Seema Clifasefi, PhD
Member since: 2005
Her job: Clifasefi is an assistant
professor in the psychiatry and behavioral
sciences department at the University of
Washington and the co-director of the
Harm Reduction Research and Treatment
Lab at the University of Washington–
Harborview Medical Center in Seattle,
where she works with chronically
homeless people with alcohol dependence
with the goal of creating harm-reduction
interventions and programs.
From research to practice: Clifasefi
earned her PhD in psychology from
Victoria University of Wellington, New
Zealand, where she studied how alcohol
placebos affect eyewitness memory.
In 2003, she came to the University
of Washington for a postdoctoral
fellowship and learned about harm
reduction. The school’s pragmatic
approach and compassionate philosophy
won her over.
Working with the community:
Clifasefi’s research with the homeless
takes her out into the community,
where she hopes to lower the barrier
between the clients and herself. “The
interaction with these individuals is
my favorite part of my work,” she says.
Working with the community has shown
her the frustrating side of psychology.
Good science takes time, she says, but
people can’t wait the 14 years it might
take to develop a good intervention for
a specific population. “Hopefully, co-creating the interventions with affected
community members in the relevant
communities is one answer to that
frustration,” she says.
Balancing family and work:
Although Clifasefi does not see her
work as a job, she makes sure she takes
time for herself and for her family. She
goes offline one day a week to catch up
on research or exercise — she recently
discovered cycling. She also spends at
least one weekend day with her two
sons and husband. In addition, the
family takes a vacation every winter
to New Zealand, where her husband
grew up. Her work has influenced her
children, who want to be scientists
and do something for the good of the
community. “I don’t think my 5-year-
old understands as much,” she says. “My
8-year-old is pretty in tune and is proud
of what his mom does.”
— HEATHER MONGILIO
Each month, “Random Sample” profiles
an APA member. You may be next.
Harm-reduction researcher, community advocate and inspiring mom of two.