Alumna Helps People with Psychiatric Disabilities Live Successful Lives

Sandra Resnick | 2001 and 1998 Alumna | Ph.D. and M.S. Clinical Rehabilitation Psychology

Associate Director, VA Northeast Program Evaluation Center

Associate Professor, Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

A Halloween party could be pinned as the impetus in Sandra Resnick’s pursuit in rehabilitative psychology.Sandra Resnick

While working as a case manager at a community mental health facility in Illinois, Resnick learned her clients wanted to have a Halloween party. Simple enough, she thought. Her boss approved the request, adding it could be at 1 p.m. the day before Halloween and to order some cookies. Resnick quickly protested:  that’s not a Halloween party! A party would be on Halloween evening with costumes and music—after all these were adults.

Resnick’s true Halloween party was a success. Clients, friends and staff came in costume and no one could tell the difference—all equals as people. That marked a turning point for Resnick.

“I wanted to find ways for people with psychiatric disabilities to live successful lives by helping to remove barriers and enhance strengths,” she said.  Although already committed to a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, that’s when she decided to pursue psychiatric rehabilitation as a career.

The graduate psychology program at IUPUI was the perfect fit for Resnick, because it allowed her to focus on her interest in psychiatric rehabilitation. “It was pretty clear that almost nobody else was doing this in psychology,” she said.

As a graduate student at IUPUI, Resnick conducted research with Gary Bond, Chancellor's Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology. She described Bond, who served as her primary thesis advisor, as a tremendous mentor and a significant force within the department.

“I feel so lucky that I found a place that was so good to me; that was such a good fit; that really supported me,” she said.

Today, Resnick is dedicated to helping people with psychiatric disabilities lead productive, healthy lives. She evaluates national vocational rehabilitation programs as associate director of the Veterans Health Administration’s VA Northeast Program Evaluation Center. Her evaluations are improving services related to supported employment, which refers to programs that assist people with psychiatric or other disabilities or mental illness find and retain jobs.

As a graduate student, Resnick became heavily involved in research of supported employment. When Resnick started her career at the VA, she quickly became an asset as she joined a small team to develop and implement these programs. Today, the VA offers more than 145 supported employment programs across the country.

Resnick has found great satisfaction in a field that makes immediate impact on individuals and the community as a whole. “I like things that are concrete and practical,” she said. “I know jobs and I know I can help make a difference in this area.”