Category Archives: Psychology, Counseling & Social Work

Educational Psychology CSPP student presents at ACES conference

Sarah Cronin, Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) Doctoral Student presented at the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision National Conference in Philadelphia, on October 7-11, 2015. The conference theme was ACES Leadership for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Practice. Cronin presented Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman and her research entitled, What makes a good supervisor?: Supervision Activities and the Supervisory Working Alliance. The conference was attended by counselor educators from across the country as well as international educators.

Wolff’s research on autism featured in SFARI

WolffJason-2014Jason Wolff, assistant professor in the special education program in the Department of Educational Psychology, was recently featured in an article by Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). The article, “Thick bridge of nerves may signal autism in infancy,” highlights Wolff’s study published in Brain in May. His research findings suggest that the bundle of nerves that bridges the brain’s two hemispheres is abnormally thick in infants later diagnosed with autism.

“I think it drives home to us how important it is to think about how much the brain changes throughout life,” Wolff told SFARI.

Read the full article in SFARI.

Read Wolff’s study in Brain.

“Three Good Things” gratitude exercise is beneficial in substance abuse treatment, study finds

Professor Amy Krentzman, University of Minnesota School of Social WorkUniversity of Minnesota School of Social Work Assistant Professor Amy Krentzman recently published a study on gratitude and its positive impact on helping people recover from alcohol use disorders. The study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology and was also featured on the website of the Harvard-affiliated Recovery Research Institute.

It is the first formal study of the use of gratitude in alcoholism treatment. Krentzman said she conducted the study after discovering that positive psychology interventions had not been tested among individuals with substance use disorders, even though they are commonly used in recovery programs.

“I thought a gratitude practice would be perfect as the first positive psychology intervention to test among individuals with addictions because gratitude is a naturally occurring theme in addiction recovery. For example, it is a regularly occurring theme in Alcoholics Anonymous literature,” Krentzman said.

The gratitude exercise, “Three Good Things,” asks participants to write about three positive things that happened in a day and why they happened. Krentzman said that her study will serve as a pilot program for further study about the impact of using “Three Good Things” in substance use disorder treatment programs and in post-treatment recovery organizations, such as sober living houses.

“I study addiction recovery and the factors that make the experience of recovery positive and reinforcing, which is a hedge against relapse,” Krentzman said. “Positive psychology is an excellent framework for my research.”

Read more on her research.

SSW alum named U.S. Ashoka Fellow

Amelia Frank MeyerAmelia Franck Meyer (M.S.W. ’01), CEO of Anu Family Services, was named an Ashoka Fellow, joining a network of over 3,000 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

Ashoka Fellows are chosen for having innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change.

Franck Meyer has been CEO of Anu Family Services since 2001 and has built an award winning organization that is achieving nationally leading outcomes in finding permanence for children in out-of-home care.  Last year, she shared her message and expertise with system leaders, legislators, front line staff, educators, and students across Minnesota, Wisconsin and 15 other states. Being an Ashoka Fellow will give her an opportunity to build on this growing momentum and desire for much needed systems change across the country.

Anu Family Services has offices in St, Paul Minnesota and Hudson, Madison and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Learn more about  Anu on their website.

Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. For more information, see the Ashoka website.

Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology students attend MSCA Annual Conference

Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology students joined Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman, Director of School Counseling, to attend the Minnesota School Counselors Association Annual Conference at Madden’s Resort in Brainerd May 3 – 5.

Students participated in presentations and professional development and listened to several keynote speakers. The students and their advisor, Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman, gave five presentations on a number of topics, including: technology, school counselor and parent engagement with technology, immigrant students, aromatherapy, and students in the military.

Presenters were: Sarah Cronin (doctoral student), Jessica Depuydt, Emily Colton, Rachel Fournier, Megan Rinn, Brita Crouse, Camille Merwin, Erica Tealey, Bianka Pineda, Erik Torgerson, Rebecca Zabinski, Marin Thuen, Lara Woyno, Tracy Buettner, Amanda Kapusniak, and Amy Gerster.

Students enjoyed meeting other counselors and alumni from across the state.

Educational Psychology alumna honored at national Hmong conference

Courtesy of the Wilder Foundation
Courtesy of the Wilder Foundation

Pahoua Yang, licensed psychologist based at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, was one of five leaders honored at the Hmong National Development Conference.

The conference brings hundreds of Hmong students and working professionals from across the country together and hosted annually in different states. Now in its 17th year, the 3-day weekend is held to “build capacity, educate attendees on Hmong issues, and discuss pressing issues in the Hmong community.”

Yang holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology (CSPP) from the University of Minnesota and is licensed as an independent clinical social worker. Her work at Wilder focuses on creating equal access to mental health services in the communities that she serves and teaching clinicians of color how to work with ethnic communities who are unaccustomed to mental health services.

Read more about this outstanding alumna from a recent interview by the Pioneer Press.

Doherty comments on bill to take courts out of divorce proceedings

Professor Bill Doherty Department of Family Social Science professor Bill Doherty spoke in support of  legislation that would make it possible to get divorced without going through the court system, in a Star Tribune article.

Read the article here.

Symons awarded Distinguished McKnight University Professorship

SymonsF-2005Frank Symons, educational psychology professor and associate dean for research and policy in the college, has been awarded the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship, which honors the University’s highest-achieving mid-career faculty. His research on the severe behavior problems of children and adults with special needs, especially those with developmental disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders, is ground-breaking.

As a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, he will receive a $100,000 grant for research and scholarly activities, and carry the title throughout his University career. Symons is one of five University professors receiving the award in 2015. CEHD’s Megan Gunnar and Ann Masten, both in the Institute of Child Development, earned the award previously.

Through this award, Symons is being recognized not only for his individual research but also for his leadership in interdisciplinary efforts. His work connects across many disciplines, including geriatrics, degenerative diseases, pain neuroscience, and the study of infants.

“Frank Symons is the quintessential faculty member,” said CEHD dean Jean Quam, “an outstanding researcher who is passionate about the value of his work, a talented teacher, an engaged mentor to his students, and a strategic and creative thinker. And he is an enormous asset to have in the Dean’s Office.”

Symons was recently named fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for his contributions to the field of intellectual disability. He also received the 2012 Council of Graduate Students Outstanding Faculty Award.

Symons, along with other winners of this year’s Distinguished McKnight University Professorships, will be recognized at the May Board of Regents meeting and will be honored at a celebratory dinner.

Pauline Boss and Ambiguous Loss Theory featured on the anniversary of missing flight MH370

Pauline BossDepartment of Family Social Science professor emeritus Pauline Boss coined the term Ambiguous Loss Theory for her pioneering research into what we feel when a loved one disappears.

On the anniversary of the week Malaysian Airline Flight 370 went missing, Boss was interviewed in articles reflecting on the past year for loved ones of the missing, some of whom are looking for “some measure of meaning in the meaninglessness of ambiguous loss,” Boss said.

Read more in the following articles:

Salon: Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, one year later: “Nothing is certain, as everything is possible”

ABC News: As world Moves on, MH370 families find solace in each other

International Business Times: MH370 one year later: no closure for families as search effort continues to flounder

New York Daily News: ‘We cling on to the hope’: One year after MH370 disappeared, loved ones of 239 people on board haunted by unsolved mystery

Wall Street Journal features Doherty’s Marital First Responders project

Professor Bill Doherty Department of Family Social Science professor Bill Doherty is utilizing couples therapy research to create a new workshop for individuals he calls “Marital First Responders.”

“The goal of a marital first responder is to be a good friend, not a therapist,” says Doherty in a Wall Street Journal article featuring his work.

Read the article at

Learn more about Doherty and his research interests on his profile page.

FSoS grads visit Capitol Hill to highlight the importance of the AAMFT Minority Fellowship Program

Noah Gagner and Ashley LandersDepartment of Family Social Science graduate students Noah Gagner and Ashley Landers each received AAMFT Minority Doctoral Fellowships this fall, which provide financial support as well as professional training, leadership development, and guidance for “Marriage and Family therapists committed to advancing the mental health interests of ethnic minority communities and under-served populations.”

On February 6, they traveled to Capitol Hill to participate in the Winter Training Institutes, where they worked with presenters in the areas of cultural sensitive interventions, as well as the integration of advanced quantitative research modalities.

Ashley Landers and Noah Gagner

Gagner and Landers met with congressional representatives, including the Legislative Director of Congresswoman Betty McCollum, to highlight the importance of the Minority Fellowship Program.

Learn more about Gagner and Landers, and their research interests and accomplishments on their profile pages:

Noah Gagner

Ashley Landers


Recent FSoS alumnus and Running Therapy

Matthew Miller The Southwest Journal featured Matthew Miller, family social science Ph.D. 2014, in an article highlighting his recently launched practice, Running Therapy, which combines year-round outdoor activities with therapy.

For more information on Running Therapy, visit the website or read the Southwest Journal article.

Miller was also interviewed about his practice by WTIP Radio.

Learn more about Miller on his profile page.

August: Personalized Mental Health Prevention and Intervention

Professor Gerald August Department of Family Social Science professor Gerald August‘s research has shifted towards the prevention of antisocial behavior and drug abuse in children and adolescents.

“It’s often been said that no disease has ever been cured by treating someone who already has it,” August notes in a CEHD Vision 2020 post, “Reading that statement was somewhat of an epiphany for me and led to a refocusing of my career goals to the study of prevention aimed at young people who were at risk for serious mental health and chemical dependency disorders.”

He developed a prevention program that’s become recognized as an exemplary program by several institutions including the National Institute on Drug Abuse .

Read more from Professor August’s article about metal health prevention and warning signs.

Learn more about August on his profile page.

Piehler awarded Grant-in-Aid

Professor Timothy Piehler

Department of Family Social Science assistant professor Timothy Piehler received a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The $25,000 award will support pilot data collection for a project of Piehler’s.

The goal of the project is to develop measures of adolescent susceptibility to peer contagion (i.e. negative peer influence processes) in group-based interventions for youth with conduct problems.

Piehler joined CEHD/FSoS this fall after several years in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Read more about his research on his profile page.

Wieling: Improving mental health for families affected by war trauma

Professor Liz WielingI have been working with vivo (Victim’s Voice) for more than 12 years. Our mission is to overcome and prevent traumatic stress and its consequences within the individual and the family, as well as the community, safeguarding the rights and dignity of people affected by violence and conflict.

Visit CEHD Vision 2020 to read more about Department of Family Social Science professor Liz Wieling’s work.

Visit Wieling’s profile page to read more about her research.

Mehus chosen for MAMFT Outstanding Student Award

Christopher Mehus

Department of Family Social Science graduate student Christopher Mehus received the 2014 Minnesota Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT) Outstanding Student Award at the MAMFT fall conference.

The award is presented to an outstanding Minnesota student in marriage/couple and family studies. Students are nominated by a member of their school’s faculty, who can attest to their academic and clinical body of work.

Mehus is a Ph.D. student in the Couple and Family Therapy specialization in Family Social Science.

$2.8 million grant supports research to bridge cultural divides for underrepresented college students

To help colleges learn how best to support access and success for underrepresented and low-income college students, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $2.8 million to the College of Education and Human Development and its partners on Sept. 30.

Part of the 2014 First in the World Program, the four-year grant will fund an effort to engage underrepresented and low-income students and bridge campus-community cultural divides by developing deeper partnerships with diverse communities. This project targets underrepresented students at five research universities, developing and implementing enhanced community-based learning experiences within their academic programs to enhance student academic engagement, sense of belonging, and college persistence.

The other university partners are City University of New York, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Georgia, University of Illinois Chicago, and University of Memphis.

1MaruyamaGeoff-2013“This is an exciting partnership that brings together leaders from universities doing creative and exemplary work engaging their communities in meaningful ways. We at the University of Minnesota will be convening and coordinating the efforts, and are also responsible for evaluating the work for impact across all these universities,” said Geoffrey Maruyama, project director, and professor and chair in the Department of Educational Psychology. “Most exciting will be the opportunities at each institution to refine programming for students and for us collectively to build a guide for additional institutions across the country to use to build programs appropriate for their circumstances.”

As part of the project, programs will share what they have learned through their work to implement new and refined programming that will serve about 9,000 college students, focusing on underrepresented students across the five institutions. Elements of community-based learning initiatives will be evaluated in the project to determine those that enhance student educational attainments across a variety of learning initiatives operating at each of the five participating campuses.

The Minnesota components of the project will work across the Twin Cities campus, coordinated by project co-director Andrew Furco, associate vice president for public engagement. The project also draws from the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, which will be serving as the project evaluator, and from the Office of Institutional Research.

Nearly 500 applications were received by the U.S. Department of Education for this first year of the First in the World Program. Approximately $75 million was awarded to 24 colleges and universities.

“Each grantee demonstrated a high-quality, creative, and sound approach to expand college access and improve student outcomes,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We are confident these projects will have a positive impact on increasing access and completion and help us reach President Obama’s 2020 goal to once again have the highest share of college graduates in the world.”

Read more in this announcement from the U.S. Department of Education.

FSoS Alumnus Kirsten Lind Seal tackles WCCO’s “Good Question”: Why Are Fewer People Getting Married?

Kirsten Lind SealRecent Department of Family Social Science graduate, Kirsten Lind Seal, Ph.D. spoke with Heather Brown of WCCO News about why fewer people chose to get married.

Seal, an adjunct program instructor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate and Certificate Program at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, is conducting research on confidants for American marriages and long-term committed relationships as part of the Marital First Responders project under Professor Bill Doherty.

View the “Good Question” video on WCCO’s website.


Mendenhall interviewed about Emergency Preparedness Partnership

Tai MendenhallDepartment of Family Social Science professor Tai Mendenhall was featured in an article highlighting the collaborative efforts in trauma-response teams. He is one of the team leaders alongside colleagues from Public Health, the Academic Health Center, and the Minnesota Department of Health.

Read more about Tai’s research interests on his profile page.

Learn more about the Emergency Preparedness Partnership.

Masten approved by Board of Regents as newest Regents Professor

MastenA_2013For her field-shaping contributions to the study of risk and resilience among children, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents unanimously approved the appointment of Ann Masten as Regents Professor at its June meeting. She joins a select group of 30 professors at the U of M who have earned this highest faculty honor.

Regents Professors are recognized for their national and international prominence and for their exceptional accomplishments in teaching, research, creative work and contributions to the public good. The program provides a stipend of $50,000 annually, with $20,000 dedicated to a salary augmentation and $30,000 dedicated to a discretionary research fund.

Masten, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychology in the Institute of Child Development, is an expert on child development, children’s resilience and interventions promoting children’s adaptation in the face of risk, adversity and trauma. Since the late 1980s, she has conducted a series of studies focused on displaced children and youth, particularly looking at homeless and highly mobile children in Minnesota. Additional research areas include immigrant youth, refugees, war survivors and victims of natural disasters.

“Regents Professor Masten continues to be exceptional in all she does,” said U of M President Eric Kaler. “She has dedicated her career to understanding human resilience, and her insights greatly benefit our society. I look forward to her ongoing research and scholarship and congratulate her on this well deserved honor.”

Masten has published numerous empirical, theoretical and review papers on risk and resilience, competence and developmental psychopathology. Her publications have been widely distributed to scientists, policymakers and practitioners, and she is frequently invited to speak and consult at the national and international level. Masten coined the term “ordinary magic” to describe how human resilience typically arises from the operation of normal rather than extraordinary human capabilities, relationships and resources.

She has served as president of the Society for Research in Child Development and president of the developmental division of the American Psychological Association. She is a member of the Board on Children, Youth and Families of the National Academies and the U.S. National Committee for the International Union for Psychological Science.

Masten recently received the Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contributions to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association. She is also the recipient of several teaching awards, including the U of M’s Horace T. Morse Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.

Masten, who received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the U of M in 1982, will be formally recognized by the Board at its September meeting.

The College of Education and Human Development has two other Regents Professors: Megan Gunnar and Karen Seashore.

Read more on Masten’s accomplishments.