Doctoral Dissertations - Divine Mercy University

Fall 2006 – Current

From exploring the effects of beauty to video games 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.

Men of Communion: A Theoretical, Interdisciplinary Study of Affective Maturity and Attachment in Roman Catholic Seminarians, Charles Russell
Affective maturity is a decisive factor in the Roman Catholic Church’s discernment of man’s vocation to the priesthood. The goal of an individual’s affective maturity is to be a ‘man of communion.’ The manner the Church conceptualizes and measures affective maturity has enough conceptual consistency to be paired with attachment theory in meaningful ways. By conceptualizing affective maturity through the lens of attachment theory this work attempts to answer the Church’s call for psychologists to address the needs of seminarians who experience some ‘psychological impediment’ in this case, affective immaturity. This study also provides case vignettes to demonstrate how approaching spiritual and human dimension in seminary in a manner that accounts for a man’s attachment style may help to foster affective maturity, and therefore help these individuals become men of communion.

 

Introducing Self-Regulation in School Psychology to Facilitate Psychosocial Maturity in Adolescents, Stacie Anne Kula
Adolescence is a critical developmental period in which young males and females experience the most difficult obstacles and crises in their lives. For today’s youth, the widespread prevalence and cultural acceptance of many egocentric practices that promote immediate gratification, has psychologically stunted the psychosocial maturation of adolescents, and led to many disruptions in a youth’s ability to successfully transition into adulthood.  In order for today’s youth to successfully make this transition, they must first grow in psychosocial maturity and develop a core and stable sense of identity which requires the acquisition of certain virtues and character strengths, such as self-regulation, defined as managing thoughts and feelings in order to engage in goal-directed actions.The purpose of this dissertation therefore is to present the literature and relevant research on how the early encouragement and cultivation of three different types of self-regulation (cognitive, emotional, and behavioral regulation) will enable adolescents to grow in psychosocial maturity and help facilitate the healthy and successful transition from adolescence into adulthood by facilitating the development of a healthy identity and character. Additionally, this dissertation conceptualizes self-regulation both from a general positive psychology framework, as well as from a Catholic/Christian anthropological framework. Lastly, drawing on the theory and research reviewed, this dissertation also proposes a manual of several school-based interventions for building all three types of self-regulation skills in adolescent students.

 

Transcendence Based Case Conceptualization: A Trans-Theoretical Approach to Integrating the Person’s Capacity for Transcendence with Contemporary Psychotherapy, Helena Emilia Orellana
Transcendence is a profound capacity of the person, yet it has received little attention or recognition from contemporary psychology and leading psychotherapies. This dissertation presents Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s (1953) model of transcendence as a fundamental capacity of the person, according to which true self-fulfillment and freedom are possible.This paper presents his model as a framework for incorporating transcendence into contemporary psychology. In light of this model, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) as well as their conceptualizations of a common case example are evaluated to determine their openness to transcendence. These leading psychotherapies assume that the person is exclusively directed to self-actualization, which significantly restricts their ability to account for and reveal the person’s capacity for transcendence. A trans-theoretical approach to transcendence based case conceptualization is proposed as a way of addressing and incorporating transcendence with leading psychological theories. Finally, this approach is integrated with CBT, EFT, and IPT and a new way of conceptualizing clinical cases in light of transcendence is offered.

 

Psychotherapeutic Cultivation of a Capacity to Love: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Claudia Chamberlain Zohorsky
The psychological study of love is receiving growing attention today, and current research efforts are drawing on sociological, cultural, and biological orientations using varied theoretical lenses.  While these studies rely on different vocabularies and heuristics, it is the current trend in the study of love to recognize the value of coordinating research findings to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of human love.  There is also increasing motivation to interpret the sophisticated science of love in dialog with philosophy and theology to deepen an understanding of love.  If one considers the person as a whole, it is not surprising that human love would have many complementary dimensions; for instance, biochemical, neurological, psychological, sociological, cultural, philosophical, and spiritual aspects.  While the synthesis of various disciplines contributes to a richer understanding of love, the development of a unifying theory capable of accommodating the diverse body of research has yet to be developed.  Given the early stages of a multidisciplinary approach to the study of love, it is the aim of this dissertation to explore the following considerations: 1) how Catholic anthropology supports increased synthesis of love research and theory; 2) how setting the empirical science in a broader philosophical context enhances the psychological study of love; and 3) how a synthesis of  psychological and philosophical understandings of love informs clinical interventions designed to cultivate a capacity to love in psychotherapy

 

Flow in the Context of Vocation, Michael Murphy

Coined by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi in the early 1970s, flow is a state of consciousness experienced when a person is immersed in a challenging activity for which he or she is intrinsically motivated and appropriately skilled (Csíkszentmihályi, 1975). Work, often synonymous with occupation, has been studied as a context in which flow occurs. Vocation has been developed in research in several psychological disciplines, such as career counseling and I/O psychology. Perspectives of vocation as a natural and/or supernatural calling to a particular work or task resemble but also transcend traditional conceptualizations of work. Flow is best understood as a part of vocation. As such, flow fulfills its greater purpose as an enriching element of vocation that contributes to the good of the person.

 

Addressing Male Internet Pornography Addiction Using the Virtues of Self-Control and Love, Joshua A. Kalman

Many studies have shown the negative effects that pornography use can have on individuals and intimate relationships.  Nevertheless, there is dearth of interventions aimed specifically at treating pornography addiction.  Men are usually the target consumers of pornography and their understanding of masculinity has been negatively affected by the increased usage of pornography.  Contemporary understandings of masculinity propose a crisis of masculine identity because of the contrasts that emerge between “traditional masculinity” and the more modern view of gender equality.  Peter Kleponis has proposed a virtue based treatment for internet pornography that encompasses many different areas of person’s life.  This paper proposes specific masculine virtues, self-control and love, that can help when establishing a foundation for recovery in men suffering from internet pornography addiction. To arrive at the role of masculine virtue in recovery, this dissertation draws upon Catholic philosophical and psychological perspectives of the human person, as well as empirically validated theories of psychotherapy.

 

A Reconceptualization of Panic Disorder in Women Over 45: Taking into Consideration the Integral Complementarity of Men and Women, Kathleen Musslewhite

Panic disorder is one of the most sex discriminate psychopathologies. Current treatment models and conceptualizations do not take the sex and age of the patient into consideration. Panic disorder is thought to be a stress–diathesis disorder. Psychologists have conceptualized the diathesis as a “fear of fear.” As a consequence, psychological treatment has focused on cognitive restructuring with the assumption that the fears are misconstruals of benign stimuli. There is sufficient evidence, however, to show that panic disorder is more accurately conceptualized as a stress overload and it is the accumulation of stressors, whether physical, psychological or existential, that lead to panic attacks and subsequent anticipatory anxiety. Stress is idiosyncratic, but there are specific patterns of stress reactivity that are sex and age specific. This sex specific reactivity is tied to the integral complementarity of men and women. In particular, older women are more stressed by interpersonal stressors than men. In older women with late onset panic disorder, the initial panic attacks appear to be tied to failures in interpersonal relationships. In contrast, in women who have experienced early onset panic disorder, the initial panic attacks appear to be related to conditioned learning and personality traits. The failure to recognize these sex and age differences has led to the failure to adequately treat panic disorder in women in peri–menopause and menopause. A more effective treatment model would incorporate a more holistic view of women and take into consideration their physiology, psychology and ontology.

 

A Parent Education Model Promoting Early Childhood Development in Children Diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease: An Early Intervention Approach, Cristina Melendez
This study, a secondary data analysis, assessed the effectiveness of an early intervention model—an early childhood development parent education program (PEP)—for children diagnosed with chronic disease on developmental status at age 40 months, within a specialty clinic setting. The data was from a four-year mixed cross-sectional longitudinal study of early neurodevelopmental status in children younger than 4 years with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) from a large children’s hospital. Measures of cognitive, psychomotor, and adaptive development were obtained at nine, 15, 21, 30, and 40 months of age. The study sample included 24 children with SCD for cognitive and adaptive measures, and 23 for the psychomotor measure. A twotailed t-test was used to determine the significance value of the PEP, by comparing the means of pre-intervention and post-interventions scores. A statistically significant outcome was  observed in psychomotor functioning (Bayley Scales of Infant Development, 2nd Edition (BSID-II)). No statistical significance was indicated in cognitive (BSID-II) and adaptive, motor subscale (Vineland-II) functioning. The BSID-II PDI findings suggest the PEP was instrumental in positive psychomotor development and may be instrumental for other clinical populations. A correlational analysis identified a significant negative correlation with maternal education and pre-intervention cognitive scores and a weak positive correlation with maternal education and post-intervention cognitive scores.

 

Conceptualizing Postpartum Depression through Attachment Theory and a Catholic Understanding of Relationality and Motherhood, Stephanie Balceniuk

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a debilitating disorder negatively affecting many mothers in their efforts to raise their children. Research on PPD finds that much of the disorder is due to major hormonal changes after the birth of a child, history of mental illness such as depression, and lack of support during this transition. Due to the hesitation of many physicians to give medication to breastfeeding mothers, it is helpful to find other ways to relieve the suffering of these mothers. This dissertation aims to utilize the psychological concept of Attachment Theory as well as the Catholic understanding of the relationality of the person to understand both the relational factors that lead to PPD and how, by working through the lens of relationship, a mother can heal from PPD. Additionally, motherhood is conceptualized through three traits: receptivity, generosity, and creativity. The conceptualization of these traits aids in showing how PPD wounds the mother as well as allows for an understanding of full and free motherhood. It is the hope of this dissertation to give clinicians another way of helping mothers who havePPD and to reduce the chances of having recurrent PPD.

 

Competency Requirements of Psychologists Assessing Diocesan Seminary Applicants for the Catholic Church, Joseph C. Tatro

Psychologists consulting with the Catholic Church in assessing diocesan seminary candidates need to acquire specialty areas of competency that build upon the foundational and fundamental competencies psychologists receive throughout their educational and professional careers.  The specialized area of assessing seminary candidates and consulting with the dioceses requires particular expertise in the areas of knowledge, skills, and attitude related to this work.  These specialized competencies enable the psychologist to assess specific issues important to the candidate and to the Catholic Church. This work proposes a need to acquire and develop these specialized competencies, achieving minimum and advanced thresholds appropriate to the psychologist’s level of training and experience.  A two-level certification program for licensed psychologists is proposed that will provide the knowledge, experiential skills, and attitude necessary for adequately assessing diocesan seminarian applicants.  In addition, an on-going formation program is also proposed for continually increasing and maintaining competency with this specialized population.

 

A Courage-Based Intervention for Treating Social Anxiety Disorder, James Hernandez, 2016
Although there are several effective treatments to decreasing symptomatology and subjective distress for the person suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD), the literature shows that they are ineffective in increasing their overall or relational well-being. Thus, there is a need for a model that aims to aid the person with SAD to be able to flourish. It is argued that in order to face the difficulties and obstacles that the person with SAD faces on the path to flourishing, the person needs courage. As a result, this dissertation proposes a practical-theoretical model for instilling courage in the therapeutic setting for clients that struggle with SAD. In doing so, an integrated model of SAD will be put forth, drawing from different theoretical models and developmental pathways of SAD. It will then propose that a secure attachment style is the foundation for the person to engage in necessary life tasks. Additionally, it will employ the “courageous mindset” model set forth by Hannah et al. (2010) in order to explicate how the person can grow in courage. Finally, it will provide case examples to show how to apply the model.

 

Mindfulness and Psychotherapy in a Christian Context, Matthew McCall, 2016
Over the last 20 years, mindfulness and mindfulness-related interventions have become increasingly influential in the field of psychology. Kabat-Zinn (1990) and many others have attempted to secularize mindfulness by separating it from its Buddhist roots. Many, however, remain unsure as to whether this Eastern-influenced practice is helpful or trustworthy, particularly conservative Christians (Symington & Symington, 2012). While some have proposed modifications to mindfulness to make it into a form of Christian prayer (Tan, 2011), the question of whether unaltered secular mindfulness programs are suitable has remained unanswered. I hypothesize that mindfulness practice per se can be suitable for Christians. I will show this through an exploration of the Buddhist roots of mindfulness and an examination of the principal differences between Buddhism and Christianity. These differences will provide guideposts by which we can evaluate mindfulness as it is defined, explained, and practiced in modern psychology. We will see in the literature review that modern mindfulness practices are free of pseudo-Buddhist teachings, and are, in fact, different from Buddhist mindfulness practices in several ways. This will allow us to conclude that modern mindfulness has been successfully secularized, i.e., made into a religiously neutral psychological practice, and is thus suitable for Christian practice. I will then offer a formal conceptualization of mindfulness as a neutral skill, analogous to imagination; respond to common Christian objections; and provide treatment recommendations for Christian clinicians seeking to utilize mindfulness.

 

Factors Characterizing Pre-Alcoholism, Alcoholism, and Alcoholism-Recovery from Neo-Adlerian and Catholic Christian Perspectives, Jonathan Marcotte, 2016
This dissertation proposes a three-stage model of alcoholism development and recovery for persons suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). The model is supported by literature that is focused on characteristics of the three stages: 1) Pre-alcoholism stage, consisting of factors that predispose children, adolescents, and adults to alcoholism; 2) Alcoholism stage, in which persons with AUD express psychological characteristics based on their addiction; and 3) Alcoholism-recovery stage, in which the persons with AUD takes on a new self-conceptthat manifests from the development of healthy coping skills, relationships, and treatment. I discuss research concerning transitional factors between the stages and the special treatments used to achieve and maintain the alcoholism-recovery stage. In order to understand how the three stages can be conceptualized and used within the context of psychotherapy, each stage was integrated with Neo-Adlerian Theory and enriched with a Catholic Christian Meta-Model. As such, the purpose of this dissertation is to outline the psychological implications of the three stages, and how therapists can conceptualize these stages to help clients seek healing, and flourish.

 

Fasting for virtue: The development of the virtue of temperance in light of acceptance and commitment therapy, enhanced by the perspective of appropriate Catholic fasting, Valentina Diglio, 2016

In the Catholic tradition, fasting is an act of sacrifice for love of God and a path to virtue (Benedict XVI, 2009; John Paul II, 1993; Tanquerey, 2000). Appropriate Catholic fasting can also be applied to the therapeutic setting to help those struggling with self-indulgent behaviors, such as overeating, to develop self-control and temperance, which would hopefully generalize to other areas of their lives. This dissertation raises and responds to the following questions: The first is whether a Catholic approach to fasting, in its practical, relational, and spiritual dimensions, can be therapeutically applied to a client’s desire for flourishing in the midst of suffering from habits of overeating. The second question inquires as to how the therapeutic alliance as a relational support can serve the client’s goals to attain temperance and self-care through appropriate fasting. This dissertation uses a Catholic conceptualization of the human person as a foundation to illustrate the need for this disciplined practice and the importance of the virtue of temperance, including interpersonal support. It defines appropriate Catholic fasting, contrasts it with non-religious fasting, and examines the various uses of fasting, as well as their positive and negative effects. Additionally, this dissertation explores various motivations to fast as well as barriers and facilitators of client adherence. Finally, it will incorporate appropriate Catholic fasting into Acceptance and Behavior Therapy (ACT) with the support of the therapeutic relationship. Fasting through ACT will be applied to overeating as an example of the many potential clinical applications of appropriate fasting.

 

Self-Gift Within Marriage Preparation Programmes, Lucy Muturi, 2016

There is mounting evidence that marriage is good for spouses, children and society as a whole. Marriage preparation programmes are interventions offered to couples contemplating marriage to help them build and maintain healthy and satisfying marital relationships. In theological terms self-gift is at the heart of marital love and is what sustains the marriage and thus, any marriage preparation programme should be helping people make a gift of self to their partner in marriage. The psychological counterparts to self-gift are commitment, forgiveness, sacrifice and self-disclosure. This study focuses on how Mastering the Mysteries of Love, PREPARE to Last and Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program accomplish this by analysing how each promotes commitment, forgiveness, sacrifice and self-disclosure. All three programmes were found to have elements of all four constructs in varying degrees.

 

Implications of attachment theory and Catholic anthropology for homeschooled adolescents’ appropriation of family values, David Kovacs, 2016

Catholic homeschooling ideally focuses on educating the whole person, and of paramount importance is character and moral education alongside academics. The heart of education is a relationship between educator (parent) and student, for the mind is reached through the heart. How will the homeschooled adolescent appropriate his family’s religious and moral values in the homeschool setting? Will his attachment style influence the level to which he appropriates those values? What can Catholic anthropology offer to deepen our understanding of this process? Attachment theory addresses the quality of relationships, and thus will be used to offer a tentative explanation of the differences between children who readily assimilate the education offered them and others who display more resistance. A child with a better attachment relationship will use his attachment figure as a secure base to explore not only the physical world, but also the world of ideas and values, gaining a quality intellectual formation while forming a solid identity that contributes to a mature and flourishing life. This dissertation examines research on attachment theory and education outcomes, integrating the foundational perspective and insights of Catholic anthropology, and makes connections between it and research done on Catholic adolescents’ and young adults’ experience of the faith.It will propose a model that illustrates the relationship between attachment and appropriation of Catholic moral and religious values. The first part of this model considers the input variables that have been operative in the adolescent’s relationships. Second, the influence of thoughts and emotions on how an adolescent relates to others. Third, the behaviors that result from these thoughts and emotions. Fourth, the patterns of interaction that crystallize as a result of these behaviors. Fifth, the expectations that the adolescent comes to have as a result of these patterns of interaction. Sixth, this results in an Internal Working Model that informs an adolescent of how the world around him functions, and influences how patterns of interaction are reinforced. This results in either the adolescent rejecting his caregivers and the values they have attempted to pass on, or identifying with his caregivers and appropriating his family’s values.

 

The role of self-regulation in treating depression: applications of research to psychotherapy, Teresa M. Matous, 2015

In the past few decades, the field of psychology has given increased attention to the concept of self-control, particularly in connection with the emergence of a large body of empirical research on self-control strength (also termed willpower). To this point, there has been little consideration given to how this research can inform clinical work. Given the significant problems with self-regulation that accompany many cases of Major Depressive Disorder, findings from willpower studies have great relevance for the treatment of the disorder. This dissertation reviews the research on willpower, ego depletion, and related concepts. Next, it evaluates two empirically supported psychotherapies for the treatment of depression, Cognitive Therapy and Interpersonal Psychotherapy, in terms of their compatibility with the strength model of self-control and related research. Finally, it proposes strategies and interventions for applying willpower research to existing psychotherapies for treating adults with major depression.

 

Becoming the bride: A psychological model of bridal identity development in women, Jill M. Bohacik, 2015
Identity issues have increased in modern times as a result of psychological traumas, early attachment issues, and distorted conceptions of the human person. Woman’s identity has been affected in a particular way and many females have lost a sense of their womanhood. The current work presumes a Christian anthropology and draws predominantly from Saint John Paul II’s understanding of the nature of woman as virgin-bride-mother. With particular emphasis on her bridal dimension, I apply the theological and anthropological truths about feminine identity to the psychology of woman. Scriptural references from Song of Songs aid in understanding the nature of the bride. I propose a psychological model of development of the bridal dimension of woman’s identity and identify psychological constituents particular to each stage. The argument is made that disruptions to this process often result in woman manifesting distorted brides and four categories of distortion are suggested. A case study articulates the process of bridal identity development in an individual woman. Central themes indicate that helping woman to recognize, embrace and integrate the bridal dimension of her identity is crucial to her flourishing and may assist therapists in diagnosis and treatment. Preliminary suggestions for treatment are offered.

 

Catholic Marital Infidelity Treatment: A psychotherapeutic guide, William T. McKenna, 2015

The Catholic psychotherapist offers a unique viewpoint on how to conduct and conceptualize marital psychotherapy, and particularly when treating marital infidelity. Indeed, he is able to effectively treat and conceptualize this traumatic experience by linking the psychological sciences with his anthropological foundation. This foundation is grounded within a Catholic concept of human flourishing, vocation, and the traditional goods of marriage. This dissertation proposes a Catholic therapeutic framework for treating marital infidelity, which I entitle Catholic Marital Infidelity Treatment (CMIT). Catholic Marital Infidelity Treatment’s framework includes the following components. First is a Catholic understanding of marriage, how that understanding influences a person’s core beliefs, and how those core beliefs influence therapy. Second are the origins and uniqueness of each couple’s attachment styles, how those styles interact within marriage, and how attachment functions as an explanation as to why spouses react in a post-traumatic manner when they discover an affair. Third, a unified approach of cognitive, emotional, family systems, interpersonal and reconciliation based interventions that promote fidelity and a deepening of marital love. Finally, CMIT launches the couple towards resiliency and post-traumatic growth so that they may not only find healing, but also move towards flourishing.

 

Masculine ideology & fatherhood: A critique of current masculinity scales and a psychological and theological response, Gabriel J. Somarriba, 2015
This dissertation develops an interdisciplinary and integrated model of masculinity. Using psychological and theological characteristics of fatherhood, a fatherhood-oriented form of masculinity is presented. In this dissertation, fatherhood is understood as masculinity in its most mature form. This model is used as an interpretive framework for critiquing and synthesizing three well-known masculine ideology scales: Male Role Norms Inventory (Levant et al., 1992), Gender Role Conflict Scale (O’Neil et al., 1986), and Conformity to Male Norms Inventory (Mahalik et al., 2003). All of these scales refer to masculine norms without explicitly addressing fatherhood. The dissertation concludes with the description of a Catholic model of masculinity which will also incorporate a psychological understanding of effective fathering.

 

Using courage combined with personal relationships in psychotherapy for men, Bryan K. Violette, 2015
A shift in contemporary conceptions of masculinity can be identified in both cultural media and scholarly literature. Although men have responded to this new vision of manhood in a variety of ways, what is often produced is one of two male psychological reactions. The anxious-passive male lacks initiative and is irresponsible, weak, and unreliable. The anxious-assertive male has little emotional awareness and is narcissistic, dominant, and interpersonally exploitative. This work will argue that these polar responses are rooted in fear, and thus a program for psychotherapy to address this is appropriate. The virtue of courage will be introduced to assist in alleviating psychological distress inherent in the two attitudes. Further, it is conceptualized that both courage and fear involve important interpersonal aspects. Thus, the proposed program for psychotherapy also includes an emphasis on the use of male personal relationships in developing courage and overcoming fear.

 

Psychological attachment issues in Catholic seminarians: Concepts & interview data relevant for formators and psychologists, Christina R. McShane, 2015

There has been a recent increase in research and dialogue regarding the psychological health of Roman Catholic priests, as well as the role of psychology in the admittance and formation process of seminarians. Strong relationships with others and with God have been identified as important factors for a priest’s psychological and spiritual health and happiness. Attachment theory provides a useful framework for conceptualizing the development of relational difficulties. The prevalence and significance of insecure attachment styles in seminarians has not been explored in much detail in previous research. Original research was conducted in the form of questionnaires and interviews with psychologists and formation staff currently working with seminarians. This work examined the relevance of attachment issues for seminarians, explored what can be done for attachment issues using the present resources and formation process, and gathered information on what current psychologists and formators see as attachment problems or other types of psychological problems.

 

Virtue and vice in children’s literature: A content analysis of best-selling American picture books, Rebecca A. Showalter, 2015

In recent years, as a result of the “Positive Psychology” movement psychologists have proposed studying the origins and development of positive human characteristics traditionally known as virtues and character strengths. This dissertation used content analysis to determine whether these character strengths (called virtues in this work) and/or their opposing traits (called vices in this work) are present in today’s American children’s literature. The researcher and seven judges reviewed and scored 30 of the best-selling American picture books from 2006-2010. The results yielded a clear emphasis within the literature on the virtues of Kindness, Love, Creativity and Vitality. Many virtues such as Social intelligence, Curiosity and Love of learning were moderately depicted through the characters and their behavior. Some virtues were practically absent: Spirituality, Humility/Modesty, Self-Regulation and Forgiveness and Mercy. With regard to the vices, some were presented and then rejected by the storyline through the depiction of natural consequences or direct punishment: Closed-mindedness, Social ignorance, and Recklessness. Many of the vices (12 in total) did not appear within the sample. Finally, the results yielded a positive acceptance of the vices of Vanity, Impulsivity and Indulgence. These findings are discussed in light of literature on healthy child development and gender differences of formation needs in contemporary society.

 

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.