The focus of my work and the greatest part of my research agenda has been group dynamics, conflict resolution, developing compassion and empathy through the use of biographical timelines and other interventions, management, and leadership, as well as therapeutic approaches around trauma, mental illness, and supporting people with neurological differences including autism.
Faculty Research Interests
My research interests have always been guided by my desire to contribute to the practice literature in the area of family violence. During my work with survivors of family violence, I was struck by the resilience of children and adolescents, who despite being exposed to the most harrowing of circumstances, were not just moving forward but in many cases were thriving. This has guided my research on resiliency and protective factors for children and adolescents exposed to violence, focusing on spirituality as a strength individuals possess. I am interested in spirituality not only as a protective factor for children and adolescents but also the process of spiritual development from childhood to adolescence. I have published scholarly articles and presented at international and national conferences on my research interests.
My research interests are in the areas of local community engagement and service-learning, international service-learning and clinical education, global health competencies, pro bono service, student leadership development, and oncological rehab.
My research focuses on writing techniques in healthcare. I've published three books in this area, as well as numerous journal articles, such as analyses of Medicare manuals for their targeted audience of senior citizens. I am also active in the open education movement. Because many of my courses have experiential components, I've also published and presented on applied projects that benefit our community. Fortunately, my research interests have allowed me to travel throughout Europe—from Spain and Italy in the southwest to Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland in central and Eastern Europe. Just like my courses, my research emphasizes the applications of writing in professional contexts.
Although my research interests are broad, most of my research investigates the relationships between psychological factors and adjustment to chronic physical health conditions. These studies have explored relationships among variables such as family functioning, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress and adjustment, self-management, rehabilitation, and medical outcomes for individuals experiencing diabetes, cancer, spinal cord injury, and cardiac conditions. I am also interested in the development and application of therapies to help individuals, couples, and families who face chronic health conditions, and in the integration of therapeutic methods toward optimal effectiveness for these problems. I have piloted many interventions utilizing imagery as a medium for exploration and intervention. I have also worked in primary care medical settings, specialty care medical settings, and physical medicine & rehabilitation settings over the years, integrating psychological services into the integrated interdisciplinary medical care.
Based on my practice experiences, I have interest in ethics in palliative and end-of-life care, complex family dynamics in palliative and end-of-life care, the role and perception of social workers in the medical setting, and social work field education in online MSW programs.
My main program of research focuses on sexual communication processes in relationships. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how sexual communication is influenced by a variety of contexts, including the individual partners, the romantic relationship, relationships between parents and children, and sociocultural norms. Ultimately, understanding the various contextual factors that impact sexual communication will lead to the promotion of effective strategies individuals can use to communicate about sexuality within their relationships.
I am interested in researching reproductive justice-based interventions to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, creating evidence based curricula regarding teaching anti-racist, sex-positive, comprehensive and inclusive sex education and working with reduction and conflict resolution for couples in conflict.
We live in a world where employment is an expectation and often a requirement for accessing certain safety net supports, such as TANF. Yet, we are also in an era where stable work may be fleeting at best. Given this situation, my research interests have centered on the effects that this precarious condition can have on families' material and emotional well-being.
Currently, I am studying the relationship between families' economic vulnerability and children's social-emotional competence with a focus on family processes. In future research, I plan a continued investigation of the impact of economic vulnerability on family well-being, expanding this inquiry to gain a richer understanding of individual families' experiences with, and responses to, economic vulnerability and the consequent influence on family and child well-being. I am also interested in better understanding intersectionality of identities, particularly those identities that are outside of the dominant culture, and experiences of precarity.
By identifying the interactive effects that system, family, and individual-level experiences can have on the well-being of children and families, my research is intended to build policymakers' and practitioners' understanding of policies' and conditions' impact on families, thereby enabling appropriate policy and programmatic responses to be identified and implemented. In particular, I aim to conduct research that informs social workers' micro- and macro-level responses (ideally in an integrated manner), and by doing so, facilitates social and economic justice and social change.
My research interest includes analyzing the effects of hospitalization and discharge on older adults from a biopsychosocial perspective. Specifically, I am interested in the social determinants of health as related to the ability to return to a full and active lifestyle after acute illness for older adults.
My research interests are culturally centered educational pedagogy, therapeutic methodological frameworks, healing, counseling agency-based practice, and emancipation-oriented paradigms for African Americans and other disempowered populations.
My research agenda includes: a) traditional sex roles/stereotypes for women and men, where they came from, how they affect sexuality and relationships, and how they are changing; b) the history of sexuality, particularly the history of pre-patriarchal norms and female spirituality and how they affect sexuality today; c) somatic sex education.
My overarching research agenda is to explore and understand the professional identity development of social work students, how values and personal attributes contribute to that development, and then how courses can be structured to enhance and continue to support the developmental process. My research goal is to examine the process of identity development to provide insight to the process, thereby enabling the development of course content that will further strengthen the students' professional development.
- Dissertation: Sexuality Education as Perceived by Physicians and Therapists: An Assessment of Attitudes about and Interest in Referring Patients to Sexuality Educators
- Correlations Among Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education for Grades 7-9 and the National Sexuality Education Standards for Core Content and Skills, K-12. Boston, MA: Unitarian Universalist Association (2013).
My scholarly interests are closely tied to my work and experiences as a pediatric physical therapist and an academician. Those pursuits have led to collaborations with others who are teaching pediatric content in physical therapy programs where we have explored questions related to critical thinking, curriculum, and knowledge translation. My other primary research collaboration is within the Institute for Physical Therapy Education at Widener, where we are studying a variety of elements related to civic engagement, service learning, and leadership connected to our curriculum and our student-led pro bono physical therapy clinic.