Our Research Team

Edward P. Rawana, Ph.D., C. Psych


Spanning over four decades, Dr. Edward Rawana’s career in psychology has been a continuous and colourful journey toward the subject he is most passionate about: strengths.  He is highly active in exploring and promoting the assessment of psychological strengths and incorporating this information into practical methods that address issues of education, addiction, and mental health. 

His broadly-based research and clinical interests have encompassed a variety of populations including youth in conflict with the law, and those exhibiting other challenging and potentially high-risk behaviours. Many organizations that address these types of challenges have benefitted from their consultations with Dr. Rawana.  This research has also extended to working specifically with the Aboriginal population involving children, adolescents, and, more recently, adults.

To assist these efforts, Dr. Rawana co-created a psychometric tool called the Strengths Assessment Inventory (SAI) for children and adolescents which is featured on its own website at strengthassessment.ca and has attracted considerable attention from a wide range of professionals who also work with youth in varying capacities throughout Canada and internationally.  There is also a working version of the SAI for adults, whose development is still in progress.

Dr. Rawana provides training and consultation to teachers, parents, and clinicians on the implementation of these strength-based methods, with an emphasis on providing a framework for utilizing strengths in addressing behavioural challenges in children and youth. As interest in the strengths-based perspective continues to build, so do Dr Rawana’s attempts to meet the needs of school boards and youth-oriented agencies. He continues to develop cooperative relationships to facilitate improvements in the emotional, social, behavioural, and academic functioning of students, children, and youth, including prized partnerships with several Northwestern Ontario school boards.

His work in the growing area of strengths involving children, adolescents, and their families has resulted in the authoring or co-authoring of over 30 academic and professional publications on the subject.  This includes the foundational book Reshaping School Culture: Implementing a Strengths-Based Approach in Schools which lays out fundamental concepts of a strengths-based approach and its application within the educational system.  His most recently co-authored book is a companion manual, Strengths and the Ontario Language Curriculum: Strengths-Based Lessons for Grades 4-6.

From the beginning of his career, Dr. Rawana’s research and publications have always been collaborative ventures involving other faculty members and graduate students.  This deliberately inclusive approach has created numerous opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary undertakings with similarly oriented practitioners and academics, resulting in their collective efforts having impacted fields as diverse as clinical psychology, social work, education, nursing, and nedicine.

While foremost a child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. Rawana is also a professor with the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University as well as a professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.  He also previously served as an associate professor at Lakehead. Prior to that role, as an adjunct professor, he was extensively involved in the supervision of Lakehead’s graduate psychology students, in enhancing their clinical and research skills, and in publishing articles.  The university campus is also home to the Centre of Education and Research on Positive Youth Development (CERPYD) of which he has been the director since 2010.  


Dr. Keith Brownlee, Ph.D.           

Director of Research

Dr. Brownlee is a professor in the School of Social Work at Lakehead University. He teaches courses on clinical practice and research and statistics. Dr. Brownlee is known internationally for his work on Northern Social Work practice. He has published nine edited books on Northern Social Work practice as well as over a hundred chapters and journal articles about the practice of social work, family therapy and strength based clinical work (see ResearchGate).

Aside from issues related to northern practice Dr. Brownlee’s research interests include: the assessment of child, adolescent and family strengths, facilitating change with families and individuals using strength based and solution oriented models of therapy and general questions related to clinical practice in northern and rural areas. Keith is a co-author of the Strength Assessment Inventory for Children and Adolescents (Rawana, E. P. and Brownlee, K. 2009). This document has been developed to evaluate the psychological strengths of children and adolescents.

Dr. Brownlee maintains membership with the Ontario College of Psychologists and the Canadian Psychological Association.  He has provided professional mental health services to families and individuals for more than twenty years. Aside from individual and group therapy, he has experience as a family therapist, play therapist, supervisor, clinical director, executive director and consultant.



Dr. Andrew Friesen, Ph.D.

Psychology & Kinesiology - Lakehead University

Andrew completed his Ph.D. at the University of Wolverhampton in England, specializing in sports psychology and emotion regulation. He holds a Masters of Arts in kinesiology (University of Ottawa) and a Bachelor of Arts (University of Winnipeg) in psychology and kinesiology & applied health. Previously, he was a member of the Emotion Regulation of Others and Self research group (erosresearch.org). He is currently completing a postdoctoral fellowship in England. Andrew is an applied practitioner having provided mental training with Hockey Canada, BaseballSoftballUK, and the Canadian National Sports Centres. 

Associate Researchers

Dr. Josephine Tan, Ph.D., C. Psych

Psychology – Lakehead University

Dr. Josephine Tan is a Clinical Psychology faculty member at Lakehead University. She was one of the researchers with the original Centre of Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs when it was funded in 2000.  She worked on the Centre's Mental Health Task Force with the Government of Nunavut and the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line (NKHL) to assess the use of the help line.  Her work on suicide among Inuit continues to this day with the objective of promoting our understanding of historical and sociocultural issues to inform effective suicide prevention efforts, and integrating western and Indigenous intervention models of mental health.  Her other research activities include mental health and well-being and resilience among university students and refugees within the context of gender and culture. 

Dr. Brian Ross, Ph.D.

Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Dr. Brian Ross received his training in biochemistry and neuropharmacology from the University of Glasgow in the UK.  He then moved to Toronto as a research fellow at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health, later working as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto.  After working to establish a mental health research unit at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness, UK, he became a founding faculty member of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine at Lakehead University's Thunder Bay campus, where he is also a member of the Masters of Public Health Program faculty and an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Biology.  His research interests focus on the role of lifestyle factors, particularly nutrition, in maintaining good mental health as well as in understanding the molecular basis of behaviour.

Dr. Jennine Rawana, Ph.D., C.Psych.

Psychology – York University

Dr. Rawana completed her PhD from Lakehead University and a postdoctoral fellowship in Adolescent Mental Health Promotion and Prevention at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Centre for Prevention Science.  She is currently an associate professor in the Clinical Developmental Program in the Department of Psychology at York University.  She is also a member of the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research at York University and a supervising psychologist at the newly-formed York University Psychology Clinic.  Dr. Rawana has broad research, clinical, and teaching interests in child and adolescent psychology. Specifically, her research interests involve studying the emergence of normative and atypical emotional development from early adolescence to emerging adulthood.  Current projects also include developing and evaluating school-based prevention and mentoring programs that reduce mental health issues and build upon the strengths of culturally-diverse youth including Aboriginal youth.

Dr. Jessica Whitley, Ph.D.

Education – University of Ottawa

Jess Whitley is an assistant professor of Inclusive Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa. She is also a senior researcher with the Centre of Research on Educational and Community Services at the University of Ottawa, and a member of the Comprehensive School Health Educational Research Unit in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa. Her research interests include exploring the psychosocial well-being of students with exceptionalities including relationships between classroom- and school-level factors, student self-concept, and internalizing and externalizing behaviours. She is currently assessing teacher perceptions and beliefs with regard to students’ mental health difficulties with the goals of improving mental health literacy among pre- and in-service teachers and ultimately improving outcomes for students.