Clinical Psychology graduate Dr. Michelle Teale Sapach is awarded prestigious Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal

Dr. Michelle Teale Sapach

Recent Clinical Psychology doctoral graduate Dr. Michelle Teale Sapach has won Canada’s most prestigious student award – the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal (GGAGM). Presented to the student graduating with the highest academic average, the GGAGM has a 140 year history of recognizing the outstanding scholastic achievements of Canadian students.

This is the latest in a long line of honours for Teale Sapach, who completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at the UofR. As an undergrad she earned the Academic Gold award – recognizing her as among the top 1% of all students in the Faculty of Arts – in six different semesters. She was also a winner of the Academic Gold Prize, which is presented to students earning 95% or higher within a given semester. Likewise, she completed her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with an overall cumulative GPA of 91%, an achievement she also repeated at the doctoral level. This outstanding academic performance garnered her the prestigious Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarships from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, which she received for both her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation.

Much of Teale Sapach’s graduate-level research and training has focused on understanding the development, maintenance, and treatment of anxiety and trauma-related disorders, and she has produced an impressive set of publications during her time at the UofR. She has published 11 articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as 7 peer-reviewed book chapters and encyclopedia entries, not to mention her numerous national and international conference presentations. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Psychological Assessment, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, among other academic journals.

Teale Sapach’s doctoral research focused on the use of self-compassion in improving psychological well-being. Her dissertation comprised a clinical randomized controlled trial on the efficacy of self-compassion training in the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder. The trial was produced in collaboration with Dr. Kristin Neff, a world leader in this field of research. She completed this ambitious project within four years, all while concurrently completing graduate coursework, undertaking part-time clinical training placements, maintaining part-time employment, and finishing a full-time yearlong residency at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Center in Ottawa.

Teale Sapach’s doctoral research was the first to provide evidence that self-guided self-compassion training is beneficial for individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder, and her ground-breaking research is currently undergoing peer review by the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Her Ph.D. now complete, Teale Sapach has begun working full-time with the Regina Police Service, where she will develop and oversee the organization’s mental health strategy and programming. Having an in-house psychologist is new for the Regina Police Service, but is a growing trend in police services across Canada to better support the unique needs of first responder mental health.

In her role, Teale Sapach will perform pre-employment screening for new recruits, participate in the Service’s Critical Incident Stress Management team to ensure proper care and follow-up for members involved in traumatic incidents, liaison with the Service’s Employee Family Assistance Program providers and other community mental health professionals, provide regular psychological support for members working in high stress units and teams, as well as conduct program evaluation projects on the Service’s programming.

The Faculty of Arts extends the warmest congratulations to Dr. Teale Sapach on her academic success, and all best wishes to her in her newest professional role.

Posted 7 July 2020