Overview

The Holistic Research Center (HRC) at John F. Kennedy University gives students, faculty, and alumni an institutional structure to collaborate on projects, connect to financial and administrative support, and maintain motivation for researching, publishing, and presenting in the holistic mental health field.

The HRC currently supports two kinds of projects:

  • Researching holistic counseling constructs (for example, meaning in life, mindfulness, and expressive arts interventions, etc.) with the specific inclusion of marginalized voices in the field
  • Expanding beyond traditional Western research methodologies to include all the ways in which wisdom is cultivated and shared with respect and dignity

The HRC strengthens a 50-year legacy of John F. Kennedy University as a leader in the field of holistic studies. Learn more about the Counseling Psychology – Holistic master’s degree.

In addition to providing student resources for research projects, the HRC also hosts programming open to the entire community including film screenings, an annual symposium, and community gatherings focused on exploring mental health and holistic ideas.

Current Research Projects

Principal Investigator – Zvi Bellin (zbellin@jfku.edu)

This is an exploratory study, inspired by the work of Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies text. The author makes a case for research methodologies that uproot a skewed power dynamic found in social science research where quantitative methods are deemed better than qualitative research (or at least, more in line with finding the “truth”). This study will enlist participants who will also act as co-producers, taking part in a group reflexive process around their experience of Holistic Mental Health. We will employ reflexive methods of research (Herland 2017; Ezzy 2010) – for example peer interviewing, journaling, and art-making to synthesize our diverse experiences of Holistic Mental Health into a presentation for the JFKU community. The primary data will be the collection of narratives from the community of gathered participants – thus this methodology blends Narrative Analysis with Community-Based Participatory Research and Self-Reflexive Research.

Principal Investigator – Lauren Gogarty

There are roughly 21 million trafficking survivors throughout China and Southeast Asia who have had some contact with either law-enforcement or social services. It is understood that the survivors have high rates of PTSD that limit them from accessing services like job training, group housing etc. that promote independent living. There is some research demonstrating the mental health issues faced by survivors, but very little available data on how to effectively treat them. Additionally, the majority of people who staff shelters and agencies that work with survivors are not clinicians, especially in Southeast Asia, and lack the tools to understand or work with the extreme symptoms of PTSD. In discussing ways to deliver psychological treatment to this population it has become clear that a basic understanding of the needs of both survivors and staff are unclear, at least at a macro level, as the people doing this work are doing it in isolation.

With the increase in visibility of the scope of trafficking in the world, there is political will and funding to address the psychological needs of survivors but no path to how to deliver that treatment effectively. My end goal for this project is to develop two initial programs, both a training in a basic understanding of trauma and PTSD for staff who work with survivors, as well as a curriculum for group therapy with survivors that can be implemented by non-clinical staff.

My background is in the tech industry, as a programmer & senior manager, so my intention is to build something of an open source project, making ongoing data collection, curriculum development, implementation and analysis of results an open and collaborative process.

Before doing anything though, some basic data needs to be collected. So, the first phase of my project will be to survey shelters and social services agencies working with survivors, as well as survivors themselves, to get a sense of how the issue is understood, what support or training is offered to staff, what treatment is offered to survivors, what support both groups feel they need, and what the organizations have the capacity to implement. I am not yet sure how I will limit the scope of the survey, maybe to a single country or maybe in partnership with a single shelter. It is this phase that I would like to join with JFKU to complete.

Principal Investigator – Sonia Suarez

This project seeks to explore how practitioners of Afro-Indigenous religions conceptualize mental health, illness, and mental healthcare. It is a response to the field of literature in psychology about cultural-concepts of distress, used in the DSM-5, as well as the dominant views of Latinx mental health. It seeks to answer the loosely explored questions of how Latinx spiritual practices rooted in Afro-indigenous cosmologies may impact individuals along lines of race and gender, and most importantly, how the dominant formulations of culture intersect with psychopathology as operationalized in the DSM-5. The aim of the project is to identify concrete, qualitatively evaluated ways in which non-Western cosmologies and spiritual practices contribute to psychological wellness.

This project will employ qualitative methods, primarily semi-structured interviews and autoethnography; additional methods include participant observation, photo-ethnography, and content analysis using LIWC (software called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) of transcribed interviews. The study will involve transcribing and coding interview data along seven (7) axes: a) knowledge of (biomedical) mental health, b) knowledge of racial/gender disparities, c) historical and/or ancestral knowledge, d) biological/medical/scientific/herbal/botanical knowledge, e) social/community building and interpersonal awareness, f) knowledge of cultural idioms of distress, e.g. Ataque de Nervios, susto, mal de ojo, or brujería, and g) knowledge of the connections between mind, body, and spirit. Content analysis will pair interviews with DSM and other psychological training texts and will include methods of textual analysis, visual analysis, and word counts for race, gender, “ethnomagical” beliefs, superstition, and negative/positive valence. Descriptive statistics will be gathered where relevant and/or available.

Interviews will include 12 practitioners of Ifa-Orisha, 4 elders of Ifa-Orisha, 1 Cuban anthropologist and 2 Cuban physicians, 1 US anthropologist, 1 US physician, and 4 US counseling psychologists, a total of N=25. N=10 interviews have already been collected via digital voice recordings. Thus the timeline for the remaining 15 interviews spans to December 2018, and data analysis will continue until May 2019. The study will be written from June to December 2019. The end product of this study will be a publication of the qualitative results in journals such as the Journals of Multicultural Counseling and Latino Mental Health. This research will also be used toward the fulfillment of dissertation research requirements.

Principal Investigator – Nancy Pederson

This project seeks to explore the idea of violence as a social construct in the experience of hispanic women over age 60. Nancy will use group and individual interviews in order to collect qualitative data for this project. The project is expected to take between 9 to 12 months. Goals include:

  • Identify role of culture and worldviews on violence against older hispanic women in public and private settings.
  • Provide a safe space for women to discuss the construct of violence and narrative of their experiences.
  • Promote the possibility to empower these women to voice their needs and concerns

Community-Based Reflexive Narrative Research Methodology in Holistic Mental Health

Principal Investigator – Zvi Bellin (zbellin@jfku.edu)

This is an exploratory study, inspired by the work of Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies text. The author makes a case for research methodologies that uproot a skewed power dynamic found in social science research where quantitative methods are deemed better than qualitative research (or at least, more in line with finding the “truth”). This study will enlist participants who will also act as co-producers, taking part in a group reflexive process around their experience of Holistic Mental Health. We will employ reflexive methods of research (Herland 2017; Ezzy 2010) – for example peer interviewing, journaling, and art-making to synthesize our diverse experiences of Holistic Mental Health into a presentation for the JFKU community. The primary data will be the collection of narratives from the community of gathered participants – thus this methodology blends Narrative Analysis with Community-Based Participatory Research and Self-Reflexive Research.

International Trauma Intervention

Principal Investigator – Lauren Gogarty

There are roughly 21 million trafficking survivors throughout China and Southeast Asia who have had some contact with either law-enforcement or social services. It is understood that the survivors have high rates of PTSD that limit them from accessing services like job training, group housing etc. that promote independent living. There is some research demonstrating the mental health issues faced by survivors, but very little available data on how to effectively treat them. Additionally, the majority of people who staff shelters and agencies that work with survivors are not clinicians, especially in Southeast Asia, and lack the tools to understand or work with the extreme symptoms of PTSD. In discussing ways to deliver psychological treatment to this population it has become clear that a basic understanding of the needs of both survivors and staff are unclear, at least at a macro level, as the people doing this work are doing it in isolation.

With the increase in visibility of the scope of trafficking in the world, there is political will and funding to address the psychological needs of survivors but no path to how to deliver that treatment effectively. My end goal for this project is to develop two initial programs, both a training in a basic understanding of trauma and PTSD for staff who work with survivors, as well as a curriculum for group therapy with survivors that can be implemented by non-clinical staff.

My background is in the tech industry, as a programmer & senior manager, so my intention is to build something of an open source project, making ongoing data collection, curriculum development, implementation and analysis of results an open and collaborative process.

Before doing anything though, some basic data needs to be collected. So, the first phase of my project will be to survey shelters and social services agencies working with survivors, as well as survivors themselves, to get a sense of how the issue is understood, what support or training is offered to staff, what treatment is offered to survivors, what support both groups feel they need, and what the organizations have the capacity to implement. I am not yet sure how I will limit the scope of the survey, maybe to a single country or maybe in partnership with a single shelter. It is this phase that I would like to join with JFKU to complete.

Brujeria and Psychology: Healing Practices of the Ifa-Orisha Tradition

Principal Investigator – Sonia Suarez

This project seeks to explore how practitioners of Afro-Indigenous religions conceptualize mental health, illness, and mental healthcare. It is a response to the field of literature in psychology about cultural-concepts of distress, used in the DSM-5, as well as the dominant views of Latinx mental health. It seeks to answer the loosely explored questions of how Latinx spiritual practices rooted in Afro-indigenous cosmologies may impact individuals along lines of race and gender, and most importantly, how the dominant formulations of culture intersect with psychopathology as operationalized in the DSM-5. The aim of the project is to identify concrete, qualitatively evaluated ways in which non-Western cosmologies and spiritual practices contribute to psychological wellness.

This project will employ qualitative methods, primarily semi-structured interviews and autoethnography; additional methods include participant observation, photo-ethnography, and content analysis using LIWC (software called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) of transcribed interviews. The study will involve transcribing and coding interview data along seven (7) axes: a) knowledge of (biomedical) mental health, b) knowledge of racial/gender disparities, c) historical and/or ancestral knowledge, d) biological/medical/scientific/herbal/botanical knowledge, e) social/community building and interpersonal awareness, f) knowledge of cultural idioms of distress, e.g. Ataque de Nervios, susto, mal de ojo, or brujería, and g) knowledge of the connections between mind, body, and spirit. Content analysis will pair interviews with DSM and other psychological training texts and will include methods of textual analysis, visual analysis, and word counts for race, gender, “ethnomagical” beliefs, superstition, and negative/positive valence. Descriptive statistics will be gathered where relevant and/or available.

Interviews will include 12 practitioners of Ifa-Orisha, 4 elders of Ifa-Orisha, 1 Cuban anthropologist and 2 Cuban physicians, 1 US anthropologist, 1 US physician, and 4 US counseling psychologists, a total of N=25. N=10 interviews have already been collected via digital voice recordings. Thus the timeline for the remaining 15 interviews spans to December 2018, and data analysis will continue until May 2019. The study will be written from June to December 2019. The end product of this study will be a publication of the qualitative results in journals such as the Journals of Multicultural Counseling and Latino Mental Health. This research will also be used toward the fulfillment of dissertation research requirements.

Power in the Voice of Elder Hispanic Women

Principal Investigator – Nancy Pederson

This project seeks to explore the idea of violence as a social construct in the experience of hispanic women over age 60. Nancy will use group and individual interviews in order to collect qualitative data for this project. The project is expected to take between 9 to 12 months. Goals include:

  • Identify role of culture and worldviews on violence against older hispanic women in public and private settings.
  • Provide a safe space for women to discuss the construct of violence and narrative of their experiences.
  • Promote the possibility to empower these women to voice their needs and concerns

Past Research Projects

The MMM Research Group recently undertook two studies:

1. Mixed Methods study on mindfulness as a mediator between internalization of marginalization and meaning in life. In addition to an empirical study using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (Baer et al., 2006), the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (Steger et al., 2006), and the Devaluation/Discrimination Scale (Link et al., 1989), the MMM Research Group employed Narrative Inquiry to investigate more deeply the lived experiences of mindfulness practitioners who are marginalized in society (People of Color and LGBTQ people) as they relate to connecting with meaning in life.

2. A theoretical exploration of the embodiment of the meanings of marginalization as they are encountered in a clinical context. The MMM Research Group drew from mixed disciplines (somatics, sociology, attachment theory, psychology, etc.) in order to formulate a working theory of how to help counselors understand the embodied meanings of their clients’ marginalization. Additionally, the theory included how counselors can help these clients understand their own embodied meanings of marginalization. This study utilized literature review and self-reflexivity of the researchers.

Dr. Zvi Bellin is the principal investigator of the MMM Research Group. Dr. Bellin is the director of the Holistic Research Center and an assistant professor of holistic counseling psychology. He is a licensed professional clinical counselor specializing in meaning-centered psychotherapy, infused with narrative and mindfulness therapies. His recent publications include articles about post-conventional faith, social marginalization, and the relationship between mindfulness practice and meaning in life. Dr. Bellin is a committed practitioner of mindfulness and leads therapeutically oriented mindfulness retreats. Additionally, he was a lead researcher on a grant-funded program to improve LGBTQI2-S competency for Alameda County behavioral health providers.

To get involved with the MMM Research Group, please contact Dr. Zvi Bellin @ zbellin@jfku.edu

References:
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 27- 45.
Link, B.G., Cullen, F.T., Struening, E., Shrout, P.E., & Dohrenwend, B.P. (1989). A modified labeling theory approach to mental disorders: An empirical assessment. American Sociological Review, 54, 400-423.
Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The Meaning in Life Questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 80-93.

The CCS research group recently undertook the following project:

Confronting the Cultural Shadow: A Phenomenological Study of Dreams of Racial Otherness and the Implications for the Body Politic

An empirical phenomenological study of emergent themes in dreams containing images of people that are racially different from the dreamer. Using data from various dream databases, this study investigated what themes emerge when the dreamer is confronted with a dream image of otherness. Investigators in this research group aimed to respond to questions like:

  • What psychological implications do the dreams of racial otherness hold for the body politic?
  • Do dream images of racially different figures offer a direct mode of recognizing and mitigating implicit racial bias?
  • Is there also an inborn psychologically adaptive propensity evident in dreams towards the development of empathy for those that are racially different?

Dr. Jason Butler is the principal investigator of the CCS research group, the faculty fellow of the Holistic Research Center, and an assistant professor in the holistic counseling department at John F. Kennedy University. He is a licensed psychologist and maintains a psychotherapy practice in North Oakland. The author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and a book, areas of Dr. Butler’s teaching and publications include archetypal psychotherapy, imaginal approaches to dream work, the confluence of yoga and depth psychology, and existential-phenomenological critique of psychology as a STEM discipline. He earned a bachelor’s in religious studies from Humboldt State University, a master’s degree in psychology from Saybrook University and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Students and alumni interested in contributing to this research endeavor can contact Dr. Butler at the following email: jbutler@jfku.edu

Many women struggle with challenges around sexuality. Stinson (2009) reviewed various studies which cited the prevalence of difficulties with desire, orgasm, arousal and pain from 33-45% in the United States. Because these studies looked at incidence rates for a short time period (1-3 months), the lifetime prevalence could be much higher. The FSH Research Group’s mixed method study aimed to investigate whether peer support groups can offer improvement in female sexual health. More specifically, investigators in this research group sought to answer the following questions:

  • What change, if any, do women perceive in their physical, emotional, mental and social relationships to sexuality?
  • To what extent and in what ways do participants experience changes in their sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction?

Pam Costa is a Student Research Fellow with the JFK Holistic Research Center, currently pursuing her Masters in Holistic Counseling Psychology at the San Jose campus. In addition to studying at JFK, Pam is the founder of Down To There, a movement to encourage more honest discussions about sexuality. Pam spent the first decade and a half of her career at Apple and Facebook, but now spends her time writing, speaking and coaching individuals and couples on new ways to renew and deepen desire and intimacy in their relationships. She believes that speaking openly is a powerful antidote to the negative cultural myths we have been exposed to, and shares her own real-life challenges and successes around sexuality in a regular series on Huffington Post.

Students or alumni who want to get involved in the research can contact her at pcosta@email.jfku.edu.

References:Stinson, R.D. (2009). The behavioral and cognitive-behavioral treatment of female sexual dysfunction: How far we have come and the path left to go. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, (3-4), 271-285. doi:10.1080/14681990903199494

MMM Research Group - Meaning, Mindfulness, & Marginalization

The MMM Research Group recently undertook two studies:

1. Mixed Methods study on mindfulness as a mediator between internalization of marginalization and meaning in life. In addition to an empirical study using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (Baer et al., 2006), the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (Steger et al., 2006), and the Devaluation/Discrimination Scale (Link et al., 1989), the MMM Research Group employed Narrative Inquiry to investigate more deeply the lived experiences of mindfulness practitioners who are marginalized in society (People of Color and LGBTQ people) as they relate to connecting with meaning in life.

2. A theoretical exploration of the embodiment of the meanings of marginalization as they are encountered in a clinical context. The MMM Research Group drew from mixed disciplines (somatics, sociology, attachment theory, psychology, etc.) in order to formulate a working theory of how to help counselors understand the embodied meanings of their clients’ marginalization. Additionally, the theory included how counselors can help these clients understand their own embodied meanings of marginalization. This study utilized literature review and self-reflexivity of the researchers.

Dr. Zvi Bellin is the principal investigator of the MMM Research Group. Dr. Bellin is the director of the Holistic Research Center and an assistant professor of holistic counseling psychology. He is a licensed professional clinical counselor specializing in meaning-centered psychotherapy, infused with narrative and mindfulness therapies. His recent publications include articles about post-conventional faith, social marginalization, and the relationship between mindfulness practice and meaning in life. Dr. Bellin is a committed practitioner of mindfulness and leads therapeutically oriented mindfulness retreats. Additionally, he was a lead researcher on a grant-funded program to improve LGBTQI2-S competency for Alameda County behavioral health providers.

To get involved with the MMM Research Group, please contact Dr. Zvi Bellin @ zbellin@jfku.edu

References:
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 27- 45.
Link, B.G., Cullen, F.T., Struening, E., Shrout, P.E., & Dohrenwend, B.P. (1989). A modified labeling theory approach to mental disorders: An empirical assessment. American Sociological Review, 54, 400-423.
Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The Meaning in Life Questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 80-93.

CCS Research Group - Confronting the Cultural Shadow

The CCS research group recently undertook the following project:

Confronting the Cultural Shadow: A Phenomenological Study of Dreams of Racial Otherness and the Implications for the Body Politic

An empirical phenomenological study of emergent themes in dreams containing images of people that are racially different from the dreamer. Using data from various dream databases, this study investigated what themes emerge when the dreamer is confronted with a dream image of otherness. Investigators in this research group aimed to respond to questions like:

  • What psychological implications do the dreams of racial otherness hold for the body politic?
  • Do dream images of racially different figures offer a direct mode of recognizing and mitigating implicit racial bias?
  • Is there also an inborn psychologically adaptive propensity evident in dreams towards the development of empathy for those that are racially different?

Dr. Jason Butler is the principal investigator of the CCS research group, the faculty fellow of the Holistic Research Center, and an assistant professor in the holistic counseling department at John F. Kennedy University. He is a licensed psychologist and maintains a psychotherapy practice in North Oakland. The author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and a book, areas of Dr. Butler’s teaching and publications include archetypal psychotherapy, imaginal approaches to dream work, the confluence of yoga and depth psychology, and existential-phenomenological critique of psychology as a STEM discipline. He earned a bachelor’s in religious studies from Humboldt State University, a master’s degree in psychology from Saybrook University and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Students and alumni interested in contributing to this research endeavor can contact Dr. Butler at the following email: jbutler@jfku.edu

FSH Research Group - Exploring Female Sexual Health

Many women struggle with challenges around sexuality. Stinson (2009) reviewed various studies which cited the prevalence of difficulties with desire, orgasm, arousal and pain from 33-45% in the United States. Because these studies looked at incidence rates for a short time period (1-3 months), the lifetime prevalence could be much higher. The FSH Research Group’s mixed method study aimed to investigate whether peer support groups can offer improvement in female sexual health. More specifically, investigators in this research group sought to answer the following questions:

  • What change, if any, do women perceive in their physical, emotional, mental and social relationships to sexuality?
  • To what extent and in what ways do participants experience changes in their sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction?

Pam Costa is a Student Research Fellow with the JFK Holistic Research Center, currently pursuing her Masters in Holistic Counseling Psychology at the San Jose campus. In addition to studying at JFK, Pam is the founder of Down To There, a movement to encourage more honest discussions about sexuality. Pam spent the first decade and a half of her career at Apple and Facebook, but now spends her time writing, speaking and coaching individuals and couples on new ways to renew and deepen desire and intimacy in their relationships. She believes that speaking openly is a powerful antidote to the negative cultural myths we have been exposed to, and shares her own real-life challenges and successes around sexuality in a regular series on Huffington Post.

Students or alumni who want to get involved in the research can contact her at pcosta@email.jfku.edu.

References:Stinson, R.D. (2009). The behavioral and cognitive-behavioral treatment of female sexual dysfunction: How far we have come and the path left to go. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, (3-4), 271-285. doi:10.1080/14681990903199494

For more information about these projects, please contact:

Zvi Bellin, Holistic Research Center Director, zbellin@jfku.edu

Leyla Eraslan, Program Manager, leraslan@email.jfku.edu