Jennifer Sanchez smiles

| November 20, 2019

Jennifer Sánchez, an assistant professor in Rehabilitation and Counselor Education at the University of Iowa College of Education, was awarded the North Central Association for Counselor Education and Supervision's Research Award, which honors significant research in the profession in the areas of counseling, counselor education, or counselor supervision.

Sánchez was nominated by Susannah Wood, an associate professor in the Rehabilitation and Counselor Education Department and former NCACES president, for the award.

“It was very humbling to have been nominated by a colleague who's not in rehabilitation and then to have received the award was an honor,” Sánchez says. 

Jennifer Sánchez, assistant professor in Rehabilitation and Counselor Education, receiving the North Central Association for Counselor Education and Supervision's Research Award.

Sánchez’s research focuses on psychosocial rehabilitation with a focus on improving recovery, community integration, employment opportunity, and the overall quality of life for people with neuropsychiatric disorders like intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and Alzheimer’s, as well as people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, and substance use disorders.

Sánchez’s interest in her research areas was inspired by her mother’s personal experience with schizophrenia as well as from her time spent working in a psychiatric ward where she saw how patients were being treated and was moved to want to change that.

“I got curious about what made some people some more successful than others and how can we use what we learn to help those that haven't been so successful,” Sánchez says. “What made me go into education versus more of a research role was I saw how a lot of professionals were treating clients and it wasn’t necessarily nice and I wanted to change that. I figured I'd have a larger impact if I could work with and train counselors.”

In her nomination, Wood highlights Sánchez’s passion and commitment to investigating ways and means to increase the quality of life for clients with psychiatric disabilities.

“What is most impressive to me is Jennifer’s philosophy that the more counselors know about the needs of clients and consumers who struggle with severe mental illness, the more counselors can support these clients and advocate for their needs,” Wood says in her nomination letter. “Her philosophy is passed down to every counselor-in-training that she meets.”

Wood identified Sánchez as an emerging leader in research on the topic of helping counselors more effectively address the needs of consumers with psychiatric disabilities and severe mental illnesses.

“Not only [does] Dr. Sánchez produce quality research and secures needed grants, she does so by keeping her focus on the rehabilitation and mental health counselors that she trains and the clients with whom they work,” Wood says.

Sánchez has a number of projects that are currently funded through university grants as well as grants from the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy, U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Education (DOE), and Defense (DOD), and through joint initiatives such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). These projects focus on substance use, such as opioid use, by people with serious mental illness.

“The work is what’s truly important and so to see other people find that it’s important is nice because ultimately it’s all to help people,” Sánchez says.