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California State University Fullerton
Department of Counseling

Fall 2014 Final Project Abstract

Kathia Aviles
Through a Feminist Lens: A Qualitative Study of a Therapist’s Experience with the Transgender Population

Past research has indicated that the LGBTQ community, specifically the transgender population, has suffered, and continues to endure, social stigma and isolation. The researcher interviewed four experienced clinicians that identified as practicing feminist therapists and found similar themes in the ways they conceptualized treatment for this population. All the participants spoke about the overt and covert experiences of oppression that this community must endure; and therefore the importance of infusing empowerment and personal agency when practicing therapy with these clients. All therapists spoke of the need to be authentic, present, and egalitarian feminist therapists and the importance of client-centered advocacy. Healing and interventions occurred when the therapists succeeded in continuing to challenge not only the misconceptions of the LGBTQ population, but also of feminist therapy as a whole. This allowed for a more holistic approach in which the therapists were able to view their clients not only according to their gender status, but also as a whole person.

Elisa Braggins
A Qualitative Study of Trauma in Children of Veteran Parents

This study examines the clinical experiences of practitioners working with trauma in children of veteran parents. This study reviews the literature regarding secondary trauma, with special consideration being paid to intergenerational transmission of trauma, the effects of secondary trauma on children, the effects of secondary trauma on family dynamics, and treatment methods used to treat secondary trauma. The method of study is then discussed, including participant data, procedure, instrument used, researcher bias, and data analysis. Following this, the results section organizes the data gathered into the relevant themes of military culture, family dynamics, secondary trauma, and treatment options. Finally, the discussion section outlines the implications of the reviewed research as it intersects with the analyzed data, then considers the limitations, clinical relevance of research, future research opportunities and the reflections of the researcher on this study.

Jazmine Finley
Counselors’ Experience Using Mindfulness to Treat Parentally Bereaved Young Adults

Many young adults experience the loss of a parent but very little research has been conducted on how this population grieves.  Mindfulness was explored as a treatment option for this population and problem.  The present study interviewed four therapists, in an in-depth qualitative manner, utilizing mindfulness techniques with parentally grieving young adults.  The data analysis showed 10 major themes: (a) grief variance, (b) client’s experience, (c) identity development, (d) brain development, (e) therapist’s experience, (f) gender and culture, (g) mindfulness and therapeutic experience, (h) role of therapist, (i) faith, and (j) support.  It was concluded that very little research exists to support current mindfulness practices for grief and the unique experiences of grieving young adults are affected in many ways.  Young adults identity, way of grieving, gender, and cultural expectations for grief all affected how the young adult grieved.  More research is needed to help current practitioners in the growing field of thanatology.  More research is also needed specifically on young adults. 

Chetan Gandhi
Therapists’ Experiences Treating Veterans with Moral and Spiritual Injury

A qualitative study was performed to provide insight into how therapists work with veterans that have experienced moral and spiritual injury.  A brief survey of the relevant literature to date was conducted and revealed moral and spiritual injury to be a relatively new construct, with limited study.  Three therapists with relevant experience were selected and interviewed.  Questions focused on their personal experiences working with veterans suffering from moral and spiritual wounds.  The results were analyzed based on McLeod’s (2003) five stage qualitative data analysis.  The relevant themes were presented and discussed.  The results were compared and broadly agreed with the literature reviewed.  The clinical implications were discussed and findings suggest support for the central nature of moral and spiritual injury in returning combat veterans. This may imply a need for greater therapist sensitivity to veterans’ moral and spiritual wounds and openness to discussing religious and spiritual beliefs with clients.  Given the small sample size and subjective nature of this study the findings are not intended to be generalizable to a greater population.

Samantha Gonzales
It Runs in the Family: The Exploration of Counselors’ Strategies for Helping Filipino Americans Navigate Intergenerational Family Issues

The purpose of this study was to better understand the experiences of clinicians working with Filipino Americans that struggle with intergenerational conflict through the modality of family therapy. In addition, the study explored the effects of the acculturation process on Filipino American families. The author interviewed four practicing clinicians and a qualitative methodology was used as all interviewees were asked a series of semi-structured questions. Two of participants used family therapy in conjunction with individual therapy and while the other two participants worked with clients only in individual therapy. The results illuminated three core themes about the topic. The first being that intergenerational conflicts were a common problem for Filipino families and there was a lack of communication between parents and children. The second theme suggested that perceived parental expectations were a critical element to the healthy adjustment of adult children. Lastly, all the participants employed similar strategies to help their clients such as, using strength-based approaches and empowering statements.

Steve Irsay
Not Your Father’s Fatherhood:  Clinicians’ Experiences Helping Men in the Transition to Parenthood

Fatherhood is changing. Men are engaging in different activities, roles, and relationships with their partners and children. New fathers, in particular, can experience a range of stressors and mental health concerns. Empirical attention to fathers has historically been focused primarily on child development outcomes. Clinically, the robust body of literature on masculine-sensitive counseling and psychotherapy is only starting to extend to issues related to fathers’ experiences. Therefore, less is known about how clinicians are responding to the unique challenges—and growth opportunities—of contemporary fatherhood. For the present study, three therapists specializing in working with men were interviewed to explore how they experience and address the evolving roles and challenges of contemporary fatherhood. Results both confirm and extend current understandings of fatherhood and of gender-sensitive, strength-based support for men in this life transition. A multicultural perspective on counseling new fathers is proposed.

Jamie Littleton
Through Clinicians’ Eyes: Attachment-Informed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy with Disordered Eating

This research project explores the unique experiences of clinicians who utilize Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for the treatment of eating disorders through an Attachment Theory lens. Three clinicians were selected for the study based on their expertise and experience and then interviewed using open-ended questions.  It was through a reflective process that five salient themes emerged from the analysis. They were: (1) personal experience, (2) population sensitivity, (3) therapist patience and commitment, (4) therapist congruence and modeling, (5) therapist immersion and (6) generations of advice.  When these themes were compared to the limited existing literature on the subject, there were several parallels discovered.  Although the original intent to the study was to examine the effectiveness of DBT in disordered eating, what emerged was much more meaningful and rich in content.

Jessica Liu
Therapists’ Experiences with Older Asian Americans in Counseling

Older adulthood is characterized by a time of transitions and changes. Navigating this developmental stage as an ethnic minority presents a unique set of challenges that may differ from older adults from the mainstream American culture. This qualitative study examines the experiences of older Asian Americans through the clinical work of four therapists and how they navigated barriers to promote mental health engagement. Using a semi-structured interview format, the participants were asked to share information relevant to the therapeutic process, their counseling style, and any areas that were unique to working with this population. The data was transcribed and coded in which 5 major themes evolved: “The Individual,” “It’s a Team Effort,” “That’s a Bit of a Hump” (navigating barriers), “Let’s Try This Instead” (older Asian-American specific counseling interventions), and “The Therapist.” The results from this study have potential implications for researchers, educators, and practitioners on how to promote competency for multicultural geropsychology, specifically ways to engage in culturally-sensitive practices for older Asian Americans.

Viridiana Luna
Breaking the Stigma: Clinicians’ Experiences Engaging Latinos in Therapy with a Culturally Relevant Approach

This research project explores the unique experiences of clinicians who utilize a culturally relevant approach with Latinos to break barriers in acquiring mental health services.  Three clinicians were selected for the study based on their expertise and experience. They were interviewed using open questions.  It was through a reflective process that seven salient themes emerged from the analysis.  When these themes were compared to the limited existing literature on the subject, several parallels and distinctions were discovered.  Although the study’s original intent was to examine the effectiveness of culturally relevant interventions with Latinos in breaking barriers in acquiring mental health services, what emerged was much more meaningful and rich in content.

Maribel Meza De Perez
Therapists’ Experience Using Gestalt Therapy to Treat Children Grieving Sudden Parental Death

Grief is part of every human experience. The present qualitative study explored therapists’ experience using a Gestalt approach to help children grieving sudden parental death. Five Caucasian female therapists were interviewed in this study. The data was analyzed by the researcher and research partner, the data revealed six major themes: (1) responsibility and guilt, (2) children’s developmental level, (3) role of the family, (4) emotional process, (5) types of loss, and (6) treatment. These major themes revealed 11 minor themes that encompassed the therapists’ experience in working with grieving children. The results showed the importance of processing feelings of guilt and responsibility about the death and processing suppressed feelings like anger. The importance of family support and the therapeutic relationship was also a determinant in the processing of grief in children. Future research should be geared towards studying a bigger and varied sample size. There is a need to learn more about the children’s process based on different types of sudden parental death.

Kimberly Murphy
A qualitative study of therapists using psychodynamic therapy to treat actors with a bipolar II diagnosis.

Extreme mood swings have long been equated with the stereotype of the “crazy artist”, implying causality between artists and mental illness.  Current empirical research examines the discrepancies of these boilerplate notions. Research exists regarding the distinct subjects of bipolar disorder, psychodynamic therapy and creative professionals.  However, less research exists on psychodynamic therapy as a specific treatment for bipolar disorder and its application with creative professionals.  Even less research is available regarding bipolar II disorder, a mental illness that is distinct from bipolar I.  Within the research regarding mental illness in creative professionals, actors seem to be an underrepresented population since most studies have focused on literary and visual artists.  This study examines mental health professionals’ experience treating actors who struggle with bipolar II disorder from a psychodynamic perspective.  The current study utilizes interviews with 3 different psychodynamically-oriented therapists who work with actors who have a bipolar II diagnosis. Although they all use various forms of psychotherapy in their practices, all identified as using a psychodynamic approach in their work with this population. Participants were asked a series of questions regarding their experience as clinicians working with this specific population in individual, psychodynamic psychotherapy.  The results of this study may support clinicians in increasing the work/life balance of these clients while also encouraging further research into broadening treatment options for the specific population of actors with bipolar II.

Tatien Pham
Counselors’ Process of Understanding and Treating Male Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

This study examines counselors’ experiences providing mental health services to male victims of intimate partner violence. Four therapists were interviewed about their experiences working with male victims and their utilization of cognitive behavioral therapy as a treatment modality. The interviews focused on help-seeking barriers, reveal process, mental health symptoms, counselor process, and use of cognitive behavioral therapy to conceptualize and treat male victims. It was found that men who are abused experience a number of help-seeking barriers and mental health maladies. Counselor process and the use of cognitive behavioral therapy appeared to assist in alleviating associated symptoms. The results from the study closely mirror existing literature regarding male victimization and provide additional information regarding client and counselor process.

Pak Poon
Clinicians’ Experiences With Asian American Clients Who Experienced Grief and Loss

This qualitative study examined clinicians’ experiences working with Asian American clients who suffered a loss and experienced various forms of grief reactions. For Asian Americans, because of their unique cultural backgrounds, loss quite different than that of others. Evidence suggests that aside from physical loss (death) of a loved one, relational loss and cultural loss seems to be common issues amongst Asian Americans who seek counseling. In addition, the study also examined the different factors that affect the grieving process for Asian Americans as well as effective therapeutic techniques that clinicians utilized with Asian American clients. The data collected from the study revealed five main themes: (a) types of grief and loss commonly experienced by Asian Americans, (b) spirituality, (c) manifestation of grief and loss, (d) what impacts grief, (e) therapeutic techniques. Implications of findings and future areas of research are also discussed.

Sergio Quirarte
Examining the Use of Group Counseling with Latino Adolescents Engaging in Maladaptive Behaviors

 This qualitative study examined the use of group counseling with Latino adolescents who engage in maladaptive behaviors. Three therapists were interviewed about their experiences in utilizing group counseling with this population using a semi structured interview format. Eight major themes emerged from the data: (a) cultural influence, (b) family influence, (c) common referrals to mental health treatment, (d) barriers to treatment, (e) building rapport, (f) using strength based approaches, (g) incorporating a client’s family into treatment, and (h) working with clients in a group counseling setting. Implications for clinical application and future areas of research were discussed.

Tim Romero
Counseling Children and Families:  Improving Parent-Child Relationships

Children today are subject to increasing challenges in society.  These include depression, anxiety, drug abuse and bullying, to name a few.  Research has indicated that children’s relationships with their parents can play a role in how these problems develop and can be critical in determining outcomes for children.  As a result, it is increasingly important for therapists to know how to effectively treat children who have poor quality parent-child relationship.  The present study focused on therapists’ experiences treating children and their families.  The author interviewed three therapists who specialize in working with children and families.  A thematic analysis of the interviews was conducted and compared to current literature on the subject. The results indicated several consistencies with previous studies. The most effective treatments reported were Family Systems Therapy and Solution-Focused or Brief Therapies that are instructional in nature.

Kelly Schooner
A Qualitative Study of Therapists’ Experiences with Neurofeedback for Adults with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder often carries on into adulthood. Further research in this area is of paramount importance to enable therapists to better serve this population.  Neurofeedback has shown efficacy in studies with children (Duric et al., 2012; Gevensleben et al., 2009; Kropotov et al., 2005; Leins et al., 2007; Meisel et al., 2013; Monastra et al., 2002; & Winkelmolen et al., 2012) and could prove to be an efficacious treatment for adults. The present study examined the experience of therapists applying neurofeedback to treat adults experiencing ADHD.  In depth qualitative interviewing was done with four therapists that participated in this study. The data analysis revealed 11 major themes: (a) ADHD brain, (b) course of treatment, (c) how it works, (d) diagnosis and co-morbidity, (e) real-life success, (f) permanent changes (g) the right treatment option (h) gender and culture differences, and (i) barriers and adult insight. The results of this project concurred with what the research showed. Further research on this topic would be beneficial to educators, therapists and clients.

Gary Tseng
Counselor’s Process of Using Group Therapy with Asian Pacific Islander Gay Men Who Struggle with Depression and Bicultural Stress

This paper examines the dual identity and bicultural distress of Asian Pacific Islander gay men.  API gay men experience heterosexism from Asian culture and racism from gay community.  Family influences have an impact on API gay men’s level of distress which is correlated with their substance usage and HIV risk taking behavior. Three counselors complete individual interviews regarding their counseling experiences, challenges, and processes in treating the API gay male population.  Data analysis reveals six themes: identity, acculturation, stigma and microaggression, stress and depression, counselor’s process, and group therapy.  Findings emphasize the role of acculturation between API gay men’s race and gay identity.  Findings also elaborate the impact of gay stigma and racial oppression on API gay men’s stress level and dual identity integration.  Results show the interviewed participants utilize culturally affirmative and gay affirmative strength-based and solution-focused treatment.  Results also show participants’ support for group therapy intervention due to its effectiveness on increasing clients’ efficacy.

Jo-Ann Yang
Clinicians’ Experience of GLBT Hmong and Their Identity Development

This qualitative study explores clinicians’ experiences working with the GLBT Hmong population in order to learn more about their identity development. Factors such as Hmong culture, coming out, identity, and treatment options were explored in the semi-structured interviews. Data from four interviews were coded and results were organized into five main themes. A discussion of the findings and clinical implications for future research was discussed.

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