Debbi Chomiak, PhD Clinical Psychologist, University of New Brunswick

I have been a graduate student in the doctoral clinical psychology program at the University of New Brunswick since 2004. I graduated with a B.Sc. (Honours) in Psychology from the University of Prince Edward Island. Generally, my research interests involve social and political factors that shape women’s experiences in urban public space, and also women’s experiences with community responses when seeking services for intimate partner violence. I have been fortunate to work with Dr. Carmen Poulin on a number of projects, and I have also been fortunate to receive a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Scholarship to fund these research pursuits.

For my doctoral dissertation, I examined the factors that impact women’s overall use of public space, such as street harassment and “stranger danger” messages. I also examined the cognitive and affective components of women’s experiences in public space. For example, I examined the factors that affect women’s fear and feelings of being out of place, the schematic interpretations that they used to make sense of this disconnection, and how these factors contribute to an overall sense of lack of belonging in public space. I found that factors structured into the built environment, aspects of victimisation and threat of violence, and pervasive cultural messages that inform women to stay out of public space amalgamate to inform women that public space is at best   unwelcoming, and at worst, hostile and a dangerous place for them to be. I also uncovered the ways in which women compensated and coped with these barriers to their spatial freedoms.

 I have taught the Psychology of Women at UNB and have been a teaching assistant for a number of courses, including Psychology of Women and Social Psychology. As well, I have served as a group facilitator for the Human Sexuality course tutorials as a part of my graduate training in group processes.

During my clinical training at UNB, I also had the opportunity to complete two practica. The first practicum included a focus on adult mental health problems, as well as academic, personal, and relationship issues, and was completed under the supervision of Dr. Nancy Buzzell at UNB Counselling Services. The second was primarily focussed on child and adolescent mental health problems and I trained under the supervision of Dr. Jean Craven on the Child and Adolescent Team at the Saint John Community Mental Health Centre. Here I worked with a number of children, adolescents, and families who were dealing with difficulties such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and ADHD. Finally, I completed my pre-doctoral internship at the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region in Regina, Saskatchewan, where I completed two major rotations. The first was focussed on adult mental health issues where I provided assessment and intervention services for a wide variety of mental health problems. Here I also had the opportunity to facilitate and co-facilitate several groups, including dialectical behaviour therapy, and groups for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. My second major rotation involved a specialized focus in rehabilitation psychology where I provided assessment and intervention to clients with physical injuries resulting from workplace or motor vehicle accidents. I also facilitated and co-facilitated groups on pain education and the role of psychological and behavioural factors in pain management.

Publications & Presentations

Chomiak, D. L. & Poulin, C. M. (June, 2012). Minding spaces, monitoring places: An examination of patriarchal influences on women’s experiences in public domains. Symposium presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Psychological Association, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

O’Brien, D. L. & Poulin, C. M.(June, 2009).Negotiating services for intimate partner abuse: Experiences of new mothers. Poster presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Psychological Association, Montreal, Quebec.

O’Brien, D. L., Poulin, C. M., Doherty, D., & Hornosty, J. (June, 2006). Abused Women Negotiating Access to Services: A Community's Perception and Experience. Poster presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Psychological Association, Calgary, Alberta.

Ryan, D. L., & Papps, F. A. (October, 2004). Men, masculinity, and Muscularity: A qualitative inquiry into male body image. Paper presented at the annual conference of Emerging Issues in Psychology, Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Ryan, D. L., & Papps, F.A. (June, 2004). Beauty of the beast: Exploring male body image perceptions and ideals. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Psychological Association, St. John’s, Newfoundland.