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Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Updated: 8/03/2021

In addition to teaching and being active clinicians, Richmont faculty are productive in research, writing, and professional presentations.  In addition to the faculty, our students give back to the field of Christian counseling by doing research of their own and collaborating with our faculty.  Often these students are enrolled in a thesis track while completing their coursework, however, students don’t need to be formally enrolled in a thesis track to conduct research while enrolled at Richmont.

Want to learn more about Richmont’s professional and student research?

Contact Dr. Mary Plisco, Director of Research.

The research department at Richmont is currently engaging in programmatic research aimed at developing and investigating the impact of a structured spiritual and relational intervention designed to enhance one’s experience of grace and spiritual well-being throughout the clinical internship year. The motivation for this programmatic research is directly connected to Richmont’s mission and also informed by research highlighting that mental health professionals in general, and therapist trainees in particular, may be at risk for experiencing high levels of psychological distress, such as burnout and compassion fatigue, as a result of exposure to intensely negative emotions and experiences presented by clients. The Richmont Grace Intervention is designed to facilitate a deeper sense of spiritual union with God and with others through education, activities of personal reflection and expression, and interpersonal interaction regarding spiritual disappointments, doubts, and disconnection.  Additionally, in collaboration with the Hope Counseling Centers and Richmont Trauma Center, the Research Department works to gather data pertaining to treatment outcomes. Recent findings suggested that clients experience a statistically significant reduction in depressive, anxious, and trauma symptoms over the course of their treatment. Research findings have also highlighted that scores on the Adverse Childhood Events Scale (ACES) are associated with higher levels of symptoms at the beginning of treatment, and yet involvement in therapy over time has been found to significantly reduce these symptoms.  Finally, in collaboration with the Quality Enhancement Plan team, the Research Department works to assess how interventions aimed at enhancing wellness and self-care among students are related to improvements in students’ awareness and commitment to self-care across their career. The intention of the University QEP is to provide students with support and strategies to actively engage in self-care strategies that support wellness.

Dr. Sonja Sutherland is currently engaging in pedagogical research aimed at investigating the impact of the addition of a structured process groups component to the Social and Cultural Diversity Issues in Counseling course. With the ultimate goal of fostering increased cultural humility, increased awareness of self in relation to diverse others, and increased cultural competence in students, this research intervention is designed to evaluate the impact of process groups on these developmental areas in masters-level counselors-in-training. This research is a response to the discourse in the counseling field regarding cultural competence development, values imposition, discrimination, and respect for diversity, which has been in the spotlight in recent years, and which was a major consideration in the updated 2014 iteration of the ACA Code of Ethics. This research seeks to answer the call for higher levels of accountability among counselor-educations with regard to pedagogical approaches to diversity training in students.

DeVon Mills, Assistant Professor and the Clinical Director of the Richmont Trauma Center, is currently conducting research on males’ experiences in CACREP accredited schools of counseling. While men once comprised more than 50% of counselors, the most recent numbers indicated that current male enrolment in CACREP accredited graduate schools of counseling rests at approximately 17%. The decline of males in the counseling profession is alarming due to the implications it holds for male clients seeking help in areas such as work-life balance, sexual issues, and fatherhood. Exploring male students’ perceptions of their lived experiences and perceptions of their educative experience as a whole will better equip counselor educators to assuage factors that impact male students who are pursuing degrees in counseling. Being knowledgeable of these factors will help counselor educators both prevent and address these issues should they arise or if they are found to be present in current educational setting. Thus, the purpose of this study is to contribute to the literature in a meaningful manner by examining the experiences of male students who are enrolled in CACREP accredited graduate schools of counseling.

Faculty Productivity Report – 10.21.2021

Aubrey Gold, in collaboration with Dr. Plisco, presented at the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Annual Conference in Atlanta in October of 2021. The title of her presentation was: “Experiential Instruction in Emotion Differentiation.”

 

Teddy Perkins, in collaboration with Dr. Plisco, presented at the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Annual Conference in Atlanta in October of 2021. The title of her presentation was: “Utilizing Poetry to Enhance Emotional Experiencing for Counselors in Training.”

 

Lisa Jones’ thesis entitled, “The Stories of Women, by Women, Married to Male Ministry Leaders,” was accepted for publication in the journal Mental Health, Religion, and Culture.

 

Daniel Pelts is currently in the data analysis phase of his research project entitled, “Looking behind to Look ahead: How Do White Americans Experience Intergenerational Offender Trauma.”

 

Teddy Perkins is currently in the data analysis phase of her project entitled, “The Influence of Sexual Threat Narratives on Gender Differences in the Perception of Public Safety in Liminal Spaces.”

 

Taylor Pastor recently received IRB approval for her study entitled, “The Predictive Value of Buffers Related to Chronic Pain in the Older Adult Community.”

 

Richmont Faculty Productivity Report
July 2020-June 2021
*Bolded names are Richmont Faculty

Gladson, J. (2020). Visions of the future: The Millerite encounter with the Stone-Campbell movement. Restoration Quarterly, 62, 209-222.

Hill, Preston. (2021). Does God need a body to keep the score of trauma? Theological Puzzles, 1(1), online. New Visions in Theological Anthropology, Science-Engaged Theology Initiative, University of St Andrews, https://www.theo-puzzles.ac.uk/2021/04/20/does-god-need-a-body-to-keep-the-score-of-trauma/.

Lyon, N. V., & Plisco, M. K. (2020). The effects of self-compassion and mindfulness on performance anxiety and flow in elite female swimmers. Journal of Sport Behavior, 43, 426-441.

Myers, K. J., & Lane, W. D. (2021). Counseling veterans: Culture, issues, and best practices. Pyramid Healthcare.

Norris, E. K. (2021). Predicting secondary traumatic stress and burnout: Workplace, individual, and client factors (Publication No. 28322173) [Doctoral dissertation, Mercer University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Snow, K., Colburn, A., Benoit, S., & Mills, D. (2020) Back to the basics: Defining and integrating spirituality vs. religion. The Journal of the Pennsylvania Counseling Association, 19(1), 15-25.

Presentations

Doverspike, W. F. (2020, September). “Ethical decision making: Case scenarios.” Ethics workshop presented to Espyr® Network and Provider Relations Department and Georgia EAPA to network providers [via live webinar due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions], Marietta, Georgia.

Doverspike, W. F. (2021, March). Professional ethics and clinical practice: Common case scenarios. Ethics workshop presented at Pyramid Health Care [via live webinar due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions], Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Doverspike, W. F. (2021, March). Professional ethics and clinical practice: Common case scenarios. Ethics workshop to be presented at Ridgeview Institute [via live webinar due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions], Smyrna, Georgia.

Felix, K. (2021, May). The Role of religiosity, wpirituality, and the arts in overcoming racial trauma. Seminar presented at the state conference of the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia (LPCAGA), Savannah, GA.

Gladson, J., & Gladson, L. (2021, April). Ministry to victims of violence and trauma. Paper presented at the Georgia Region of the Christian Church. Virtual.

Hill, P. (2021, May). Dolores inferni in anima sustinuisse: Cusa, Pico, Faber, and Calvin on Christ’s descent into hell. Paper presentation at Tenth Annual RefoRC Conference on Early Modern Christianity, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest.

Hill, P. (2021, March). Calvin’s traumatized Christ: Reimagining Christ’s descent into hell in the theology of John Calvin and its relevance for posttraumatic stress in the year 2021. Paper presentation at AAR/SBL Southeast Region 2021 Annual Meeting, Constructive Theologies Section, Florida State University, USA.

Hill, P. (2021, January). Theological perspectives for understanding trauma and violence in society today. Paper presentation at Systematic Theology, Religious Studies, and Interdisciplinary Research Colloquium, Aachen University, Germany.

Hill, P. (2020, November). Luther and Calvin on Christ’s descent into hell. Paper presented at the Evangelical Theological Society 72nd Annual Meeting.

Hill, P. (2020, November). Response to Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion. Book Panel Respondent for Christ Among the Disciplines Interdisciplinary Conference, https://www.christamongthedisciplines.com/

Hill, P. (2020, December). Does God need a body to keep the score of trauma? Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion Virtual Session, Puzzles in Science-Engaged Theology, New Visions in Theological Anthropology, https://set.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/virtual-sessions/

Hill, P., & Sartor, D. (2021, February). Attachment theory and the cry of dereliction: Toward a science-engaged model of atonement for posttraumatic stains on the soul. Presented at the Logos Research Seminar, University of Saint Andrews, Scotland, UK.

Johnson, C. M., & Plisco, M. K. (2021, April). Imposter phenomenon in Black female undergraduate students. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Counseling Association. Virtual.

Smith, R. & Smith, L. (2021). Trauma and mental health. Paper presented at Lawndale Christian Legal Center. Chicago, IL.

Smith, A., & Rogers, T. (2021, March). Anorexia Nervosa and the Effects of Trauma on the Weight Restoration Process. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Christian Association of Psychological Studies (Counselor Education track). Virtual.

Plisco, M. K., Blackburn, A., & White, J. (2021, March). You don’t have to grin and bear it: Remembering what we forgot wellness and self-care in the midst of a pandemic. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Christian Association of Psychological Studies (Counselor Education track). Virtual.

Sutherland, S. (2021). Considerations for Telepsychology and Working with Racially
Diverse Clients. Georgia Psychological Association.

Sutherland, S. (2021). Racial & cultural diversity: Understanding trauma and
intervention. Telehealth Certification Institute.

Sutherland, S. (2021). Cross-cultural civility-mindset development: A practical model
for culturally competent clinical supervision. Telehealth Certification Institute.

Sutherland, S. (2021). Antiracist work in counseling and counselor education and
supervision. SACES Multicultural Counseling Interest Network.

Sutherland, S. (2021, January). Diverse students: Tips for engaging in difficult dialogue while understanding myself and diverse others. Fostering Helpful Conversations around Diversity in Higher Education [Symposium]. Panel of Diverse Faculty Series, Virtual.

Sutherland, S. (2021, February). BIPOC counseling students – Part 1: Tips for managing battle fatigue & successfully navigating school and career. Fostering Helpful Conversations around Diversity in Higher Education [Symposium]. Panel of Diverse Faculty Series, Virtual.

Sutherland, S. (2021, February). BIPOC counseling students – Part 2: Tips for managing battle fatigue & successfully navigating school and career. Fostering Helpful Conversations around Diversity in Higher Education [Symposium]. Panel of Diverse Faculty Series, Virtual.

Sutherland, S. (2021, February). Diverse faculty: How to support BIPOC students. Fostering Helpful Conversations around Diversity in Higher Education [Symposium]. Panel of Diverse Faculty Series, Virtual.

Sutherland, S. (2021, April). Today’s & tomorrow’s church leaders: Perspectives on the role of the church in social justice. Fostering Helpful Conversations around Diversity in Higher Education [Symposium]. Panel of Diverse Faculty Series, Virtual.

Turner, M., Plisco, M. K., & Myers, K. (2021, April). The impact of PTSD on relational intimacy and sexual dysfunction in veterans. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Counseling Association. Virtual.

White, J. L., Blackburn, A. M., & Plisco, M. K. (2020, December). Supporting student wellness & self-care through A QEP. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Colleges. Nashville, TN (virtual).

Updated: 7/08/2021

Crystal Johnson presented her completed Thesis Project, “Impostor Phenomenon in Black Female Undergraduates” at the annual American Counseling Associations’ conference. Her project highlighted the prevalent nature of impostor phenomenon (IP) among Black female undergraduates and documented how high levels of IP are linked to lower levels of campus connected and self-compassion as well as higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. The results of this study indicate the importance for universities, academic advisors, and campus leaders to implement self-compassion and campus-connectedness interventions to facilitate a healthy self-attitude through focusing on being kind and understanding towards oneself during times of failure.

Lisa Jones presented her Thesis Project, “The Stories of Women, by Women, Married to Male Ministry Leaders” at the annual conference of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies. Her project highlighted the unique experiences of women married to men in ministerial leadership. Findings utilizing grounded theory methodology of all women’s narratives ultimately revealed three core themes related to Fears, Role Strain and Satisfaction, and Authentic Identity. Implications of the current research highlight the importance of establishing support systems for the women suffering from strain, burnout, and a lack of belonging. The hope is that through this awareness, opportunities can be provided for wives of ministry leaders to find safe, confidential relationships where they can share with other women of their need for openness in a nonthreatening space. Based on study findings, it is recommended that wives of male ministers pursue opportunities for self-care outside of the church or organization, be it exercise or special-interest groups or a personal hobby or career which allows them to develop their identity outside of the role of ministry leader’s wife.

Robert “Lee” Goins is currently researching the levels of secondary traumatic stress (STS), compassion fatigue (CF), and burnout (BO) in staff of churches and faith-based nonprofits serving traumatized populations. The identification of levels of STS, CF, and BO in churches and faith-based nonprofits has the potential to determine blind spots that contribute to low rates of work satisfaction, spiritual wellbeing, and turnover in churches and faith-based nonprofits. It also contributes to the development of training and intervention to prevent and mitigate the experience of STS and CF before it evolves into BO as defined.

Anibel Hamilton is currently researching the associations between alexithymia and emotional regulation. She is learning how mindfulness and self compassion skills can serve to buffer the negative impacts of emotional suppression and rumination.

Teddy Perkins is currently researching the influence of sexual threat narratives on gender differences in the perception of public safety in liminal spaces.

Daniel Pelts is currently collecting data for his thesis and is recruiting counselors to interview about their experience working with White American clients grappling with the concept of race and racism in America.

Heather Baker completed her thesis, titled, “The Emotional Experience of ‘Awe,’ Resilience, & Post-Traumatic Growth: Attending to ‘Awe Moments’ in Traumatic Narrative Integration.” She is currently preparing her thesis for publication.

Nicole Lyon completed her thesis entitled, “The Effects of Self-Compassion and Mindfulness on Flow and Performance Anxiety in Elite Athletes.” Her thesis work was recently published in December’s edition of the Journal of Sports Behavior.


Nicole Vernon is currently working on her thesis entitled, “The Effects of Self-Compassion and Mindfulness on Flow and Performance Anxiety in Elite Athletes.” Here’s an excerpt from her research proposal: “Student-athletes have been found to be at an increased risk for perfectionism, negative cognitions and emotional and behavioral difficulties. Student-athletes often are juggling academic responsibilities, athletic obligations, and interpersonal relationships and at times are pressured to be presented as an ideal public image of a perfect student-athlete (Goodman et al., 2014). Athletes are taught to control or reduce emotions, unwanted thoughts, and focus on sensations, which increase the potential for achieving optimal performance (Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996). There is a great deal of evidence-based research supporting mindfulness-based interventions for elite athletes to increase flow and decrease performance anxiety but there is little research surrounding the implications of one’s level of self-compassion on these variables. Neff (2003) defines self-compassion as involving “being touched by and open to one’s own suffering, not avoiding or disconnected from it, generating the desire to alleviate one’s suffering and to heal oneself with kindness” (p. 87).

Heather Baker is currently working on a thesis, titled, “The Emotional Experience of ‘Awe,’ Resilience, & Post-Traumatic Growth: Attending to ‘Awe Moments’ in Traumatic Narrative Integration.” Here’s an excerpt from her research proposal: “The purpose of this study is to explore the presence, utility, and impact of the emotional experience of ‘awe’ in the retelling, or, making sense of, traumatic events (also called narrative integration). Despite steady advances in trauma, post-traumatic growth (PTG), resilience, and awe research, findings from these fields have yet to be synthesized. Although research has suggested that the emotional experience of awe can reduce PTSD-related symptoms, thereby potentially enhancing PTG or facilitating resilience, no research—qualitative or quantitative—has yet been conducted to assess whether the emotional experience of awe can act as an ‘organizing principle’ in the integration of traumatic narrative. Neither have any studies been conducted to determine whether, in the co-constructive of traumatic narrative, awe-inducing stimuli, or, attention to ‘awe moments,’ can boost client resilience, thus increasing post-traumatic growth. In summary, while research suggests that awe experiences are positively correlated with increased resiliency in the face of trauma, more research is needed before specific awe-related interventions can be developed for trauma survivors.”

Amelia Ward is currently working on her thesis entitled, “Third Culture Kids and Unresolved Grief”. Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are those who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture. Moving to another country involves a great amount of emotional distress, and can include a bereavement process similar to mourning the loss of a loved one (Bhugra & Becker, 2005). This process is made more difficult by the fact that TCKs are forced to mourn the loss of their own personal identity and learn to adopt a new lifestyle that both remembers their native culture and honors the cultural norms of their host country. Though the number of TCKs continues to rise, they remain one of the most under researched and underserved populations in global society.

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