SETH KURZBAN was promoted from a post-doctoral fellow to assistant professor in 2009. He recently received his PhD from Columbia University School of Social Work, where he was named the Willie G. Perry Scholar for Outstanding Potential and the Evelyn Burns Scholar for Public Policy.
Kurzban has worked in a variety of clinical and research settings focused on helping individuals dealing with severe and persistent mental illness, chronic homelessness or incarceration, and substance abuse. He has worked for Westat -- a corporation providing research services to government agencies and other entities -- on policy analysis for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and National Institute of Mental Health as the evaluation coordinator for the Hartford Geriatric Faculty Scholars Program.
His current work focuses on developing and testing an intervention, Community Awareness Psychoeducation (CAPE), designed to help individuals improve their self-care and wellness, reduce the social isolation associated with mental illness and help improve their ability to live in their communities. As a post-doctoral fellow, Kurzban won a Larson endowment to adapt the group intervention for use at a Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health clinic for women with mental illness who are re-integrating into the community upon their release from jail.
As a student social worker in New York following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Dr. Seth Kurzban worked with people affected by the tragedy, particularly individuals at high risk for developing mental illness. While counseling his clients to prepare for possible aftereffects of the traumatic experience, he discovered a major shortcoming in services—social workers weren’t focused on rebuilding connections between victims and their communities. Kurzban wrote his dissertation on the subject, and has since dedicated his scholarly pursuits to understanding the role of social integration in the treatment of severe mental illness.
Before earning his doctorate from Columbia University in 2008, Kurzban provided policy analysis to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and National Institute of Mental Health while working for Westat, a corporation that offers research services to government agencies and other entities. He was originally drawn to social work by his desire to develop skills that would enable him to improve society and treat people in need.
The overarching focus of Kurzban’s research is social integration, which he eventually plans to extend into prevention measures and possibly other mental illnesses such as autism. As a postdoctoral fellow at the USC School of Social Work, Kurzban continued testing his Community Awareness Psychoeducation intervention, which he designed to help individuals improve their self-care and wellness, reduce the social isolation associated with mental illness, and improve their ability to live successfully in their communities.
In 2009, he was promoted to assistant professor and expanded his original intervention research to focus on mentally ill women in jails. The resulting program, which combines elements of psychoeducation and mindfulness, trains formerly incarcerated women who have successfully reintegrated into their communities to help currently incarcerated women transition back into society after their release, thus involving two at-risk populations in quality treatment services. Another project he is developing involves working with military personnel who are struggling to assimilate into civilian life, and Kurzban has conducted community-based surveys on the needs of homeless veterans and veterans with mental illness.
Kurzban participates in both the homelessness and serious mental illness research cores. He has taught courses on clinical practice and evaluation in mental health, as well as a doctoral class on policy. He has involved several graduate students in his projects and is looking forward to continuing his work with promising scholars.
Davis, L. & Kurzban, S. (2012). Mindfulness-based treatment for people with severe mental illness: A literature review. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 15(2), 202-232.
Vanderwalde, A. & Kurzban, S. (2011). Paying Human Subjects in Research: Where Are We, How Did We Get Here, and Now What?. Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, 39(3), 543-558.
Kurzban, S., Davis, L. & Brekke, J.S. (2010). Vocational, Social, and Cognitive Rehabilitation for Individuals Diagnosed With Schizophrenia: A Review of Recent Research and Trends. Current Psychiatry Reports, 12(4), 345-355.