The world outside the clinic (Foreword by Jeffrey Sachs). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- An investigation of experiences diagnosed as depression in primary care—From the perspective of the diagnosedDesai MU, Wertz FJ, Davidson L, Karasz A. An investigation of experiences diagnosed as depression in primary care—From the perspective of the diagnosed. Qualitative Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/qup0000129
- Psychology, the psychological, and critical praxis: A phenomenologist reads Frantz FanonDesai, M.U. Psychology, the psychological, and critical praxis: A phenomenologist reads Frantz Fanon. Theory & Psychology, 24, 58-75.
- Travel as qualitative method: Travel in psychology’s history and in Medard Boss’ sojourn to IndiaDesai, M.U. Travel as qualitative method: Travel in psychology’s history and in Medard Boss’ sojourn to India. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 54, 494-507.