My research interests center on the processes and outcomes of psychotherapy. Specifically, I am interested in three broad areas: forgiveness, religion and spirituality, and help-seeking. With each of these areas, I explore questions that are related to how these play out or intersect with psychotherapy.
Forgiveness. In the area of forgiveness I am most interested in understanding how to effectively help people to forgive others or themselves. I have focused primarily on what kinds of psychological interventions helps people to forgive, especially when they have been unable to move on. Many people achieve forgiveness without any intervention. Sometimes time does heal the wound. However, for others, past experiences can be debilitating and their effects linger for years. In those cases, I want to know, can psychological intervention help. Over the course of my research, we have been able to affirm clearly that certain interventions do help. Furthermore, we are continuing to examine what works best for which people in which circumstances. Here is an example of my work in this area.
Religion and Spirituality. As with forgiveness, I am most interested in how religion and spirituality play out in psychotherapy. For much of the history of psychotherapy, religion has not been a welcomed topic. However, for many people religion and spirituality are central aspects of their lives and provide considerable support and coping in difficult times. I want to know what therapists can do to respect and integrate clients' religion and spirituality into therapy, while leveraging the positive and minimizing the negative impacts on their mental health. The most recent work I have done in this area is related to working with client religion and spirituality in group settings, especially when clients don't necessarily share the same religious backgrounds. Here is an example of my work in this area.
Stigma and Help-seeking. This area of my research I do primarily in collaboration with David Vogel, PhD, another member of the ISU Counseling Psychology faculty. Together we identified an important help-seeking barrier (the self-stigma associated with seeking psychotherapy), developed a measure to test this barrier, and established a model that shows that self-stigma is a more proximal barrier to help-seeking attitudes and intentions than perceptions of public stigma. We continue to work to understand stigma as a barrier to seeking therapy and to develop interventions to help reduce stigma and increase psychological help-seeking behaviors. More information can be found on our website for the Self-Stigma Research Collaborative. Here is an example of my work in this area.