Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Anson E. Long

Second Advisor

Laura Knight

Third Advisor

Maureen C. McHugh

Abstract

This research had three goals. First, it aimed to replicate previous research that has uncovered relationships between existential isolation and psychological and physical health. Second, it examined gender in the context of existential isolation. Finally, it aimed to create a workshop designed to reduce existential isolation, and to evaluate its effectiveness.

The research was comprised of three phases. Phase 1 was an online survey. During this phase, participants completed self-report measures assessing existential isolation, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, autonomy, competence, relatedness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, perceived social support, depression, self-concealment, overall physical health, and interpersonal isolation.

In Phase 2, the Existential Connection Workshop was administered. The two-hour workshop included several possible interventions for reducing existential isolation, including existential isolation psychoeducation, universality, validating emotions, authenticity, and two I-sharing experiences. To assess the effectiveness of the interventions at reducing existential isolation, participants completed a survey assessing existential isolation and related constructs immediately after the workshop.

Phase 3 was another online survey that was identical to the Phase 1 online survey. The goal of this phase of the research was to examine changes in existential isolation and related variables that may have occurred between Phase 1 and Phase 3 of the research.

Positive correlations were found between existential isolation and generalized anxiety, depression, self-concealment, and interpersonal isolation. Negative correlations were found between existential isolation and autonomy, competence, relatedness, life satisfaction, performance self-esteem, appearance self-esteem, perceived social support, and overall physical health. There were no observed relationships between existential isolation and social anxiety or social self-esteem. Results indicated that the correlations were similar for males and females. Gender differences emerged only in the correlation between existential isolation and performance and social self-esteem. Results also indicated that male participants exhibited significantly higher levels of existential isolation than female participants did. Finally, the results of the study provided only minimal support for the effectiveness of the workshop at reducing existential isolation. Contrary to prediction, participants’ responses indicated that participation in the Existential Connection Workshop did not impact generalized anxiety, social anxiety, autonomy, competence, or relatedness.

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