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Research Labs

Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy Research Labs at Wheaton College

The School of Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy at Wheaton College follows a practitioner-scholar model. Students are trained not only as practitioners, but also as productive scholars who are good consumers of research and capable of contributing to scholarship in the field. Faculty members have been recruited, in part, because of their promise as scholars. As a consequence, opportunities for productive research and scholarship are available to all graduate and undergraduate students.

School of Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy Faculty Research Labs

Dr. Sally Schwer Canning

Dr. Canning directs the Urban Community Health Lab.  The aim of this lab is to foster the health and flourishing of children, adults, and families living in poor, urban communities as well as the professionals and volunteers who serve there.

Currently, there are two active streams of research, affectionately known as Sisters’ Keepers and Going the Distance.

The first seeks to understand and support the health of patients at the Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago. Current projects target depression and domestic violence in women and low birth-weight in their babies. Another examines language and perceptions of Spanish-speaking online discussion group participants describing pregnancy and postpartum and mood experiences. Future projects could involve other patient groups and concerns within behavioral health.

The second line of research is aimed at understanding and encouraging healthy practices, well-being and faithfulness in individuals and faith-based community organizations serving in high-stress, poor contexts.

Dr. Ward Davis

Dr. Ward Davis directs the Psychology and Spirituality Research Lab (PSRL), which is a research team in the Psychology Department at Wheaton College. PSRL is comprised of Wheaton graduate and undergraduate psychology students. The mission of PSRL is to advance the scientific study of spirituality to promote health and well-being. At PSRL our research and resources focus on the intersections between psychology and spirituality, with an emphasis on Christian spirituality. Our activities primarily include: (a) writing scholarly articles and book chapters; (b) conducting original research and disseminating our findings; and (c) offering downloadable resources for use by scholars, scientists, practitioners, and leaders, as well as the interested public. 

Dr. Tao Liu

Dr. Tao Liu co-directs The Multicultural Peace and Justice Collaborative.

Dr. Liu's research interests include issues of multiculturalism, gender and race. Specifically, Dr. Liu has recently explored the intersections of race and gender in discrimination experienced by Asian males. She intends to continue studying the stereotypes ethnic minorities, especially Asian Americans, and how the stereotypes affect individuals’ mental health. She is also interested in developing interventions to help those who experienced discrimination to cope with racial trauma.

Dr. John McConnell

Dr. McConnell co-directs The Multicultural Peace and Justice Collaborative.

Dr. McConnell places a strong emphasis on research methodology and statistics. He studies social justice, peace, and forgiveness in multicultural contexts. He applies principles and methodologies of social psychology to many applied and clinical topics, including bias and prejudice reduction, intergroup harmony, social justice for oppressed populations, and multicultural clinical judgment errors. Additionally, he researches self-forgiveness.

Dr. Benjamin Pyykkonen

Dr. Pyykkonen directs the Neurocognitive Functioning LabThis lab will continue to explore the relationship between neurocognitive functioning, psychological functioning, and functional status. Of particular interest is the identification of cognitive and emotional factors that enhance aspects of functional independence including employment capacity, independent living, and reduction in level of care in the elderly. In addition to multiple meta-analytic studies and developing normative data, recent projects have increasingly emphasized early identification, caregiver interventions, and religious coping, as they might relate to functional status. Much of the work in this lab is designed to better identify these very factors related to functional status in individuals with CNS injury from any number of etiological factors e.g., head injury, progressive dementing conditions, epilepsy, metabolic processes, infectious processes, hydrocephalus, alcoholism, and cancer.

Dr. Sandra Yu Rueger

Dr. Rueger’s research interests focus on individual differences in responses to stress, and the risk and resilience factors related to adaptive coping and persistence in the face of negative events.  She is particularly interested in the role of attributional style and social support as intrapersonal and interpersonal risk and resilience factors, and the use of substances (i.e., alcohol and cigarettes) as a maladaptive coping response to stress.  She is currently working on a longitudinal study, called “Adolescents Moving On Study” (AMOS), which is focused on these risk and resilience factors in the transition from adolescence into early adulthood.  She is also working on a project, in collaboration with Andrea King at the University of Chicago, on ethnic differences in subjective response to alcohol.  This work has been funded by NIAAA (#R01 AA013746-S).  She also has interests in peer victimization as a chronic stressor in the lives of adolescents, the development and psychometric evaluation of assessment tools, and the use of meta-analysis to quantitatively review a literature in order to inform future directions in research.

Dr. Rueger directs the Youth Risk and Resilience Lab (YouRR Lab). The focus of YouRR Lab (Youth Risk and Resilience) is on adolescents and young adults, individual differences in response to stress (including substance use as coping), and cognitive vulnerability to depression as a response to stress, and social support as a protective factor. I am also interested in ethnic/racial differences, as well as gender differences in these risk and protective factors. 

Dr. Vitaliy Voytenko

Dr. Voytenko leads the Religion and Health Research Lab.  The lab’s general focus is on the role of religion/spirituality as a protective factor enhancing treatment effectiveness and a perpetuating factor contributing to treatment resistance. Given Dr. Voytenko’s clinical expertise in depressive disorders, the lab’s current major longitudinal project investigates the role of religious and spiritual struggles in treatment-resistant depression. Participation in the lab provides students with exposure to the growing field of spirituality and heath and offers an opportunity to contribute to ongoing projects and to disseminate findings through presentations at national conferences and publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Mark Yarhouse

Dr. Yarhouse directs the Sexual and Gender Identity (SGI) Lab. The mission of the Sexual and Gender Identity (SGI) Lab is, from a Christian worldview, to further our understanding of sexual and gender identity, and the intersection of these identities with religious identity, and to be a resource to students in training and those in the community who are stakeholders in these discussions. We do this through research, training, and consultations.