Fall 2006 – Current
From exploring the effects of beauty to videogames to trauma, our alumni have created a diverse library of dissertations, leaving a legacy of strong research-based academic work. Drawing upon the best of psychology, theology, and philosophy, graduates of the IPS doctoral program offer a unique and necessary voice in the world of academia.
Dissertations are in chronological order beginning with the most recently completed. Hard copies of all dissertations can be accessed in person at the IPS Mary S. Thelen Library. Those marked with an asterisk can be accessed electronically through the ProQuest Dissertations database.
Exposure-Response Prevention Therapy: Catholic Considerations in the Treatment of Scrupulosity
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that afflicts many people among the psychiatric population. One of its manifestations is pathological religious scrupulosity, wherein a person experiences a wide range of OCD symptoms with a variety of religious themes. As Exposure-Response Prevention (ERP) is among the most favored therapies for OCD at this time, this dissertation seeks to explore its use among Catholics who are afflicted with pathological religious scrupulosity secondary to OCD. Recommendations, observations, cautions, and case examples are provided to help clinicians better serve and understand this particular population. It is hoped that this dissertation will argue for the need to integrate psychology and spirituality, especially in cases where religion and spirituality meet psychology so very closely.
Clinical Consultation and Collaborative Relationships in a Multicultural Setting*
The study explores collaborative relationships between psychologists and Roman Catholic clergy in relation to the Catholic Church’s task of selecting and forming candidates for the priesthood. Psychological assessment, therapy with candidates for the priesthood prior to and during seminary formation and consultation are all areas in which psychologists are regularly employed and long term collaborative relationships are maintained with the clergy. Existing empirical and theoretical literature is analyzed. A study is conducted using Grounded Theory and featuring ten semi-structured interviews with Catholic clergy and mental health practitioners. A complex set of philosophical, cultural, personal and psychological forces are seen to provoke conflict in collaboration. It is suggested a ‘vision’ for the role of the clinician can be discerned in the teaching of the papacy which challenges the clinician to integrate psychology within a broader epistemology and account of the human person. Evidence of the realization of this project is considered in relation to psychology’s commitment to multi-culturalism. Elements which appear to promote sustainable and mutually satisfying collaboration between clergy and psychologist are outlined.
Arnett Reconsidered: A Clinician’s Perspective on a Cultural Crisis*
Michael C. Wagner
The tendency in modern Western societies to reject traditional sources of authority makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to develop adaptive identities. Individuals within these societies frequently spend several years in emerging adulthood, unguided personal explorations, deciding who they are before settling into adult obligations. Unfortunately, identities chosen late and through unguided exploration tend to be maladaptive and or fragile, leaving emerging adults vulnerable to various mental health concerns. These mental health concerns may generate chronic difficulties or disorders that require external support to correct. Moreover, traditional individual therapy models appear impractical and inefficient in addressing the underlying identity concerns contributing to the difficulties associated with emerging adulthood. Therefore, a group therapy model is proposed to address the unique mental health concerns facing emerging adults.
A Case Study of Complex Trauma in a Catholic Framework*
Gregory Bottaro, Psy.D.
Evidence for the importance and practicality of the diagnosis of complex trauma is presented along with the Catholic conceptualization of the human person. The personalism of Karol Wojtyla provides a framework for an overview of attachment theory as it relates to a child’s development. This framework, as well as the teachings of the church regarding family and marriage and their integration with attachment theory, is connected to the etiology of complex trauma. Following this theoretical discussion a case study of a man suffering the effects of complex trauma is presented.
Essential Elements of Love, Personhood and Attachment: From Metaphysics to Psychological Theory and Psychotherapy*
Su Li Lee, Psy.D.
Although attachment theory has been extensively researched, the author notes a dearth of treatment modalities, and, concurrently, a difficulty reconciling the definition of the human person as an individual self to that of a relational being. In response, this dissertation defends a philosophical and theological basis of the nature of persons as gifts, and, as such, accounts for persons as individual selves as well as relational beings, and pinpoints the metaphysical foundation for attachment disorders. A discussion of attachment therapy postulates an improvement on attachment therapies in general through the use of the posture of caritas, a posture that affirms the person as good in his personhood, particularly through the nurturance of proper affective responses and the journeying in sadness with the client.
The Psychology of Breastfeeding for the Mother: Evidence for Personal Wellbeing*
Lillian R. Henricks
Breastfeeding, as evidenced in the literature, correlates not only with the wellbeing of the infant, but also with the psychological and other health gains in the mother and affords opportunities for her flourishing. Research suggests hormonal influences in the woman’s body can reduce anxiety and bring about positive affect toward self and others. It is hypothesized in this study that frequent breastfeeding may also be associated with maternal character strength and virtue development and therefore additionally benefit women on a psychological level. Results of the questionnaire used in this exploratory study support the thesis that in addition the health benefits that support psychological wellbeing, breastfeeding is broadly psychologically beneficial.
Catholic Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A Catholic Model of Psychotherapy Fostering Psychological and Spiritual Healing and Growth*
Many principles of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) bear a resemblance to Catholic spiritual principles encouraged for centuries as a beneficial response to the experience of human suffering. There are, however, some aspects of the ACT model that are not consistent with a Catholic understanding of the human person. This dissertation proposes a Catholic adaption of ACT, which has the potential to provide an integrated spiritual and psychological model of therapy to clients suffering mental disorders who adhere to the Judeo-Christian worldview.
The Role of the Experience of Beauty in Psychotherapy*
Margaret R. Laracy
The goal of this dissertation is to articulate a framework for understanding beauty and to identify implications of experiencing beauty for the practice of psychotherapy. An overview of the intersection of aesthetics and psychology includes a philosophical framework for understanding beauty and a conception of the human person that can embrace the whole scope of beauty’s effects. This account of beauty is linked to mental health based on a biopsychosocial-spiritual model of the human person. The dissertation also looks at implications and applications for therapy; experiencing beauty is presented as a vital dimension of human life that can inform the work of psychotherapy in various ways.
Gratitude-Based Interventions for Treating Ruminative Depression*
Eric Matthew Gudan
This thesis proposes gratitude-based interventions to ameliorate depression characterized by rumination. Gratitude focuses the individual’s attention on benefits received from another in an upward spiral, in contrast to the negative spiral characteristic of depression. This dissertation develops and compiles methods for depressed persons to access the positive benefits of gratitude through an incremental sequence of gratitude-based interventions based upon the approach of positive psychology, within the framework of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Mental Health, Chastity and Religiosity in a Population of Same-Sex Attracted Men
Stephen A. Hopkins
This study explored the relationship between mental health, chastity and religiosity in a population of same-sex attracted (SSA) men who seek chastity. The SSA respondents had more mental health distress than the heterosexually oriented, normative sample. Those SSA respondents who were more-chaste had an improvement in their overall mental health. Measures of authentic spirituality were also positively correlated to increased mental health. Positive correlations were also found between chastity, religious participation and self-reported measures of happiness. The respondents were members of a Catholic spiritual support-group, Courage.
Religious Conversion: A Critique of Current Major Social Science Models of Conversion and a Christian Anthropological Response*
Peter E. Martin
Using the theological and philosophical components of grace and the intellectual, volitional, bodily, and relational aspects of the human person, both a general Christian model of conversion and a particular Christian model of Christian conversion are presented. This model is employed as an interpretive framework for critiquing and synthesizing several social science models, all of which have elements that diverge and converge with a Christian understanding of the person. The dissertation concludes with the description of a Christian synthetic model of conversion, which also incorporates a developmental perspective of religious transformation and includes early, middle, and late conversion-related experiences.
Attachment and Morality: A Catholic Perspective*
Andrew J. Sodergren, Psy.D.
This dissertation reviews attachment theory and research and explores its empirical relevance for human moral behavior. It explores Catholic teaching on human relationality and morality and the possibility of integrating this viewpoint with an attachment perspective, and concludes that attachment is relevant for human morality and that the Catholic view of the person and teachings on morality are largely compatible with the attachment paradigm. In the complementarities of the two, the Catholic view provides a broad framework for understanding personhood and morality while the attachment paradigm shows concretely how people develop through relationships. By integrating these views, a more complete view of the human person and his/her moral capacities can be obtained.
Video Games and the Formation of Virtue: An Examination of the Content of Video Games and Their Effect on Compassion*
Michael Horne, M.S.
This research describes an experiment that measures the influence video games have on compassion, specifically focusing on the different effects of violent-, neutral-, and prosocial-themed games. Participants exposed to a violent-themed video game reported significantly lower rates of state compassion than participants in other conditions. Participants in a control group reported significantly higher rates of state compassion than participants in other conditions.
Resilience Correlates and Perseverance among Filipino Clergy
Rev. Jaime Noel B. Deslate, M.S.
This research studies why priests decide to stay in ministry in spite of or in the midst of crisis experiences, and particularly explores what aspects of resilience best predict the perseverance of Filipino clergy in their priestly life. Resilience, as a psychological construct, was measured for four indices: secure attachment style, hopeful cognitive style, appropriately regulated affective style, and internalized spirituality. The results indicate that priestly perseverance among Filipino clergy is related to the correlates of resilience, particularly to internalized spirituality. Internalized spirituality also fostered a resilient cognitive style, affective style and relational style that provide protective resources in times of crises. The study concludes by discussing the pastoral implications of the research findings for preparatory and ongoing priestly formation.
An Eriksonian Interpretation of Parenting Styles: Negative Residue from Childhood Stages Influences Adult Responsiveness and Demandingness
Donna D. Darbellay
This dissertation examines parenting style in light of Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory of personality development. Parenting styles are described and research showing correlation between personality traits and parenting styles is reviewed, supporting the interpretation of parenting styles in terms of personality development. Erikson describes two antithetical parenting styles, authoritative and neglectful, within the generative stage. His theory is extrapolated to describe the development of the other two parenting styles. It is proposed that the psychosocial virtues from the four childhood stages contribute directly to authoritative parenting style and that negative residue in those same stages contributes directly to authoritarian and permissive parenting. The possible benefits of this interpretation in improving inadequate parenting styles are discussed.
Social Desirability and Virtuous Inclination in Applicants for the Religious Life
Patrick J. Graveline
This dissertation studies social desirability and virtuous inclination in the context of the psychological evaluation of applicants to religious life in the Catholic Church. This research intended to examine the construct(s) measured by the Lie (L) validity scale of the MMPI-2. This scale is purported to detect an overly positive test-taking approach, often referred to as responding in a socially desirable manner. However, many items on the L scale appear to reflect virtuous inclinations that an applicant for the religious life may embody. The research set out to test whether the L scale measured socially desirable responding and virtuous inclination; however the hypothesis was unable to be tested due to the significant association between measures of social desirability and virtuous inclination. The research did find a gender difference in socially desirable responding and self reported virtuous inclination.
Distortions of Love as Distortions of the Self from a Psychosocial Perspective*
Greg C. Kolodziejczak
This dissertation attempts to synthesize psychology, philosophy, and theology on the issue of love. Five psychological approaches are utilized in an effort to shed light on the psychological aspects of love: the frameworks of Alice Miller, Karen Horney, Conrad Baars and Anna Terruwe, Attachment Theory, and Bowen Family Systems Theory. Each is analyzed regarding the manner in which it can explain ways in which love becomes distorted or undermined. The identified parallels and complementarities are used to develop a more comprehensive perspective. Theological insights are applied to each psychological approach in order to deepen and expand them, and psychological insights are applied to theology in order that it may be better understood, appropriated, and applied.
Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness: A Theoretical and Critical Evaluation*
Jennifer Mary Meade
This dissertation looks at arguments for and against the use of forgiveness therapies, and considers the nature of forgiveness as informed by the Catholic Tradition and mainstream psychology. It examines the therapeutic modalities within interpersonal forgiveness and self forgiveness, and the possibility, originally introduced by Vitz, that the term “self –forgiveness,” as particularly differentiated from interpersonal forgiveness, constitutes a misnomer and exemplifies a serious misunderstanding of client need. The discussion culminates in an analysis of self-forgiveness, in particular the ways in which it encourages splitting, isolation and narcissistic tendencies. It is posited that rather than exposing clients to self forgiveness, the clinician has a superior alternative in interpersonal forgiveness.
Virtue as a Support for Psychological Health in the Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Leslie Jo Trautman
The classic understanding of the origin of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) suggests motivation by a strong defensive drive that compensates for both a developmentally delayed identity and perception of others. Over time, these defensive distortions become magnified and over-generalized to important adult psychological functions. Novel treatments for NPD are needed given its notoriously strong therapeutic resistance. Recently, Positive Psychology has introduced the relevance of applying virtue to the understanding and the treatment of psychological disorders. A virtues based approach to treatment is presented as a means to the subject’s greater control over emotional, behavioral, and cognitive extremes by ordering therapy towards character strengths.
Motivational Factors of Post-Abortive Women Who Seek Psychological Help: A Self-report Study using Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats*
Christina Patricia Lynch
This project examines motivational factors of women who sought psychological resolution to an abortion through Rachel Vineyard Retreats (RV). Results suggest that post-abortive women were primarily motivated by intrinsic motivations vs. extrinsic motivations. This finding did not hold across all age groups as results showed that extrinsic motivational factors were primary motivators for ages 50-59. In addition, the findings in this study suggest that relatedness satisfaction, a determinant of intrinsic motivation, facilitated post-abortive women’s help-seeking behaviors.