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College of Human Development, Culture, and Media

Graduate Students Present Research at Conference of the American Psychological Association at Princeton University

Graduate students, Professional psychology.

(L-R) Harleen Bhoombla, Colleen Devaney, Alex Lydell, Julianne Minton, Madeleine Starr, Michelle Sleater, Ariana Esposito, Stephen Rivera, John Crean, and Robert Filippi presented at the APA Conference.

The College of Human Development, Culture, and Media celebrates the achievements of graduate students from the Professional Psychology and Family Therapy program, as they showcased their research at the 2024 APA Society of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality’s Mid-Year Conference. The conference was hosted by Princeton University’s Theological Seminary in New Jersey from April 18-20. This year’s theme was "Spiritual & Religious Perspectives in Psychology: A Call for Unity, Inclusivity, and Intersectionality." The conference focused on promoting the application of psychological research methods and interpretive frameworks to diverse forms of religion and spirituality at the intersection of other cultural variables. The conference aimed to encourage the integration of research findings into clinical and other applied settings, while fostering dialogue between psychological study and practice, and religious perspectives.

Graduate students represented Seton Hall and worked with M. Cristina Cruza-Guet, Ph.D., Division 36 president and assistant professor in the Professional Psychology and Family Therapy program. Student research included, "The Spiritual Life of Atheists: An Invitation" by Michelle Sleater, MD, Ph.D.; "Integrating Religion and Spirituality and LGBTQ+ Identities in Counseling: Proposed Practices and Critiques on Current Models" by Ariana Esposito and Stephen Rivera; "Prayer as a Potential Alternative/Compliment to Mindfulness" by John Crean and Julianne Minton; "Strategies for Culturally Competent Counseling with Buddhist Clients" by Colleen Devaney and Harleen Bhoombla; and "Spirituality & Psychedelics: Myth or Reality?" by Robert Filippi and Madeleine Starr; and "Spiritual & Religious Support and Well-being by Angela Cabble and Daniela Sanchez."

Seton Hall faculty.

Alan Groveman, Ines Murzaku, M. Cristina Cruza-Guet, Innocent Okozi, Ruth Tsuria, and Thomas Massarelli are pictured as Seton Hall faculty.

As president of Division 36, Cruza-Guet expressed her excitement about the participation of 12 of her students in this conference. "They made me very proud!" she said. "This was a unique conference as it focused on the intersection between faith and culture in psychology, an often-forgotten core aspect of who we are as human beings." She added that "the conference offered a rich tapestry of the most profound discussions and insights into the psychology of religion and spirituality, hoping that the conference sparked curiosity, individual transformation and a better understanding of the importance of this area of our field."

Michelle Sleater, a student in the Professional Counseling program, presented a talk on, "The Spiritual Life of Atheists: An Invitation" which aims to "help other clinicians understand their atheist clients and give them a vocabulary with which they can invite their clients to explore spiritual questions." Her research prompts discussion challenging the notion that spirituality hinges on possessing definitive answers to life’s profound questions. Instead, she suggests that it is about seeking questions to help atheist clients contemplate the meaning of their lives, morality and mortality while acknowledging that spirituality is part of what it means to be human.

Sleater shared the reasoning behind her talk. "I put this talk together because, as an atheist myself, I've long felt excluded from discussions of spirituality. Although I don't believe in ‘spirit’, per se, my healing journey has significantly benefited from my own therapists and guides inviting me into discussions of spiritual questions," she said.

Throughout the three-day event, six keynote speakers shared their expertise: Cynthia de las Fuentes, Ph.D., president of the American Psychological Association; Theresa Tisdale, Ph.D., PsyD, recipient of the 2022 Edith Sabshin Excellence in Teaching Award; Jamie D. Aten, Ph.D., renowned disaster psychologist, author, speaker, and founder of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College; Alan Groveman, Ph.D., ABPP, president of the American Academy of Couple & Family Psychology; Chyrell D. Bellamy, MSW, Ph.D., director of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH); and reverend Robyn Anderson, LADC, LPC, LMFT, Church Liaison to the award-winning IMANI Breakthrough Project.

Sleater explained how the speakers aided in her academic experience. "There was a wonderful session at the conference about Open Access Science. I learned a lot about efforts being made to change the research publication model in academics."

For more information, please contact APA Division 36 President and Assistant Professor, M. Cristina Cruza-Guet, Ph.D.

Categories: Arts and Culture, Research

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