Encouraging Student Interest in Research on Forgiveness, Religion, and Group Counseling in a Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Program

By Wade, Nathaniel G. | Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Encouraging Student Interest in Research on Forgiveness, Religion, and Group Counseling in a Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Program


Wade, Nathaniel G., Journal of Psychology and Christianity


In this article, I describe my experiences with encouraging student interest in research on forgiveness, religion, and group counseling within a counseling psychology Ph.D. program. The article explains my academic setting, research interests, experiences with attracting students to my research, and guidelines or advice for others interested in developing student interest in research. My two main points of advice are follow your bliss and put students' needs first.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? -Albert Einstein

More often than not, I feel like I don't know what I am doing. I guess if Einstein is correct, I must be doing something right as a researcher, then. Still, when asked to provide some advice for encouraging students to engage in research, I was not sure what I would be able to contribute. However, with Einstein's quote firmly in mind, I will forge ahead and attempt to provide some of my experiences and a guideline or two that might be useful for others in a similar situation.

Academic Setting

I am currently an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University (ISU). I have been here at Iowa State for nine years, since I completed my internship at the Center for Counseling and Student Development at the University of Delaware for my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. I am a core faculty member in the APA-accredited Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program within the Psychology Department. The Psychology Department is comparatively small for a research intensive university with only three doctoral programs (Cognitive, Counseling, and Social) and about 25 faculty members. Our research expectations are consistent with being in a research intensive university.

In the Counseling Psychology program there are currently 7 full-time equivalent (FTE) faculty members. We admit into the Counseling program approximately 4-6 students each year. We operate within a strong advisoradvisee model. From the initial application for graduate work, students are selected based on a match of research interests with a faculty member and in almost all cases continue to work with that faculty member through the completion of the dissertation and Ph.D. degree. We in the counseling psychology program here at ISU have made a concerted effort to increase our research productivity and impact, and we are proud of recent rankings that have placed our program consistently within the top 5 of counseling programs in the nation (e.g., Buboltz, Deemer, & Hoffmann, 2010). This general focus on research has implications for the students whom we are most interested in recruiting, which in turn has implications for the types of students whom I am trying to get interested in my research. In other words, the comments and guidelines that I make regarding students and research should be understood within the context that I work.

My Research Program

Another important aspect of the context within which I work is the research program that I have been able to develop. Starting in graduate school working with Everett Worthington, I established an interest and expertise in three main areas: psychology of forgiveness, psychology of religion, and group counseling/psychotherapy. The guiding principle among these three areas is research on the processes and outcomes of counseling/therapy. Therefore, I have attempted (and not always been successful) to tie each of my research projects back to counseling or psychotherapy in some way.

More recently, I have added an additional research area, the stigma of seeking psychological help. Again, I am most interested in the ways that stigma plays out in a counseling or therapy setting. I have been able to connect this area to my other interests in some ways, for example the effects of group counseling on self-stigma (Wade, Post, Cornish, Vogel, & Tucker, 2011). However, given my primary interests in forgiveness, religion, and group counseling and my longer track record with those areas, I will focus my discussion in this article on getting students interested in those areas of investigation. …

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