BYU Social Work Conference to Focus on Trauma and Mental Health Treatment Awareness​​​


Advances with mental health treatment have come a long way. Yet, a recent Pew Research Center study concluded that only 19 percent of Americans believe the nation is making progress in tackling mental health diseases. Brigham Young University’s Annual Social Work Conference strives to bridge the gap between those affected by mental health issues and treatments for them. It approaches its tenth year next month and centers on trauma and mental health treatment.  The one-day conference on November 6, 2015 includes speakers who are therapists, psychologists and clinicians. Conference organizers say that the objectives for the annual Conference are to help people

1) Understand the challenges faced by trauma victims, both short term and long term

2) Improve understanding of how to treat and work with those who are struggling with negative side effects of traumatic experiences

3) Recognize the long term effects of trauma and how it impacts the individual’s development, including childhood trauma

4) Create an awareness of trauma related issues within the community and how to protect vulnerable children and families

5) Understand the effect of trauma on the family unit and interpersonal relationships.

Director of the School of Social Work, Gordon Limb, says the goal of the Conference is to “get people more information, knowledge, and skills in how to effectively treat trauma in their work.”

Trauma is our emotional response to a disturbing or distressing event.

                                                                 –Gordon Limb, Director, School of Social Work

The impetus for the conference focus came through expert opinion and strong recommendations. “As we have talked with supervisors of student internships and members of the Social Work Advisory Council, among others, the issue of trauma came up as number one over and over again,” Limb says.

Limb says that most mental health agencies in which students work in are dealing with trauma-related issues. All students participating in the graduate program are required to participate in two internships.

This year, in addition to the usual format of plenary speakers and break-out sessions, the conference also offers a self-care element. “Given that the nature of trauma is a very sensitive topic, participants have the option of entertainment or self-care during lunch,” Limb explains.

Conference organizers say the purpose “is to not only shed light on this topic, but to provide an understanding of how to care for, and meet the needs of those who deal with trauma.” Sponsors for the Conference include the School of Social Work, The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair ​in Social Work and the Social Sciences and the BYU College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

Trauma Conference flyer for website

The event is free to the public. Visit to get more information or to register. Guests may register at the Varsity Theater in the Wilkinson Center the morning of, if capacity has not yet been reached.

Trauma and Mental Health Treatment

8:30 AM to 4:00 PM

BYU Wilkinson Center

New Economics Professor Brings Experience from the United Kingdom

Stovall, John jpg

A firm goes bankrupt. What is a fair way to divide the liquidated value of the firm amongst its creditors? This is the type of question that keeps John Stovall, a new BYU FHSS faculty member, up at night. He deals in social choice theory, a conceptual framework for analyzing individual opinions, preferences, and interests, and how they affect social welfare and collective decision-making processes. He brings to his new position a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Other areas of his research explore the behavioral implications of temptation. He comes to us from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, and has also spent time at the University of Oxford and Boston University.

Dr. Stovall received his PhD and MA in Economics from the University of Rochester, and BS in Mathematics from BYU.

ISSBRG Kickoff Event

FHSS students! Looking for a cool place to be on November 4th? Try an iceberg. But spell it ISSBRG. The kickoff event will be held on November 4th.

ISSBRG (Interdisciplinary Social Sciences and Business Research Group) is here to help students of the social sciences come up with creative ways to contribute to missions of businesses and corporation. They are “empowering students by bridging the gap between social science and business, and providing them with opportunities to become informed, obtain experience, and nurture connections.”

Students are encouraged to head their own projects; and they will be provided with counselors and resources needed to do so. But if a student does not have their own project, ISSBRG also has existing projects they can work on. ISSBRG is a great source of real-world experience, and has produced some home-grown entrepreneurs as well! Come build your resumé and enjoy the company and mentoring of social science and business persons.

When: Nov 4 2015

Where: Wilkinson Center Terrace

Come for: Opportunities

Stay for: Refreshments

Any and all students welcome!

Click here to view Facebook event page.

Why Millenials Should Pay Attention to Elections

Your community and nation is run by people who let their voices be heard. Choose not to speak up, and you choose to exclude yourself from participating in your nation’s decisions. We at FHSS are here to help you get your voice out there. And we’ve got experts to help you do it.

In our Twitter discussion (#AskAnFHSSExpert) with political science professor Dr. Earl Fry, we learned a few things about what you might want to know and do in order to master the art of civic engagement. And it was all because of the voices we heard, and the questions they asked.

Three Tips for Making Your Voice be Heard

 1.Recognize the importance of your generation. @emilyj912 asks:

Millennials are the future of the country. How do you suggest millenials become more interested in the future of America?

“We are a ‘Can Do’ nation” says Dr. Fry. And he believes millenials can play a key role in helping America’s future.”An         educated electorate, especially among millenials, will mean that those running for office must listen to you and also             consider your solutions to current problems.”

2. Ask experts about what the issues are, and how to get involved. @manderson_a5 asked:

What would you have millennials pay attention to during this upcoming election?


3. Identify challenges specific to YOUR community: and confront them head on. Check out this question from @emilyj912:

This ever-important question is one we would all like to be able to answer. Emily recognizes that there are real problems facing the United States. And she wants to know how to overcome them

Dr. Fry responds: “An educated electorate, especially among millennials, will mean that those running for office must listen to you and consider your solutions to current problems. We need…the average Joe and Jane [to be given] a meaningful voice. We as [Americans]…have overcome differences before; and if we know how serious are the problems we face in a rapidly changing world, we will band together and embrace workable solutions for the good of national progress and stability.”

“What do you do to let your voice be heard in your community?”

Anxious About Marriage? You Are Not Alone

A variation of an old adage is well-spoken: happy wife equals happy life. But, no relationship is perfect, and marriages are not one-dimensional. What about marital relationships that are lukewarm? BYU FHSS psychology professor Wendy Birmingham and four of her colleagues published a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine that suggests that ambivalence plays a role in both the health of a marriage and the physical health of those in marital relationships. What should young adults seeking a good marriage or a good marriage partner do?

Butler study correlating health and marital quality

1:  Realize That Marriage Isn’t a Cure-All

Marriage is not necessarily a cure-all to pre-existing problems. Brigham Young University student Caroline Belnap met her future husband in New York City after he moved there for work. They married in July of 2014. For her, marriage came when she least expected it–when she wasn’t seeking it out. She observed that issues one might have before marriage, whether it is regarding body image or self-confidence, don’t necessarily go away after one is married.

Photo by Caroline Belnap
Photo by Caroline Belnap

“Even though marriage might seem like a fantasy,” she says, “prior issues don’t disappear. I’ve told girlfriends on more than one occasion that if they have ever had body image issues, marriage is nice because there is someone who cares about you and thinks the world of you. However, she explains that those issues must be dealt with personally. “Your husband can’t fix that for you.”

2:  Have realistic expectations

Lauren Johnston, an Arizona native who married in December of 2014 says she tells her friends—married and unmarried—that they should be realistic about wanting to change another individual.  “You want to love your significant other as they are right now, knowing that you both are going to grow,” Johnston says. ”If he’s awesome before, he will stay awesome.”


Johnston performs as a Cougarette for BYU and her husband is preparing for medical school. She says that marriage means being willing to accept people as they are. “If you are going to get married on the stipulation that they are going to change, they won’t. If anything, marriage will magnify the problems you already have.”

A Cinderella-style courtship does not guarantee an automatic happily-ever-after. Whether you anticipate marriage or are newly-married, you might be riddled with emotions and feelings ranging from doubt to confidence, exhaustion to elation and even bliss to anxiety. Mark Butler, Professor in the School of Family Life at BYU says that emotions play a central role in the strength of relationships.

“Emotion is, among other things, our social signaling system. It first tells us how things are going in our relationship generally and in any interaction specifically. Emotion next prompts us to act, to share with others what our experience is, and where needed, make things better.”

Emotional communication contributes to the health of our relationships-whether spouse-to-spouse, boyfriend-to-girlfriend or parent-to-child. Butler explains that “when emotions are positively shared and underlying threats resolved, differences, disagreements, or problems are much more manageable, and sometimes simply disappear.”

He adds that:

“Relationships are shaped toward health as we express what we are feeling—our emotions—and together uncover and resolve any self-concept or attachment threats occurring in our interaction or relationship.”

3: Develop Your Self-Confidence and Personal Goals

Looking back on her engagement period before marriage, Johnston said she maintained her self-confidence and brought her personal goals to the marriage, and that made for a healthy start to her new adventure. “The stronger your self-confidence and the direction you want to go in your life, the more you will feel that you are able to grow in your marriage.”

Belnap said she focused on herself during the months before getting married and that led to a more dynamic relationship. She suggests that, “you want to be your best self, academically, spiritually, and especially emotionally. Work on who you are as a person because that will bring a stronger you to the table.”

Doctor Butler adds: “After emotion gets our attention, it next becomes a motivating influence getting us to act to make things better.”

In terms of making things better, Johnston says her emotions become a motivating influence to keep impressing her husband. ”Treat each date likes it your very first date‑minus the awkwardness!”

How do you prepare for a good marriage?

Pornography and Impulsivity

Most Americans agree that internet pornography is harmful.  A 2006 study is one of many that shows a correlation between consumption of material depicting nonviolent sexual activity and an increase in aggressive behavior by the consumer of that material. BYU FHSS student Bonnie Petersen took a closer look at that relationship between pornography and depression as a part of the 2015 Mentored Student Research Conference .

Her study, “YOU WATCHED WHAT?! Does the Type of Pornography Influence Depression?,” found that “while viewing hardcore pornography, softcore pornography, and sexual content significantly predicts depression, impulsivity may act as a mediating variable.”  In other words, she found that pornography consumption and aggressive behavior were also connected with impulsivity; the less one views pornography, the less impulsive one is likely to be. She suggests that when clinicians work with people dealing with pornography addiction, special attention should be placed on impulsive behavior, since addressing that may be more effective in alleviating depression than in addressing pornography viewing.

The Definition of Pornography

For the study, the word pornography was broken into categories and defined explicitly for participants. Four to five items were then combined into each category of the following:

  • hardcore pornography: (explicit videos of homosexual and heterosexual intercourse, masturbation, three-way sex, etc.)
  • softcore pornography: (written descriptions of sex, photos of nude men/women, photos of intercourse (genetalia not shown)
  • sexual content: (swimsuit magazines, suggestive photos not containing full nudity)

91-Fulton_BonnieYoung (7)

Furthermore, religious activity may protect adolescents from intentional and accidental exposure to pornography.  Social science research confirms that when concerning pornography, sex and age are important predictors of the likelihood of pornography use, regardless of technological context. A 2013 study titled Adolescent religiousness as a protective factor against pornography use in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, found that for accidental pornographic viewing, “the only indirect effects were from religious internalization through self-regulation and social control, and from religious involvement through social control.”

HITS for Human Data Gathering

To gather research data for her study on the link between impulsivity and pornography, Petersen used Amazon Turk, a site that enables individuals and businesses to coordinate the use of human intelligence to perform “hits,” or human intelligence tasks, that computers are currently unable to do. She supplied a survey to an international sample of 387 men and 262 women to measure viewing patterns of pornography.  

Petersen, mentored by assistant professor of Family Life Brian Willoughby, analyzed the data using SPSS software and performed statistical analyses of hierarchical regression models. To further add to her research, Petersen said she would evaluate the role of self-perception of pornography addiction and evaluate how that interacts with the relationship of pornography use and depression. As an undergraduate student, Petersen majored in history with an emphasis in Mormon history.

Do Your Own Research

Now in her first year as a graduate student in the master’s program for Marriage and Family Therapy, Petersen has some advice for students pursuing research of any kind:

  1. Approach your research question with an open mind. She says she was “surprised to find what we found!”
  2. Do thorough prep work. “Understand the existing scholarship and see where your own research fits in with that.”
  3. Work with a mentor who is willing to be patient. “Dr. Willoughby has been an incredible mentor. He was willing to teach me step by step. I’m grateful for his patience with me!”

What kinds of interesting research have you done?

Devoted FHSS Benefactor Mary Lou Fulton Passes Away

Fulton PhotoA rare few have left a legacy so deep and expansive, and one that spans the decades, as Mary Lou Fulton. As a devoted supporter of student achievement at Brigham Young University, Fulton’s generous support and impact on higher education will be greatly missed. The Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology reported that she passed away the first of October at age 82. She was one of the greatest benefactors of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and Brigham Young University. Through the endowment established in her name, she touched many students’ and faculty members’ lives with her commitment to excellence and appreciation for scholarship.

Along with her husband, Ira R. Fulton, she generously endowed four chairs in Mary Lou’s name at BYU. The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences provides meaningful research and educational experiences for students, faculty, and children. The chair was established by her husband in 2004 in recognition of her example.

The Arizona native always maintained an enthusiasm for lifting others and promoting academic pursuits. In 1999, her and her husband’s first gift to BYU came as renovation help for the neuroscience labs located in the Spencer W. Kimball Tower. Since then, they have donated in excess of $50 million to Brigham Young University.

What the Fulton Chair Does

The Mary Lou Fulton Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences funds activities that contribute to the holistic education of students and faculty alike in these six ways:

  1. Annual Conference: This BYU initiative encourages hand’s on research and creative scholarship for undergraduate
    1504-31 069 1504-31 FHSS Fulton Poster Conference April 9, 2015 Photo by Aaron Cornia © BYU PHOTO 2015 All Rights Reserved  (801)422-7322
    Photo by Aaron Cornia
    © BYU PHOTO 2015
    All Rights Reserved

    students who receive personal mentoring from faculty. Opportunities may include study abroad, internships, and service projects.

  2. Professorships: Established scholars with a track record of excellence in teaching and research receive a Mary Lou Fulton Professorship for five years.
  3. Internship Grants: Current undergraduate and graduate students who are declared majors in a program in the College of FHSS apply for an internship grant of up to$1,600.
  4. Conference Participation Grants: This award can be used to pay for students expenses (travel, meals, lodging, etc.) regarding participation in professional academic conferences.
  5. Mentored Learning Grants: These fellowships are dispensed based upon peer-reviewed applications and enable faculty to involve undergraduates with unique research and publication opportunities. Students in various disciplines benefit from direct interaction with faculty on significant projects.
  6. Young Scholar Awards: This award offers incentives and recognition for outstanding scholarly work by promising young faculty. Each award provides funds to hire one student to assist the faculty member in his or her research.

The Annual Mentored Student Research Conference is a full-day event, and is approaching its twelfth year in 2016. Both undergraduate and graduate students from all departments within the College of FHSS are invited to submit a research poster. The event is designed to create a platform for students to inform other students, faculty members, and the public.

Several faculty members from the College of FHSS have benefited from the Fulton’s generosity. A professorship is an investment in outstanding scholars. Through this award, faculty recipients extend invaluable learning opportunities–which funnel future success for undergraduate students towards securing jobs and completing degrees at the best graduate programs. In 2005, Arden Pope, professor of economics, received the Mary Lou Fulton Professorship from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Pope, who teaches more than 600 students each year about the principles of environmental economics, said the Fulton Professorship is an important support to him and his students. “The Fulton Professorship has helped support several collaborative research efforts with scholars from various other universities and institutions,” Pope said.

Student Rebekah Purcell had this to say about her Fulton-funded experience in the British Library:

This experience…helped me realize how real my work is. I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment. I know that it is something that I will always hold on to as I keep pushing forward with my degree. [The Fulton’s] generous contribution [helped] me achieve this dream. I will always be so grateful for it.

Likewise, Wade Jacoby, professor of political science has felt the impact of the Mary Lou Fulton Professorship in Political Science. He said that with the assistance of research support from this professorship, he achieved an exceptionally productive year publishing content and organized a strong team of student research assistants. For him, 2014 was an outstanding year. “I published four journal articles. I also published a chapter in a book at Oxford University Press with a former BYU student, which he used to get into the PhD program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island,” Jacoby said. During this time, Jacoby also co-authored a book for Cambridge University Press, in conjunction with colleagues from several top universities in the nation.

The Fultons at BYU

Nearly every college and department on BYU’s campus has felt the generous hands of Ira and Mary Lou Fulton. Among those include the Joseph F. Smith Building, the BYU Athletic Complex, the BYU Broadcasting Building, and the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni & Visitors Center. Other chairs begun to honor her legacy include the Mary Lou Fulton Chair in Theatre and Media Arts, the Mary Lou Fulton Chair in Health and Human Performance and the Mary Lou Fulton Chair of World Languages.

To find the imprint of Mary Lou Fulton’s hand at BYU is an easy task. To follow the impact of it for generations to come will not be so easy.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave at BYU?