Evangel University professors publish counseling study

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Two Evangel University counseling and psychology professors have had the results of their latest research published in the current issue of Spirituality in Clinical Practice, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The article — Satisfaction with Christian Psychotherapy and Well-Being: Contributions of Hope, Personality, and Spirituality — was a collaborative effort designed to better understand the practice of Christian counseling and psychotherapy from clients’ perspectives.

Researchers from Evangel University (Geoffrey Sutton, Ph.D., Heather Kelly, Psy.D), Virginia Commonwealth University (Brandon J. Griffin Ph.D., Everett L. Worthington Jr., Ph.D.) and Southwest Baptist University (Christopher Dinwiddie, Ph.D.), collaborated on the project.

The researchers conducted two studies, which sampled community-dwelling adults and adults affiliated with a Christian university.

Not surprisingly, a client’s level of hope was the best predictor of well-being following treatment.

However, spiritual factors added significant additional value to understanding well-being. Among the spiritual factors measured, a client’s relationship with God was the best predictor.

“We conducted this study, because there haven’t been a lot of studies focused on Christian counseling from the clients’ point of view,” said Dr. Sutton, professor emeritus of psychology.

“For Christians, virtues like hope take on a different meaning as clients learn to draw on their faith during times of stress. We also looked at explicitly faith factors such as beliefs and practices, but it was the relationship factor—the connection with God—that stood out,” Sutton added.

The complete reference for the article is: Sutton, G. W., Kelly, H., Worthington, E. L. Jr., Griffin, B. J., & Dinwiddie, C. (2018) Satisfaction with Christian Psychotherapy and Well-being: Contributions of Hope, Personality, and Spirituality. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 5 (1), 8-24, doi: 10.1037/scp0000145

The Researchers

At the time of the study, Dr. Kelly was a professor of psychology at Evangel with a specialty in undergraduate research. Currently, she chairs the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Dr. Griffin works in the Research Service at the San Francisco VA Health Care System, while Dr. Worthington is professor emeritus of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Dr. Dinwiddie is associate professor of psychology at Southwest Baptist University.

For more information about Evangel University’s counseling and psychology programs, contact Dr. Christine Arnzen, assistant professor of counseling, at arnzenc or (417) 865-2911 ext. 8618.

Evangel University, which includes AGTS, is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel serves more than 2,100 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 65 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.


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