Jessica R. Dietch, Ph.D., DBSM
Clinical Health Psychologist & Assistant Professor
School of Psychological Science
Oregon State University
Sleep Health Accessibility, Intervention, and Dissemination (SHAID) Lab
John Richmond Sy
Student Advisory Council
Who is Dr. Jessee Dietch?
Dr. Jessee Dietch (she/her) is licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified in behavioral sleep medicine. She obtained her doctorate in Clinical Health Psychology from the University of North Texas and completed her clinical internship at the Durham VA and postdoctoral fellowship at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine. She is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University (OSU) and runs a small private practice focused on behavioral sleep medicine. Dr. Dietch has authored a multitude of articles on sleep health and continues her research through the Sleep Health Assessment, Intervention, and Dissemination or SHAID lab which she established at OSU. Some of her ongoing projects involve characterizing sleep health in understudied populations such as individuals with Moebius Syndrome and trans youth initiating gender-affirming hormone therapy. A study she will be launching soon adapts Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia for shift-working nurses.
Journey Towards Sleep Research
Dr. Dietch pursued a BFA in Film Production before finding her passion for psychology, particularly in sleep research, which she learned about in a health psychology class. She was fascinated by parasomnias (e.g., sleep walking) early on in her undergraduate career but realized that these disorders are fairly rare and not always appropriate for psychological intervention. Instead, she wanted to work with a sleep disorder for which psychologists can make a big impact. That’s when insomnia captured her interest. There was an effective behavioral treatment for insomnia, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI), but it wasn’t in the forefront. There was a shortage of trained providers; patients and physicians alike were unaware of this behavioral treatment option. This became central to her research mission – to make this effective treatment accessible to individuals, particularly those who may not otherwise have access to it. She accomplishes this in three interconnected ways. First, by developing sleep measurement tools for special populations with the eventual goal of adapting treatments for underrepresented groups. Second, she characterizes sleep health in special populations. Finally, she seeks to adapt and disseminate behavioral treatments, particularly in underserved groups. For example, she co-created CBTIweb.org which trains providers in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. She takes it to next level by conducting research to adapt CBTI to populations such as shiftwork nurses, who have been generally excluded from clinical trials for this intervention and for whom CBTI in its current form would not be appropriate.
A vital recommendation she has for students interested in pursuing clinical research is to get training in dissemination and implementation. Moreover, she encourages individuals interested in research to get involved in societies, such as the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, Sleep Research Society, or the American Academy of Sleep Medicine from early in their careers. These societies provide an excellent setting to network and meet potential mentors. Due to the small number of sleep psychologists, she says that most would be happy to mentor and share their time. Do not be afraid to approach people! She also shared an opportunity for junior level faculty/scientists from NYU Langone’s Center for Healthful Behavior Change called The Program to Increase Diversity in Behavioral Medicine and Sleep Disorders Research (PRIDE).
The field of sleep psychology desperately needs more researchers and clinicians which provides a great opportunity to create a positive impact. Studies on sleep health disparities, adapting interventions for underserved populations, and educating physicians of effective sleep treatments are some of the myriad needs you can champion in field. “Come join us! We want you!” she exclaimed. Currently, there is a huge rise in digital interventions in sleep which she predicts could continue on for the next 10 years. For better or worse, the spotlight on sleep gave rise to products geared towards sleep health but also misinformation. There is a significant need for science communicators to counteract this problem.
Being a Sleep Researcher
As an assistant professor, her primary roles include teaching, research, and service. Her schedule varies from day-to-day but usually consists of meetings, preparing for and teaching classes, conducting research, and writing. A primary perk she loves about being a professor is the flexibility it provides – especially with having a new baby! She creates and manages her own working hours which she stated could be a double-edged sword. Someone who wants to thrive in a faculty position needs to be accountable for oneself.
She finds inspiration for her research through her clinical work. She thinks back on interactions with patients which guides her investigations. She encourages clinical researchers to truly listen to their patients, value their experiences, see them as experts in their own right, and work with them as equal partners. Researchers who are interested in working with marginalized populations need to approach communities with respect and humility. If you are not immersed in the community, always involve individuals from the community you are studying, trust them, and compensate them. It’s not always a smooth path and you may misstep at times, but as long as you’re introspecting and checking yourself, she encourages you to go for it!
Advice for Budding Health Psychologists
Choosing a good mentor is paramount in your graduate school experience. Find and engage a helpful mentor who believes in your success as this will shape your education and future career at every level. But how does one choose a good mentor? She recommends that you should talk to as many people as you can about their experiences with a potential mentor. Mentees with good mentors will be delighted to talk about them! Most importantly, she also encourages you to trust your inner voice, your gut level feeling, about selecting your mentor.
Working in collaboration with others can be tricky. She believes in working with good people. Kind people who you respect and respect you, even with differences in opinion, will take you far in your career. Do not feel pressured to work with individuals who may be renowned and working with them could advance your career if they’re not respectful towards you or don’t appear to have your best interests at heart – it’s never worth it.
She also believes that even challenging experiences are essential to learning, even if it’s painful, because you can take away something important from it in retrospect. She jokes that if everything goes too perfectly for you, you probably have done something wrong.
She concludes by saying that the field needs people from diverse backgrounds – people who think differently from the established structure, people who can shift the paradigm, and people who can expand the field to its full potential.
The field needs you.
For more information about Dr. Jessee Dietch and her current work, please visit her website at https://jrdietch.com/ or her lab website at https://www.shaidlab.com/.