Amy Drahota, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Professor, San Diego State University, Department of Psychology

Contact Information

San Diego State University
Department of Psychology
CASRC
3020 Children’s Way, MC 5033
San Diego, CA 92123-4282
T: (858) 966-7703 x3155
F: (858) 966-7704
adrahota@mail.sdsu.edu

Biography

Amy Drahota, PhD: Licensed psychologist, Assistant Research Professor at SDSU, and Research Scientist at CASRC. Her U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded research focuses on improving the lives of individuals with mental and behavioral health needs, and is especially focused on the needs of individuals with autism. This is accomplished by building up community agencies that provide services to individuals with mental and behavioral health needs, improving access to care, and developing interventions to meet needs through collaboration with researchers, practitioners and innovators. Current work: Testing an autism implementation toolkit for community agencies, piloting a weight-loss intervention for youth with autism.

Research Interests

Research Focus

Dr. Drahota runs the Autism Treatments Lab (ACT Lab) at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center (CASRC). Current ACT Lab research spans from intervention development to implementation of established evidence-based practices for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The overall goal of the ACT Lab is to improve the lives of individuals with mental and behavioral health needs, and is especially focused on the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. This is accomplished by building up community agencies that provide services to individuals with mental and behavioral health needs, improving access to care, and developing interventions and service systems to meet needs through collaboration with researchers, practitioners and innovators.

Dr. Drahota’s current research focuses on developing and pilot testing the Autism Community Toolkit: Systems to Measure and Adopt Research-Based Treatment). The ACT SMART Toolkit is an evidence-informed, comprehensive implementation strategy designed to assist ASD community-based agencies successfully implement evidence-based practices. ACT SMART consists of four phases that systematically guide agency leaders and implementation teams in meeting goals that lead to successful decisions about choosing and implementing new treatments. Specifically, ACT SMART:
  • Assists in identifying training and service delivery gaps and selecting effective treatments to meet agency-wide needs. 
  • Facilitates treatment adoption decisions. 
  • Guides designing effective training and implementation strategies. 
  • Supports efforts that will sustain use of effective treatments. 
Additionally, Dr. Drahota is currently developing and testing a parent-only group intervention for weight-loss in youth with autism. This study will primarily test the feasibility, acceptability, and utility of the intervention, and secondarily test the intervention’s effect on weight-loss in children with autism (age 5-13 years) who are overweight or obese.

Clinical and Teaching Focus

Dr. Drahota’s ACT Lab involves undergraduate and graduate level students as well as postdoctoral fellows, and strives to develop knowledge and skills, confidence, independence, and productivity of those in the lab by supporting individualized growth. Students and fellows are encouraged to develop independent projects and interests that will provide career development opportunities.

In addition to providing research experience to students and fellows through the ACT Lab, Dr. Drahota is a licensed psychologist and provides clinical mental health services to youth with autism and related disabilities through the Autism Discovery Institute at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. Moreover, Dr. Drahota is frequently invited to lead seminars and train psychology students, interns and fellows in anxiety cognitive behavioral therapy as well as modifying treatments for youth with autism.

Publications

  • Drahota, A., Meza, R., Naaf, M., Spurgeon, E., Dufek, S., Estabillo, J., Vejnoska, S., Brikho, B., Stahmer, A. C., & Aarons, G. A. (Accepted). Community-Academic Partnerships: A systematic review of the state of the literature and recommendations for future research. Milbank Quarterly. 
  • Drahota, A., Stadnick, N., & Brookman-Frazee, L. (2014). Therapist perspectives on training in a package of evidence-based practice strategies for children with autism spectrum disorders served in community mental health clinics. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Research, 41(1), 114-125. 
  • Drahota, A., Aarons, G.A., & Stahmer, A.C. (2012). Developing the autism model of implementation for autism spectrum disorder community providers: A study protocol. Implementation Science, 7, 85. 
  • Drahota, A., Wood, J. J., Sze, K., & Van Dyke, M. (2011). Effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy on daily living skills in children with high-functioning autism and concurrent anxiety disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41, 257-264. 
  • Wood, J. J., Drahota, A., Sze, K., Har, K., Chiu, A., & Langer, D. A. (2009). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders: A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 224-234.

Current Projects

K01MH093477 (NIMH) Developing the Autism Model of Implementation for ASD Community Providers

UA3MC25735 (HRSA) Family-Based Weight-Loss Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder (FBT-ASD)