Christina Tortolani headshot
Christina Tortolani, Ph.D., has considerable experience translating ivory tower science to real-world clinical spaces. She is joining Bryant University as associate professor and program director of the Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program.
New Psy.D. director: ‘We aim to be leaders at the forefront of emerging healthcare trends’
Jun 20, 2024, by Emma Bartlett

Christina Tortolani, Ph.D., brings more than a decade’s worth of expertise to her role as associate professor and program director of Bryant University’s new Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program. In recent years, she has served as a licensed psychologist with her own private practice and held positions at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and Rhode Island College. She has also pursued grant-funded research projects on training interdisciplinary clinicians and increasing access to evidence-based interventions for pediatric eating disorders. As someone with considerable experience translating ivory tower science to real-world clinical spaces, Tortolani shares her story and her exciting plans for the university’s first doctoral program:


What prompted your interest in psychology?

In high school, I took a community service class that impacted me greatly. As part of the class requirements, I spent time in an assisted living home and was paired with a woman, Evelyn, who told me stories about her life. I found myself drawn to her, and I admired how she had made such deep meaning out of life's ups and downs. Sitting with her as a 17-year-old, I felt seen, heard, and so lucky that she shared her stories and wisdom with me. I realized that what truly inspired me were relationships between people as well as human behavior — an insight that I validated while also taking a high school psychology class. My time with Evelyn was pivotal and put me on a path toward becoming a psychologist.


You went on to become a psychologist who specialized in child and adolescent mental health, which is one of Bryant's Psy.D. concentrations. Could you explain why this track is so important right now?  

Our concentrations reflect the Rhode Island community’s needs. Many parents today will tell you that it's extremely difficult to find a high-quality, experienced clinician who knows the science and is well practiced at treating children, adolescents, and families. For example, it's especially important for clinicians to understand how traumatic experiences may have impacted young clients and their families, and that requires significant training and expertise.

For our first concentration in child and adolescent psychology, students will train in a range of settings — including community mental health, hospitals, pediatric offices, college mental health, and private practices. Our second concentration in health psychology is designed to produce clinicians who have a more holistic understanding of health and illness and, in particular, of how biological, social, and cultural factors impact one’s health choices. Students will train in specialty practices such as cardiac rehabilitation, pain management, and oncology, to name a few.


The university’s Psy.D. program is selective, with only 15 available spots. What are the benefits of a small program size?

Small cohorts allow faculty and clinical supervisors to provide individualized mentorship and tailored feedback. That mentorship will help our students find values-based, purposeful work and a practice of self-care and self-awareness that will sustain them in doing this work.

A small cohort will also allow for a close-knit, collaborative community. Graduate school can be intense, and one's peer group can be a great support and provide a life-long sense of belonging. Some of my closest colleagues and friends today are those I met in grad school.


This program is the first of its kind in Rhode Island. How can it meet behavioral health needs regionally and nationally?

First and foremost, we developed this program to help address an acute shortage of equipped providers in our state and to help provide more equitable access to quality care. Of course, New England and the nation face similar challenges as we do in Rhode Island: communities everywhere are in dire need of quality behavioral healthcare professionals. We intend for Bryant graduates to make an important contribution to the behavioral health workforce.

More generally, we aim to be leaders at the forefront of emerging healthcare trends. In this regard, one of the most exciting and innovative parts of our program is its ability to tap Bryant's world-class business education resources. We’ll help our students become healthcare experts with strong business acumen, which means — critically — that they’ll understand how to deliver efficient, effective, and economically sustainable care. Our graduates will serve the community thanks not only to their training in evidence-based approaches but their understanding of the broader social and economic systems impacting healthcare.


What is your vision for Bryant’s Psy.D. program?

My vision is to build a program that's on the cutting edge of behavioral healthcare, one that empowers graduates to help solve some of the industry’s biggest problems. Since we announced our program, I've received many enthusiastic emails from colleagues across disciplines expressing their interest and desire to support the new Psy.D., whether through the teaching, mentoring, or supervising of our future students. That energy has been incredibly exciting and reinforces our program’s timeliness and relevance.  

Over the long term, I hope to help create an academic community that's aligned with values of excellence, integrity, self-reflection, awareness, and a sense of belonging. I love that the program is embedded in the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences, since that will allow our program’s faculty and students to foster interdisciplinary collaborations and explore healthcare issues from a holistic perspective.


Bryant’s Clinical Psychology program will welcome its first cohort in fall 2025. Click here to learn more about the program.

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