Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Mark McMinn, PhD

Second Advisor

Brooke Kuhnhausen, PhD

Third Advisor

Jory Smith, PsyD


Grace has been important throughout the history of Christianity, and it is also relevant in the contemporary positive psychology movement. Nonetheless, the construct of grace has been left relatively unexplored through theoretical or empirical investigation in the social sciences. The few psychological explorations of grace found in the current literature can be roughly divided into four categories: advocating for grace, theoretical development, measuring grace, and empirical studies of grace. The current study examined the obstacles to grace experienced by patients in a substance abuse recovery program. Seven obstacles were first identified by a group of 25 participants through the use of grounded theory. A survey comprised of these obstacles was then constructed and administered to 20 patients in a substance abuse recovery program where they rated each obstacle on a 1 to 7 point Likert-type scale. The highest rated obstacles to experiencing grace included a desire to be independent and not rely on others, not wanting to be obligated to pay back the gift in the future, and wanting to earn what one receives. The lowest ranked item was doubting that grace is real. Given the relational nature of the highest rated obstacles, implications are considered for theory, practice, spiritual formation, and training.