Patrick Pössel

Patrick Pössel

Department of Counseling and Human Development
Room 330 - College of Education and Human Development

Dr. Pössel curriculum vitae [PDF]

Biography: Patrick Pössel

Patrick received his doctoral degree with a specialization in Clinical Psychology from the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen (Germany) in 1999 and is licensed as a clinical psychologist in Germany and Kentucky. He received his Diploma in Psychology (equivalent to a master’s degree in the US) from the Justus-Liebig-Universität in Giessen, Germany. After receiving his Diploma, he worked as a clinical psychologist in a private practice while he completed his doctoral studies. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Louisville, Patrick worked as Assistant Professor at the University of Tübingen and as Visiting Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Currently, he pursues three interconnected lines of research with three research teams. First, Patrick studies in prevention of depression in adolescents. Second, he is interested in the relationship between cognitive risk factors of depression, depressive symptoms, and physical health. Third, he studies the mechanisms underlying the association between prayers and mental and physical health.

Educational Background

  • PD, Psychology, University of Tübingen, 2004
  • Ph.D. Psychology, University of Tübingen, 1999
  • Dipl.-Psych. University of Giessen, Germany 1995

Teaching Areas

  • Assessment Practicum (ECPY680)
  • Advanced Counseling Practicum (ECPY780)
  • Advanced Theories of Counseling & Psychotherapy (ECPY722)
  • Counseling Practicum (ECPY 673)
  • Counseling Internship (ECPY 683)
  • Evaluation & Measurement (ECPY540)
  • Intelligence & Achievement Assessment (ECPY648)
  • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy (ECPY619)

Mentoring of Students


So far, Patrick’s received more than $2 million of grant funding and authored or co-authored about 100 journal articles, book chapters, books, etc. Many of those publications are with his students. In fact, his students have been first authors on 33% and co-authors on 70% of his publications since 2010. Patrick’s commitment to the professional development of his students also finds its expression in him providing students with a stimulating and challenging learning environment, and encouraging the active engagement and participation of students in his research projects. His focus as a mentor is to help students: (a) develop their own research questions within the above listed research areas, (b) learn how to design and implement studies and analyze data, and (c) develop confidence in presenting their research at conferences and publish in peer-reviewed journals.

Research Projects

Work in & with Schools

After developing and evaluating the universal cognitive-behavioral prevention program LARS&LISA; to reduce the incidence of depression in high school students, he is now focusing on why this type of prevention program works, for whom it works, and under what circumstances it works. Having studied multiple mechanisms underlying the effects of prevention, Patrick and his team currently research how effective prevention is in racially/ethnically diverse groups of adolescents in urban areas. The objective is to improve the effects of prevention in groups that have thus far been shown to receive significantly less benefit.

Related, but independent of this research line, he and his team are researching the effects of measureable and specific teaching behaviors on depression in students. This research has two objectives. The first objective is to understand what influence teachers have on the development and maintenance of depression in adolescents. The second goal is the the long-term goal of this line of research, to develop a new kind of prevention program for that teachers, so they can be trained in teaching behaviors that protect adolescents from developing depression.

Students and former students in this research team:
Caroline Pittard, 4th year PhD student
Bridget Cauley, 3rd year PhD student
Shelby Burton, 2nd year PhD student
Kate Berghuis, 1st year PhD student

Mind-Body Lab

Several empirical studies indicate that depression increases the risk for physical illnesses, including cancer and coronary heart disease (CHD). While the association of depression with cancer and CHD is well supported, the mechanisms underlying this association remain largely unknown. Together with his research team, Patrick investigates some of these mechanisms. The episodic nature of depression, characterized by intermittent clinical and non-clinical periods of symptomology, raises the question as to whether depression and physical illness are directly related, or if the underlying risk factors of depression (e.g., attribution style, dysfunctional attitudes, hopelessness, rumination) are associated with CHD. This would give the impression that depression and CHD are associated. The main focus of the research team, associations between risk factors of depression and CHD, investigates this possibility. For this line of research, the team uses data from epidemiological studies from around the world and also collects primary data. These primary studies currently include two studies with informal and professional caregivers of cancer patients, a study with students at the local community and technical college, and adolescents participating in the prevention program LARS&LISA.

Students and former students in this research team:
Amanda Mitchell, Alumna, post-doctorate at Ohio State University
Christina Beasley, 2nd year MEd student
Brooks Harbison, 1st year PhD student
Sarah Roane, 3rd year PhD student

Prayer Research

One factor that has been linked with depression is religiosity in general and religious behavior (e.g., praying) in particular. The importance of religiosity in the United States was highlighted in a national survey on religion (1991 – 1998), revealing that 95% of Americans believe in God or a universal spirit, 69% consider themselves religious, 49% attend worship weekly, and 42% pray alone frequently. Therefore, Patrick’s research team studies the association between mental health and prayer as religious behavior. The objectives of this line of research are the following:

Patrick and his team examines the universality of prayer. This includes questions like whether (a) prayer the same (e.g., wether the factor structure is identical); (b) prayer have the same associations with mental and physical health; (c) the underlying mechanisms connecting prayer with health are identical across multiple religious groups (incl. praying atheists). Further, he is interested if and what type of prayer can have stress buffering effects. In other words, can prayer prevent the negative effects of stress (e.g., discrimination) on mental (e.g., depression) and physical health (e.g., cortisol, CRP, IL-6, TNF-alpha). Finally, praying behavior is not always associated with positive outcomes. This raises the question what cause the negative effects. One possibility is based on the fact that prayer do not always have the effects the person praying hopes for. If this happens, what effects does that have on the praying person and what strategies are the most helpful to avoid negative consequences.

Students and former students in this research team:
Benjamin Jeppsen, Alumnus, Assistant Professor at Augustana University
Stephanie Winkeljohn Black, Alumna, Assistant Professor at Penn State Harrisburg
Olivia Alexander, 1st year MEd student