Featured Trainee - Anthony Reffi, MA, Clinical Psychologist

I am a fifth-year clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Northern Illinois University. Born and raised on Long Island, NY, I have spent the last few years exploring the Midwest and enjoying its slower paced lifestyle. My graduate training so far has focused largely on trauma psychology and PTSD, but I also have experience with exposure therapy for OCD and anxiety-based disorders. However, I am currently less focused on any particular disorder(s) than I am on the transdiagnostic implications of sleep, mindfulness, and experiential avoidance. BSM is a new area for me, but I am excited about its far-reaching clinical applications and research opportunities.

How did you get interested in BSM?

My interest was sparked by both my clinical and personal experiences. Early on in my clinical training, I began noticing the effect that sleep disturbances were having on some of my clients' symptoms. A poor night's sleep meant less concentration, motivation, and willingness to work on what was important to them. Then, during a practicum at a VA Medical Center, sleep problems were more pervasive and their consequences more apparent. As Veterans regularly struggled to fully engage during therapy sessions, it became clear to me that this was an issue relevant to mental health that deserved more attention. Personally, my own experiences with insomnia also helped drive me to BSM. Once I learned about CBT for Insomnia (CBT-I) and applied its techniques, I was amazed by the effect it had not just on my sleep, but on my overall wellbeing during the day.

What are your career goals?

Alongside BSM, I am also passionate about mindfulness. I believe that both mindfulness and BSM offer tremendous potential for bolstering people's resilience to adversity, broadly defined. Thus, a big goal of mine is raising awareness of, and promoting access to, BSM and mindfulness, and furthering our understanding of the ways in which mindfulness and sleep interact. 

What is your dream job?

Working in an academic medical center – really any setting that supports research, teaching, and clinical work.

Where would you like to see the field of BSM in 10 years?

I think the mental health field has adopted a dualistic perspective for too long, and I am encouraged by the increased attention being paid to the mind-body connection. For instance, there is exciting research being conducted on integrating CBT-I with Prolonged Exposure, a frontline treatment for PTSD. Given the transdiagnostic implications of sleep, and the brevity of CBT-I, I am optimistic that we will see more instances of this type of treatment pairing for other disorders moving forward.

What are your favorite things to do away from the office?

I am obsessed with mixed martial arts (currently more as a viewer than as a participant). I also love traveling, movies, podcasts, music, and live stand-up comedy.

Do you have any special hobbies or talents?

I enjoy photography and love creating music.

What experiences have helped shape your training in BSM?

Many of my clinical experiences left me wondering why sleep was so important for functioning within the context of psychopathology. This question served as the catalyst for my dissertation, the aim of which is to investigate the mechanisms that connect sleep with mental health symptoms. I think that project has been the real launch pad for my foray into BSM.

What resources have helped to advance your training?

The book Overcoming Insomnia: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach, by Jack Edinger and Colleen Carney (2014), was instrumental in learning CBT-I. It laid the foundation for how I conceptualize insomnia.