Mental Healthcare, Virtue, and Human Flourishing


The Danielsen Institute Research Center has been awarded a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation ( to fund a 3-year project on Mental Healthcare, Virtue, and Human Flourishing. Like the Templeton-funded planning grant now being completed at the Danielsen (, principal investigators for this multi-site project will be Dr. Steven Sandage (Danielsen Institute, Boston University) and Dr. Jesse Owen (University of Denver), with Lauren Kehoe (Danielsen Institute) providing administrative leadership of the grant. This four-site project also includes collaboration between the Danielsen Institute, the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and the University of Denver. Each site is conducting clinical research projects from their differing treatment orientations but within a shared conceptual framework and overall set of research questions about the ways psychotherapy can potentially promote virtue and flourishing and ultimately improve people’s lives.  The project team (26 team members; see personnel bios below) also includes outstanding clinical researchers from a number of other institutions around the country who will serve as advisors and consultants to this work.


Executive Summary:

Nearly half the United States population will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime, and about one in seven adults (46 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 and flourishing. Yet very little of this research involves mainstream 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 using a diverse set of treatment approaches. We will conduct clinical studies on how growth in character strengths and relational virtues can help clients flourish in response to suffering, and our research will bridge connections between virtue ethics and the science of affect regulation using a shared set of hypotheses and measures. We will also study character and virtue among clinicians and ways therapists effectively cultivate virtue and flourishing in their clients. This project will also generate three technological innovations for clinical-research integration, and we will utilize the emerging methods of dissemination and implementation science in collaboration with practitioners to develop and test innovative training strategies that facilitate the application of evidence-based virtue and flourishing interventions into frontline clinical practice. Our team will disseminate answers to these clinical and training questions through best practice guidelines published in top tier psychotherapy journals and an edited book, and we will train thousands of clinicians in these approaches to virtue and flourishing through our training networks in the years ahead.

Co-Principal Investigators for Overall Project

Steven J. Sandage, Ph.D., LP, is the Albert and Jessie Danielsen Professor of Psychology of Religion and Theology with a joint appointment in the School of Theology and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University (BU).  He is also Research Director and Senior Staff Psychologist at the Albert and Jessie Danielsen Institute at BU and serves as Visiting Faculty in the Psychology of Religion at MF Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo.

Jesse Owen, Ph.D., LP, is Professor of Counseling Psychology and Department Chair and the University of Denver.

Principal Investigators for Site Projects

Todd Farchione, Ph.D., LP, is Research Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University and Associate Director of Unified Treatment Program, Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.

Owen (see above)

Sandage (see above)

Mary Zanarini, Ed.D., LP, is Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Adult Development at McLean Hospital.


Sarah A. Crabtree, Ph.D., LMFT, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at the Danielsen Institute.

Don Davis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, Georgia State University and is an Associate Editor with the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Elizabeth H. Eustis, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University.

Cassidy Gutner, Ph.D, LP, is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and a researcher at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at VA Boston Healthcare System.

Karen Tao, Ph.D., LP, Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology, University of Utah.

Brandon Unruh, MD, is Director of the Mentalization Clinic, Assistant Director of the Gunderson Residence, and Assistant Director of the BPD Training Institute at McLean Hospital.


Michael Constantino, Ph.D., LP, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Graduate Program Director, University of Massachusetts – Amherst.

David Goodman, Ph.D., LP, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and External Relations and Associate Professor of the Practice in both Counseling, Developmental, & Educational Psychology and also in Philosophy at Boston College, which has a specialization in psychoanalytic theory.

Joel Wong, Ph.D., Dr. Wong is an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Indiana University and a fellow of the American Psychological Association.


Dave Atkins, PhD., is a Research Professor in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences division at the University of Washington, and he is the CEO for the company,, LLC.

David Barlow, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry Emeritus, Boston University and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.

Nancy Devor, Ph.D., LP, Senior Staff Psychologist, Danielsen Institute.

Eugene L. Hall, Ph.D., LAMFT, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist at the Danielsen Institute.

Zac Imel, PhD, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology and Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Utah.

Peter Jankowski, Ph.D., LMFT, Associate Professor of Psychology, Bethel University, a Visiting Researcher at the Danielsen Institute at Boston University, and approved as a supervisor by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

Heidi Levitt, Ph.D., LP, Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts – Boston and a licensed psychologist.

David Rupert, Psy.D., LP, Director of Training and Senior Staff Psychologist, Danielsen Institute.

Shannon Sauer-Zavala, Ph.D., LP, is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Kentucky and also provides clinical training through the Unified Protocol Training Institute.

Dr. Brad Shuck is Associate Professor of Human Resources and Organizational Development at the University of Louisville.

Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist at the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard University.

Tyler VanderWeele,Ph.D., is the John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology in the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Co-Director of the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality, faculty affiliate of the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and Director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University.


Lauren E. Kehoe, M.A., is the Associate Director of Administration and Finance of the Danielsen Institute where she has worked for over twenty years.