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Faculty of Human Sciences - Ph.D Students


Alexandra Amato

Thesis Title: Clinical Supervision Practices of the Late-Career Psychotherapist: An Examination of an Integrated Developmental Approach to Clinical Supervision

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Cynthia Bilodeau

My research is focused on exploring the experience of clinical supervision for late-career psychotherapists. My research aims to fill the gap in the clinical supervision field to gain greater knowledge of the actual content and perceived effectiveness of the experience of clinical supervision at this point in the psychotherapist’s career. Considering that research with this population is underrepresented in the field as of late, this study is important to inform future practices in clinical supervision and to provide empirical support for the theoretical literature presented.

Robert Fabes

Thesis Title: Meaning Exploration and Well-Being for People Experiencing Homelessness: Program Development, Implementation, and Evaluation with and for Clients of The Ottawa Mission

Thesis SupervisorDr. Laura Armstrong

In Canada there are an estimated 35,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night and 235,000 people experiencing homelessness each year. In addition to a variety of physical ailments, between 23% and 74% of homeless people report having some type of mental illness or problem. Meaning, important for the experience of mental well-being, has also been found to be linked to resilience, itself a contributor to positive mental health. To date, community-based meaning exploration programs have not engaged people experiencing homelessness in the development of such programs, which can be detrimental to program use and effectiveness. By using a stakeholder-informed knowledge translation-integrated (KTI) model, my doctoral research, building on my Master’s research, will integrate learnings from research on mental health interventions with people experiencing homelessness, community-based, participatory action principles, and the importance of meaning to well-being with the recommendations of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. A consensual qualitative research methodology will be used to develop, implement, and evaluate the meaning exploration sessions in relation to clients’ perceived well-being.

Nicolas Galton

Thesis Title: A comparison of the mystical experiences facilitated by psychedelics in religious and atheist participants, and their impacts on the existential concerns.

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Judith Malette

My doctoral thesis is a mixed methods study comparing the psychedelic-induced mystical experiences of religious and atheist participants, as well as their subjective impacts on participant’s existential concerns. Many studies are currently studying the therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances. Studies exploring the role of psychedelics in reducing depression and anxiety related to existential concerns in end-of-life underline the important role of mystical experiences in the therapeutic mechanisms of these substances, thus making explicit the role of spirituality in the healing process. What are the similarities and differences in the understanding of these chemically and voluntarily induced mystical experiences depending on religious belief or disbelief? Furthermore, what are the subjective impacts of these experiences on the existential questions of participants who are not in end-of-life?


Sogol Kafi

Thesis Title: How do people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder experience chronic feelings of emptiness and why do they experience it?

Thesis SupervisorDr. Stephanie Wiebe

A sense of emptiness is a multidimensional concept and a common human experience that has been studied from different angles in theology, philosophy and psychology (Cushman, 1990; Hazell, 2003; Lancer, 2019; Peteet, 2011). However, psychological emptiness is a highly predominant and serious mental health issue as its significant risk factors contribute to suicidality, hospitalization, self-harm, and social dysfunction (Blasco-Fontecilla, 2013; Delgado-Gomez et al., 2012; Ellison et al., 2016; Klonsky, 2008; Levi et al., 2018; Lindner & Briggs, 2010; Peteet, 2011). Despite emptiness' clinical relevance, as the most persistent symptom in people diagnosed with BPD, there is a lack of a coherent approach to understanding the subjective experience of emptiness in people with BPD. Therefore, my study will add to the existing literature by developing a theory on emptiness based on exploring the constituents of a chronic feeling of emptiness in people diagnosed with BPD. This way, my hope is to deepen the understanding of emptiness to help conceptualize this phenomenon for more effective treatment planning for counsellors and psychotherapists.

Stephanie Kale

Thesis Title: Somatic experiences in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Stephanie Wiebe

Recent phase 3 clinical trials for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted therapy show promising results for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where two-thirds of participants no longer meet diagnostic criteria following treatment. To date, little has been written on the often-cited somatic interventions used—breathwork, body mindfulness, touch and movement—or on the subjective account of the body of those who have experienced MDMA-assisted therapy during and following therapy. As federal regulatory agencies appear to be moving toward rescheduling MDMA from its ‘breakthrough therapy’ status to accessible for clinical use as early as 2023, more research is needed to explore the subjective somatic experiences of individuals who have experienced this form of therapy in an effort to expand possible therapeutic settings and approaches and adapt to different clinical populations. My research will explore the self-reported somatic shifts of individuals with PTSD receiving MDMA-assisted therapy; the kind of somatic interventions used and their contribution to healing; and the role of the body and somatic work in therapeutic integration and post-traumatic growth. I will situate these findings within existing literature on attachment and neurobiological development, somatic approaches to trauma and healing, and the efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy.

Chris Kam

Thesis Title: The Effect of Enneagram Workshops on Conscious and Unconscious Interpersonal Complexity

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Christian Bellehumeur

I am studying whether Enneagram workshops, that use multidimensional learning, have a significant effect on conscious and unconscious experiential complexity in one’s relationships.

Samantha Kosierb 

Thesis Title: Developing Reflective Practice in Clinical Supervision

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Cynthia Bilodeau

My research investigated how reflective practice is developed in clinical supervision. Semi-structured and interpersonal process recall interviews were completed with 5 supervision dyads. This research will contribute to an understanding of which events in supervision contribute to the development of reflective practice. Knowing how to optimally encourage reflective practice in supervision will create better-informed training for supervisors and training institutions, which will create safer, and more effective practitioners.

  Stéphanie Larrue

Thesis Title: A Knowledge Translation-Integrated Approach to Develop Workshops to Help Blended Families Flourish

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Laura Armstrong

The number of blended families in North America is growing and children in blended families are at risk for behavioural concerns and mental illness. The goal of this research is to build resilience for blended families through workshops conducted live virtually applying a Knowledge Translation-Integrated Approach (KTI – Armstrong, 2017), and based on five specific needs for blended families: 1-ensuring a solid couple bond and parent coalition; 2-struggling with losses, loyalties and change; 3-dividing parenting/stepparenting tasks; 4-building a new family culture and addressing stigma; 5-acknowledging other parents and relatives as (still) part of the family. Three family therapy models will be adapted for these workshops: Satir’s Family Therapy model; EFFT- Emotionally-Focused Family Therapy; and R.E.A.L. Therapy – Rational Emotive Attachment Logotherapy for Families (Armstrong, 2016). The research goal is to compare the effectiveness of these workshops regarding meaning, well-being, attachment, and couple adjustment (resilience).

Randy Leibovitch

Thesis Title: A patient-centered framework for counselling and psychotherapy for persons with a non-visible illness/disability: Cystic Fibrosis.

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Judith Malette

My aim is to develop a patient-centered framework for counselling and psychotherapy for Cystic Fibrosis that has been created by and for persons with Cystic Fibrosis, utilizing a participatory action methodology, so that we as a clinic (The Ottawa Hospital Adult Cystic Fibrosis clinic, General Campus) can better address their mental health needs.  This is a rare study in the field of Cystic Fibrosis and mental health in that patient participants have been involved in every aspect, from question construction to co-facilitating focus groups to co-constructing the framework and dissemination of results. We are currently in the process of finalizing the framework and then will send this out to the rest of our Ottawa Cystic Fibrosis patient group for their feedback, which we will incorporate. We hope that our study will inform our clinic’s mental health practices but also perhaps that it will be relevant to other clinics across Canada. 

Roxana Manoiu

Thesis Title: Driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC): Examining risk perceptions of cannabis-impaired driving among adult Canadian drivers post-cannabis legalization

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Stephanie Yamin

The purpose of this study is to examine Canadian adult drivers’ risk perceptions towards driving cannabis-impaired. This cross-sectional mixed-method study will examine perceptions across various age groups such as, young, middle-aged, and older adults in efforts of determine perceptions of risk across age groups, sex/gender, and cannabis consumption frequency. With uncovering perceptions of driving under the influence of cannabis, we hope to help improve impaired driving policy and decrease instances of impaired driving in Canada. 

Pooneh Montazeralsedgh

Thesis Title: Parenting practices and child social connectedness after COVID-19 lockdowns (tentative)

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Yuanyuan Jiang

Prior research has highlighted the importance of positive early social experiences, which are primarily shaped by children’s caregivers (Merkaš et al., 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions in the day-to-day routines of families all over the world (Carroll et al., 2020). As a result of the pandemic, children have been presented with fewer opportunities for socialization. The following study would aim to understand the consequences of the lockdowns and the lived experiences of parents in terms of obstacles and facilitators in their attempt to foster social connectedness for their children. This is a cross-sectional study employing a mixed-methods research design, with a quantitative and qualitative component. The quantitative component would include various questionnaires while the qualitative component involves interviewing focus groups. The study has the potential to contribute to the literature on parenting and child social outcomes by allowing for a better understanding of parenting behaviours and child social connectedness after COVID-19 lockdowns. This would help develop targeted intervention programs to help parents and children improve their relatedness and sense of belonging in their communities. 

Leila Osman 

Thesis Title: An Exploration of the Experience of Therapists in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Understanding the Cognitive, Emotional, Psychological and Spiritual Effects of Chronic Collective Stress, Trauma, and Uncertainty

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Judith Malette and Dr. Christian Bellehumeur

Within the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, my research aims to explore the impact of collective trauma and ongoing stress on the therapist and their ability to be present with their clients, even when their own lives are in upheaval. More particularly, my work aims to understand how therapists have worked to care for their own mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being while facing a myriad of uncertainties – both in their practices and their personal lives – while continuing to hold space for others’ suffering. Grounded in existentialism and second wave positive psychology, the goal of my research is not only to gain an understanding of how therapists have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic (both personally and professionally), but also to understand how meaning can be made, and found, even in the midst of uncertainty, collective trauma and grief, and personal challenge on a chronic level. My hope is that my research will shine a light on possible gaps in the research, resources, and support for those in the helping and health professions in times of collective or personal challenge, which may prove fruitful as areas for future research, development, and application. 

Sharon Ramsay

Thesis Title: Sociocultural attunement in Emotionally Focused Therapy:  Exploring the process of third-order change

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Stephanie Wiebe

My research is interested in the connection between attunement in Emotionally Focused Therapy and the therapist’s ability to be socioculturally attuned to the context of clients’ lives.  Sociocultural attunement requires us to be vigilant in our awareness and consideration of the impacts of intersecting social, historical, economic, religious, political, and cultural systems as we intervene in the “here and now” context of people’s lives. What impact does the use of a recursive process of reflection have on the self-of-the-therapist personally and in the clinical and supervisory relationships?  My hope is to situate my research within the evolving sociocultural climate in Canada. 

Please see my project poster to learn more.

Nathalie Robinson

Thesis Title: Perceptions and Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Climate Change on Older Adults’ Mental Health

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Christian Bellehumeur

The aging of the Canadian population is accelerating. However, older adults are often perceived as more vulnerable to various changes, especially in the context of a pandemic. In my doctoral research, I am interested in better understanding the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the longer term, of climate change, on older adults. In the context of COVID-19 and the climate crisis, what are the perceptions of older adults in the face of the pandemic and the climate crisis? What are their needs and vulnerabilities regarding their mental health? The data collected in this doctoral research will make it possible to better understand people of advanced age in order to better intervene by proposing resources in order to support them more adequately. My research activities are in line with the research of my thesis supervisor (Dr. Christian Bellehumeur) on the perceptions and adaptive responses of Canadian adults to climate change. 

Please see my project poster to learn more. 

Caitlin Sigg

Thesis Title: The Presence of, and Search for, Meaning in Life among Women in Remission and Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Judith Malette

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding the role of meaning in people’s efforts to deal with serious negative life events. In the realm of eating disorders (EDs), however, research on the presence of, and search for, meaning in life for women with anorexia nervosa (AN) is scarce. The objectives of the proposed study, therefore, are fourfold and seek to explore how women in remission and recovery from AN experience: (1) the presence of meaning; (2) the search for meaning; (3) meaning in life, and; (4) the existential significance of recovery and remission. The study will employ the three-interview series of semi-structured interviews with 5 to 6 participants, who are in remission and/or recovery from AN. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) will be used as the methodology of choice to describe and interpret the data. The results will have implications for furthering our current knowledge and understanding of AN, as well as remission and recovery, which in turn can have an impact on the focus of treatment and the strategies used.  

Mario Sonier

Thesis Title: The relationship between the subjective perception of beauty, the imaginary, and resilience: Implications for counselling and spirituality

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Christian Bellehumeur

Beauty, they say, is found in the eye of the beholder. However, could we also consider that the experience of beauty is a constitutive and operational element of the development of resilience? This question is at the heart of my research which aims to shed new light on our need to experience beauty. A particular attention will be paid to the role of the imaginary understood in terms of the symbolic capacity potentially associated with the experiences and perceptions of beauty in adulthood. To do this, I will examine sources derived from philosophy and spiritual traditions, as well as scientific literature in psychology. The results of this theoretical and empirical research will thus allow us to deepen our knowledge of this complex phenomenon as well as provide avenues of intervention serving to optimize people's resilience.

Please see my project poster to learn more. (Available in French only.)

Jacklyn St Laurent 

Thesis Title: Hypersexuality of adult female survivors of childhood abused aged 25 to 50: a study on the perception of the body and sexual organs

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Buuma M. Maisha

How do women survivors of childhood sexual abuse who claim to be hypersexual experience their sexuality; what meaning do they attribute to their sexual experiences today? This research project has five main objectives: to demonstrate how survivors of sexual abuse make sense of their hypersexual behavior; understand the influence of internal operative models that relate to the sexual self in survivors in taming their bodies, sexual organs and sexuality; sensitize health professionals on the consequences of sexual violence suffered in childhood on the sexual self and sexuality of women; to help these women better understand their sexual self and the connection it would have to their sexuality and, finally, to develop and propose a tool for intervention in relation to the hypersexual behavior of adult survivors of childhood abuse.

Samoon Tasmin

Thesis Title: Place of Religion in Psychotherapy of Muslim Immigrants - Case of First-Generation Afghan Immigrants in Canada

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Buuma Maisha (thesis director); Dr. Aliaa Dakroury (thesis co-director)

The thesis is focused on understanding the place of religion in the therapeutic process of immigrants with a specific focus on Afghan Immigrants and the religion of Islam. Through a qualitative analysis of the role of religion in Afghan immigrants' lives, the study intends to provide mental health professionals with a culturally responsive and holistic therapeutic approach to work with the mental health of immigrants.