Templeton Flourishing Grant


The Danielsen Institute has received a one-year planning grant from the John Templeton Foundation for clinical and training research related to mental healthcare, virtue, and flourishing in life. Nearly half the United States population will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime, and about one in five persons (44.7 million) receive mental health treatment each year largely focused on reducing negative symptoms.  A large body of scientific research in positive psychology over the past three decades has connected character strengths and virtue with well-being, holistic flourishing, community concern, and meaning in life.  Yet very little of this research involves mental healthcare contexts with these millions of U.S. citizens receiving treatment.  This compounds a common problem in health-related research with a very slow translation of findings into everyday clinical practice.

Our project addresses this problem through a multi-site collaboration with major treatment research teams (Danielsen Institute at Boston University (BU), Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at BU, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the University of Denver Relationship and Psychotherapy Lab) serving thousands of clients.  We will conduct clinical studies on how growth in virtues such as humility, gratitude, wisdom, and forgiveness can help individuals, couples, and families eventually cultivate meaningful healing and growth in response to suffering.  Measures of virtue and flourishing will be clinically-validated, and these measures will advance further clinical research to change the field’s goals toward a “higher bar” of flourishing-related treatment outcomes.  We will also study character and virtue among clinicians and ways humble and clinically-wise therapists effectively cultivate virtue and flourishing in their clients.  Emerging methods from dissemination and implementation science will be utilized in collaboration with practitioners and clinical trainers to develop and test innovative training strategies that facilitate the integration of evidence-based virtue and flourishing interventions into frontline clinical practice.  Our team will disseminate answers to these clinical and training questions through publishing best practice guidelines and will train clinicians in these clinical approaches to virtue and flourishing through our training networks. This presents an opportunity to help shift the conversation in mental healthcare toward caring for whole persons and their communities.

For theoretical and empirical work related to this project, see:

Sandage, S.J., Rupert, D., Stavros, G.S., & Devor, N.G. (in press). Relational spirituality in psychotherapy: Healing suffering and promoting growth. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Boettscher, H.T., Sandage, S.J., Latin, H.M. & Barlow, D.H. (2019). Transdiagnostic treatment for enhancing positive affect and well-being. In J. Gruber (Ed.), Positive emotion and psychopathology (pp. 525-538). New York: Oxford University Press.

Jankowski, P.J., Sandage, S.J., Bell, C.A., Rupert, D., Bronstein, M., & Stavros, G.S. (2019). Latent trajectories of change for clients at a psychodynamic training clinic. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22769

Presentations related to this planning grant include:

Sandage, S.J., Goodman, D.M., Rupert, D., Crabtree, S.A., Jankowski, P.J., Owen, J.J., & Sauer-Zavala, S. (2019, October). The potential place of virtue and flourishing in mental healthcare: An interdisciplinary proposal. Paper presented at Psychology and the Other conference, Boston, MA.

Jankowski, P.J., Sandage, S.J., Sandage, D., Crabtree, S.A., Hall, E., Kehoe, L.E., & Bronstein, M. (2019, October). Risk, positive development, and mental health symptoms: Latent profiles for clients presenting for treatment. Presentation at the conference of the Society for the Study of Emerging Adults, Toronto, ON.

Porter, E., Jessen, M., Ross, K. V., Motzny, C. L., Sandage, S. J., & Owen, J. (2019, August). Measures review: Flourishing in psychotherapy. Presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Division 17 Conference, Chicago, IL.

Coleman, J.J.; Motzny, C.L.; Jessen, M.; Porter, E.; Ross, K.V.; Sandage, S.; Owen, J. (2019, August). Creation of the POSI-16 flourishing scale: Psychometric properties and implications for use. Poster presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL