Helping the Helpers

Thanks to a generous grant from The Peale Foundation, the Danielsen Institute research team has embarked on a multi-year project entitled “Positive Psychology and Formation-Based Flourishing among Spiritual Leaders and Therapists.” Through interdisciplinary cross-sectional and longitudinal research projects, we hope to learn more about these helping professionals’ experiences, especially the factors that contribute to a sense of well-being and risk for burnout. We intend to use this research to develop resources aimed at supporting the well-being of current and future helping professionals. This page will be regularly updated as new projects are launched and findings are published or presented. If you would like to receive email updates, please email requesting to be added to our research interest list.

Current Research Opportunities

8-Week Online Program for Helping Professionals

The COVID-19 pandemic. Systemic oppression. Political upheaval. Human rights abuses. Increased mental health need. Climate impacts. Collective trauma. These are just a few of many national and global crises facing our world today, which have taken a unique existential toll on psychotherapists, chaplains, and clergy who are on the frontlines of offering support. 

Are you feeling taxed as a helping professional? Seeking opportunities for self-reflection, personal growth, or connection with others in your field? If so, Boston University’s Albert and Jessie Danielsen Institute invites you to participate in a research study evaluating a new empirically-based personal and professional formation program designed specifically for psychotherapists, chaplains, and clergy.  

This free 8-week online program, including group and individual formats, will include opportunities to: 

  • Process the psychological, emotional, relational, and spiritual/existential impacts of companioning others amidst trauma and suffering. 
  • Identify and develop personal capacities and culturally embedded strengths to metabolize these impacts in order to build resilience and thrive as a whole person.  
  • Reflect on your intersectional identities, life experiences, and core values, and how these inform your work. 
  • Interrogate and resist personal, relational, and systemic pressures that are counter to your well-being, while working toward systemic change. 

Participating in this randomized intervention study will help us better understand the unique needs of helping professionals in today’s world and refine and evaluate this novel online program in order to promote helping professionals’ flourishing. Financial compensation (up to $60) is available for completion of self-assessment measures and program feedback surveys. 

Click here to complete a brief interest form, and we will be in touch with you shortly with further information. 

Online Survey for Helping Professionals

The Albert & Jessie Danielsen Institute seeks to understand the mental health needs among spiritual leaders and mental healthcare providers at individual, relational, and organizational levels. In partnership with the Norman Vincent Peale Foundation and the Boston University School of Theology, the Danielsen will begin Phase 1 of this 5-year project by surveying working chaplains, clergy, and mental health providers about the realities of working in these professions. Participants in romantic partnerships will also be able to invite their partners to complete a survey about their experiences being partnered with someone working in one of these fields.

To see if you are eligible to participate in this cross-sectional study, take our screener survey.

Questions about either of these studies? Contact Dr. Steven Sandage, the Principal Investigator of the studies, at


Conference Materials Now Available

On October 28, 2022, the Danielsen Institute hosted a free virtual conference geared toward religious leaders and mental health providers. You can watch the replay and download the slides for each presentation from the conference’s webpage.

Peale Project in Public Discourses

Research Director, Steven J. Sandage, was interviewed by Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans for her Christian Century article on the clergy mental health crisis, especially in the wake of COVID-19. You can read the article here

Preliminary findings from this project on the formation of religious leaders were presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Denver. Research Fellow, Kristen Hydinger, presented in a session cosponsored by the Innovations in Chaplaincy Unit and Psychology and Religion Unit. Her presentation was titled “Religion is not a tool – From moral neutrality to moral responsibility” and drew on the Relational Spirituality Model to engage recent interdisciplinary discussions about the roles of spirituality and religion in spiritual care and mental health practice. 

The Boston University School of Theology magazine, Focus, interviewed Dr. Sandage and featured the Peale Project’s timeline and anticipated projects. You can read the article here.

The Brink, Boston University’s hub for research, interviewed Dr. Sandage about the upcoming Peale Project plans. You can read that interview here.

About Norman Vincent Peale & the Peale Foundation

Norman Vincent Peale, a graduate of Boston University (GRS’24, STH’24, Hon.’86), was minister with a strong interest in the intersection of religion and psychology. The Peale Foundation was formed in 1994 with the mission, “To provide financial support to organizations whose ever-positive words and works closely align with the values, beliefs and ideals of Ruth Stafford Peale and Norman Vincent Peale, emphasizing the development of a positive attitude and a spiritual faith that foster meaningful change and growth.” You can read more about the Foundation and Rev. Peale’s works here.