Psychological Education to Enhance Self-Understanding and Self-Acceptance in College Students

Baker, Eugene M. (Ph.D., 1977)

Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio

In view of the potentially dehumanizing influences of the society, ways in which human strengths and potentials can be developed are being sought. Psychological education offers the insights and knowledge of modern psychology in a didactic and experiential format within a classroom setting. The students are encouraged to explore themselves and discover ways of actualizing their potentials. A review of the literature indicated that: (1) There is little evidence that a sound program of psychological education for college age participants is beneficial. (2) Attention should be given to developing a complete theoretical framework, that is comprehensible to the participants (i.e., with the minimum of psychological jargon), and integrates the variety of approaches, and is free of misconceptions and spurious dichotomies. (3) Adequate definition and conceptualization of objectives should be made so that meaningful assessment can be undertaken.

Consequently, the course "Self-Directed Growth" based upon Descriptive Psychology and Gestalt Therapy was developed to meet these needs. The expected outcomes of participation in this course were increased self-understanding and self-acceptance. Existing conceptualizations of these terms were found to be inadequate. A conceptual analysis of these terms revealed that: (1) Self-understanding is an achievement based upon the capability for observing and describing the meaning (or significance) of one's behavior. (2) Self-acceptance is based upon two components: (a) feeling "OK" about oneself, and (b) the absence of insistence on being any certain way. Instruments appropriate to these conceptualizations were developed and investigation of their stability and relations to other indices was made.

Students registered for "Self-Directed Growth" were divided into two sections (analyses indicated no systematic biases in assignment). Since the course lasted eight weeks, one section participated the first eight weeks of the semester and the other section participated during the second eight weeks. Students filled out the assessment questionnaire at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester.

The results of the statistical analyses were interpreted to arrive at the conclusion that: (1) There was no demonstrated effect of the course on the participants' self-acceptance because these students were the kind of people who improve without participating in this course. (2) An increased capability for and achievement of self-understanding was attributable to participation in the course.

Suggestions were made concerning ways in which the impact of psychological education could be maximized. Though the findings of this investigation should be considered important, the style of investigation (which relied heavily upon a pre-empirical conceptual analysis) was considered to be of paradigmatic value. [257 pp.]