Bettina Hodel brings her own case studies of mentally ill prisoners at Atascadero State Hospital to graduate psychology courses.
Psychologist Bettina Hodel spends most of her days in prison.
No, the board certified behavioral therapist is not doing time. She performs assessments of severely mentally ill prisoners at Atascadero State Hospital on California’s central coast and develops behavior modification plans for staff members to utilize with the inmates. Her specialty is working with developmentally disabled inmate patients who may also have dementia.
One night each week, she brings her extensive research and practical experience to CLU, where she teaches behavior modification in the graduate psychology program. The psychologist culls case studies from her daily field experience to illustrate common obstacles and ways of overcoming them.
Educated in Switzerland, Hodel did her undergraduate work at the University of Fribourg and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Berne. She served as a senior research psychologist at Berne and an assistant professor at the University of Geneva before coming to the United States in 2000.
Petite and passionate, she started working with dementia patients during her graduate student years. At that time, patients with dementia were known only as cognitively limited. She kept pace with the emerging field and eventually won international recognition within it.
In order to become a licensed psychologist in California, Hodel was required to complete a multi-year internship. “It was almost like starting over,” she said.
She began working with prisoners as an intern at California Men’s Colony, where she was later a psychologist in the Developmental Disabilities Program. Now she continues that work as a senior psychologist specialist at Atascadero. She also has a private practice working with dementia patients in skilled nursing facilities.
Hodel’s evaluative studies of treatment interventions have been published in three languages in peer journals. She has made multiple international presentations about psychosocial interventions for patients with cognitive impairments (especially dementia) and mental illness. Most recently, she presented at conferences in Ireland, Scotland and California.
A passion for teaching and an introduction by psychologist Timothy Kuehnel ’69 brought Hodel to CLU in 2003, and she keeps coming back. “I love teaching at CLU,” she said. “I like to have contact with young people who like to learn. It’s a wonderful experience.”