College of Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts in Psychology

Giving Voice to Experience

  • Saturday, April 26, 2014, 9am – 5pm

    Seattle University, Casey Commons (5th floor of Casey Builiding)

    Registration Deadline is Friday, April 18, 2014 (postmarked). Please note that the deadline for abstracts has already passed.

    Get the registration form here

    Cost: $55; $25 for current graduate students.

    Registration includes morning snacks, lunch, coffee and tea, wine and cheese conversation hour and 6 CEUs. 

    This one day conference features phenomenological and other forms of qualitative research that have implications for therapeutic practice. Registration deadline is April 9 for presenters and April 18 for participants.

    This conference showcases phenomenological and other forms of qualitative research in a forum of learning and dialogue.   Those working in the field of mental health, education, and psychology, as well as graduate students from Seattle University and other programs are invited to attend. We believe that therapists can greatly benefit from qualitative research that gives us a deeper understanding of various human experiences, such as despair, living with back pain, and having difficult conversations about money.

    This year we will have a special event as part of the conference: a jazz trio consisting of bass player Nate Omdal, pianist Michael Owcharuk and drummer, Max Wood, will do a demonstration improvisation for us and discuss the role of inspiration and improvisation in their performance. We are including this event not just because it is enjoyable to listen to jazz but because we want to highlight the role inspiration and improvisation plays in qualitative research. These dimensions of the research process are critical and yet they are not often acknowledged in the way that method and theory are.



    9:00 to 9:30

    Coffee & Registration

    9:30 to 9:40


    9:40 to 10:20

    Danuta Wojnar and Bonnie H. Bowie, The Perinatal Experience of Somali Couples in the USA

    10:20 to 11:00

    Lucas Trout, An Ethnographic-Phenomenological Analysis

    of Life as a Rocky Mountain Firefighter

    11:00 to 11:20

    20 minute break

    11:20 to 12:00

    Molly E. Cvetovac and Alexandra L. Adame, The Wounded Therapist: Understanding the Relationship Between Personal Suffering and Clinical Practice

    12:00 to 1:00


    1:00 to 2:30

    Michael Owcharuk (Piano) Nate Omdal (Bass) and Beth Fleenor (clarinet, piano, bass),

    Inspiration and Synergy in Jazz and Research

    2:30 to 2:50

    20 minute break

    2:50 to 3:30

    Claire Steele LeBeau, Embodied Collaborative Research and Maternal Guilt:  A Therapeutic Style of Inquiry

    3:30 to 4:10

    Joseph Madigan, An Application of Concepts of Existential Psychotherapy to Art Therapy

    4:10 to 4:50

    Matthew AJ Stichman, Working between Worlds: Clinicians’ Experiences using Harm Reduction in a Formalized Substance Abuse Treatment Setting

    4:50 to 5:30

    Wine and Cheese Social




    The Wounded Therapist: Understanding the Relationship Between Personal Suffering and Clinical Practice

    Molly E. Cvetovac and Alexandra L. Adame, PhD,  

     Seattle University, Graduate Program in Psychology 

    Despite its enduring relevance to clinical practice, the therapist’s personal wounds remain a taboo topic in professional circles. For many therapists who are experiencing or have previously experienced psychological distress, the fear of stigma and its potential consequences has encouraged silence and secrecy regarding personal wounds (Zerubavel & Wright, 2012). Although research has discussed the wounded healer in conjunction with issues such as countertransference (Cain, 2000; Hayes, 2002), self-disclosure (Cain, 2000; Costin & Johnson, 2002), and supervision (Wheeler, 2007; Zerubavel & Wright, 2012), it has failed to address the complex relationship between a therapist’s wounded identity and his or her identity as a clinician. The goal of the current study is to explore how wounded therapists understand both their recovery and their dual-identities as clinician and client. We used the method of narrative analysis (Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998) to examine 11 first-person published narratives written by psychotherapists who have experienced emotional distress and subsequent treatment. The major themes that arose from our analysis include fears about professional incompetence, the need to hide emotional wounds, and the ways in which the wounds of the therapist both inform/interfere with clinical practice. Our findings point to the challenges that wounded therapists face when navigating the distance between their personal experiences of distress and the experiences of their clients, as well as the potential value of the therapist’s wounds in clinical practice.


    Embodied Collaborative Research and Maternal Guilt:  A Therapeutic Style of Inquiry

    Claire Steele LeBeau, Ph.D. - Seattle University Department of Psychology

    When we ask questions about the lived experiences of certain kinds of life events, we are often hard-pressed to find words that can lend themselves adequately to their expression.  Certain types of experiences perhaps live outside of conscious direct language and comprehension and live more in bodily felt sensations that do not readily give way to our understanding or even our approach.  Guilt is one such language-elusive phenomenon, which is often so multi-layered that we tend to build complex systems of resistance to any acknowledgement of its very existence.  For new mothers experiencing guilt related to being a mother, this experience can be particularly nuanced.  In this presentation, I will present the research method I developed for my doctoral dissertation, which includes an adapted embodied and therapeutic style of inquiry based on Todres’ (2007) book, Embodied Enquiry and Gendlin’s Focusing Technique (Gendlin, 1978, 1981, 1989, 1996), with the interview descriptions of five first-time mothers with infant children.  This style of inquiry can be particularly helpful in considering the therapeutic implications of the research process itself for giving voice to experiences which dwell at the limits of language and are “more than words can say” (Gendlin, 1997).  The process of approaching these limits in language also requires a great deal of improvisation in each research moment as was evidenced in my own process of holding the research frame therapeutically and in each mother’s approach in exploring their “felt sense” (Gendlin, 1981) of their described memories in the interview situation.  I welcome the opportunity to share this work and receive feedback and discussion in the open forum and dialogue of this conference.


    An Application of Concepts of Existential Psychotherapy to Art Therapy

    Joseph Madigan MA, Saybrook University, San Francisco

     This research was is a qualitative study that investigated the experience of art making in substance abuse recovery from the perspective of existential art therapy. The purpose of this study was to explore and develop a theory about how art therapy may impact individuals in recovery from substance abuse. Six participants were interviewed and their responses to a questionnaire concerning their use of art making as part of their recovery from substance abuse were recorded. This research used Greenings Four Existential Challenges: Three Responses to Each, (1992) as the basis to examine the participants’ subjective experience in developing creative responses to existential challenges through their use of art in their recovery.                           

    This study employed Grounded Theory methodology to analyze the data that was collected. The participant responses were coded and six major themes emerged: life changes, changes in relationships, being alive, personal freedom, meaning and contribution to their world, and connection vs. isolation. The theme of life changes was broken down into five sub-themes: physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual, and changes in the way life is lived. The theme of being alive was broken down into four sub-themes: changes in feelings, senses, intuition or attitude toward living. The participants’ responses to the research questions appear to indicate that they were successfully using art as a means of creatively transcending the existential challenges that they faced in recovery. The participants also indicated that making art in recovery had led them to embrace creative responses to the challenges of sustaining their recovery. Based upon the participant’s responses to the research questions, there appears to be significant evidence to support a theory that making art supports recovery. The theory that emerged was the making art can support sustained recovery from substance abuse and facilitate significant changes in the way life is lived, in relationships, in personal freedom, and in meaning.   


    Working between worlds: Clinicians’ Experiences using Harm Reduction in a Formalized Substance Abuse Treatment Setting

    Matthew AJ Stichman, MA

    Alumnus Seattle University

    The substance abuse and chemical dependency fields have historically been dominated by abstinence-based approaches to treatment. Harm reduction, an international reform movement, is decidedly contrary to the conventional wisdom about chronic drug abuse. This is because the harm reduction model prioritizes the stabilization and containment of addiction in lieu of working to cure or eradicate the phenomenon. For a qualitative research study I conducted in fulfillment of my Master’s Thesis, I interviewed three clinicians about their experiences using the harm reduction approach while working at an outpatient substance abuse treatment center. The interview data was then analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. For my Thesis I also performed an extensive review of the available literature and prior qualitative research on harm reduction. My literature review reveals that while harm reduction offers novel strengths, it actually suffers from many of the same limitations and weaknesses as “traditional treatment.” Alternatively, my research findings explicitly show just how harm reduction can broaden the ways that substance abuse and addiction are both understood and treated. However, I will also explore how harm reduction can be(come) implemented and practiced in a way that enables addiction, and thus produces harm. Ultimately, my research reveals how important the role of problematization is in clinical psychology. I will argue that harm reduction should always be practiced with meliorism and an attitude of hope, and that all substance abuse treatment should be practiced with pragmatism and a recovery-oriented focus. In regards to the theme of improvisation, I will emphasize the importance of dialogue in qualitative research. 


     Life as a Rocky Mountain Firefighter:

    An Ethnographic-Phenomenological Analysis

    Lucas Trout, Graduate psychology program, Seattle University


    This study explores the lived experience of 10 male firefighters in a rural American mountain town over two years and 6,000 hours of participatory research, using a novel hybridization of cross-disciplinary methodologies deemed ethnographic-phenomenological analysis (EPA).  This method combines participant-observation and auto-ethnography with in-depth interviews and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in order to gain insight into the life-worlds of men who choose to fight fires.  In addition, this study seeks to explore the extent to which dynamic study designs and traditionally anthropological research methods can be meaningfully informative in accounting for the complexities of lived experience.  To this end the author fought fires alongside a core group of firefighters, both career and volunteer, for two years in a small town in the Rocky West.  Four interrelated themes emerged: 1) the recapitulation and healing of past trauma through service as a firefighter; 2) a paradoxical and intimate relationship to life and death; 3) the importance and strength of kinship among firefighters in furnishing life with a sense of connection, meaning, and support; and 4) the role of the fire service in developing a sense of place, belonging, and home. 


    The Perinatal Experience of Somali Couples in the USA

    Danuta Wojnar, PhD, RN & Bonnie Bowie, PhD, RN

    College of Nursing, Seattle University

    Health disparities exist between the childbirth outcomes for Somali women and non-immigrant women in the USA. Using descriptive phenomenology, we explored the perinatal experiences of Somali couples in the USA. Women and men from the Pacific North West (N = 48, from 26 families) participated in semi-structured individual and couple interviews (30 ~ 60 minutes each) and a follow up phone interview. The follow up interviews were used to clarify understandings and obtain feedback on the descriptive model of the common experiences of study participants. We found an overarching theme A Clash of Two Cultures and three subthemes: (a) Longing for the old world, (b) Miss-informed consent and care, and (c) Surviving and thriving. Couples reported cultural clashes because of communication barriers and the healthcare teams’ miss-understandings of Somali couples’ care needs. Research is needed to develop programs that consider the culture-based expectations of Somalis to improve the childbirth outcomes.


    Presenters have to register for the conference by April 9, 2014 to have their paper included on the conference program. 


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