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Kimberly O'Brien, PhD, LICSW

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Hospital Title:
Clinical Researcher in Psychiatry
Academic Title:
Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Research Focus Area:
SuicideSubstance abuseIntervention DevelopmentMental Health
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Research Overview

Dr. O’Brien is in the second year of a Young Investigator Grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention where she is testing a brief alcohol intervention for adolescents who have attempted suicide, for which she has recently started the design of a mHealth booster with funding from the Tommy Fuss Center for Neuropsychiatric Disease Research. She is also currently co-developing and testing a smartphone application intervention for suicidal adolescents and their parents, conducting a qualitative study to examine the preparatory thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making processes among adolescents who have attempted suicide, and is developing and testing a safety planning intervention for suicidal adolescents and their families. In addition, she is leading a study of LGBTQ youth drop-in centers where she is examining substance use, suicide-related thoughts and behaviors, and other related risk and protective factors among sexual and gender minority youth. Dr. O’Brien recently co-developed a course on Understanding Suicide which is now being disseminated and taught nationally, and is the co-director of a Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment training grant for social work students, funded by SAMHSA.

About the Researcher

Kimberly H. McManama O’Brien, PhD, LICSW, is a Clinical Researcher in Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital with a joint appointment at Harvard Medical School as an Instructor in Psychiatry. She also holds a Research Scientist appointment at the Education Development Center. Dr. O’Brien is committed to a research agenda focused on the development and testing of brief interventions for suicidal adolescents and their families, with an additional specialization on adolescents who use substances. Her research also involves the training of social workers and other health professionals in suicide- and substance-related knowledge and brief interventions. Dr. O’Brien received her BA from Harvard University, MSW and PhD from Boston College, and completed her postdoctoral training at Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (mentor Dr. Anthony Spirito).


Publications powered by Harvard Catalyst Profiles
  1. O'Brien KHM, Knight JR, Harris SK. A Call for Social Responsibility and Suicide Risk Screening, Prevention, and Early Intervention Following the Release of the Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Oct 01; 177(10):1418-1419.
  2. O'Brien KH, Hernandez L, Spirito A. Parental monitoring affects the relationship between depressed mood and alcohol-related problems in adolescents. Subst Abus. 2015; 36(1):82-4.
  3. O'Brien KH, Singer JB, LeCloux M, Duarté-Vélez Y, Spirito A. Acute behavioral interventions and outpatient treatment strategies with suicidal adolescents. Int J Behav Consult Ther. 2014; 9(3):19-25.
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