Sarah Osborn's Archive

AAMFT Leadership Conference

0 Commentsby   |  03.25.11  |  Uncategorized

While students were enjoying a spring break from classes, ACU professor, Dr. Sara Blakeslee traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the AAMFT Leadership Conference. This annual event is typically limited to AAMFT leadership and division leaders representing each state, but four invitations were extended to Minority Fellowship Program alumni as well. The purpose of this is to keep MFP alum involved and allow their voice to be heard. In addition, one of the goals for AAMFT for the weekend was to convey to lawmakers the need to keep the same level of funding for the SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program in a political climate of budget cutbacks.

Dr. Blakeslee attended meetings discussing the needs of clinical associates and student members. One full day was devoted to lobbying for MFT interests, and Dr. Blakeslee joined with TAMFT president James Morris to visit with Texas Senators John Cornyn and  Kay Bailey Hutchison about MFT interests. Topics of discussion include asking for support for including MFTs in Medicare (Senate bill S604 and two upcoming House bills), maintaining the same level of funding for the MFP, and modifying statute language to allow MFTs to work in schools as counselors.

The big topic of discussion at the Conference was the proposed change of  member categories. This proposal would allow members of other counseling professions to be members at different levels. The vote for this proposal will be held in the spring. If you would like to read more about the proposed changes or participate in a discussion about it, you can find more information on the AAMFT website here.

Students Prepare Research to Present at TAMFT 2011 Conference

4 Commentsby   |  02.28.11  |  Uncategorized

Next week is a big week for Texas MFTs and students. All 32 students from ACU’s MFT program will be joining professionals from around the state at TAMFT’s 2011 Conference in Austin. In addition to the conference, many students will also be attending Day at the Dome, where they will join with other professionals to deliver a unified message to state legislators regarding marriage and family therapy and client welfare.

The second year class will be presenting the results of their various research projects at Thursday evening’s President’s Exihit Hall Reception and Social. The following are the various groups and the abstracts of their research. If you are attending the conference, be sure to check out the poster presentation. Students will appreciate your interest and be happy to share more about the results of their hard work.

A Phenomenological Study of Family Adjustment of Refugees, by Emily Savage, Amie Campbell, and Scott Rampy

This presentation covers a study which examined the experiences of refugee families in West Texas. The study assessed areas of strength and need as well as determined risk and protective factors that affect the adjustment of refugees related to their relocation to the United States. In particular the study explored the changes in relational dynamics between generations within refugee families. This study provides an understanding of the experience of refugee families so that community resources and therapeutic interventions can be designed to better meet the needs of the population thus helping Marriage and Family Therapists be more effective in treating such families.

How Personal Values Shape the Marital Sexual Experience, by Elizabeth Brown, Sarah Musick, Jacqueline Roberts, Sybil Vess

Personal values may have a direct effect on what an individual considers to be sexually taboo. The perceived  boundaries of what is permissible sexual behavior may have an effect on overall marital satisfaction. With this research we will attempt to answer the following question: How do religious attitudes/values/beliefs impact choice of sexual behavior and sexual marital satisfaction? We hypothesize the following three outcomes: (1) there will be a significant negative correlation between religious emphasis and sexual and marital satisfaction; (2) there will be a significant difference in sexual and marital satisfaction between those engaging in conventional or unconventional sexual behaviors; (3) there will be a significant difference between men and women on marital and sexual satisfaction. Couples will anonymously complete the Sexual Behavior Checklist, Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale, Religious Emphasis Scale, Pinney Sexual Satisfaction Inventory, and the Miller Measure of Spirituality. Descriptive data anaysis as well as regression anaylses will be employed to test the hypotheses. Researchers hope to identify possible associations between values and sexual behaviors and how both impact marital satisfaction. Researchers also hope that results may lead to further questions and research opportunities regarding the connections between healthy sexual behaviors and marital satisfaction.

The Impact of Spirituality and Religiosity on Divorce Adjustment, by Tara Stephens, Blake Berryhill, Kelsey Waskow

This presentation will focus on the results of a study examining the relationship between divorce adjustment,  religiosity, and spirituality. Research participants completed demographic questions, the Divorce Reaction Inventory (DRI-46), the Religious Emphasis Scale, and the Miller Measure of Spirituality. Participants were also asked to respond to qualitative questions regarding their experience of the divorce process and how it impacted their spiritual/ religious well-being. Previous research has indicated that many people experience divorce as a sacred loss or desecration and struggle spiritually with their divorce (Krumrei, Mahoney, and Pargament, 2009). Spirituality is also used as an adaptive coping method (Krumrei et al., 2009). The hypotheses guiding this research were as follows: (1) There will be a positive correlations between spirituality and level of divorce adjustment; (2) There will be a significant difference between participants who feel accepted by their faith community and those who do not after divorce on measures of spirituality and religiosity; and (3) Length of time since participants’ divorce will significantly impact divorce adjustment. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistical analysis, correlation analysis, t-tests, and analysis of variance (ANOVA).method of presentation.)

A Study of Men’s Pornography Addiction in Group Therapy, by Kevin Burnette, Sabrina Johnson, Tommy Johnson, and Dean Pye

Patrick Carnes’ book, In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior addresses the issue of sexual addiction, specifically regarding internet pornography. This is thought to be a common problem among college-age males. Accountability groups have been one common, informal way of addressing this problem. Therefore the investigators believe that formal group psychotherapy would be an effective way for the mental health community to respond to this issue. The current study seeks to examine whether different delivery formats influence the effectiveness of psychotherapy groups for treatment of internet pornography addiction. Participants will be college-age men (18-25 y/o) who identify themselves as excessive viewers of internet pornography. The formats that will be examined include same gender therapeutic dyads, mixed gender therapeutic dyads, and a solo therapist of the same gender as participants. Participants will engage in 8 sessions of group therapy. Participants will take the Internet Sex Screen Test to determine the effectiveness of each group’s therapeutic value.

Kent Akers, Morgan Myrick, Ashley Roan

This presentation will focus on the result of a study examining the relationship between the level of involvement of social support systems, including the family of origin, and the stress levels in the lives of athletes. An understanding of the correlation between the levels of social support and levels of stress, in athletes, will better equip therapists to operate under a more holistic framework when athletes present to therapy with stress related problems. The participants completed the Stressful Life Events Scale and used self report methods to describe levels and variables of support (Holmes, & Rahe, 1967). The hypotheses guiding this research were as follows: (1) There will be a negative correlation between the level of support and levels of stress for athletes; (2) Players who report to have a supportive family of origin will subsequently report significantly different stress levels from those who do not; (3) The time spent at a given level of athletic organization will have the effect of lowering stress levels.

Students Attend Yarhouse Workshop

2 Commentsby   |  02.11.11  |  Uncategorized

ACU students and faculty were recently given another opportunity to learn from an accomplished researcher and author in the marriage and family therapy field. Dr. Mark Yarhouse presented a workshop for interested MFTs, counselors, and students Wednesday, January 26 entitled Sexual Identity Therapy: A ‘Third Way’ Model for Clinical Services to Sexual Minorities. As the title suggests, Dr. Yarhouse presented a new therapeutic model for addressing the clinical concerns of sexual minorities.

Gay affirmative therapy, a model which emphasizes that a homosexual orientation is reflective of the individual’s whole identity, and Reorientation therapy, also called conversion or reparative therapy, have been the go-to models for mental health professionals responding to client’s distress around sexual orientation issues. However, neither of these models allows room for clients to address the incongruence between their religious sexual identities, an issue that is especially important for many religious clients and Christians in particular.

Dr. Yarhouse presented his and other relevant research on sexual orientation, treatment models, and efficacy in addition to teaching the Sexual Identity Therapy framework. This model attempts to resolve sexual identity conflict by helping the client synthesize a wholistic sexual identity that promotes personal well-being and integration with other aspects of the individual’s personal identity such as cultural, ethnic, relational, and spiritual self.

Students were impressed by Dr. Yarhouse’s presentation as he offered an alternative framework that is respectful of the client’s unique position and viewpoints. Since so much of the research about homosexuality is often inconclusive, contradictory, and confusing, it was refreshing to learn about a model for working with sexual identity concerns that does not polarize sexual identity against religious beliefs, but instead offers clients a way to address this tension and create a holistic and more confident identity for themselves which can include both their religious and sexual identities.

Mark A. Yarhouse, Psy.D., is the Rosemarie Scotti Hughes Endowed Chair of Christian Thought in Mental Health Practice and Professor of Psychology at Regent University. He is also the director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. Dr. Yarhouse has written several books including Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate, Sexual Identity Synthesis: Attributions, Meaning-Making and the Search for Congruence, and Family Therapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. For more information about Sexual Identity Therapy, visit:

ACU Students Shine: AAMFT Minority Fellowship

0 Commentsby   |  12.02.10  |  Uncategorized

For the past 4 years, ACU MFT graduates have been recipients of the AAMFT Minority Fellowship, a program that aims to “expand the delivery of culturally competent mental health and substance abuse services to underserved minority populations.” The AAMFT Minority Fellowship provides financial support and professional guidance to graduate students pursuing doctoral degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy who express commitment to a career in ethnic minority mental health and substance abuse services.

Past ACU fellowship recipients are Sara Blakeslee (’07), and Maria Williams (’08).  Ruqayyah Samia, a 2009 fellowship recipient, and Mathis Kennington,  a 2010 recipient share how the fellowship has affected their professional growth and research and the ways that their time at ACU helped prepare them for doctoral work.

Mathis: The greatest impact the MFP will have on my research career comes from having constant exposure to other fellows who are engaging in research with ethnic minority individuals.  I have no doubt that my questions will continue to take shape as a result of this collaboration and I am convinced that it will enrich my studies.  I now have access to a
lifetime connection with these folks and those who will come after me. Currently, as a result of receiving the fellowship, I have decided to stay an extra year at VA Tech to take more statistics classes in the hope of becoming more qualified with more complex statistical methods.

I am interested in knowing how attachment-oriented clinical interventions on a broad scale can foster more bonded relationships between children of incarcerated Latino and African American fathers.Right now, I’m working on a study that involves nonresident immigrant Latino fathers from Mexico and Central America and how those fathers
conceptualize their fathering roles.  In addition to that, I’m also involved with a study with the Virginia Department of Corrections to learn how incarcerated mothers rehabilitate after release with their children.

I have no doubt that I would not have the MFP were it not for my experience at ACU. Although I am biased, I am certain that I was a part of the best cohort of students to go through the MFT program.  My classmates were engaging, thoughtful, and incredibly supportive to the extent that all our educational experiences were enriched.  I don’t
think I would have the same scholarly developments and interests were it not for them.  I also feel that the program is more rigorous than many in the MFT field.  As a result, I felt better equipped to handle the many challenges of doctoral study and I also felt encouraged to continue the scholarly pursuits, which led to my interest in applying for the MFP program.  It was difficult while I was there, but reflecting on the experience, I’m so thankful for the way the faculty
structure the MFT program.  I feel more equipped as a result of being at ACU, and I know that wouldn’t be the case if I had been somewhere else.  Finally, I feel that the way my faculty encouraged me throughout the process was critical. This was the second time I applied to the MFP program, and I did not receive the fellowship during my first attempt. Dr. Goff, Dr. Hinson, and Dr. Halstead encouraged me to try again and I was especially grateful to Dr. Goff for contributing to my application this year with a recommendation letter.  The relationships I built with my faculty at ACU were a critical component to my application this year.

Ruqayyah: I was awarded the AAMFT Minority Fellowship in 2009, the same year that I entered my PhD program. For that reason, it is difficult for me to imagine what my doctoral experience would be like without being a Fellow. Since becoming a Minority Fellow, my professional goals have continued to expand. Those goals now include not only leaving the door open for someone else to walk through once I have achieved success, but also creating new, more efficient doors for others to walk through to experience a similar sense of accomplishment. The Fellowship continues to increase my awareness of ways in which I can better serve my community. For me, that is what the fellowship is about, community. Collectively, the Minority Fellows, program director, program manager, and our advisory committee create a space where we as a community can develop better ways in which to serve our respective communities. While the Fellowship has heightened my awareness of the significance of building a strong community, this concept was ingrained in me while in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at ACU. Every professor, supervisor, and member of my cohort created a community that worked toward providing the foundation for professionalism, leadership, and service that has propelled me forward in all of my endeavors. I am almost certain that without the MFT program at ACU, I would not be a Minority Fellow and for that, I will eternally be grateful.

Visit the AAMFT Minority Fellowship Program website for more information and to apply.

What are you thankful for?

0 Commentsby   |  11.22.10  |  Uncategorized

Happy Thanksgiving from the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy.

What can be better than the family getting together over a big turkey dinner, celebrating life’s blessings? Whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving, we pray that it is special day for you and your loved ones. What are you thankful for this year?

Find us on Facebook

2 Commentsby   |  11.04.10  |  Uncategorized

The Department if Marriage and Family Therapy is now on Facebook. Become a fan to show your support for the program and maybe even reconnect with old MFT friends.

Become a fan on Facebook

Student Externship Spotlight: Equine Assisted Counseling

0 Commentsby   |  10.18.10  |  Uncategorized

This is the first of a new monthly post featuring current MFT students and the unique opportunities that students have outside of their clinic experience at the Marriage and Family Institute.

Jacqueline Roberts is a second year MFT graduate student who came to ACU from Oklahoma State University where she studied Human Development and Family  Science. In addition to juggling her scholarly responsibilities, Jacque works on campus in the Office for Institutional Effectiveness as Dr. Tom Milholland’s graduate assistant.

Watch the video to hear about Jacqueline’s work at the University Counseling center where she has the opportunity to engage clients in Equine Assisted Therapy:

Externship Spotlight: Jacqueline Roberts

Faculty, Students Participate in Professional Association Events

1 Commentby   |  10.13.10  |  Uncategorized

Two important gathering of MFTs occurred last month. ACU faculty participated in the TAMFT Leadership Retreat as well as the AAMFT Annual Conference held in Atlanta, Georgia where students also attended.

Dr. Jaime Goff and Dr. Sara Blakeslee participated in the TAMFT leadership retreat in September where they joined executive leadership and committee chairs in a weekend focused on trends of the profession and needs of Marriage and Family Therapists in Texas. Included in this was also planning for the annual TAMFT conference which will occur March 3-5, 2011 in Austin. Dr. Goff serves as a co-chair for the Marriage and Family Therapy Educational Committee. She and Dr. Blakeslee are involved in the publication of the MFT national exam prep manual, so part of the weekend was spent planning exam prep courses and discussing updates to the manual. Although Dr. Blakeslee is not a committee chair, she enjoys giving back to the association through her involvement with the exam prep manual, and as a member of both the ethics committee and the conference committee. She feels that it is especially important for her to be involved as a younger member in the profession and as a faculty member at an accredited graduate program.

Dr. Goff cites three reasons why it is important for her to be involved at the professional level. First, the collective strength of the professional organization provides support for individual practitioners. For example, the current suit by the Texas Medical Association against the Texas State Board of Examiners for Marriage and Family Therapist could have a widespread impact on the way that LMFTs practice and receive payment. TAMFT is working to protect licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. Dr. Goff also sees her participation in the  professional organization as a way to bring a Christian voice to TAMFT. Despite recent withdrawal of Christian participats, Dr. Goff encourages Christians become more involved, especially in leadership positions. TAMFT serves its members, so being a part of it gives the Christian professional a way to make their voice heard. Finally, Dr. Goff’s involvement brings recognition and respect for the ACU MFT program. ACU faculty service at the professional level creates a reputation of excellence which ultimately benefits students and graduates by creating future connections.

In addition to the leadership retreat, the ACU faculty members also attended the AAMFT National Conference. Dr. Blakeslee presented a poster on a subset of her dissertation titled, “Relational Components of Women’s Recovery in Aftercare.” Qualitative interviews revealed that from an attachment perspective, women in the criminal justice system view their probation officers as a secure base from which they launch into recovery. Her research generated a lot of interest at the conference and received an overall positive response including advise other experienced professionals on how she can publish the research.

Faculty were not the only ones to attend the AAMFT Annual Conference. Two second year students, Blake Berryhill and Tyson Alexander, were present. Both students used the conference as an opportunity to peruse the many doctoral programs represented from around the nation. Students were impressed by the quality of the conference presenters which included John Gottman, noted researcher on marital relationships and author of The Marriage Clinic.

The 2011 AAMFT Annual Conference will be a little closer to home in Fort Worth which will hopefully allow many more students and graduates to participate in this important professional event.

Students Attend Barry Duncan Workshop

4 Commentsby   |  09.10.10  |  Uncategorized

Friday, September 3, MFT students were privileged to attend a workshop with noted author and researcher Barry Duncan. The workshop, hosted by the ACU Counseling Center, provided an educational opportunity for students and mental health professionals in the Abilene area.

Barry Duncan is the director of The Heart and Soul of Change Project, a practice, training, and evidence-based initiative that applies common factors and feedback research to ensure consumer voice in care, improve outcomes, and make therapists better at what they do. Duncan provided an engaging and informative workshop based on empirically validated and replicated research on the common factors of change in therapy, with specific attention to the therapeutic alliance. Instead of placing emphasis on a specific theory, from which there are hundreds to choose, Duncan urged therapists to draw on client’s resourcefulness, and to use the therapeutic alliance the catalyst for change.

The workshop taught the value of client feedback both as a way to improve client outcomes and therapist effectiveness over time. Duncan introduced the Outcome Ratings Scale (ORS) and Session Ratings Scale (SRS) and gave participants opportunity to practice administering the simple client-based feedback assessments as a way to create a more effective therapeutic alliance. Students now have the opportunity to participate in research on client-based feedback as they see clients at the Marriage and Family Institute.

To obtain copies of the ORS and SRS, as well as more information about the effectiveness of client-based feedback visit

New Beginnings

3 Commentsby   |  09.03.10  |  Uncategorized

The 2010-2011 school year is in full swing after classes began August 23. This Fall, the MFT program welcomed fifteen new students. Before classes even began, the second year class welcomed the first year cohort with an informal back-yard barbecue. The second years got a chance to meet the new students and reconnect with each other after a short summer break. For some of the first years, this was their first time to meet of their classmates.

The first week of classes kept everyone busy. First year students were hard at work going over syllabi, learning about desk duty, and writing up their first observations. Second year students were excited to begin classes with less than a year left until graduation.

There are also a few changes at the MFI. As noted in a previous post, Dr. Jackie Halstead left Abilene for Nashville this Summer, accepting a position at Lipscomb University. Taking her place as Department Chair is Dr. Jaime Goff who has served as the MFI Clinic Director and full time faculty for the past six years. In addition, Dr. Sara Blakeslee, who served as a supervisor and adjunct professor for the 2009-2010 school year, received her PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas Tech University in August. Dr. Blakeslee is now a full-time faculty for the MFT department.

Congratulations to Dr. Goff and Dr. Blakeslee on their accomplishments! We look forward to more exciting things coming from the MFT department in the coming school year.