Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Kenneth Critchfield

Elena Savina

Lindsey Harvell-Bowman


Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy (IRT) (Benjamin, 2003/2006) is an integrative, principles-based treatment approach and theory of psychopathology that conceptualizes the motivating factor that underlies personality psychopathology as the gift of love (GOL). That is, copy processes are learned and maintained to achieve psychic proximity to the important people and their internalized representations (IPIRs) that were the original teachers. Relinquishing this gift of love allows a person to re-orient their life towards uncovering and living by their own individually held meanings that will then define how they relate to themselves and their world. Spirituality and religion have historically helped individuals make meaning of and endure some of life’s most trying events (Canada et al., 2016; Hawthorne et al., 2015; Lichtenthal et al., 2010; Johnson & Zitzmann, 2020). Furthermore, Park and Folkman (1997) and others have studied how spirituality can play a large role in a person’s meaning-making processes. The ability to make meaning out of a stressful situation has been shown to promote adaptation and well-being. This study asserts that the process of understanding and learning to let go of the gift of love is inherently a spiritual task. Studies involving IRT have not yet considered explicitly spiritual coping and its connections to the gift of love. This study created a coding system based on existing theory that reliably detects the gift of love as well as spiritual coping in an archived IRT dataset. Results indicated that the presence of spiritual coping, particularly positive spiritual coping, was significantly associated with higher levels of adherence to IRT. In addition, this study revealed that GOL is associated with personal and social spiritual coping and is positively associated with therapeutic change, as measured by GOL stages of change. Keywords: Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy, interpersonal theory, personality disorders, religious coping, spiritual coping, therapeutic change



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