Who Said Learning Can’t Be Fun?

TAS KingsleyAriel Kingsley is a senior graduating from the Behavioral Sciences Department this May. She recently presented her research on “The Effect of Metaphor vs. Declarative Narrative on the Reduction of Negative Affect and Stress Caused by Moderate Trauma” at the Annual Tennessee Academy of Science Conference. This research was conducted for the purpose of trying to discover if specific techniques of writing therapy may better help those suffering from negative affect, intrusion, and avoidance in regards to a specific moderate trauma, such as a bad break-up, failing a class, or having a confrontation with authority.

There were several interesting findings, such as that writing declaratively (lacking metaphor) might aid in the reduction of avoidance. Also, facilitating incubation (a flash of insight following putting a task out of one’s conscious thoughts for a period of time), especially if aided by a low cognitive task such as reading or writing, during a session focused on the reduction of these symptoms caused by moderate trauma might aid in this same reduction. Additionally, writing about an upsetting event with any technique may help in the reduction of negative reactions to the event, as was shown by the overall reduction of negative affect and intrusion of the trauma memories across the groups.

Throughout the semester, Ariel also served as a teaching assistant to Dr. Elizabeth Nelson in a special topics class she offered on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which broadly covers the symptomatology, risk factors, trauma characteristics, and therapies for those that survive trauma but develop PTSD as a result. Despite the, at times, gloomy subject matter, the class still managed to have fun through a scattering of upbeat final lectures, many of which involve an experiential activity to enhance learning.

PTSD Mask MakingAriel’s contribution was based on the use of Art Therapy for those suffering from PTSD. After covering the why’s and how’s of the subject, the class, including Dr. Nelson, got to experience one of the discussed methods of Art Therapy, mask making. Mask making is a commonly used, efficacious method for trauma survivors, as it can allow them to create a physical therapy goal, can allow for indirect communication with the therapist or group they are working with, or can allow them to express who they believe they have become because of the trauma they went through. While rocking out to Disney tunes, the class snipped, colored, and glued all manner of materials to their provided masks as they created their way to a better understanding of how Art Therapy can aid trauma survivors, and how they can have fun while doing it.

Ariel hopes to go on to a PhD program in Clinical Psychology in the next few years, and was recently hired at the Brain Imaging Research Center at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences. As a Research Coordinator in this lab, she will aid in work that is hoping to find the best mental health treatment for victims of trauma through the use of fMRI technology.

Her research experience and the knowledge gained through the Behavioral Science Department of Christian Brothers University has been an invaluable asset in the furtherance of her passion for helping those with post-traumatic stress and other anxiety and depressive disorders. She will be presenting this research several more times this semester, most recently at Arkansas Symposium of Undergraduate Psychology Students.