Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Rodger K. Bufford, PhD

Second Advisor

Glena Andrews, PhD

Third Advisor

Helen Higgs, PhD


The purpose of this study is to investigate what areas in the brain change activation levels among college athletes following a solution-focused therapeutic intervention, and how these changes are related to levels of resilience. Participants were recruited from three undergraduate psychology classes at a private Christian university with the intervention group (n = 14) consisting of current collegiate athletes, and a control group (n = 12) of non-athletes. The experiment consisted of a pre and post intervention trial spaced approximately seven weeks apart. At the completion of Trial 1, those in the athlete group participated in six weekly sessions of solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) before returning to repeat Trial 2. For each experimental trial, both groups completed self-report measures. For the experiment, electroencephalogram (EEG), heart rate variability (HRV), and galvanic skin responses (GSR) were measured while participants viewed various athletic images. Participants were asked to positively appraise each image regardless of its emotional content. Participants were also asked to rate how each image made them feel. Data analysis included descriptive results, correlations and repeated measures analysis of covariance. Results indicated that athletes’ levels of activation on EEG and GSR measures remained relatively stable across trials, while control group activation levels decreased. Those in the athlete group maintained, and slightly increased, relative left frontal asymmetry post intervention, indicating an ability to connect with, and cognitively appraise stimuli in a more positive manner regardless of the emotional content of the stimuli, while relative left frontal asymmetry decreased in controls. Heart rate variability data revealed that HRV output post intervention differed greatly for both groups depending on image. Data showed that athletes had significantly higher overall HRV and temporal lobe activation levels than controls. No significant differences were found for self-report measures with the exception that athletes tended to rate all images more favorably than controls. Finally, for all measures, athletes either maintained, or improved on pre-intervention functioning and coping during Trial 2, while controls showed a consistent decline in performance on measures. Overall, results indicate that SFBT contributes to increased resilience by helping participants engage in and maintain healthy coping over time.

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