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Lab Members

Principal Investigator:

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Dr. Michael W. Best

Dr. Best is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychological Clinical Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough and is an Affiliate Scientist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences. Dr. Best completed his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Queen’s University and his predoctoral internship at the Aaron T. Beck Center for Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

His research focuses on cognitive treatments for psychotic disorders and understanding the mechanisms for how these treatments improve people’s lives. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on how thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are interconnected and contribute to a person’s quality of life. Cognitive Remediation is a treatment to improve neurocognitive abilities such as attention, memory, and problem-solving with the ultimate goal of improving a person’s ability to engage in activities in everyday life.

Access Dr. Best's CV here

Graduate Students:

Sylvia Romanowska

Sylvia is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program. She completed a BSc in Psychology at the University of Alberta and an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Calgary.

Her research interests include neurocognition and functional recovery in schizophrenia-spectrum illness, treatment approaches in first-episode psychosis, and service user engagement in serious mental illness.

 

When she’s not in the lab, she enjoys cooking, traveling, singing, and hiking.

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Talia Leibovitz

Talia is a doctoral student in the Psychological Clinical Science Program at UTSC. Her undergraduate degree in Psychology was completed at Queen’s University.

Talia is primarily interested in researching the mechanisms of CBT and cognitive remediation for psychosis. Her goal is to contribute to the refinement of these therapeutic techniques so that they are more effective in improving functional outcomes and quality of life for individuals diagnosed with psychosis. She also strives to increase accessibility to these treatments.

Other than psychology, Talia enjoys hiking, animals, drinking coffee and doing crosswords! She is passionate about supporting others and always welcomes questions and/or chats!

Shreya Jagtap

Shreya is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program. She completed a BSc in Mental Health Studies at the University of Toronto. 

Broadly, her research interests include exploring the relationship between symptom dimensions and functional/neurocognitive recovery in those with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders,  as well as identifying processes in evidence-based therapies for SSDs, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and cognitive remediation therapy, that support this recovery.  

In her spare time, Shreya enjoys watching movies, playing videogames, and exploring the city with her dog.  

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Robert Aidelbaum

Rob is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Toronto Scarborough. He completed an MA in Clinical Psychology at the University of Toronto and an MA in Experimental Psychology at Carleton University.

 

Rob’s research interests involve analyzing the manifestation of both neurocognition and social cognition in various diagnostic groups across the psychosis spectrum and assessing how patterns of impairment may be influencing real-world functioning. The goal of his research is to improve our understanding of the connection between cognition and functioning, in the hopes of supporting the development of novel treatments aimed at improving areas causing lasting distress that do not respond to current standard treatments.  

When not in the lab, you will likely find Rob either camping, skiing, working in his garden, watching a movie, or playing with his dog.

Jess D'Arcey

Jess is a first-year MA student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. She completed her BSc in Mental Health Studies at UTSC as well as an MSc in Medical Science at the University of Toronto and CAMH.

 

Broadly, her research interests are in exploring mechanisms of symptom maintenance and recovery in psychosis. More specifically, Jess is interested in cognitive and emotional models of symptom maintenance in hopes of highlighting new treatment targets and finding ways to adapt current treatments. She hopes to center lived experience in her work.

 

Outside of psychology, Jess enjoys spending her time outside in nature with her pup, camping, crafting,  spending time with friends, or curled up with her cat and a good book! 

Aqsa Zahid

 

Aqsa is a graduate student in the Counselling and Clinical Psychology program (Field: Clinical Psychology) at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She completed her undergraduate degree at the same university where she specialized in Mental Health Studies.

 

Aqsa is primarily interested in studying stigma among and towards individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. She hopes to include the examination of various forms of stigma in her research (e.g., internalized, public, provider/professional, and institutional stigma). She plans to apply an intersectional approach to her research to understand how social identities such as race and gender (in addition to one’s diagnostic label or symptom presentations) may ultimately result in unique experiences of stigma, discrimination, and barriers among diagnosed persons. Secondarily, Aqsa has a growing interest in exploring religious and cultural understandings of schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

 

Apart from her studies, Aqsa really enjoys painting, exercising, cooking, and spending time with her cat. An ideal weekend for her would include all of these activities with the addition of unlimited coffee! 

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Peer Researcher & Coordinator:

Allison Dyer

Allison is a Peer researcher and coordinator in the T.I.P Lab at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where she occupies the role(s) of both Peer researcher and Peer support worker.

 

The intersection of Allison’s work focuses on marginalization, stigma and mental health. Allison has aided in building programs that address gaps within clinical supports in our mental health systems.

 

She is dedicated to supporting individualized treatments that are recovery focused through the lens of the peer support values of empowerment, identity, hope, compassion and trust.

Lab Manager:

Nitha Vincent

Nitha is a University of Toronto alumna with an Honors Bachelor of Science in Mental Health Studies. Starting from a TIP lab research volunteer to thesis student and now lab manager, Nitha's research experience includes working for two years at CAMH on a psychosis treatment implementation study. Her other research interests include substance-induced psychosis, substance use disorder (mainly cannabis and hallucinogens) and personality disorders.

 

When not in the lab, Nitha will either be at a concert, playing video games, or in bed with a book and a cup of tea.

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Primary Clinical Trial Manager:

Hanna Hamzai

Hanna is a University of Toronto graduate where she earned a HBSc with a specialization in Mental Health Studies. Broadly, her research interests include improving our evidence-based knowledge of the mechanisms of symptom maintenance, recovery, and cognitive treatments for psychosis.

 

She is also interested in enhancing our understanding of the causes and impact of the internal and public stigma associated with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. She hopes to center lived experience in her work. 

When not in the lab, you will likely find Hanna spending time by the water or curled up with her cat and dog!

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Clinical Trial Coordinator: 

Saleena received a HBSc with a specialization in Mental Health Studies at the University of Toronto. Saleena is interested in research concerning stigma and severe mental illnesses to understand how stigmatization impacts an individual. More broadly, she is also interested in personality traits, emotional regulation, and suicidality. 

 

Saleena wants to pursue a career in clinical psychology with the aim of incorporating her research in ways to increase quality of life for individuals and improve treatment accessibility.  

 

Outside of work, Saleena enjoys reading, baking, hanging out with friends and family, and hanging out with her dog! 

Saleena Zedan

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Clinical Trial Therapists:

Marie Kessaris

Marie (MA Counselling Psychology) is a qualifying Registered Psychotherapist under the supervision of Dr. Mike Best. Utilizing the structure, theory, and techniques of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), Marie maintains curiousity and respect for the wisdom of the participants with whom she collaborates. Marie is passionate about obstacle-free mental health services, person-centered treatment, facilitating a compassionate perspective of mental health issues, and recognizing strengths in people.

Marie's research interests include the relationships between psychosis and adverse childhood experiences (ACE), attachment, systemic/intergenerational trauma, and emotional expression. 

In moments of spare time, Marie enjoys watching movies and documentaries, stop-motion animation, playing board and videogames, and searching for new music.

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Ananya Sharma

Ananya (MA Clinical Psychology) is a qualifying Registered Psychotherapist under the supervision of Dr. Mike Best. She is also a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Ananya is passionate about using a collaborative and feminist-based approach in generating individualized treatment plans and offering support to her clients. She has experience in utilizing various evidence-based treatments, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), Humanistic Approach, Feminist Approach, Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Time-Limited Dynamic Psychotherapy (TLDP). 

Using the above-mentioned approaches, Ananya has assisted clients struggling with anxiety disorders, depression, suicidality, trauma and PTSD, life transitions, relationship issues, personality disorders, ADHD and grief. Ananya’s client-centred feminist approach aims to equip her clients with the necessary tools to cope with their distress while empowering them to pave the way forward.

 

Ananya's research interests include evaluating the impact of adverse childhood events on development, bicultural identity, gender and sexuality identity development and support seeking. 

In her spare time, Ananya enjoys dancing, particularly Bhangra, reading fiction, and listening to music."

Helen Yoseph

Helen (MA Counselling Psychology) is a Registered Psychotherapist under the supervision of Dr. Mike Best. She is passionate about utilizing a person-centered and strengths-based approach to help empower clients to address their therapeutic goals. 

 

Helen’s previous work experience includes delivering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Solution Focused Therapy (SFT), and Narrative and Mindfulness approaches to address a plethora of client issues. She is committed to walking alongside her clients and fostering an environment that prioritizes collaboration, safety, and trust. 

 

Helen is an avid reader and film enthusiast, when not absorbed in a story you can find her either outside running or at home baking. 

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Lynn Rutledge

Dr. Lynn Rutledge is a post-doctoral student in the

Departments of Psychology and Psychological Clinical Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Lynn completed her Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto at the Rehabilitation Science Institute. She completed a Post Professional Master’s Degree of Science in Occupational Therapy, a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Occupational Therapy (Honours), and a Bachelor's Degree of Science in Psychology (Honours) at Dalhousie University.  

 

Her current research interests include doing quantitative and qualitative research with individuals with complex neurological and psychological conditions including people living with psychosis and severe traumatic brain injury. Lynn has over 20 years of experience as a practicing occupational therapist. Lynn's interests outside of work include running, biking, swimming, and skiing. 

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Supervised Study Students:
Mei Timpson

Mei is a third-year student completing her BSc at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. She is double majoring in Mental Health Studies and Health Policy and is minoring in Music and Culture.

 

Mei is taking a Supervised Study in Psychology course under the instruction of Dr. Best during the 2023-2024 school year to research the cognitive mechanisms associated with conspiracy theories. Mei’s overall research goal is to contribute to culturally competent research aiding the development of environments, skills, and services that prevent the manifestation of and alleviate the current psychopathological symptoms in individuals who are part of underserved or vulnerable groups.

 

Mei enjoys exercising, drinking tea, and talking with her sister when not studying or working.

Shahtaj Dheda

Shahtaj is a fourth-year student at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She is obtaining a degree within the BSc Psychological and Health Sciences Specialist Co-op program. 

Shahtaj is completing a Thesis in Psychology under the joint supervision of Dr. Best and Dr. Cory Gerritsen at CAMH within the Forensic Early Intervention Service during the 2023-2024 school year. Her project hopes to understand the intersection of severe mental illness and differential forms of aggression exhibited by incarcerated

persons. 

 

Shahtaj’s research interests aim to explore the diagnosis and clinical presentation of psychopathology to better applications of treatment. 

In her free time, you can find Shahtaj studying, napping, or thrift-store hopping!

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Research Coordinator Assistant:
Elena Chauhan

Elena is a second-year student completing her HBSc with a specialization in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include clinical disorders, the neurological basis for symptoms, and the impact of therapy on everyday functioning. Her aim is to contribute to the advancement of treatments including but not limited to CBT, Cognitive Remediation, and Humanistic therapy. She prioritizes unconditional positive regard for those with mental illness.

 

During her free time, Elena is either watching Grey’s Anatomy or listening to a podcast and drinking an ice-cold Diet Pepsi.

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Research Assistants:

Aicha Belghiti

Aishwaria Pathmanesan

Alex Lee

Alycia Hernandez-Gluch

Arianna Duarte

Athen Lau

Blanche Kubunga

Danielle Schkolne

Elena Chauhan

Eshanika Dinesh

Farah Darawish

Fatima Ahmad

Payal Dass

Rafiya Mubashshira

Rishika Daswani

Shamaila Sharkar

Sharlane Lau

Stephanie Perschilli

Tazeen Atif

Varshini Ramesh

Zach Buck

Grace Lin

Heba Shaheen

Isabella Bradley

Isabelle Pastula

Jaanuha Sritharan

Jack Kiatipis

Jebril Darawish

Josh Ibbitson

Kathleen Tremells

Kylie Campbell

Marzia Naqvi

Nahiyan Rahman

Nusrat Iftikhar

Lab Alumni:

Christine Sexton (Lab Manager/Clinical Trial Coordinator)

Felicia Martins (Lab Manager/ Clinical Trial Coordinator)

Karin Onno (Lab Manager)

Lola Wazir (Clinical Trial Coordinator)

Aaima Cheema (Research Assistant)

Alex Ouellette-Zuk (Research Assistant)

Bhavana Akilan (Research Assistant)

Denisa Lazar (Research Assistant)

Fatima Ahmad (Research Assistant)

Harjas Singh (Research Assistant)

Humna Siddiqui (Research Assistant)

Insia Ali Razi (Research Assistant)

Janeve Edwards (Research Assistant)

Joy Singh (Research Assistant)

Kartik Kambli (Research Assistant)

Karin Onno (Research Assistant)

Kaylynn Brant (Research Assistant)

Kian Godhwani (Research Assistant)

Laiba Rizwan (Research Assistant)

Lamia Firasta (Research Assistant)

Laura Ramos (Research Assistant)

Leah Tackaberry-Giddens (Research Assistant)

Lina Rguig (Research Assistant)

Mehmet Topyurek (Research Assistant)

Moe Tavakoli (Research Assistant)

Nisha Ghandi (Research Assistant)

Olivia Petti (Research Assistant)

Rawan Hedefa (Research Assistant)

Rida Riaz (Research Assistant)

Sana Junaid (Research Assistant)

Sannan Saheeb (Research Assistant)

Selin Khatchigian (Research Assistant)

Shukkiththa Sivapatham (Research Assistant)

Stephanie Barakat (Research Assistant)

Sunehra Sarwar (Research Assistant)

Wania Qamar (Research Assistant)

Xiaoyu Yuan (Research Assistant)

Zoryana Babiy (Research Assistant)

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1265 Military Trail, Suite SY122
Toronto, ON Canada M1C 1A4

©2022 by Therapeutic Interventions for Psychosis Lab  …   647-689-6098  …  bestlabadmin.utsc@utoronto.ca …  

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