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Laurie Dickstein-Fischer

Assistant Professor, School of Education

Having grown up in New York City with parents who were educators, I was instilled early with a sense of social justice and commitment to education. Perhaps not surprisingly, I pursued the study of psychology and earned my credentials as a school counselor. Prior to moving to Boston, I was employed by the Baltimore City public school system as a school counselor. There I developed a drive to work with underserved and marginalized populations. I gained firsthand experience in guiding students with disabilities and learning disorders, and spent significant effort developing material to improve student learning, academic success, and career attainment. In the process, I learned to cultivate a therapeutic alliance with individuals across the potential divides of race, class, immigration status, age, sexual orientation, and disability status. This experience fueled my desire to pursue my doctoral studies.

Real World Experience

I received my Master’s from John Hopkins University and my PhD from Northeastern University in the combined counseling psychology and school psychology program. During my academic and clinical career, I have worked towards integrating my research, teaching, and clinical endeavors. I am an experienced clinician who has worked with children and adults of all ages, across a broad spectrum of clinical settings. I have also trained and provided psychological interventions at Massachusetts Mental Health Center (Harvard Medical School department of psychiatry), Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Columbia Valley Community Health department of behavioral medicine. Another aspect of my professional life is research, now targeting studies in robotics as a tool for use for evaluating and treating autism.

Cutting-Edge Research

My research direction focuses on the intersection of social interaction and technology within a framework of, and informed by, social justice. My dissertation project investigated the psychological and emotional implications associated with Facebook use among college-age students. With the rise in the popularity of social media, counselors need to consider the potential consequences of electronic networking, both in their clients’ lives and in society in general.

Currently, I am researching and developing technology to assist in clinical and educational interventions. In collaboration with Worcester Polytechnic Institute, I am investigating the use of robotics as an improved diagnostic, therapeutic, and early-intervention tool for children with autism. I have taken the clinical lead in guiding the development of a new humanoid social robot, PABI© (Penguin for Autism Behavioral Intervention). The PABI is a toy-like device that simulates social responses and can potentially diagnose, measure, and improve a child’s understanding and use of social cues. I have truly enjoyed working with my student team at WPI and look forward to mentoring students in research endeavors at Salem State.

Why I Teach

Teaching allows me to combine all of the things I love into one profession: education, research and clinical practice. For me it is really important that my clinical practice and research drive my teaching. I bring my real-world experience into the classroom to show how theory and counseling models apply in counseling scenarios. In truth, I find that teaching motivates me to stay ahead of the curve in terms of my own learning while also enabling me to help a future generation of school counselors to become effective and successful.  The students in the school counseling program are bright, focused, and enthusiastic. They are committed to social justice, advocacy and the success of youth. School counseling is rich with opportunities and it is exciting to see the various directions that our students take it.

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