Facilitating College Students' Authenticity and Psychological Well-Being through the Use of Mandalas: An Empirical Study

By Pisarik, Christopher T.; Larson, Karen R. | Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Facilitating College Students' Authenticity and Psychological Well-Being through the Use of Mandalas: An Empirical Study


Pisarik, Christopher T., Larson, Karen R., Journal of Humanistic Counseling


The purpose of this study was twofold: to examine the relationship between authenticity and psychological well-being, and to examine the effects of creating and interpreting mandalas on the levels of authenticity and psychological well-being of college students. The results and their implications for practice and future research are discussed.

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Authenticity is a developmental process whereby individuals explore, discover, accept, and behave in accordance with their true selves (Goldman, 2006). This process becomes prominent during the college years and can eventually culminate as the hallmark of an achieved identity (Erikson, 1968; Harter, 2002). However, the concept of authenticity has received scant attention compared with the concept of identity formation, which has been the focal point of a voluminous amount of writing and research (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Marcia, 2002; Marcia, Waterman, Matteson, Archer, & Orlofsky, 1993). Yet authenticity is a concept worthy of investigation because it holds significant implications regarding individuals' psychological development and well-being (Goldman & Kernis, 2002; Harter, 2002; Sheldon, Ryan, Rawsthorne, & Ilardi, 1997).

The transition to college can be a stressful occurrence as students engage in a process of adjusting to new academic, social, and emotional challenges (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Hutz, Martin, & Beitel, 2007). Difficulties in this adjustment process can result in depression (Dyson & Renk, 2006), feelings of loneliness (Pargetter, 2000), isolation (Lawrence, 2001), generalized psychological distress (Compas, Wagner, Slavin, & Vannatta, 1986), and greater rates of attrition (Gerdes & Mallinckrodt, 1994). Research results also suggest that the development of an authentic sense of self can reduce feelings of distress often experienced during transitional periods (Reich, Harber, & Siegel, 2008). Yet some scholars suggest that individuals are encountering increasing difficulty establishing an authentic sense of self because of the social dynamics inherent in a postmodern society (Gergen, 1991; Harter, 2002). Thus, it would be germane to examine the concept of authenticity, its relationship to the psychological well-being of college students, and methods that college counselors might use to facilitate greater authenticity and psychological well-being.

The concept of authenticity dates back to ancient Greek philosophy, which proclaimed that well-being and happiness resulted from being true to oneself and acting congruently with one's values, desires, and beliefs (Harter, 2002; Waterman, 1993). Most modern theoretical references to authenticity are framed within a humanistic view of personality. This view generally espouses the existence of a "true serf" that emerges through serf-exploration and self-acceptance and has relevance to one's psychological well-being (Hansen, 2005). For example, Rogers (1961) posited that authenticity arises as individuals strive for serf-actualization, a process that leads to congruence between one's life experiences and one's serf-concept. As individuals become more authentic they become more "fully functioning," that is, more open to experience, more self-accepting, and more inclined toward continued personal growth and development. Denying or distorting one's perceived inner experiences (i.e., emotions and thoughts about one's self), however, results in inauthentic feelings and ultimately to maladjustment. Thus, the main goal of the humanistic approach to counseling is the realization of a congruent and unified serf (Hansen, 2005).

Borrowing from a humanistic theoretical framework, Goldman and Kernis (2002) defined authenticity as one's true core self as displayed in everyday life. Specifically, authenticity is a multidimensional concept that includes the components of awareness and unbiased processing. Awareness refers to one's awareness of one's motives, feelings, desires, and self-relevant cognitions, whereas unbiased processing includes an objective and honest assessment of one's positive and negative self-aspects, qualities, and attributes (Goldman & Kernis, 2002).

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