Dr. Catherine Costigan

Dr. Catherine Costigan

Dr. Catherine Costigan is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Victoria. After receiving her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1996, Dr. Costigan joined the department in 1998 and has been with the Centre for Youth and Society since 2017. Dr. Costigan’s research focuses on risk and protective factors within vulnerable families while investigating family relationships, parent-child dynamics, and child psychological adjustment. Beyond research, Dr. Costigan also provides family, couples, and child/adolescent therapy to families experiencing relationship distress, child mental health struggles, and migration and acculturation challenges.

For many years, my research has focused on various aspects of settlement, integration, and family relationships in immigrant and refugee families. 

— Dr. Catherine Costigan

Dr. Costigan co-founded the Victoria Migrant Mental Health Network (ViMMH) with CFYS Research Fellow Dr. Fred Chou and Dr. Nancy Clark. ViMMH is a network of local mental health practitioners and academics which aims to facilitate collaboration and social action to support the mental well-being of migrants. Dr. Costigan has also collaborated with Dr. Chou’s research lab, Dr. Clark and Prof. Jin Sun Yoon to produce ‘Cultivating Growth & Solidarity,’ an anti-racism zine for youth. This project was created at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to promote anti-racism and reduce harm brought to Asian people.

Dr. Costigan and her research team have several ongoing projects, such as the Immigrant and Refugee Parenting Workshops. Dr. Costigan conducts annual parenting workshops for immigrant and refugee parents in partnership with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS). This program primarily focuses on Chinese and Arabic-speaking communities while routinely evaluating the workshops to improve the program.

Recently, in collaboration with VIRCS, Dr. Costigan is investigating strength-based approaches in supporting refugee families, specifically identifying the best ways to promote social inclusion of families into the community with a project called Fostering Community Social Cohesion to Welcome Refugee Families. Following a workshop with newly arrived refugee families, Dr. Costigan identified a critical difference in the experience of privately sponsored refugee families and government-assisted refugee families. Privately sponsored families benefit from social ties within the community that significantly aid their transition. Dr. Costigan, in collaboration with VIRCS, has conducted research to identify key principles to consider when creating programming that is intended to foster inclusion and social cohesion. The intention is to promote social programs and events that give all newcomers a sense of belonging in their new community, regardless of their pathway into Canada.

Dr. Costigan, with her colleague Dr. Erica Woodin, is also involved with the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program, which is designed for individuals with significant health challenges who require community support. Dr. Costigan and colleagues conducted two studies to investigate how police involvement would affect ACT teams. Although this is a complicated question, overall, the results of this research indicated that police involvement on ACT teams supported better outcomes for individuals receiving ACT services than would have been achieved without officer involvement. Dr. Costigan is currently conducting research to understand the effects of stress and trauma on ACT team staff during the COVID pandemic to identify ways in which organizations can best support their interdisciplinary health care teams.  

Recent publications

Costigan, C.L., Taknint, J.T., Mudryk, E., & Al Qudayri, B. (2021). Building community: Connecting refugee and Canadian families. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000428 

Costigan, C.L. (2020). Adopting community-based research principles to enhance student learning. Canadian Psychology, 61(2), 111–117. https://doi.org/10.1037/cap0000207  

Miao, S.W., Costigan, C.L., & MacDonald, S.W.S. (2018). Spillover of stress to Chinese Canadian immigrants’ parenting: Impact of acculturation and parent–child stressors. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 9(3), 190–199. https://doi.org/10.1037/aap0000105 

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