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VISN 2 Center for Integrated Healthcare (CIH)

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Robyn L. Shepardson, PhD

Clinical Research Psychologist







Robyn ShepardsonPhoto


Dr. Shepardson is a health services research investigator with the Center for Integrated Healthcare (CIH) based at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in Primary Care-Mental Health Integration (PCMHI). Dr. Shepardson earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Syracuse University. After completing an accredited pre-doctoral psychology internship in health psychology/behavioral medicine at the Brown Clinical Psychology Training Consortium in Providence, RI, in 2013, she joined CIH for clinical research training under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Funderburk.

Dr. Shepardson currently co-leads the Supporting, Evaluating, and Researching Veterans’ Integrated Care Experiences (SERVICE) Lab, a large lab with approximately 20 staff spanning 4 VA facilities, with Drs. Funderburk and Gass. In this role she provides training and supervision to research assistants, interns, fellows, and early career psychologists. Dr. Shepardson enjoys training and aims to help facilitate the professional development of her supervisees. She also values equity, diversity, and inclusion and is actively working to increase her own and others’ awareness of these critical domains.

Research Interests: Dr. Shepardson’s program of research aims to increase access to, engagement in, and effectiveness of patient-centered mental and behavioral healthcare that incorporates Veterans’ treatment preferences. Her work also emphasizes provider feasibility and acceptability to enhance implementation into clinical practice. Dr. Shepardson’s primary focus is developing, testing, and implementing brief, evidence-based interventions for anxiety and depression for Veterans seen in primary care through PCMHI. In 2022, she completed a 5-year HSRD-funded Career Development Award (CDA-2) in which she received formal training and mentorship in health services research methods as well as developed, refined, and evaluated a brief, transdiagnostic, modular, evidence-based anxiety intervention for PCMHI. She is currently PI on an HSRD merit grant for a hybrid I multisite RCT of the modular anxiety intervention compared to PCMHI usual care.

Dr. Shepardson’s other major line of research examines how PCMHI can support Veterans in self-management of mental health concerns as the first step within a stepped care model. She conducted an HSRD-funded pilot study with Dr. Funderburk on self-help for pandemic stress for Veterans with depression or PTSD who are not engaged in treatment. Dr. Shepardson is also interested in peer support and identifying ways to incorporate behavioral medicine (sleep, pain, weight loss, health behavior change, adjustment to illness, etc.) and sexual health (erectile dysfunction, sexual risk reduction, etc.) into primary care behavioral health services. She has also conducted research on sexual health, sexual risk behavior, and health behaviors including alcohol and hookah tobacco use.



Why do I mentor?

I have been fortunate to have outstanding mentors in graduate school and for my career development award while at CIH who have helped me immensely in my own professional development. Due to these valuable experiences, it is important to me to mentor trainees to help pay it forward. It’s very personally fulfilling to help others learn the ropes of the VA system and find their way in the immense field of psychology. I enjoy helping trainees develop new skills, learn about and challenge themselves, grow their confidence, and gain clarity on their educational and career goals.

How do I go about mentoring?

I use a developmental approach to mentoring that is tailored to the level and needs of each trainee. Initially, we identify strengths and growth edges so the trainee can develop short- and long-term training goals. As trainees gain experience and demonstrate competency in target domains, they take on gradually increasing levels of responsibility. My goal is to be able to adopt a junior colleague approach in which the trainee is becoming more of a collaborator and less of a “student” over time. As a mentor, I work hard to be highly available and responsive, provide timely feedback, and help trainees identify, develop, and/or pursue opportunities that will address their training goals. I attend to the supervisory relationship and try to foster clear lines of communication and mutual feedback.

My mentoring and training experience includes a variety of roles and levels, such as serving as: research mentor for a postdoctoral fellow; research supervisor for interns completing the CIH research rotation; clinical supervisor for fellows, interns, and practicum students working in PCMHI; and clinical research supervisor for a large team of Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD research staff. Thus, I have mentored and supervise trainees as they apply for pilot grant funding, conduct CIH pilot studies, write manuscripts, analyze data, present at national conferences, learn and deliver brief interventions, experience a major shift/evolution in career goals, pursue teaching and supervision opportunities, apply for graduate school, and more.

Areas I tend to Emphasize within Mentorship:

  • Exploring your research, clinical, and other professional interests
  • Considering professional ethics and equity, diversity, and inclusion in clinical and research endeavors
  • Learning the nuts and bolts of conducting clinical research in VA
  • Scientific writing (publications, grant proposals, peer reviews) and presenting skills
  • Strategically developing a research program that will be of long-term interest to you, key stakeholders, and funders
  • Time management, productivity, and other practical matters
  • Navigating personal/family and career goals in pursuit of work-life balance
  • Leadership skills and managing research staff
  • Expanding your professional network

Accomplishments of Previous Trainees Mentored by Me

  • Published peer-reviewed publications
  • Presented at national conferences
  • Awarded pilot grants
  • Developed new research collaborations

Accepting New Mentees

As part of the Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program, I am currently accepting new mentees.



Recent Publications (selected from over 55 peer-reviewed publications, find a complete list here):

Shepardson, R. L., Fletcher, T. L., Funderburk, J. S., Weisberg, R. B., Beehler, G. P., & Maisto, S. A. (in press). Barriers to and facilitators of using evidence-based, behavioral anxiety interventions in integrated primary care practice. Psychological Services. doi:10.1037/ser0000696

Shepardson, R. L., Funderburk, J. S., Weisberg, R. B., & Maisto, S. A. (in press). Brief, modular, transdiagnostic, cognitive-behavioral intervention for anxiety in Veteran primary care: Development, provider feedback, and open trial. Psychological Services. doi:10.1037/ser0000622

Funderburk, J. S., Gass, J. C., Wray, J. M., & Shepardson, R. L. (in press). Prevalence and predictors of team-based care activities between primary care providers and embedded behavioral health providers: A national survey. Journal of Interprofessional Care. doi:10.1080/13561820.2021.2004098

Shepardson, R. L., *Buckheit, K. A., & Funderburk, J. S. (2021). Anxiety treatment preferences among Veteran primary care patients: Demographic, mental health, and treatment-related correlates. Families, Systems, & Health, 39(4), 563-575. doi:10.1037/fsh0000628

Shepardson, R. L., *Mitzel, L. D., Trabold, N., Crane, C. A., Crasta, D., & Funderburk, J. S. (2021). Sexual dysfunction and preferences for discussing sexual health concerns among Veteran primary care patients. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 34, 357-367. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2021.02.200326

Funderburk, J. S., Pigeon, W. R., Shepardson, R. L., Wade, M., Acker, J., Fivecoat, H., Wray, L. O., & Maisto, S. A. (2021). Treating depressive symptoms among Veterans in primary care: A multi-site RCT of brief behavioral activation. Journal of Affective Disorders, 283, 11-19. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2021.01.033

White, E., Wray, J. M., & Shepardson, R. L. (2020). Clinical considerations in designing brief exposure interventions for Primary Care Behavioral Health settings. Families, Systems, & Health, 38, 439-449. doi:10.1037/fsh0000543

Shepardson, R. L., Minnick, M. R., & Funderburk, J. S. (2020). Anxiety interventions delivered in Primary Care Behavioral Health routine clinical practice. Families, Systems, & Health, 38, 193-199. doi:10.1037/fsh0000493

Shepardson, R. L., Kosiba, J. D., Bernstein, L. I., & Funderburk, J. S. (2019). Suicide risk among veteran primary care patients with current anxiety symptoms. Family Practice, 36, 91-95. doi:10.1093/fampra/cmy088

Shepardson, R. L., Johnson, E. M., Possemato, K., Arigo, D., & Funderburk, J. S. (2019). Perceived barriers and facilitators to implementation of peer support in Veterans Health Administration primary care-mental health integration settings. Psychological Services, 16, 433-444doi:10.1037/ser0000242

Shepardson, R. L., Buchholz, L. J., Weisberg, R. B., & Funderburk, J. S. (2018). Psychological interventions for anxiety in adult primary care patients: A review and recommendations for future research. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 54, 71-86. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2017.12.004

Shepardson, R. L., Tapio, J., & Funderburk, J. S. (2017). Self-management strategies for stress and anxiety used by non-treatment seeking Veteran primary care patients. Military Medicine, 182, e1747-1754doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-16-00378

Shepardson, R. L.
, Funderburk, J. S., & Weisberg, R. B. (2016). Adapting evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral interventions for anxiety for use with adults in integrated primary care settings. Families, Systems, & Health, 34, 114-127. doi:10.1037/fsh0000175



Recent Presentations (selected from over 90 conference presentations):

Shepardson, R. L., & Funderburk, J. S. (2022, November). Patient feedback on utility of mental health self-management strategies within a crisis self-help intervention. Poster presented at the 56th Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New York, NY.

Shepardson, R. L., Livingston, T., Tauriello, S., Johnson, E. M., Possemato, K., Arigo, D., & Funderburk, J. S. (2022, October). Perceived strengths and challenges with varied roles for peer specialists in integrated primary care. Paper presented at the 24th Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, Boise, ID.

Shepardson, R. L., Funderburk, J. S., Weisberg, R. B., & Maisto, S. A. (2021, October). Brief transdiagnostic modular CBT intervention for anxiety in primary care: Effectiveness and implementation results from a pilot hybrid I randomized controlled trial. Paper presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, Madison, WI (virtual).

Mitzel, L. D, Shepardson, R. L., Johnson, E. M., & Funderburk, J. S. (2022, October). Patient perspectives on the acceptability of a Whole Health values assessment tool. Paper presented at the 24th Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, Boise, ID.

Shepardson, R. L., Fletcher, T. L., Funderburk, J. S., Weisberg, R. B., Beehler, G. P., & Maisto, S. A. (2020, November). Barriers to and facilitators of delivering CBT anxiety interventions in integrated primary care. Poster presented at the 54th Annual Convention of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Philadelphia, PA (virtual conference).

Funderburk, J. S., Pigeon, W., & Shepardson, R. L. (2019, October). Methodological and practical considerations for assessing suicidal ideation: Guidance for health services researchers. Poster presented at the 2019 VA HSR&D/QUERI National Conference, Washington, DC.

Funderburk, J. S., Shepardson, R. L., & Pigeon, W. (2019, October). Practical strategies for effective recruitment, enrollment, and retention of veterans in mental health research. Paper presented at the 2019 VA HSR&D/QUERI National Conference, Washington, DC.

Shepardson, R. L., Funderburk, J. S., Sunderji, N., Studts, C., & Polaha, J. (2019, October). Program evaluation intensive: Practical training in selecting measures and data collection methods to obtain useful outcome data. Preconference workshop presented at the 21st Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, Denver, CO.

Shepardson, R. L., Funderburk, J. S., Weisberg, R. B., & Maisto, S. A. (2019, October). Using provider and patient feedback to refine the treatment manual for a brief primary care anxiety intervention. Poster presented at the 21st Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, Denver, CO.



Recent Grants:

Principal Investigator (2021-2025) Improving anxiety treatment engagement and effectiveness in primary care-mental health integration: multi-site hybrid I RCT of a brief Veteran-centered anxiety intervention. VA Health Services Research & Development Merit Grant, $1,184,396

Co-Investigator (2023-2025). Leveraging COVID-19 to modernize depression care for VA primary care populations (PI: Leung). VA Health Services Research & Development Service-Directed Research Grant on Pandemic Disruptions to Care, $699,999

Multi-Principal Investigator (2021-203). Optimizing a low-cost, low-burden self-help crisis intervention to improve mental health and reduce suicidality among at-risk primary care patients during crisis (MPI: Funderburk). VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Clinical Demonstration Project, $193,178

Principal Investigator (2021-2022) Refining and Evaluating a Transdiagnostic Group Intervention for PCMHI. VA Center for Integrated Healthcare Pilot Grant, $14,054

Co-Investigator and Research Mentor (2021-2022). Improving patient engagement through Whole Health: Veteran perspectives on a values assessment tool (PI: Mitzel). Center for Integrated Healthcare Pilot Grant, $5,448.

Co-Investigator (2020-2022). Adjunctive team enhanced intervention to improve suicide prevention evidence-based practices in primary care (PI: Funderburk). American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Standard Research Grant, $99,970.

Multi-Principal Investigator (2020-2021). Piloting a self-help intervention to improve Veteran mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic (MPI: Funderburk). VA Health Services Research & Development COVID-19 Rapid Response Project, $101,844.

Principal Investigator. (2018). Development of a primary care self-management intervention for anxiety and depression. Center for Integrated Healthcare Pilot Grant, $1,080.

Principal investigator. (2017-2022). Improving primary care anxiety treatment engagement and effectiveness. VA Health Services Research & Development Career Development Award-2 (CDA-2), $750,881.


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