Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Seeking Your Center: Assessing a Computer-Based Psychoeducational Intervention for Spiritual Struggles in College Freshmen

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Kenneth Pargament

Second Advisor

Roudabeh Jamasbi (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Michael Zickar (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

William O'Brien (Committee Member)


Research has demonstrated that spiritual struggles are related to deleterious effects on psychological well-being, and can lead to a wide range of addictive behavior in college students (Bryant & Astin, 2008; Pargament et al., 1998; Exline, Yali & Sanderson, 2000; Johnson, Sheets & Kristeller, 2006; Astin & Astin, 2004; Faigin & Pargament, 2008). Some promising studies have found that small-group interventions can diminish the negative effects of spiritual struggles (Oemig et al., 2008; Tarakeshwar, Pearce, and Sikkema, 2005; Avants et al., 2005; Murray-Swank & Pargament, 2005); while computer-based psychoeducation interventions have proven effective in addressing other psychological or behavioral problems (Braithwaite & Fincham, 2007; Orbach, Lindsay, & Grey, 2007; Low et al., 2006). The current project is the first of its kind to assess the impact of a computer-based psychoeducation intervention for spiritual struggles that can be applied to a large group of people. Findings indicate that a spiritually sensitive intervention does not appear to protect students from the negative effects of spiritual struggles (e.g., psychological distress, addictive behavior, stigma related to spiritual struggles) more than a secular (stress reduction) intervention or no intervention. These results indicate that this one-time, computer-based psychoeducation intervention does not protect freshmen college students from negative outcomes associated with spiritual struggles. However, there is reason to believe that changes in the administration and intervention design could prove effective in future studies. Suggestions for future research are provided; limitations and practical implications are discussed.