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Congrats 2014 PsyD Grads!

Congratulations to all of our 2014 PsyD graduates! Read about their dissertation research below. Dissertations will be available to students, faculty, and staff in the ProQuest database this fall.

Lena AgreeAgree

The Experience of Being in a Long Term, Monogamous, Heterosexual Relationship That Regularly Incorporates BDSM

This study examined the question, What is the experience of being in a long-term, monogamous, heterosexual relationship that regularly incorporates BDSM? A review of the literature revealed that BDSM has frequently been pathologized through conflation with paraphilias or with sadistic or masochistic personality disorders. It has also been simply defended as a form of leisure activity or manifestation of sexual orientation. This investigation applied the qualitative method of narrative inquiry to capture the story of the participants’ BDSM relationships. Detailed accounts of eight relationships were obtained in semi-structured, in-depth, joint interviews. The following six common themes were identified: (a) Heterogeneity among relationships, (b) The role of pain in physical play, (c) The emotional function of SM, (d) Attraction to SM structure, (e) The importance of the SM community, and (f) Concern over boundaries. The findings of this study evidence the diversity and complexity of these relationships, particularly regarding the underlying attraction to this lifestyle, a topic that has been largely neglected in the literature. Based on analysis of the data, the researcher offered hypotheses regarding the role of BDSM in emotion regulation, as a transitional phenomenon used to deny an ungratifying external world, and as a vehicle for achieving enhanced intimacy and dyadic closeness within a monogamous relationship.

Hannah Kay Allen-MillerAllen-Miller

Animal Assisted Psychotherapy: An Exploration of The Adult Client’s Experience of Individual Psychotherapy with the Assistance of a Dog

This study examined the question: What is the adult client’s experience of individual psychotherapy with the assistance of a dog? The narrative model of qualitative research was used to co-create meaning from the stories of the participants’ lived experience. The narrative accounts of seven participants consisting of five females and two males ranging in age between 25 and 67 years old were obtained through in-depth interviews. Participant’s reasons for seeking therapy varied (i.e., Major Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Interpersonal Conflicts etc.,); as did their time spent in therapy with the therapist dog team, ranging from12-15 sessions to 6 years. Eight themes were identified through a detailed data analysis, which included feedback from the participants. The first three themes were general and found among the majority of the participants: 1) Participants were comforted by the dog; 2) There was a perception of the dog as being accepting and non-judgmental; 3) Participants developed a special relationship to the dog. The next three themes were typical and found in over half of the participants: 4) The dog provided a connection to the therapist, 5) Participants perceived the dog as…, 6) Participants described the dogs role in therapy as…. Finally there were two variant themes found in just less than half of the participants with three noting that 7) The distractions caused by the dog were found to be needed breaks, and three of the participants stating that they 8) Trusted the dogs more than humans.

Andrew R. ChampineChampine

The Physician’s Existential Experience of Medicine

This qualitative study employed a narrative research method to investigation the question, “What is the physician’s existential experience of medicine?” A literature review was conducted and produced three primary areas relevant to the subject. These areas were defined as medical discourses, existential givens relevant to medicine, and physician’s experiences of the existential givens. Twelve physicians from varying specialties in medicine and with varying levels of experience were interviewed to produce narrative material for analysis. This study utilized the analysis of narrative method, which examined the individual narratives around the existential givens: death, freedom-choice-responsibility, connection-isolation, and meaning. The existential given death included two major themes that were identified as forms of coping and expectations towards death. Three subthemes were identified for forms of coping with death, including approaches of coping through avoidance, accommodation, and addressing death. The existential given freedom-choice-responsibly included two major themes that were identified as thrownness in medicine and realizing freedom-choice-responsibility. The third existential given isolationconnection had two major themes that were identified as connections to peers and connections to patients. With regard to the final existential given, meaning, one major theme emerged as a finding across participants identified as meaning derived from helping others. Discussion on the findings of this study provides implications for practice and future areas of investigation.

Colleen M. DaminoDamino

The Experience of Religious Rejection Based on a Minority Attractional Orientation: A Phenomenological Investigation

This qualitative research study examined the question, What is the experience of religious rejection based on a minority attractional orientation? The current literature suggests that dissonance often exists when a person identifies as both religious and with an attractional minority orientation (also referred to as sexual orientation). It further suggests that individuals are likely to experience a struggle between the two facets of identity. A review of the literature revealed that there are no studies that have qualitatively examined the lived experience of religious rejection based on attractional orientation. In this study, the transcendental phenomenological methodology was used to uncover the essence of the experience of religious rejection based on minority attractional orientation. Twelve self-identified gay or lesbian individuals who have experienced religious rejection took part in qualitative interviews. Seven core textural themes emerged from the data: messages from religion about homoattractionality, forced choice, inner turmoil, turning to God for help, shift in core beliefs, increased tolerance of uncertainty, and religious homelessness. Using the lens of the existential universal constructs, the data was analyzed a second time to uncover structural themes of spatiality, causality, relationship with self, relationship with others, and temporality. This study may be useful for therapists working with LGB clients who have experienced religious rejection, as well as leaders of affirming churches who wish to provide support to church members who have previously had rejecting religious experiences.

Phyllis Maher FlorianFlorian

Reproductive Healthcare Providers and Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors: Minding the Gap

Using the phenomenological research model, this study explored the experience of reproductive healthcare providers (HCPs) who suspect patients in their care to be survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Investigation of the literature revealed a paucity of studies dedicated to the HCPs’ perspective of working with CSA survivors. Phenomenological reduction analysis of the interviews with HCPs yielded textural themes of the process of knowing, pressures, emotions, powerlessness, and adaptations. Through the eidetic variation, the researcher created a structural description of the phenomenon, guided by the universal structures of relationship to self, relationship to others, body-hood, temporality, spatiality, causality, and materiality. The final synthesis revealed that HCPs’ intentions, in service of best care practices, are often misattuned to CSA survivors’ specific needs in reproductive healthcare. HCPs struggle with providing appropriate interventions that meet professional standards of care within the systemic constraints of reproductive healthcare because they lack legitimized protocols for effective interventions for CSA survivors. Study results highlight the needs to augment reproductive HCPs’ strategies for attending to CSA survivor patients and increase self-care for such occupational stressors. Recommendations included validating the legitimacy of CSA’s effects on reproductive healthcare and proposing a model of care for the HCP-CSA survivor patient dyad.

Mark E. Jaruzel IIJaruzel

Eyes of Fire, Living Space: An Examination of the Psychotherapist’s Experience of Subtle Energy in Psychotherapy

This research studied the experience of subtle energy in psychotherapy by psychotherapists of various clinical disciplines who were experienced in the provision of individual psychotherapy. This study employed the heuristic model of qualitative research to examine the experience of 12 psychotherapists between the ages of 38 and 88. Their years of clinical experience ranged from 6 to 45 years. A literature review of related journals, dissertations, theses, and books was undertaken to position this study amongst relevant literature pertaining to subtle energy, contemplative practices, alternative and traditional healing practices, mesmerism, the physical sciences, and psychotherapeutic practice. Data were collected through digitally recorded interviews with 12 co-researchers as well as the primary researcher’s experience. The data were then organized and analyzed according to the concepts of the heuristic model, revealing eight core themes:1) Development (Initial Discovery, Cultivation, and Training); 2) Ever-Present Reality; 3) Preparation (Initial Blessing Stance, Personal Daily Practices, Preparation of the Room/Therapy Environment, and Releasing Practices); 4) Gateways (Authentic Relationship, Speech and Tone, Silence, Breathing, Gazing, Laying on of Hands, Images and the Imaginal, Ritual and Ceremony, and Cues); 5) Barriers (Lack of Authentic Relationship, Dissociation, Anxiety, Fear, and Shame, Strictly Analytical Thinking, and Distressed Environment); 6) Radically Different View (Transmental Understanding and Subtle Discernment); 7) Transcending (Body-Mind Boundary, Space and Distance, Life and Death, and Numinosity); and 8) Sacred Work. The findings of this research showcase the psychotherapist’s experience of subtle energy in psychotherapy and can be used in many ways, including informing psychotherapy practice, supervision, training, personal interest, or as an impetus for further research. Those who may benefit from this study are psychotherapists, clients, educators, and social scientists.

Nicole Marie-Budry LawLaw

Delivery of Loss: A Study of the Relationship Between Healthcare Providers, Patients, and Perinatal Grief

The loss of a pregnancy disrupts the family narrative in a way that sets it apart from other losses (Grout & Romanoff, 2000). If clinicians are to assist clients in recovering from traumatic loss, such as loss of a pregnancy, stillbirth, and neonatal loss, they must first understand the areas of emotional trauma that can impact pregnant women. This paper sought to answer what correlations exist between the clinical relationship during pregnancy as measured using the Patient-Doctor Depth of Relationship Scale (PDDR) and post-loss grief symptoms as measured by the Perinatal Grief Scale (PGS). Additionally a measure of general social support measured by the Medical Outcomes Social Support Survey (MOS) was investigated for any correlation with post-loss grief symptoms. While the measure of doctor-patient relationship did not demonstrate statistical significance in relationship to grief symptoms in this study, both household income and general social support had a predictive impact on grief symptoms.

Laura Lynn LehmannLehmann

Resilience and Meaning Making

This study examined the question: Does meaning making of traumatic experiences increase level of resilience? A review of the literature revealed a lack of empirical research on meaning making and its link to resilience. The traditional view of resilience relates to protective factors, with little acknowledgement of the process by which individuals understand and incorporate suffering into their individual experience. Resilience has been described as the ability to endure traumatic experience with relatively little disruption. The research does not acknowledge that the process of making meaning out of senseless or uncontrollable events is also a part of resilience. In this study, 482 participants responded to a survey on which individual levels of resilience, stressful events, trauma, and meaning making were measured. The results indicate that meaning making and resilience are separate, but strongly linked constructs with R = .47. There was no difference between race/ethnicity, however males were able to make more meaning out of traumatic events and reported fewer stressors on the resilience scale than women. The findings of this study reveal that the process of finding meaning through traumatic experience can increase ability to be resilient: demonstrating that individuals have the ability to adapt and are not defined by their past.

Freda Baran LermanLerman

Using Intuition in Clinical Decision Making: The Clinician’s Experience

Although intuition is frequently referenced, the clinician’s actual experience of utilizing intuition in clinical decision making has remained relatively unexplored. This research study examined the question, What is the clinician’s experience of utilizing intuition in clinical decision making? The heuristic model of qualitative research was used to further understand the clinician’s experience. Thirteen clinicians ranging in age from 57 to 75 years old with a minimum of 10 years of clinical experience were interviewed. The data analysis revealed three prominent themes: (a) visceral sensations and mental imagery that accompany intuitive decision making, (b) integrating rational and intuitive processes in decision making, and (c) trusting the intuitive process. A literature review of current and historical publications was undertaken to position this study among relevant literature pertaining to the clinician’s experience of utilizing intuition in clinical decision making. The increasing connection between intuition and neuroscience has elevated the importance of intuition in clinical decision making. This study would be valuable for clinicians from all theoretical backgrounds and would be of benefit to medical professionals, business executives, educators, and interested individuals who want to understand how intuition is influential in clinical decision making.

Amanda Leigh McCrearyMcCreary

The Experience of Using Creativity to Process Emotional Distress Via the Visual Arts

This research study examined the question “What is the experience of using creativity to process emotional distress via the visual arts?” The heuristic model of qualitative research was used with ten participants, ranging in age from 23 to 59, who identify as visual artists. Eight themes were illuminated while evaluating the transcribed interviews. Themes included: (a) Art as communication and self-expression, (b) Daily use of creativity, in multiple ways, throughout the course of one’s life, (c) Using doodling or sketching for brief emotional release, (d) Art making shifts focus from emotional distress to a creative task, (e) Being absorbed in the creation of art and losing track of time, (f) Intentionally using artwork to cope with emotional distress, (g) Sense of accomplishment and art as a productive or constructive outlet, and (h) After the Creation: A sense of relief, relaxation, emotional release, and calm.

Troy Steven PiwowarskiPiwowvarski

Back to Lived Experience: How Phenomenologically-Oriented Therapists Attend to Context in Psychotherapy

Phenomenology is a rich but challenging philosophical attitude, especially for therapists interested in applying its tenets to clinical work. The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand, from an experiential perspective, what therapists pay attention to that helps them view their clients as persons-in-context. To explore the research question “To what do phenomenologically-oriented therapists attend in psychotherapy that helps them contextualize their clients?” 11 interviews were conducted with phenomenologically-oriented psychotherapists, along with a self-interview by the researcher. Utilizing the heuristic model of research, the interviews yielded seven universal themes: (a) Therapist’s “Pou Sto,” (b) What Matters Most for the Client, (c) Listening to the “Music Behind the Words,” (d) The Client’s Larger Contexts of Living, (e) The Edges of Awareness, (f) Being a “Relational Home,” and (g) Being a Relational Barometer. These themes are highlighted through a presentation of three individual depictions and three individual portraits from the interview material, followed by a composite depiction based on the entire body of data and, finally, a creative synthesis. Implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research building on this study are provided, with an emphasis on applications to clinical training programs.

Nicole R. ReynoldsReynolds

Experiences of Spiritual Emergency

This qualitative study utilized the narrative model to investigate the experience of spiritual emergency. The term was coined by Christina and Stanislov Grof in reference to crises that can emerge as a result of experiencing non-ordinary states of consciousness with spiritual themes. Interviews were conducted with three individuals, two women and one man, who had each experienced a unique type of spiritual emergency. The narratives contextualized the participant’s spiritual emergencies within their life stories as a whole, beginning in childhood and continuing to unfold in the present day. The shared arc of their experiences included themes related to spiritual experiences in childhood, followed by a period of repression and an eventual re-emergence of spiritual phenomena, which was accompanied by non-ordinary states of consciousness and psychic turmoil. As participants worked to come to terms with their experiences they found that their relationships became troubled as friends and family had strong and adverse reactions to the spiritually emergent material. Encountering strong skepticism coincided with self-doubt and questioning one’s own sanity. Finally, each participant stated the realization that he or she had to turn inward to come to terms. This turning inward facilitated re-centering and reconciliation. Upon reflection, participants came to view their spiritual emergencies as growth promoting and strengthening their relationship with God. Findings of this research can be used to challenge mental health related stigma, as well as affect education and training for mental health professionals.

Ashley Elizabeth Rosaenrosaen

The Female College Athletes’ Experience of Disordered Eating: A Phenomenological Investigation

Female College Athletes (FCA) are at a higher risk for developing disordered eating (DE) than their counterparts: female college non-athletes. Previous research has suggested that the role of the teammates may play an integral role in the development of DE; however, the research is inconclusive as to how This study used a phenomenological research method of inquiry interviewing 8 former FCAs that had DE while on their teams to examine the question of, “What is the female college athletes’ experience of disordered eating within the context of her team?” Five Textural Themes were found: 1. Ever-Present Team Environment; 2. Comparing/Idealizing Thin Teammates; 3. Team Rules: DE Mores; 4. Obsessive Relationship with Food; and 5. Becoming the Perfectly Thin Athlete. The findings are discussed in detail.

Julie RotenheberRotenheber

The Relationship Between Shame and Manifestation of Illness

This study explored the relationship between shame and manifestation of illness utilizing a correlational method. A sample of convenience with 326 adults ranging from 18 to 75 years old participated in this research. A review of literature highlighted an abundant amount of information investigating depression and/or anxiety and illness. However, research correlating shame and illness remains virtually non-existent. It is understood that chronic activation of the sympathic nervous system due to trauma(s) impacts the development and progression of many illnesses by suppressing the immune system. Trauma on any level appears to be a distressing experience laced with shame. Research has shown that socially distressing events share neurological and psychological correlates with physical pain. The results of the current study present a relationship between shame and manifestation of illness. A negative and strong association between shame and insight was found. In addition, a negative and significant correlation was shown between shame and overall general health. A weak but positive relationship was found between overall general health and insight. Finally, as the number of diagnosed illnesses increase, shame was shown to increase, highlighting a weak, positive, and statistically significant association. This study is important for society and reveals implications for mental and medical professionals who encounter and work with individuals across various ethnicities, race, sexual orientation, etc.

Teresa Maria TurnerTurner

The experience of success for at-risk African-American students in higher education: A Heuristic Inquiry

At-risk African-American students face a number of difficulties at predominately White colleges and universities. The experiences of these students are rarely acknowledged. In order to understand this population’s full experience the question of interest is “What is the experience of success for at-risk African-American students in higher education?” The heuristic model of qualitative research was used to examine the experience of twelve co-researchers ranging in ages
from 27-62 years, who identified as being at-risk during their academic careers and that have attended a predominately White college or university. Seven themes and two sub themes were discovered during the examination of the co-researchers interviews. Themes included; 1) feelings of inadequacy at a predominately White university, 2) determined to complete college degree despite obstacles, 3) feeling prepared for career and future 4) importance of being first
generation graduates, 5) joining supportive/mentoring organizations on campus, 6) graduation most rewarding experience in college, 6) meaning of success, a) achieving goals, and b) living with a sense of comfort. The findings reveal the difficulties and issues of at-risk African-American students at predominately White institutions. Those that will benefit from this research study are educators, psychologists, school counselors, social justice advocators, and others who seek to enhance their understanding of the experience of success for at-risk African-American students in higher education at a predominately White colleges or universities.