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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.

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, Instructor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the Director of Online Development, 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.

Additionally, in conjunction with Dr. Tyler Wilkinson of Mercer University, DeVon is revising the Psycho-Epistemological Profile-VI. Epistemology is the study of how individuals come to trust and know information that is presented them. In counselor education, the way in which a person receives information regarding their clients in a clinical space can be influenced by one’s epistemological preference. Moreover, prior research has indicated that individuals’ epistemological preference may shape the way in which counselors decide on counseling theories to guide how they intervene clinically. A frequently used measure of epistemological preference is the Psycho-Epistemological Profile-VI (PEP; Royce & Mos, 1980). This measure was originally developed in Canada and has not been revised since 1980. The outcome of the PEP gives scores on three (3) different scales of epistemological preference: empiricism, rationalism, and metaphorism/intuitionism. As such, the researchers will be exploring the validity of a revised version of the PEP that includes changes to the scoring method and changes to some of the language of the questions. Finally, initial norming data will be collected to get an initial understanding of potential student epistemological referencing as indicated by the PEP. Dr. Wilkinson and DeVon will also be utilizing the Theoretical Orientation Profile Scale-Revised Questionnaire to assess if there are any correlations between students’ epistemological profile and their theoretical orientations.

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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