Past Dissertations and Theses

Amanda Easton, PhD

  • Dr. Easton completed her doctoral degree and dissertation titled “Certified Rehabilitation Counselor’s Willingness to Discuss Sexuality-Related Concerns with  Clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder” in May of 2015.  The research explored rehabilitation counselors and their willingness to discuss sexuality, how important sexuality-related topics are to the rehabilitation counseling process, and the areas of sexuality that counselors are most and least comfortable addressing.  Findings from the study lend to a better understanding of how rehabilitation counselors feel about sexuality as it relates to Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Lisa Batchos, MS

  • Individuals with acquired brain injury (ABI) may not only struggle with physical and cognitive impairments, but may also face challenges reintegrating into the community socially. Research has demonstrated that following ABI, individuals’ social networks tend to dwindle, support may decline, and isolation increases. Social aspects of 

    rehabilitation are often overlooked for more physical or cognitive symptom management. Social integration, however, may act as a protective factor for stress and has shown benefits for the rehabilitation process physically, cognitively, and psychosocially. Therefore, it may be vital to the rehabilitation process to examine factors promoting 

    social integration. One important construct is that of social problem solving, which incorporates both the social and cognitive domains related to the rehabilitation of brain injury. Another such variable is social support, a factor previously shown to affect social outcomes. This study uses a sample of 102 individuals with ABI to examine factors 

    impacting social integration.  Predictors included emotional support, instrumental support, problem solving confidence, and approach-avoidance style of problem solving, while controlling for age, gender, education, and time since injury. Hierarchical regression was used to analyze whether these factors were predictive of social 

    integration. Results demonstrated that emotional support was initially a significant predictor; however, when controlling for emotional support the variance in social integration was better accounted for by social problem solving—specifically, approach-avoidance style. Given the results, a follow-up mediation analysis was conducted to look 

    at social support as a mediator of the relationship between social problem solving (specifically, approach-avoidance style) on social integration. Findings indicated that the relationship between approach-avoidance style and social integration was indeed partially mediated by emotional support. This suggests that for individuals with ABI, their 

    tendency to approach rather than avoid social problem solving issues is a significant predictor for social integration both directly and indirectly through its association with emotional social support.

Chris Haak, MS

  • Drug treatment courts have become a vital part of the trend towards rehabilitative criminal justice and spawned numerous other rehabilitative courts since starting in Dade County, Florida over 23 years ago. The growth and increased use came out of a strong research foundation that looked at the factors that led to the ability to complete the program and avoid rearrest. This study used archival data on 183 individuals who had previously completed the drug court program either successfully or unsuccessfully and examined factors that predicted successful graduation, focusing on those that could be modified. Predictors included age, gender, employment at entry, drug of choice, level of risk, depression, anxiety, and defensiveness. The predictors were grouped into three different areas: demographics, level of risk, and mental preparedness to enter treatment. Logistic regression was used to examine whether the predictor variables were predictive of completion status. Findings show that individuals with alcohol as drug of choice and individuals with higher anxiety scores were significantly more likely to successfully complete the drug treatment court program. Individuals with higher level of risk, depression, and defensiveness scores were found to be significantly more likely to unsuccessfully complete the drug treatment court program. These findings support previous research on individual factors and drug treatment court program outcome, and the results show that further exploration is necessary to understand why these variables are predictive and whether changes to treatment can address the needs they highlight.

Sean I. Rafajko, MS

  • Individuals with intellectual disability (ID) face a number of disparities in their daily lives. Many of these disparities are the result of interactions with people in their environment, including the general public. The behaviors of the general public toward people with ID are linked to the attitudes that they hold. Thus, it is essential to understand what influences these attitudes. Although there has been some research conducted examining how factors such as demographics and level of contact with individuals with ID affect attitudes, there has been only very limited research specifically investigating the impact of cultural factors on attitudes toward individuals with ID. The purpose of this study was to examine the unique contribution of cultural orientation variables as predictors of individuals’ attitudes toward ID using hierarchical regression analyses. Results revealed that for all examined domains of attitudes, cultural orientation accounted for a significant portion of the variance in attitudes toward ID. More specifically, it was found that greater vertical-individualist orientation was associated with more negative attitude towards ID on all domains, while other cultural orientations (horizontal-collectivist, horizontal-individualist, and vertical-collectivist), when significant, were associated with more positive attitudes toward ID. Findings from this study suggest that culture is a relevant area to explore in future research on attitudes toward ID. Further research is needed to understand how these relationships play out especially for specific groups, such as caregivers and clinicians, in order to better understand how cultural orientation can more directly affect the lives of individuals with ID.

Julia Thomas, MS: Factors that Impact STI Testing Among College Students

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STD), encompass a variety of infections that are transmitted through sexual contact. Young people experience the burden of STIs disproportionately. The CDC estimates that of the twenty million new cases of STIs per year, half of these are among young adults (age 15-24) (CDC, 2016). One of the most significant steps in STI prevention and treatment is getting regular screenings for STIs. Despite the disproportionate number of new STI cases occurring in this age group, college students regularly have access to health clinics and providers on campus. This study explored the facilitators and barriers that impact STI testing intention for college students. Specifically, it considered the extent to which knowledge, self-efficacy, and stigma are associated with STI testing intention among college students.