Psychotherapy & Trauma Lab

Catherine M. Reich | Department of Psychology | University of Minnesota Duluth

The Psychotherapy and Trauma Lab at UMD includes two separate lines of research:

Psychotherapy. One line of research investigates why therapy/counseling "works." In other words, what mechanisms are responsible for client change. Of particular interest are the specific verbal and nonverbal behaviors and attitudes of the therapist that may impact psychotherapy process and outcome. What is it that successful therapist do that actually helps? Understanding which therapist factors are most important will hopefully contribute to improved training and therapeutic practice in the future. This line of work focusses on individual therapy for adults. Past research in this area have included therapist verbal responses (e.g., reflective listening, self-disclosures), vocal synchrony between the client and therapist, therapist speech patterns (including ratio of time listening versus speaking, speech rate, disfluencies, and interrupting the client), and language patterns. Other work has examined the phenomenon of clients dropping out of therapy as a signal of therapy quality as well as issues pertaining to training practices.

Trauma. Another line of research in this lab pertains to psychological trauma which refers to life threatening events (e.g., military combat, assault) or events involving a threat to one's bodily integrity (e.g., sexual abuse, torture). The focus of this research is on blame cognitions (e.g., self-blame, perpetrator blame, other blame) held by trauma survivors. Evidence suggests that social reactions of others may be internalized by trauma survivors and, as such, current projects have also extended to include victim blaming attitudes of outside observers as well as sexual offenders' denial of the offense and victim blaming. The aims of this line of research is to learn more about the development, function, maintenance, and processes of change for blame cognitions among trauma survivors. These efforts may one day help inform psychological treatments for trauma survivors.