A Moment with Ashleigh Golden is part of our interview series featuring thought leaders in research and healthcare. Each interview includes 7 short and stimulating questions.
1. Tell us something we don’t know. (Anything!)
The word “peninsula” comes from the Latin for “almost” (paene) and “island” (insula). My undergraduate degree was in Classical Languages and Literatures, so I can’t help but parse etymologies.
2. Which fiction book would you recommend to researchers and innovators in healthcare, and why?
Of all the books that I read in high school, nothing underscored the power of empathy and the consequences of its failures than Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley’s tale portrays a perceptive creature, an outsider, who longs to be understood. Through this creature, a supposed monster, we re-connect with our humanity and experience empathy on a very deep level.
For me, empathy is a fundamental faculty when building out products that actually meet the needs of users. While we can empathize with our users in terms of the common human experience, we can’t assume that our tech worker experiences directly apply to our user populations. We must incorporate our users at multiple points in the product development cycle to make sure we’re crafting products that are useful and appealing to them. It’s vital to understand the barriers that our users may be facing and harness our empathic sensibilities, diverse perspectives, and problem-solving tools to systematically address these.
3. What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?
In health tech, we often assume that users are perfectly ready to start making difficult changes to their health behaviors, when in fact, users may be deeply ambivalent about doing so, and may be facing real systemic roadblocks in addition. We’re working on several projects that help users recognize and address psychological and societal obstacles to implementing these changes. I’m thrilled that our talented team is figuring out how to help users overcome such barriers in ways that are also engaging and delightful.
4. Who’s doing something that you admire in healthcare today, and why is it so cool?
I deeply admire Stephen Smith and the team at NOCD for helping to democratize access to Exposure and Responsive Prevention (ERP), the evidence-based, gold-standard approach to treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. Companies like NOCD and Equip are paving the way for others offering subspecialty care at scale. I’m also excited that companies, like Hurdle and Plume, are starting to cater to specific marginalized communities, underscoring the need for culturally relevant care.
5. What’s the biggest barrier to getting things done in your line of work?
Working with highly specialized, talented, empathic people on a multidisciplinary team, there can be a tendency to over-consult and review excessively. We’re always striving for that balance between careful consideration of one another’s perspectives and moving forward in an efficient way.
6. Imagine you win an award for impacting healthcare. What did you do?
Hopefully, I helped to make a dent, however small, in helping increase organizational commitment to fighting systemic oppression both internally and through products and programs offered. Ideally, I also helped users from marginalized populations gain access to and benefit from culturally responsive, evidence-based care.
7. What advice would you give innovators in healthcare?
Become an expert at accepting uncertainty. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that some behavioral health tech leaders struggle with worry and anxiety, which go hand in hand with a difficulty tolerating uncertainty. This intolerance fuels all sorts of unhelpful, time-consuming behaviors, like chronic worry, avoidance, excessive checking and researching, seeking reassurance, etc. Anxiety Canada has some great resources on learning to manage uncertainty in healthier ways.
I’ve also noticed that some leaders tend to struggle with maladaptive perfectionism, setting unachievable standards for themselves and others, viewing mistakes as evidence of failure, and getting depressed when faced with disappointment. A wise supervisor once told me to “strive for mediocrity” . . . I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d certainly encourage innovators to become familiar with the differences between unhealthy perfectionism and the healthy pursuit of excellence and work towards acting more consistently with the latter.
More about Dr. Ashleigh Golden
Dr. Ashleigh Golden is a Stanford-trained clinical psychologist fostering mental health in vivo and virtually. She combines her background in journalism and Classics with expertise in empirically sound psychological interventions to craft meaningful, effective behavioral health content and programs. Her clinical passion lies in the evidence-based treatment of obsessive-compulsive and anxiety-related disorders. She completed a two-year specialty postdoctoral fellowship under the direction of Alec Pollard, PhD at the Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute’s Center for OCD and Anxiety-Related Disorders (COARD), where she acquired a subspecialty in using cognitive-behavioral treatments to work with patients with OCD and anxiety disorders struggling with treatment ambivalence and resistance. She went on to supervise and manage intensive and partial hospital programs for OCD and anxiety disorders across the country, including COARD in St. Louis, the Anxiety Treatment Center in Sacramento, and the Gateway Institute and Rogers Behavioral Health in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dr. Golden has a passion for helping other clinicians develop solid case formulations and treatment plans for tough cases, as well as helping them problem-solve ‘stuck’ points in treatment. She frequently provides case consultation to clinicians in private practice.
Having served as staff psychologist at the Facebook Wellness Center and as Program Manager of Google’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), she is experienced in applying evidence-based psychological principles and practices to workplace well-being. She enjoys consulting with tech leaders to create cultures in which mental health support is structurally woven into the DNA of the organization.
Dr. Golden has held various roles in mental health tech (Kick, AeBeZe Labs, HackMentalHealth), most recently serving as Policy Enforcement Manager for Suicide & Self-Harm at Google and as Director of Therapy at Brightside.
In her current role as Clinical Director of Behavioral Health at Lark, a mobile app for chronic disease management, she leverages behavioral design principles and proven psychological frameworks to innovate and optimize virtual behavioral health products. She applies her clinical specialty in working with ambivalent and resistant patients to drive engagement in and adherence to evidence-based digital behavioral health programs.
She loves applying her clinical experience, compassion, and broad knowledge of empirically-supported behavior change models to collaborate with teams and leaders to build effective, engaging digital behavioral health tools.
Dr. Golden is a Diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, a registered Health Service Psychologist, and a graduate of the International OCD Foundation’s Behavior Therapy Training Institute. She is licensed in California and Missouri and holds certificates from the Telebehavioral Health Institute and from Irrational Labs in Behavioral Health Design.
She believes in actively giving back to her community, and currently act as Community Director for Therapists in Tech. In her spare time, she enjoy lindy hop and salsa rueda, writing short stories, and teaching coping skills on TikTok through her shih tzu Cosette (@shihtzuskills.)