Touro Social Work Student Presents Research at New York Academy of Medicine

MSW Candidate Lisa Rubin Explores Dependency and Addiction Through iPhone Research Study and Fellowship

April 27, 2021
Lisa Rubin
Lisa Rubin

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Touro College Graduate School of Social Work student Lisa Rubin became more reliant than ever on her iPhone. She made her dependency the subject of a self-designed study for her Advanced Social Work Research class, which led to her presenting her study at the New York Academy of Medicine’s 12th Annual Social Work Student Night on Monday.

Social work practitioners as well as educators and graduate students from the major social work schools in New York State attended the virtual event and heard Rubin’s presentation: “The Effects of iPhone Screen Time Addiction on Productivity: A Single Subject Design Study.”

“During COVID-19 we were all kind of hooked on our phones as we tried to find some kind of escape,” said Rubin. “I was on my phone so much more than I had ever been in my life.”

Rubin used her Apple iPhone settings to track her screen time during a baseline period of six days and an intervention phase of 10 days. She used the Smart Phone Addiction Scale to measure her addiction over a baseline period of three days and an intervention phase of 10 days, as well. During the intervention phase she was prompted by alarms to replace screen time with other activities, like reading, exercising or watching television.

It worked. The results showed reduced use of the iPhone.

Implications for Social Work Practice

The research has implications for social work practice and may be effective for tracking unwanted behavior and intervening with a specific therapeutic approach, says Rubin.

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can come across any field of social work. This can be an effective way to demonstrate for a client how their target behavior impacts their life and the extent to which it can change with the help of intervention,” she said. “It may be empowering for a client to visually see the changes that can take place and the improvements it can make in their lives.”

Her academic advisor, Professor Kenny Kwong, Ph.D., LMSW, agrees, "Lisa learned that when working with individual clients, she can use this method to help her improve her clinical practice. If she has a client with depression, with this method she can say, 'Let's think clearly what kind of intervention will be helpful.' "

Relevance to Internship 

The timing of her research seems all the more relevant now because of her social work internship. Through Touro, since September she has been working in the field of chemical dependency, as a fellow in the federally-funded Opioid Workforce Education Program (OWEP) at the Areba Casriel Institute (ACI) in Manhattan. 

As an OWEP fellow at the rehab facility, she works with clients varying in age who have substance use or opioid use disorders and/or mental health disorders, helping to target specific behaviors like addiction. 

Although ACI is not her first experience working with vulnerable populations, Rubin was amazed by how drawn she was to the experience and says it's likely to set the tone for her professional path.  

"It was incredibly surprising to me that, while challenging and painful, with what our clients experience, [the work] is something I didn't know I was going to connect with so much," she says. "This has been one of the most valuable experiences I've had. I've felt like I was being trained for the real world. I was provided the opportunity to completely immerse myself in what it means to be a social worker." 

The OWEP fellowship, she says, has been the highlight of her time at Touro. Rubin is expected to graduate in June.