Doctoral Program (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology

Doctoral study in the helping professions rooted in psychology and the Catholic tradition.


Doctoral Dissertations

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.

Virtue Development through Team Sports to Address Mild-to-Moderate Depression*, Marie Claire Roderick, 2014

Depression is a major health concern and standard treatment options are less effective than hoped. Mental health professionals underutilize or misuse exercise, an empirically supported natural methods for mood elevation. Patients’ virtue, relationships, mental health and quality of life have not improved as much as one would expect. Team sports may provide an avenue to improve these areas of a patient’s life. Team sports embrace exercise and possibly target depressive symptoms in a comprehensive manner, and could increase flourishing in a multi-faceted way with a particular attention to growth in virtue that is in accordance with the nature of the human person. Furthermore, the use of team sports could be a powerful intervention as a preventative measure for the general population, for those at-risk for depression and those suffering from depression. This theoretical use of team sports is framed within a multi-disciplinary perspective combining physical and psychological empirical literature on exercise, and the positive psychological literature on virtue and character strengths. This also uses the philosophical literature on the cardinal virtues and friendship along with extensive sports psychological literature on the essential elements needed optimally to foster a sports team conducive to virtue and character development. Convincing conceptual evidence emerged from this discussion in favor of the benefits of virtue and friendship and their role in happiness. Combined, the empirical and conceptual evidence suggests that virtue and friendship could mediate the relationship between depression and team sports. Future empirical research is encouraged to statistically analyze this theoretical proposal.

Sexual Self-Control As Essential as Psychosocial Maturity in Adolescent Males*, Gregory B. Gisla, 2014

The current prevalence and cultural acceptance of pornography, habitual masturbation, recreational sex, cohabitation, and contraception use are likely to be impeding the development of psychosocial maturity in American adolescent males. As a consequence of these sexual practices, many young adult males have been unable to establish a true sense of self-agency or an ability to make long-term commitments, which has directly interfered with their ability to achieve a stable and firm personal identity. The purpose of this dissertation is two-fold: First, it presents psychological research and theory that supports the claim that these contemporary sexual practices significantly harm the psychological development of adolescent males; Second, it presents a theoretical proposition that the character strength of self-control may act as a potential solution to the underlying problems caused by these practices. Self-control enables self-agency and long-term commitment, both of which are essential to the formation of a personal identity and ultimately the development of psychosocial maturity (Greenberger & Sorensen, 1974; Schwartz, Cote, & Arnett, 2005). A practical application of self-control in a psychotherapeutic setting are also discussed (Baumeister & Schmeichel, 2004; Mischel & Ayduk, 2004).

The Gawad Kalinga Model for the Integral Development of Impoverished Communities in Developing Countries*, Maria Elena Y. Lorenzo, 2013

This dissertation evaluated the Gawad Kalinga model of integral community development currently being pursued in the Philippines, in addressing the psychological and social problems caused by extreme poverty in developing countries. Integral community development is defined as an approach that brings about the holistic transformation of impoverished communities, a process which includes human development that entails movement towards a life of virtue, based on transcendent principles, and concerned with moral and spiritual values. The framework of the dissertation adopts an ecological perspective to addressing critical situational stressors and emphasizes basic values, spirituality, and transformational leadership. The study included both a theoretical and an empirical section. For the theoretical section, the study: (a) utilized an ecological psychology perspective that identified the critical development components based on Dohrenwend’s human stress model and Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological theory of human development; (b) utilized a philosophical framework that integrated the ecological psychology perspective and selected psychological theories with Christian personal and social anthropological principles in order to develop a concept of integral community development that embraces the total person in his human and transcendent dimension, the integrity of families, and a true and cohesive community; (c)derived a set of basic or universal values that are relevant to the poor at the personal, family, and community levels; and (d) proposed an expanded definition of transformational leaders that combines the qualities of a servant leader, parental attachment figure, and an altruist with a strong spirituality. For the empirical section, qualitative research was conducted on a sample Gawad Kalinga community and Gawad Kalinga leaders through individual, family, and group interviews. The assessment focused mainly on the alleviation of situational stressors, the transformation of values at the personal, family, and community level, and the quality of transformational leadership offered by community and GK leaders. The conclusions of this study are: (a) the poor have significant strengths in their personal, family, and community values and spirituality; (b) the value strengths found in the poor before GK’s intervention was partly due to the collectivistic, family, and faith orientation of the Filipino culture; (c) integral community development is primarily aimed at achieving integral personal development, but also requires the strengthening of family integrity and the building of a true and cohesive community; (d) the philosophical concepts of a total person, strong family, and true community must provide the basis for deriving the basic and social sets of values; (e) integral community development that includes values and spiritual formation also addresses the poor’s social-psychological problems; (f) the poor have serious psychological and emotional wounds that need healing interventions; (g) families of the poor require significant healing and strengthening in order to become effective sources of moral formation; (h) true and cohesive community organizations are needed to provide stability, security, community values formation, spiritual and family support; (i) supporting the spirituality of the poor is important because it fulfills various roles in their healing and human development; (j) holistic development is proposed as a five-step process that begins with the leader’s formation and setting a secure and orderly ecological environment; (k) transformational leaders are the greatest critical factor; (l) the GK model as applied to the sample GK community and its local and national leaders offersan important and viable working model for integral community development, despite the need to improve its sustainability and address a few program inadequacies; and (m) the GK model can be adapted to other developing countries because of the similarities in their social-psychological problems, the universality of the values proposed, and the expected comparable interplay of ecological factors within their poor communities.

A therapeutic model for rehabilitating conduct disorder: A twofold approach of implementing virtue*, Kevin Kilcawley, 2013

The treatment outcome for Antisocial Personality Disorder lacks successful rehabilitation. Therefore, it is of great importance in stopping the trajectory of this disorder by rehabilitating Conduct Disorder. Beginning with an integrative model of conceptualization, based on Thomistic anthropology, Conduct Disorder can be treated by incorporating the virtues of prudence and justice through a twofold approach of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy. By integrating across different therapeutic modalities and the sciences of humanities, a proposed model will be produced. The proposed therapeutic model is a twofold approach in rehabilitating an individual with Conduct Disorder. The first step in the model treats the intellectual component of the client through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The second approach addresses the emotional and relational aspect of the client by focusing on an interpersonal therapeutic modality. The aim is to establish change in behavior by implementing the virtue of prudence through CBT, while at the same time, engage the individual in the virtue of justice through an interpersonal framework.

To attach or detach: Examining and treating attachment issues in the lives of women religious*, Sr. Mary Patrice Ahearn, 2013

Attachment theory has been used by clinicians to help conceptualize interpersonal difficulties in both children and adults.  Adult attachment theory has grown as an area of research and used in clinical settings to help individuals understand the way they relate to others in both positive and maladaptive ways.  This dissertation seeks to explore ways that adult attachment theory can be used to conceptualize and treat attachment patterns of women religious in the context of their supernatural vocation as a spouse of Jesus Christ and in their community life.  Observations, recommendations, cautions, and case examples are provided to help clinicians better serve and understand this specific population.Furthermore, this dissertation will argue for the need to thoroughly integrate psychology, philosophy, and theology, because when treating religious women, these three disciplines become inseparable.

Adult attachment theory and fertility awareness: An integrative approach*, Linda G. Montagna, 2013

The purpose of this dissertation is to explain from an attachment theoretical perspective why the practice of fertility awareness (FA) can promote increased relationship-specific (i.e., spousal) attachment security in marital partners who have an insecure attachment history. After an overview of attachment theory, I present the attachment, caregiving, and sexual behavioral systems described by Bowlby and subsequent researchers, and their relevance to the marital relationship. I then describe current research relevant to FA practice and couple functioning, noting how common features of these methods may impact (and be impacted by) attachment-related processes between spouses. Finally, I suggest how psychological interventions beyond the scope of FA practice may benefit insecurely attached couple members in developing more secure relationship-specific (i.e., spousal) attachment bonds, as well as directions for future research.

False memories and psychotherapy: Considerations from Catholic anthropology*, Maja Ivankovic, 2013

Memory research indicates that everyone is prone to false memories, with no exceptions. Unreliable data resulting from a patient’s false memories may influence the psychotherapy process. Moreover, research has pointed to psychotherapy as a potential cause of the manipulation and fabrication of memories. Due to the lack of clear guidance on how one ought to approach untruths resulting from false memories, psychotherapists have sometimes unknowingly contributed to the production or reinforcement of such memories in their patients. In addition to reviewing the literature that is available on false memories, and their influences on psychotherapy, this dissertation will propose a new perspective on how false memories influence the psychotherapeutic process from the perspective of Catholic anthropology. Based on this discussion, ways of dealing with issues related to memory imperfections (and false memories) within the process of psychotherapy will also be discussed.

Addiction as selfobject: An integrated analysis of self psychological and neurobiological models of nicotine addiction*, Roman Lokhmotov, 2013

Nicotine addiction is a prevalent mental health disorder with a high rate of relapse. Current limitations in the etiology and treatment of nicotine addiction highlight the necessity of a continued examination of this disorder. Given the important associations between smoking and individual affective and personality variables, demonstrated by contemporary empirical research, this dissertation explores nicotine addiction from the self psychological perspective. Specifically, this dissertation examines whether (1) specific areas of affective and personality functioning predispose one to developing nicotine addiction; (2)nicotine provides a selfobject function by influencing the neurobiology of three primary affects (hostility, anxiety, and depression) and associated personality traits; and (3) nicotine addiction constitutes an ersatz selfobject by causing further regression of psychological functioning. The roles of pleasure, relationality and fantasy in nicotine addiction are highlighted. The implications of nicotine addiction as selfobject are examined from the Catholic anthropological perspective.

Hope and Courage as the Foundation for a Virtue-Based Group Therapy*, Nicholas R. Stevens, 2013

The positive psychology movement has emerged as a reliable and empirically supported effort to define the virtues from a psychological perspective. The virtues, firm dispositions to do the good, have a long and venerable tradition in the theological and philosophical writings of the Catholic Church. This work merges the understanding of virtue across the various disciplines with positive psychology through the medium of group therapy. Specifically, the virtues of hope and courage are proposed as two of the core components for a group therapy based on virtue. Crucial to this endeavor is a group leader who understands, is committed to, and practices virtue in his professional and personal life. Furthermore, an investigation of character formation and virtue will provide an objective foundation for how best to incorporate and to instill virtues throughout the course of therapy. This “Character Focused Therapy” finds its underpinnings in an integration of the theology of Catholicism and the science of psychology. Lastly, there is a brief discourse on the virtues that could complement hope and courage as therapy progresses. The work aims to lay the groundwork for character growth in psychotherapy, predicated on the notion that the virtuous life will best lead patients to health, flourishing, and happiness.

Exposure-Response Prevention Therapy: Catholic Considerations in the Treatment of Scrupulosity*, Mateusz Dzikowski, March 2013

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*, Antony Bond, November 2012

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, July 2012

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, March 2012

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, March 2012

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, June 2011

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*, Amy Meredith, May 2011

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, April 2011

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, April 2010

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, October 2009

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, May 2009

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, May 2009

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, April 2009

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, August 2008

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, Fall 2006

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, Fall 2006

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, Fall 2006

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, Fall 2006

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, Summer 2006

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, Fall 2005

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.