Department Spotlight

Psychology Professor's Invited Seminar on Instilling Hope Timely in Light of Recent Political Debate

The Ecumenical Center for Religion and Health has invited Whitworth Associate Professor of Psychology Patricia Bruininks, Ph.D., to present a seminar on the subject of hope – her chief scholarly interest – in May 2008 in three Texas locations. Bruininks will present the seminar, "Instilling Hope in Counseling and Psychotherapy," to counselors and ministers in San Antonio, Laredo and McAllen.

Bruininks' goal for the seminar is to lend insight into how counselors and clergy can instill the multidimensional emotion of hope in their clients and parishioners. During her presentation, she will address questions including: What are the sources of hope? What traits and/or life experiences are associated with hopeful people? What are the potential psychological and physical benefits of hope? What are the potential consequences? How does one’s culture affect one’s hope? How do we instill hope in others?

"I find Dr. Bruininks work to be particularly timely and relevant in light of the recent political debate about what it means to hope," says Whitworth Associate Professor of Psychology and Department Chair Noelle Wiersma. "Her findings lend particular insight to the emphasis on hope in the Barack Obama presidential campaign and challenges detractors who would characterize hope as naive or uninformed. Specifically, Patty's work asserts that hope is not the same thing as blind optimism or wishful thinking. An in-depth and empirical exploration of hope reveals that it is possible to maintain a hopeful stance and a realistic sense of the present state of affairs and viable mechanisms of change at the same time."

The Ecumenical Center offers a Specialty in Pastoral Counseling course and community-based workshops for clergy and lay leaders in the Rio Grande Valley. These programs were created especially with and for Latino and Latina pastors of South Texas. Bruininks' Laredo and McAllen seminars will be translated into Spanish.

The Ecumenical Center provides faith-based counseling and education to help people find healing, growth and wellness. Since 1967, they have served as a catalyst to bring together community leaders in the research, education, medical and mental-health professions. For more information on the center, please visit  

Bruininks, who joined the Whitworth psychology department in fall 2007, holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. from the University of Oregon and a B.A. from Hope College. In addition to the subject of hope, her areas of research and expertise include emotion and decision-making; positive psychology; and the psychology of love.

Her recent publications include co-author of "Distinguishing Hope from Optimism and Related Affective States" published in Motivation and Emotion (2005) and "Defining and Measuring Hope" published in Dissertation Abstracts International (2002). Bruininks' invited talks include "Understanding the Process, Sources and Temporal Nature of Hope" at the Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Arts Research Colloquium, St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland (2006), and "The Distinguishing Characteristics of Hope and Optimism" at the University of Arkansas (2004).

Bruininks was the recipient of the 2005 Martin Seligman Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research in Positive Psychology and a 2002 Positive Psychology Summer Institute Research Award. She was also the co-recipient of a 2004 grant from The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love to develop a course on scientific and religious perspectives on love.


Related Links

Psychology Home Page