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Research

The Psy.D. program 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 in the Psy.D. program.  Some of the areas of research focus are listed below.

Dr. Jamie Aten

Dr. Aten directs the Religion/Spirituality in Psychology Disasters Lab (RAPID Lab) of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) which aims to engage students in research related to humanitarian services and disaster preparedness, response and recovery focusing on measurement, quality, capacity and improvement at the individual, organizational and community level—both domestically and internationally. The labs have an interdisciplinary and international focus that looks at the intersection of psychology with Intercultural Studies, Urban Studies, Sociology, Applied Health, and more.

The research labs of HDI conduct basic, applied, and translational research. They play an important role across all our work and projects by helping identify disaster and community needs, evaluating and monitoring project success, and fostering evidence-based interventions and practices. The communications lab works closely with research labs to help translate and disseminate our research for a wide audience of stakeholders and the general public. Lab members meet collectively once a month, and weekly with their individual labs.

Please visit the HDI Labs webpage for details about what is currently happening.

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 & Going the Distance.

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

The second line of research is aimed at understanding & encouraging healthy practices, wellbeing & faithfulness in individuals & 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. Elisha Eveleigh

Dr. Eveleigh directs the Psychology in Education Lab and seeks to link research to practice through the study of academic and social-emotional interventions. This group is particularly interested in the impact of external factors, such as poverty and immigration, on the academic performance of individuals. Currently, the Psychology in Education lab focuses on the identification and remediation of academic difficulty, especially challenges in the area of reading.

Members of this group can expect to:

  1. Review the literature on effective academic interventions for middle school children at risk for reading difficulty. We are currently focused on serving the refugee population.
  2. Learn effective strategies and procedures for the remediation of reading difficulties.
  3. Understand the ways that interactions between an individual and his/her environment affects academic, social, and emotional well-being.
  4. Gain an understanding of small n research design and data analysis.
  5. Communicate findings through written and oral communication.

Dr. Sarah Hall

Dr. Hall's research experience and interests are in the areas of clinical and developmental psychology, particularly in the study of young children's emotion regulation skills and difficulties and how these relate to psychopathology.  

Dr. John McConnell

Dr. McConnell directs The Multicultural Peace and Justice Lab.

Dr. McConnell places a strong emphasis on research methodology and statistics. He studies forgiveness and moral injury, and is especially interested in the topic as it relates to underserved populations, such as the elderly, prisoners, and victims of war. He also studies clinical judgment errors and neuropsychological assessment, particularly topics related to normal aging, dementia, and decision-making capacity.

Dr. Cynthia Neal Kimball

Dr. Neal Kimball directs the Emerging Adults Lab.

One of the salient features of a mature life story is the integration of one’s experiences, particularly the stress and challenges of transitional experiences, into a coherent and reasoned conception of the self. “Human beings are storytellers,” and our stories endow us with a means to make sense of our experiences, bring clarity to our perceptions, and provide meaning to our life situations; they provide “evidence of a hard-won battle to make meaning of life circumstances.” Those who actively create a coherent story, expressing meaningful insights and integration of life’s challenges, experience a sense of well-being, personal growth and ego development.

Those who participate in this research team will explore the meaning-making stories of emerging adults in light of their identity status, attachments, and religious worldviews. Specifically, as a member of the team you can expect to:

  • Read the existing psychological literature on the emerging adult population (18-25 year olds)
  • Discuss, debate, mull over the challenges and dilemmas for this particular developmental period.
  • Discover the nature and nuances of qualitative research (what do you do when the T-test isn’t the most important/significant measuring tool?)
  • Learn how to code using the qualitative research software, NVivo 9

Dr. Raymond E. Phinney Jr.

Dr. Phinney’s research interests are generally in how humans process motion and depth information and how they use this information to interact with the world. Two broad areas of research in his lab now involve visual masking and illusory line-motion. In visual masking, a visual stimulus that is clearly perceived when presented alone is less perceivable (or even unperceivable) when a second stimulus is presented nearby in time or space (but not overlapping). The first stimulus disappears or is degraded due to the presence of the second stimulus which overlaps neither in time nor space. In illusory line-motion, a line – which is drawn all at once – is perceived to be incrementally drawn from whichever side was nearest to a preceding attentional cue. It seems the presence of the cue causes visual processing near it to be quicker and more thorough. Thus the end of the line near the cue is completely processed sooner than the other end and it therefore appear to have grown from the cue end to the other end.

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. William Struthers

Dr. Struthers' animal lab research is on the effects of environmental enrichment on neural responses to novelty challenges. His clinical research is in the area of compulsive sexuality and pornography use. In addition to this empirical work, Dr. Struthers' theoretical research interests are in the areas of neuroethics, the biological bases of spirituality and personhood, and science/faith dialogue issues. Dr. Struthers also speaks internationally as an advocate against various forms of sexual exploitation (i.e. pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking). 

Dr. John T. Vessey

Dr. Vessey's interests and expertise are in the areas of statistics, experimental design, psychometrics, and program evaluation. Joining the faculty in 2001, Dr. Vessey previously was Asst. Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Division of Epidemiology. He has done research and program evaluation in sexual abstinence programs and promoting smoking cessation programs. He is also interested in decision-making models.

Dr. Vitaliy Voytenko

Dr. Voytenko is currently developing the Religion and Health Research Lab which is expected to be available for enrollment in Fall 2017.  Dr. Voytenko will focus on studying Religion/spirituality as both a perpetuating factor contributing to treatment resistance and a protective factor enhancing treatment effectiveness. Given Dr. Voytenko’s interest and clinical expertise in mood disorders, the lab’s initial research project will investigate the role of religious struggle in treatment-resistant depression. Participation in the lab will provide students with exposure to the growing field of spirituality and heath, with an emphasis on mental health.

Dr. Terri Watson

Dr. Watson co-led the Nepal Outreach & Training Group with Dr. Sarah Hall. The aim of this research group was twofold: 1) to prepare for teaching and clinical training of mental health workers in underserved Nepal, and 2) to conceptualize and conduct research to facilitate understanding of mental health needs in Nepal. Through involvement in this lab, students learned to assess needs, develop and put into practice a cross cultural training and research project. This project is complete, and Dr. Watson now supports department research in her role as Associate Dean.

Dr. Natalia Yangarber-Hicks

Dr. Yangarber-Hicks’ current research and scholarly interests include psychoanalysis and theology, as well as motherhood, pregnancy and postpartum issues.