Dr. Park’s research focuses on stress, coping, and adaptation, particularly on how people’s beliefs, goals, and values affect their ways of perceiving and dealing with stressful events. She has developed a comprehensive model of meaning and meaning making and is applying this model to a variety of health-related problems and traumas. Dr. Park has published articles on the roles of religious beliefs and religious coping in response to stressful life events, the phenomenon of stress-related growth, and people’s attempts to find meaning in or create meaning out of negative life events. She is currently the principal investigator on grants from the National Cancer Institute (testing a lifestyle intervention for breast cancer survivors) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (developing a translational tool for yoga research). She is associate editor for Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Psychology and Health, and International Journal of the Psychology of Religion. Dr. Park is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a former president of Division 36 of APA (Psychology of Religion) and recipient of their Early Career Award. In 2014, she received the William James Award from Division 36 in recognition of her contributions to the psychology of religion and spirituality.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Psychology of Religiousness and Spirituality
Stress, Trauma and Coping
University of Delaware: Ph.D., Clinical Psychology 1993
Clarion University of Pennsylvania: M.A., Psychology 1988
Clarion University of Pennsylvania: B.S., Psychology 1985
Media Appearances (6)
Post-Traumatic Growth Might Be the Silver Lining of Trauma — Here’s How to Harness It
Of course, others are quick to point out that much of what we know about PTG is through people’s self-reports; it’s hard to measure the benefits. “The literature that talks about post-traumatic growth is really about people’s perceptions,” explains Crystal Park, PhD, a professor at the University of Connecticut who studies the phenomenon of stress-related growth. And when you try to match those perceptions to actual positive changes, there’s not always a correlation, she says.
How Americans are trying to cope with coronavirus stress, from seeking therapy to leaning on alcohol or humor
The study began in April, three weeks after Americans began quarantining, when the study authors posted a survey on the Amazon site, and remained posted for two days. "There has never been a situation like this where the whole world was quarantined and facing an incredibly uncertain future. Usually crises unfold very quickly and then they are over," lead study author Crystal Park, psychology professor at the University of Connecticut, told Insider. "We suddenly had an opportunity to take a look at people as a crisis slowly unfolded."
Stress, Story and the Unspoken Connection
Psychology Today online
What is really happening when we use our narratives to attempt to alleviate the stress of traumatic life experiences? University of Connecticut Psychologist, Crystal L. Park, has dedicated herself to creating a meaning-making methodology applicable to reducing stress in the face of traumatic circumstances. In her 2010 work, Making Sense of Meaning Literature: An Integrated View of Meaning Making and Its Effects on Adjustment to Stressful Life Events, she powerfully summarizes the “essential tenets” (drawn from the work of influential theorists*) for what occurs in the adaptation to life’s stressors and the calling to create meaning.
A guide to achieving your 2018 self-care resolutions
"I heard someone say that it's like putting on your own oxygen mask in an airplane emergency before putting one on a child," added Crystal Park, another professor at the University of Connecticut's Department of Psychological Sciences. "The healthier and more resilient we are, the more effective we can be in our lives."
Wearing Cancer Survival Like a Badge of Honor
Psychology Today online
According to Crystal Park and colleagues at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, living through cancer results in the development of new identities that can define people for the rest of their lives. For those still in active treatment, the identity of patient or victim can develop, carrying the connotation of severe suffering inflicted on them. But for those who have survived such adversity, the most common identity was survivor, which carries the connotation of cure.
Who Uses Complementary and Alternative Medicine?
Brain Blogger online
In the Journal of Clinical Psychology, Crystal Park points out that “demographics associated with CAM use are fairly well established, but less is known about their psychological characteristics.”
The Multidimensional Existential Meaning Scale: A tripartite approach to measuring meaning in lifeJournal of Positive Psychology
2017 To address conceptual difficulties and advance research on meaning in life (MIL), it may be useful to adopt a tripartite view of meaning as consisting of comprehension, purpose, and mattering. This paper discusses the development of the Multidimensional Existential Meaning Scale (MEMS), which explicitly assesses these three subconstructs. Results from three samples of undergraduates showed the MEMS to have favorable psychometric properties (e.g. good factor structure and reliability) and demonstrated that it can effectively differentiate the three subconstructs of meaning. Regression and relative importance analyses showed that each MEMS subscale carried predictive power for relevant variables and other meaning measures. Additionally, the MEMS subscales demonstrated theoretically consistent, differential associations with other variables (e.g. dogmatism, behavioral activation, and spirituality). Overall, results suggest that the MEMS may offer more conceptual precision than existing measures, and it may open new avenues of research and facilitate a more nuanced understanding of MIL.
Attachment and posttraumatic growth after breast cancer: A dyadic approachPsycho-Oncology
2017 Cancer poses unique challenges for the couple relationship. From a relational perspective, successful adaptation may be less dependent on the circumstances of being the “patient” or the “caregiver” than on how couples successfully integrate cancer into their relationship. In this article, we study posttraumatic growth through attachment theory, which provides a useful framework to explore the role of intimate processes dyadically. Method: The sample comprised 84 heterosexual married and cohabitating couples. Women were in adjuvant treatment for breast cancer or in the posttreatment phase. Both members of the couple completed measures of attachment and posttraumatic growth. Path models were used to examine associations between the constructs through the application of the actor-partner interdependent model. Moreover, time since diagnosis was examined within the actor-partner interdependent model as a possible moderator affecting the attachment-posttraumatic growth associations. Results: Partners' attachment security was an important predictor of individual posttraumatic growth for both members of the couple, while individuals' own attachment security was not associated with their posttraumatic growth for either member of the couple. The partner's effects were equal across gender. Additionally, time since breast cancer diagnosis did not affect the pattern of results. Conclusion: Findings support the assessment of the couple dyadically and corroborate an attachment approach of the couple as an interdependent unit. Implications of the study for interventions assisting couples in oncological setting are discussed.
When the divine defaults: Religious struggle mediates the impact of financial stressors on psychological distressPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
2017 It is generally assumed that religion provides support, strength, and solace to those grappling with financial difficulties. Recently, however, scholars have found evidence of harmful effects of religion by way of negative religious coping and religious or spiritual struggle. To date, these potentially negative phenomena have not been studied in the context of coping with financial stressors. Using intensive longitudinal data collected twice daily for 14 days from 439 participants, we explored whether and how religious struggle with the divine factors into the relationship between financial hardship and distress. Chronic financial stress, as measured by inability to pay bills on a routine basis, had a direct effect on depression, whereas acute financial stress did not. Religious struggle with the divine mediated the effect of acute financial stressors on depression but not the effect of chronic financial stress on depression. These findings suggest that financial hardship impacts well-being by way of religious struggle in the short-term, but that spiritual struggle has less impact on the relationship between financial hardship and well-being in the long term. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Positive and negative religious/spiritual coping and combat exposure as predictors of posttraumatic stress and perceived growth in Iraq and Afghanistan veteransPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
2017 We examined religious/spiritual (RS) coping from the Survey of Experiences of Returning Veterans (SERV) Study, 630 participants who reported on their demographics, combat exposure, use of positive and negative RS coping, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and perceived posttraumatic growth (PPTG). PTSD symptoms and PPTG were inversely correlated. As hypothesized, negative RS coping was inversely associated with PPTG and positively with PTSD, while positive RS coping was related only to PPTG. Although we expected that RS coping would buffer relations between combat exposure and both PTSD and PPTG, we found only one moderator effect and it was opposite our hypothesized direction: those with high combat exposure and high positive RS coping had the highest PTSD symptomatology. These results suggest, among veterans with combat exposure, negative RS coping is associated with higher PTSD symptomatology, while positive RS coping is generally associated with higher PPTG as well as higher PTSD for those with high combat exposure.
Advancing our understanding of religion and spirituality in the context of behavioral medicineJournal of Behavioral Science
2017 Recognizing and understanding the potentially powerful roles that religiousness and spirituality (RS) may serve in the prevention and amelioration of disease, as well as symptom management and health related quality of life, significantly enhances research and clinical efforts across many areas of behavioral medicine. This article examines the knowledge established to date and suggests advances that remain to be made. We begin with a brief summary of the current knowledge regarding RS as related to three exemplary health conditions: (a) cardiovascular disease; (b) cancer; and, (c) substance abuse. We then focus on particular concerns for future investigations, emphasizing conceptual issues, possible mediators and moderators of relationships or effects, and methodology. Our discussion is framed by a conceptual model that may serve to guide and organize future investigations. This model highlights a number of important issues regarding the study of links between RS and health: (a) RS comprise many diverse constructs, (b) the mechanisms through which RS may influence health outcomes are quite diverse, and (c) a range of different types of health and health relevant outcomes may be influenced by RS. The multidimensional nature of RS and the complexity of related associations with different types of health relevant outcomes present formidable challenges to empirical study in behavioral medicine. These issues are referred to throughout our review and we suggest several solutions to the presented challenges in our summary. We end with a presentation of barriers to be overcome, along with strategies for doing so, and concluding thoughts.