PsyD Dissertations

Recent examples of PsyD dissertation abstracts completed by Antioch University Santa Barbara students.

Dalia Ruiz: “Assessment and Treatment of Latino Childhood Complex Trauma: Examining the Therapeutic Approach of Cuentos and Dichos as Cultural Modifications to CM-TFT

Chair: Salvador Trevino, PhD
Second Faculty: Susan Ferrant, PhD
External Expert: Evelin Gomez, PhD

Michelle Greenspoon Barrett: “The Relationship Between Empathy and Humor Styles and Secondary Traumatic Stress in the Public Mental Health Workplace

Chair: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
Second Faculty: Brett Kia-Keating, EdD
External Expert: Thomas E. Eby, PhD

Erin Elizabeth Holley: “The Lived Experience of Adolescents who Engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury”

Chair: Steve Kadin, PhD
Second Faculty: Allen Bishop, PhD
External Expert: E. David Klonsky, PhD

Hamideh Golestaneh: “The Emotional Impact of Forced Migration on Iranian-Americans”

Dissertation Chair: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
Second Faculty: Indushree Rajan, PhD
External Expert: Taghi Amjadhi, PhD

Venice Nicole Bruno: “Personhood and Parenthood: An Experiential Account of Balance and Well-Being”

Chair: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
Second Faculty: Randy Wood, PhD
External Expert: Elizabeth Shorin, PhD

Lorraine Gray: “Perceived Gender Role Conflict and Violence: Mexican American Gang Members”

Chair: Steve Kadin, PhD
Second Faculty: Salvador Trevino, PhD
External Expert: James O’Neil, PhD

Kandice Timmons: “Understanding the ‘Refugee’ of Hurricane Katrina: An Exploration of Titles, Time and Post-Traumatic Growth”

Chair: Salvador Trevino, PhD
Second Faculty: Karen Lehman PhD
External Expert: Gilbert Reyes, PhD

Jason Arkin: “What’s in a Name? The Influence of an ADHD – Inattentive Type Label on Perceived Social Competence as Viewed by Mental Health Professionals and Teachers”

Full abstract not available.

Chair: Salvador Treviño, PhD
Second Faculty: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
External Expert: Stephen Hinshaw, PhD
Student Reviewer: Betsy Bates Freed, PsyD

Jennifer Bailey: “Using What Works: Psychologists’ Attitudes About Exercise as an Adjunctive Treatment for Depression”

A substantial body of research supports the use of exercise as an adjunctive treatment for depression. However, studies also show that psychologists and other mental health professionals are reluctant to incorporate substantive behavioral interventions encouraging physical activity into their treatment plans for depressed patients. This qualitative study of 12 clinicians’ attitudes about using exercise as an adjunctive treatment for depression concludes that psychologists generally support this kind of intervention but encounter a number of conceptual and structural barriers, including: Discomfort with the role of psychologist as change agent, difficulty taking a directive approach in therapy, lack of familiarity with research and frustration with accessing and implementing research into everyday practice, lack of training in physically-based interventions in graduate school, difficulty integrating a substantive theory of mind-body interrelatedness into case conceptualization, and structural isolation from resources such as connections with fitness trainers or physical therapists. This last barrier also reflects the conceptual isolation of the role of psychologist from the broader field of health professionals, based on a longstanding separation of mental from physical health. These barriers are mitigated by the personal exercise experiences of psychologists, which encourage them to utilize this treatment despite the barriers they encounter. On the basis of these findings, hypotheses for further studies are developed and recommendations made for change at the level of research, training, and clinical practice.

Chair: Steve Kadin, PhD
Second Faculty: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
External Expert: Michael Otto, PhD
Student Reviewer: Laura Beltran, MA

Laura Beltran: “The Development of Intimate Partner Relationships among Men Sexually Abused as Children”

This phenomenological study sought to understand the experience of seven men who came forward to contribute and discuss their intimate partner relationships for what relational intimacy could reveal about themselves, the meaning of intimate partners, and their understanding of being in intimate relationships. The theoretical assumptions applied to this study are: (a) Childhood sexual abuse interferes with the ability to reach into deeper experiences of idealized love; (b) Negative effects of adult relational attachment are manifested in anxiety related to sexual intimacy, fear of emotional intimacy, and inability to fulfill dependency needs such as trust, love, and security; and (c) A decline in the development of a strong therapeutic alliance. This research was guided by two central questions: (a) Research Question 1: What are the lived experiences of intimacy among men who were sexually abused as children? and (b) Research Question 2: How do men who were sexually abused as children describe their experiences with intimacy? Research data was gathered and organized by utilizing a phenomenological approach. An interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to analyze the transcripts. Based on their experiences in developing intimate partner relationships, the participants were able to construct meaning about their childhood sexual abuse and intimate partner relationships. Nineteen themes emerged (1) interpersonal safety woven in the fabric of sexual abuse, (2) need for trust, connection, and openness, (3) ambiguity in the need for emotional reassurance and mistrust of interpersonal relatedness, (4) sexual dysfunction, (5) emotional/intimacy distance, (6) healing while attempting to negotiate intimate relationships, (7) vulnerable to being hurt/betrayed, (8) disintegration of real and perceived intimacy beliefs, (9) understanding, (10) communication, (11) non-abusiveness, (12) exposure to relational bonding and interconnectedness, (13) religion and faith, (14) loyalty, (15) physical/verbal affection, (16) conflicted adult relational attachments, (17) fear of sexual intimacy, (18) fear of emotional intimacy, and (19) fear of vulnerability. These themes were organized according to three overarching themes: (a) Negative intersubjectivity, (b) Ambivalence in the need for emotional interconnectedness and mistrust of interpersonal relatedness, (c) Insecure adult relational attachments.

Chair: Salvador Trevino, PsyD
Second Faculty: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
External Expert: Rhiyan Quiton, PsyD
Student Reviewer: Alison Hoffman, MA

Melissa Cervantes: “Bringing Hope to Those Forgotten: Is the Provision of Transitional and Supportive Housing Effective in Reducing Homelessness? A Quantitative Analysis of Willbridge of Santa Barbara, Inc.”

This quantitative study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of homeless housing programs in increasing the income, life skills, and residency of clients. Data were gathered for 43 clients of WillBridge of Santa Barbara, Inc., provider of both transitional and supportive housing to homeless, mentally ill clients; 17 study participants were current clients, 26 had exited the program. Data collected included client participation in each of several program activities, as well as data on employment, income, and residency factors. The goals of the study were to determine not only the overall effectiveness of the program, but also the impact of specific program activities on meeting each program goal.

Results from the study support the effectiveness of the program in meeting goals: both income and life skills were significantly improved amongst clients, and several clients obtained residency, as defined by this study. The prediction that specific program activities would be significantly related to client change was supported: Attainment of employment was significantly related to the completion of job applications, attainment of a bank account, participation in interview training, and resume writing; increase in income was significantly related to interview training and having employment; having contact with a family member was significantly related to obtainment of housing upon exit from the program.

This study contributes to the body of knowledge on the effectiveness of homeless housing programming; transitional and supportive housing programs providing services to homeless, mentally ill clients can utilize the results to provide areas for specific focus when working with clients toward goals of attaining employment, and increasing income, life skills, and residency. It is reasoned that the inclusion of program activities shown to be effective in this study will prove similar effectiveness in each of these areas in other programs. Additional program evaluation research, utilizing a larger sample taken from several transitional and supportive programs, is suggested to further knowledge of the effectiveness of specific program components on positively impacting homeless individuals.

Clemencia Figueroa: “The Relationship Between Sense of Coherence and Psychological Well-Being Among Latino Immigrant Farm Workers, ‘Jornaleros de Trabajo’ “

Sense of Coherence (SOC) is a construct that refers to the extent to which a person sees his or her world as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. Based on this theoretical orientation, people with a high SOC are less likely to perceive environmental stressors as threatening and are better able to adapt and maintain positive psychological well-being (Antonovsky, 1978). The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between Sense of Coherence (SOC-29) and its three subscales Comprehensibility (CO), Manageability (MA), and Meaningfulness (ME) and psychological well-being. It was hypothesized that high score in SOC and its subscales would predict positive psychological well-being, as measured by the Psychological General Well-being Index (PGWBI-22), among Latino immigrant farm workers “jornaleros de trabajo” working in agricultural fields in or near Santa Maria, California. A cross sectional study was used. A sample of 83 immigrants completed the self-assessment SOC-29, PGWBI-22 and socio demographic questionnaires. Simple linear regression analyses were applied to evaluate the sample data. Age, gender, and the interaction effect between gender and the overall SOC and between gender and each SOC subscale were included in the regression models to ensure the outcome obtained would be free from potential effects impacted by these confounding variables. The result of the analyses showed partial support in the direction of the stated hypothesis. It was determined that Comprehensibility and Sense of Coherence Total positively predicted psychological wellbeing, while Meaningfulness and Manageability yielded no significant effect. Additionally, age also predicted psychological well-being in each of the simple regression analyses tested. We concluded that Sense of Coherence, Comprehensibility and age positively and significantly predicted psychological well-being among immigrant jornaleros de trabajo.

Chair: Steve Kadin, PhD
Second Faculty: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
External Expert: Manuel Casas, PhD
Student Reviewer: Ray Hwang, PsyD

James Fortman: “Computer-Based Cognitive Training for Age-Related Cognitive Decline and Mild Cognitive Impairment”

This quantitative study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of homeless housing programs in increasing the income, life skills, and residency of clients. Data were gathered for 43 clients of WillBridge of Santa Barbara, Inc., provider of both transitional and supportive housing to homeless, mentally ill clients; 17 study participants were current clients, 26 had exited the program. Data collected included client participation in each of several program activities, as well as data on employment, income, and residency factors. The goals of the study were to determine not only the overall effectiveness of the program, but also the impact of specific program activities on meeting each program goal.

Results from the study support the effectiveness of the program in meeting goals: both income and life skills were significantly improved amongst clients, and several clients obtained residency, as defined by this study. The prediction that specific program activities would be significantly related to client change was supported: Attainment of employment was significantly related to the completion of job applications, attainment of a bank account, participation in interview training, and resume writing; increase in income was significantly related to interview training and having employment; having contact with a family member was significantly related to obtainment of housing upon exit from the program.

This study contributes to the body of knowledge on the effectiveness of homeless housing programming; transitional and supportive housing programs providing services to homeless, mentally ill clients can utilize the results to provide areas for specific focus when working with clients toward goals of attaining employment, and increasing income, life skills, and residency. It is reasoned that the inclusion of program activities shown to be effective in this study will prove similar effectiveness in each of these areas in other programs. Additional program evaluation research, utilizing a larger sample taken from several transitional and supportive programs, is suggested to further knowledge of the effectiveness of specific program components on positively impacting homeless individuals.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Steve Kadin, PhD
External Expert: David Fox, PhD
Student Reviewer: Betsy Bates, PsyD

Chelsea Gottfurcht: “The Psychology of Money Profile: Analysis of a New Instrument”

The ubiquitous influence of money in the modern world is an undeniable truth. There are salient associations between money and love, self-worth, freedom and power that suggest the psychological study of the meaning of money is a major resource to the field of psychology and specifically an asset for clinicians. Despite the apparent value of this argument, the area of research into the internal world of one’s relations to money has received little attention in psychological literature. The Psychology of Money Profile was developed as a clinical tool that organizes a client’s beliefs and behaviors in regards to money and can assist a therapist in conceptualizing and working with a client’s underlying dynamics that influence his or her interactions with money. The operating construct thought to be measured in the profile is described as “prosperity thinking.” The research questions driving this study were interested in understanding the relationships between scores on prosperity thinking and other variables such as financial stress in order to provide an initial statistical bases of durability for future research and validation of this instrument. The hypotheses investigated were: 1) the wealth attainment gap correlates inversely with total scores, 2) financial stress correlates inversely with total scores, 3) the wealth attainment gap and financial stress are positively correlated and 4) present wealth attained correlates positively with total scores. Pre-existing questionnaire material was used to perform correlational and post-hoc regression analyses, which demonstrated significant support for each hypothesis in addition to providing a model of prosperity thinking. Implications include the future establishment of the Psychology of Money Profile as a tool in which therapists may frame and develop the exploration and growth of their clients’ journey in healing unresolved internal conflicts that have become associated with money.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Barbara Lipinski, PhD, JD
External Expert: Adrian Furnham, PhD
Student Reviewer: Dore Lavering, MA

Ray Hwang: “The Well-Being of Chinese Immigrant Sons: Importance of Father-Son Attachment, Father Involvement, Father Acceptance and Adolescents’ Phenomenological Perception of Father-Son Relationship”

The present study examined the influence that father’s residency status and father-child relational qualities have on adolescent psychological adjustment, behavioral outcomes, scholastic achievement, self-identity acculturation, and the subjective well-being of Chinese male immigrants from intact, two-parent households. The relational qualities of interest under investigation consisted of father-son attachment, father involvement, and father acceptance-rejection, from the phenomenological perception of children. A total of 86 participants were included in the overall multivariate analyses – 53 in the father present and 33 in the father absent group, respectively. Results indicate that father attachment positively predicts adolescent psychological adjustment in the father present group, independent of mother-child attachment. However, the importance of peer attachment to psychological health and subjective well-being is also observed. The protective effect that father attachment has against psychological maladjustment or personality disposition development is neutralized after adjusting for peer attachment, but not vice versa. In addition, father acceptance also positively associates with adolescent psychological adjustment, whereas father rejection increases the risks of negative personality dispositions. These findings are preliminary due to the small sample size and an overrepresentation of participants with higher educational background.

Chair: Dr. Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Dr. Steve Kadin, PhD, ABPP
External Expert: William Liu, PhD
Student Reviewer: Joe Becher, MA

Jennifer Renae Newhard: “Coping Responses and Mental Health Symptoms in Incarcerated Juvenile Males”

Coping responses develop throughout the lifespan of an individual. Unfortunately for some, difficult life circumstances may lead to the use of maladaptive forms of coping. This study is an investigation of coping responses amongst male incarcerated juvenile offenders and has been designed to examine which specific mental health symptoms may be contributing to specific coping responses. The goal of this study is to determine whether male incarcerated juvenile offenders utilize avoidant coping responses over approach coping responses. Also of interest is whether specific mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and disruptive behaviors, are more prevalent amongst those who utilize avoidant coping responses. De-identified, archival data for the Coping Responses Inventory-Youth and the Beck Youth Inventory-II, previously obtained during routine intake assessments collected from sixty-two (62) male incarcerated juvenile offenders placed in a probation camp, ages 12-18, were used in order to investigate coping and self-reported mental health symptoms. Results confirmed that incarcerated male juvenile offenders tend to utilize avoidant coping responses as opposed to approach coping responses. Furthermore, participants that utilized avoidant coping responses were more likely to endorse mental health symptoms of depression, anger, and disruptive behaviors, and were less likely to utilize approaching coping responses. The significance of these findings indicate that male incarcerated juvenile offenders are less likely to approach distress behaviorally and cognitively, and are less likely process distress in a manner that will produce emotional growth.

Chair: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
Second Faculty: Marlene Valter, PsyD
External Expert: Kirsten Olson, PsyD
Student Reviewer: Francisco Ortiz, PsyD

Kimberly D. Robbins: “The Origin of a Sense of Self in Women”

This phenomenological study focuses on how a strong sense of self in women changes social precepts and gender stereotypes empowering women to define themselves instead of being defined by society. A sense of self may be defined as the ability to distinguish one’s own values from those of any outside persuasions, and to do so well enough to be able to protect those ideals from unwanted external influence. Is a sense of self, realized at a young age, an innate feeling or developed over time through adversity and the maturation process? This study will specifically look at what influences can be attributed to gaining a strong sense of self. For women in the twenty-first century, the barrage of multiple directives can mean the difference between success and failure. American culture sends strong messages about who women should be, what women should be, and how they are supposed to look and behave. Eight women between the ages of 55-70 were nominated for having a strong sense of self. Mental health professionals, university professors, and colleagues were contacted with the criteria for the nomination process. These criteria included women whom they considered as having a strong sense of self, emotional stability, and the ability to maintain boundaries. The eight women nominated described their lived experience of having a strong sense of self over the course of approximately eleven hours of audio-recorded interviews. Using a phenomenological analysis a sense of self was interpreted to observe common themes.

Chair: Barbara Lipinski, PhD, JD
Second Faculty: Salvador Treviño, PhD
External Expert: Roberta Nutt, PhD
Student Reviewer: Garrett Wyner, PhD

Martha Ruiz: “Fatherhood and Partner’s Postpartum Depression: Coping, Relationship Satisfaction, Gender Roles, and Empathy”

The present study focused on assessing differences in new father’s coping styles when living with a partner suffering from symptoms of postpartum depression. It further investigated whether a relationship existed between father’s coping style and their level of relationship satisfaction, empathy, and views on gender. Five fathers, between the ages of 27 and 46 volunteered their participation in this study. Fathers were recruited through their partners from medical and mental health clinics and agencies offering services to new mothers or mothers suffering from symptoms of postpartum depression. The Coping Responses Inventory (CRI) was utilized to determine if differences existed in fathers coping. The Relationship Assessment (RAS), Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), and Sex-Role Egalitarianism Scale, Form BB (SRES), assisted in measuring level of relationship satisfaction, empathy and gender roles, respectively. To assist with the completion of this study, a quantitative research design was selected and applied. The use of a case study approach was further implemented to articulate if there was uniformity or differences in father’s coping styles and to examine any associations between father’s coping and their level of relationship satisfaction, empathy, and views on gender roles. Hypotheses were then tested across the five case studies. The study found that men differ in coping styles when their partners are suffering from symptoms of postpartum depression. Significant associations were not found between coping, and father’s level of relationship satisfaction, empathy and views on gender.

Chair: Salvador Treviño, PhD
Second Faculty: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
External Expert: Deborah L. Moffett, PhD
Student Reviewer: Garret Wyner, PhD

Alexandra Schmidt: “The Impact of Voluntary Aftercare on Recidivism Rates for Adult Male Sex Offenders”

The recidivism rate of eighteen sex offenders participating in Stepping Up, a voluntary aftercare program, was compared to the overall recidivism rate of convicted sexual offenders in California in order to determine the effectiveness of voluntary participation in a post-mandated treatment program. Attendance for a minimum of six months in Stepping Up was required for inclusion in the study, and recidivism rates were calculated by a review of records. Although participants in the Stepping Up aftercare program had a re-offense rate of 0%, results were not statistically significant when compared with California’s overall recidivism rates. While a 0% recidivism rate is noteworthy when compared with the statewide average of 9.1%; the small size of this initial study is a barrier to meaningful statistical analysis. Additional studies of larger similar groups are recommended in order to determine the potential value of aftercare as a protective factor against recidivism.

Co-Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Co-Chair: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD

Dore Lavering: “The Relationship Between Attachment Style and Boundary Thickness”

Despite the multitudes of research on attachment and many different aspects of relational structures, only one study to date has researched the relationship of adult attachment to boundary thickness. The possible benefits to understanding this relationship would provide therapists and clients a better conceptualization of individual’s internal working model of attachment. This study investigated the relationship between the Hartmann Boundary Questionnaire (HBQ), a measure of boundary thickness, and an adult romantic attachment measure, the Experiences in Close Relationships Inventory-Revised (ECR-R) two dimensions of attachment. This study theorized that attachment anxiety would be related to thinner boundaries and conversely attachment avoidance would be related to thicker boundaries. Subjects were 89 mostly college educated adults with an average age of 42 who were recruited through Facebook and email. All of the participants completed a demographic questionnaire, the ECR-R, and the HBQ (self-report questionnaires) and given an option for debriefing via the website SurveyMonkey. My hypothesis was not supported having weak correlations between attachment anxiety to boundaries (r of .264) and attachment avoidance to boundaries (r of .077). However, upon analyzing the subscales of the HBQ with both attachment anxiety and avoidance a moderate correlation was found between attachment anxiety and unusual experiences on the HBQ(r or .4).  This correlation may have greater implications for exploring self and identity within an attachment perspective and further our understanding of attachment. It would be useful to pursue this avenue of research in the future in better understand the reasons for this correlation.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Salvador Treviño, PhD
External Expert: Steven Krugman, PhD
Student Reviewer: Chelsea Gottfurcht, PsyD

Francisco Ortiz: “Negotiating Social Roles and Global Satisfaction with Life in Clinical Settings”

The pairing of two distinct constructs such as Social Role Theory and a subgroup of Subjective Wellbeing, namely life satisfaction, were used to illustrate differences in Clinical and Non-Clinical subjects. First, the results further strengthened the notion that Non-Clinical subjects were significantly more satisfied than Clinical ones. Secondly this study concluded that, contrary to first anticipated, the number of social roles identified by the Clinical group was slightly higher than those of the Non-Clinical group. This finding grants further exploration as it suggests that the presence of an additional social role (i.e., that of being a person diagnosed with a mental illness) does not result in the subjects failing to identify and/or describe themselves in multiple additional ways. Thirdly, the most significant outcome of this study came as the result of the third hypothesis, which predicted a positive relationship between number of Social Roles and Life Satisfaction. The data gathered indicated that with an increase in the number of social roles, an increase in life satisfaction followed. Further, this relationship was found to be independent of participants belonging to either Clinical or Non-Clinical group.

Chair: Sharleen O’Brien, PsyD
Second Faculty: Albert Munoz-Flores, PsyD
External Expert: Rhiyan A. Quiton, PsyD
Student Reviewer: Jennifer Newhard, MS

Amanda Schnibben: “Enchanted: A Qualitative Examination of Fairy-Tales and Women’s Intimate Relational Patterns”

Fairy-tales and myth have long been held as ways of communicating what is happening in society and within a culture. This dissertation study examined the interview narratives of 10 women in regard to the impact of fairy-tales and myth on female identity in the context of intimate relationship patterns. The study utilized definitions of fairy-tale and myth derived from Biechonski’s (2005) frameworks, while augmenting these conceptualizations with depth psychology perspectives. Findings were produced by using qualitative, phenomenological methods (Merriam, 2009).Findings demonstrated that some of the women identified with fairy-tales when young while all participants felt that real life is difficult in contrast to the typical fairy-tale stories that Western women follow in which an easeful outcome to an engagement in romantic partnership is portrayed. Common themes that emerged throughout this study were those of status, external factors such as appealing fashions and coiffed hair, familial upbringing and witnessing the parental relationship. Having experienced a loving attachment from the parents emerged as a guiding theme, as did positive qualities having been witnessed in the parental relationship itself. Such themes as respect between the parents, communication, and commitment were also present in the narratives. In summary, eleven themes emerged from the interviews. The themes were Cinderella/Beauty and the Beast, Prince Charming, External Factors, Status, Familial Upbringing, Parents, Respect, Communication, Commitment, Connection, and Independence. Some possible implications for clinical work were discussed.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Salvador Treviño, PhD
External Expert: Dr. Melissa Jones-Cantekin
Student Reviewer: Courtney Keene-Viscomi

Carolynn Shor: “Treating Bipolar Disorder: Investigation into the Integration of Quality of Life in the Treatment Plan”

This qualitative bounded case study focuses on how the therapist integrates the quality of life into his or her treatment plan when treating a bipolar patient. Quality of life may be defined as an individual’s perception of his or her position in life in relation to psychological and physical health, social relationships, goals, expectations, and environment (WHO, 1995). This study specifically explored how therapists treat their bipolar patients and how they integrate QoL into therapy Two men and seven women were interviewed in Santa Barbara, California. The criterion for participants included licensed psychologists who have treated at least one bipolar patient in the past. Participants were recruited from local agencies as well as through connections through fellow mental health professionals, university professors and colleagues. Using a case study analysis, an integration of quality of life was interpreted to observe common themes.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Randy Wood, PhD
External Expert: Gail Brenner, PhD
Student Reviewer: Jenna Gunnels, MA

Lamar Smith: “Conceptualizations of Wisdom in the Native American Community”

This qualitative study examined implicit theories of wisdom in a sample of adult individuals who identified as Native American. The research question focused on definitions of wisdom as they exist in the Native American Community. A total of eight participants were asked to answer the question “What is wisdom and how does one become wise?” Interviews approximately 60 minutes in length revealed several themes in participant’s conceptualizations of wisdom. The study revealed that participants believed wisdom to be based on fundamental building blocks of a worldview of interconnectedness, a collectivist social structure, and an individual value system promoting personal development.

Participants outlined the worldview of interconnectedness as involving components of caretaking, both of others and of nature, and connections through a higher power, which reportedly lead to understandings of the consequences of being out of balance with their connection to nature and others and a desire to use knowledge for the greatest good possible. Participants pointed to a collectivist social structure comprised of family, elders, and the larger community as providing a sense of context for understanding one’s place in life, facilitating the sharing of knowledge from one generation to the next, often through the medium of storytelling, and community structures and roles that promote the growth of wisdom.

Participants reported an individual value system promoting personal development as a central component to the development of wisdom including learning from mistakes, life experience, and learning patience. Discussions of the findings include recommendations for therapist and educators in fostering wisdom in their students and their clients.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Steve Kadin, PhD
External Expert: Arieahn Matamonasa-Bennett, PhD
Student Reviewer: Dustin Weissman, MA

Denise Jaimes Villanueva: “The Impact of Council on Early Adolescents”

Throughout history, attempts have been made to influence children’s social behavior through programs and policies in schools. While well-intentioned, such programs are sometimes introduced and perpetuated without evidence about whether they fulfill their goals and objectives. Council is a program that has been implemented in schools since 1980 to foster tolerance and social connection. The Center for Council Training started more than 50 programs in California, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, New York, and Israel. The Council Practitioners Center started to integrate Council into schools in the Los Angeles School District and has a goal of expanding Council throughout California and other states. Council is a type of group communication intended to encourage students to share stories that may lead to processing conflict, inspiration, skilled decision making, improvement in academics, and stronger relationships with others. These goals are based on the principles of deep listening and sharing in Council. This qualitative study represents an initial effort to explore the impact of Council on early adolescent children ages 11-13 years old. Nine middle school students were interviewed. Core findings included: (a) Council provides a safe environment in which one is able to share emotional and personal stories that promote healthy relationships, (b) Council is a positive experience for participants promoting an optimistic outlook on life and (c) Council promotes self-identity formation through fostering personal growth and valuing of life. Implications for further research and possible benefits of this study are discussed.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Linda Holder, PhD
External Expert: Lewis Mehl Madrona, MD, PhD
Student Reviewer: Betsy Bates Freed, PsyD

Garret B. Wyner: “The Wounded Healer: Finding Meaning in Suffering”

In modern history, no event has more profoundly symbolized suffering than the Holocaust. This novel “Husserlian-realist” phenomenological dissertation will attempt to elucidate the meaning of existential trauma through an interdisciplinary and psychologically integrative vantage point. We will use the testimony of a select group of Holocaust witnesses who committed suicide decades after that event as a lens to examine what their despair may reveal about us. They bore witness to an unprecedented existential, moral, and spiritual crisis of humanity that threatens to undermine our faith in human history and any inherent goodness at the core of reality itself. But by distinguishing what they actually saw about our condition from what they merely believed about reality, we will show there is a reliable hope that can fulfill the highest reaches of human nature in the worst conditions. This I call a Psychotherapy of Hope.

To this end, I will provide a broad overview of the four main forces of psychotherapy to evaluate the role each may play in healing this crisis. This will serve as a stepping-stone for a more detailed elucidation of empathic understanding within an “I/Thou” altruistic relationship having power to transform human personality from the inside out. We shall see that the primary barrier to individual and collective transformation is no mere value-neutral indifference, but “cold” indifference or opposition to an objective good whether in the form of inherited prejudices or a more intentional rebellion against one’s own conscience. But as we come to realize that no one can avoid a faith commitment, we may also realize that the only solution to this crisis is our reliance on a self-transcendent good or benevolent super-ego worthy of our trust.

In sum, an adequate Psychotherapy of Hope requires an experientially based synthesis of core therapeutic disciplines (e.g., psychology, philosophy, and spirituality) along with an integration of our various psychological orientations by a shared reliance on a transcendent good that the spiritual witnesses in every age call love. By means of this love we can find meaning in our suffering to become more than we are, better than we are, and even transform human life as we know it. By love we may heal our wounds.

Chair: Juliet Rohde-Brown, PhD
Second Faculty: Sharleen O’Brien,PsyD
External Expert: Donna Orange, PhD, PsyD
Student Reviewer: Kimberly Robbins, PsyD