Carryl P. Navalta, PhD

Carryl NavaltaCore Faculty and Clinical Associate Professor

72 East Concord Street
Robinson Building – Suite B-212
Boston, MA 02118


I received my BS in Psychobiology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and my MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from Binghamton University (SUNY) in Binghamton, NY.


I am a core faculty member of the MHCBM Program and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.  From 1998 to 2011, I was on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.  I worked during this period as a clinical and research psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital (2008-2011) and McLean Hospital (1998-2008).  Although my general area of expertise is mental health disorders of childhood and adolescence, I have a strong interest in the neurobiological and psychosocial consequences of early psychological trauma as well as effective interventions for such sequelae.  To that end, I was an investigator on several NIH grant-funded projects focused on understanding the neurobehavioral effects of childhood maltreatment (e.g., sexual and physical abuse, verbal abuse, witnessing domestic violence, and other adverse childhood experiences [ACEs]).  I also served as a researcher on a SAMHSA-funded center devoted to developing, adapting, evaluating, and disseminating effective treatment approaches for traumatized children and youth, such as Trauma Systems Therapy (TST).  Presently, I am an investigator and clinical research supervisor at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute.  Clinically, I use a scientist-practitioner framework and provide evidence-based mental health interventions.  Specifically, I conduct applied behavior analysis, behavior therapy, and cognitive behavior therapy from both a developmental psychopathology and cultural/contextual perspective.  My overarching mission is to improve the lives of children and adolescents who are either at risk for or already have impairing and/or distressing mental health problems.

Questions and Answers

Q: Please describe your theoretical orientation and teaching philosophy?

A: Behavior and cognitive-behavior approaches are the predominant evidence-based interventions for mental health problems during childhood and adolescence. However, the interaction of biological and psychosocial forces drives both typical and atypical human functioning. That is, both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ work in synergy to guide development. As a means to link these issues, I use a developmental psychopathology framework to orient both my research and therapeutic work. This model spans across scientific fields, including psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, and molecular biology, to best inform how children and youth can become impaired and dysfunctional and, in turn, how this maladaptive course can ultimately be redirected toward a normalized developmental trajectory.

Educating the next generation of practitioners is highly important given the public health impact of mental health problems locally, nationally, and globally. Because of this great need, I follow a philosophy of teaching that strives for excellence in students’ critical thinking and clinical savvy as they develop and mature into their future professional lives. To that end, I use a combination of didactic and experiential learning activities to ensure that students gain the necessary knowledge and competencies that they can use to effectively help individuals in need of mental health services and support.

Q: Why did you choose to be a faculty member in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program?

A: I was exposed early on to the gratifying and meaningful experiences of a career in the ‘helping professions’ because of my father’s identity and work as a physician. Although I began undergraduate studies with the expectation to subsequently attend medical school, I eventually steered toward a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology. This education ‘opened my eyes’ to the equal importance of psychological health and physical well-being. My college experiences also included an introduction to the delivery of mental health services at both ends of the service-setting continuum (i.e., home and inpatient hospital unit), which showed me that psychotherapeutic care can be compassionately and effectively provided regardless of where delivered. Moreover, I had the privilege during this time to meet a preeminent psychologist and psychiatrist who both encouraged me to pursue a doctoral program in psychology that emphasizes excellence in research as well as clinical training. Fortunately, I was accepted to and subsequently attended a program that fostered my development as a mental health professional in the scientist-practitioner tradition. To this day, my professional work in the mental health field continues to align with the definition of psychology and related fields as a “science of human behavior”.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program?

A: As a mid-career Counselor Educator, I believe that I have attained sufficient clinical wisdom to effectively educate the next generation of licensed mental health clinicians. I also strongly feel the duty to pass along what I have learned over the years to my students. Moreover, I become immensely gratified whenever I get that ‘sense’ that my students are truly learning and consequently maturing both personally and professionally. This genuine impact that I can have on future practitioners is what continuously motivates me to teach and what gives me joy.