News & Events

New Faculty member Profile: Kim O'Brien, M.S.W., Ph.D.

August 19, 2013

This fall, Kim O'Brien, M.S.W., Ph.D. will be joining the full-time faculty at the Simmons College School of Social Work. Dr. O'Brien received her Ph.D. and M.S.W. at Boston College, where she also taught as an adjunct faculty member. We asked her to tell us a bit more about her background in social work and her current research and field work.

How did you get into the field of social work?

I got into social work by trial and error - I went from finance, to high school teaching and coaching, to coaching college hockey. Through these diverse experiences I discovered my passion and strength was in relationship building and helping people in crisis. Naturally, social work was a perfect fit for me.

Can you tell us about your social work career? What are your areas of practice and expertise?

I have had many different experiences in my social work career. I have done inpatient, outpatient, prison, hospital, residential, and in-home work with children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. For the past five years I have focused on assessments and brief interventions with youth and their families in a time of crisis, and have done the majority of this work in the emergency department at Boston Children's Hospital. My current area of practice expertise is assessment and brief interventions with adolescents with suicidal thoughts and behaviors and/or substance use problems, with specific attention to youth for whom these two problems co-occur.

What are your research and scholarly interests? Are you doing or planning any research projects at this time?

My research focus is on the development of interventions for adolescents with suicidal thoughts and behaviors and/or substance use problems. I have three current research projects: 1) developing and testing a brief alcohol intervention for adolescents who have attempted suicide, 2) developing and testing a smartphone application for suicidal adolescents recently discharged from an emergency department or inpatient psychiatric hospital, and 3) developing and testing a depression prevention protocol for youth following a concussion or other mild traumatic brain injury.

Describe yourself as a teacher. What happens in your classroom?

I believe the best way to learn is by doing. Therefore, there is a lot of role-playing and other hands-on activities in my classroom. My students have to be okay with making mistakes and learning from them. My classroom is a very safe and nonjudgmental space where students are always encouraged to bring up issues and try things that they are unsure about.

What are you looking forward to about teaching at Simmons?

I most look forward to collaborating with other Simmons faculty to discover new and innovative ways to convey important material to M.S.W. students. I also look forward to exposing Ph.D. students to intervention research.