Distinguished lecturer shares ‘ripple effects of BYU scholarship’

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Addie Blacker
Dr. Gary Burlingame addresses students in a BYU forum on May 14 in the de Jong Concert Hall. (Addie Blacker)

Distinguished lecturer Dr. Gary M. Burlingame shared the ripple effects of the work of the BYU Consortium for Group Research and Practice, or C-GRP, and compared such effects to the ripple effects of all BYU scholarship in his May 14 forum address.

Dr. Burlingame recently became the 58th recipient of the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer award, the most prestigious award given to BYU faculty members.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award,” Dr. Burlingame said at the beginning of his address. “BYU has been and is my professional home.”

Dr. Burlingame works in the C-GRP lab, which conducts research on group treatment practice and improving clinical practice. Its members come from two BYU Ph.D. programs — counseling and clinical psychology — and two internships. Dr. Burlingame’s research is focused on effective group treatment and measurement and survey development.

“A goal of my talk is to illustrate how inspiration multiplied our lab’s work, or what I’ve chosen to call the unforeseen ripple effects of BYU scholarship,” Dr. Burlingame said.

Before discussing the lab’s work, Dr. Burlingame shared the story of his mother, who converted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church when Dr. Burlingame was 5 years old. He described his mother as a zealous convert who brought her five children to sit on the front row at church every week and made sure they memorized scripture verses called memory verses.

Dr. Burlingame shared three Bible verses — Luke 16:10, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Hebrews 13:2 — that he memorized as a child in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, of which he is still a faithful member. He said these scripture messages have guided C-GRP’s work over the last 35 years.

This work includes work with the Utah State Hospital, work in Bosnia following the Bosnian War and work following the events of 9/11. C-GRP’s efforts at the Utah State Hospital led to “a shift in the entire hospital culture,” Dr. Burlingame said, and even wider ripple effects.

“The hospital’s efforts were so successful that these outcome measures were later adopted by the state of Utah, its mental health system, which affects 70,000 patient lives each year,” Dr. Burlingame said.

C-GRP’s work in Bosnia also led to wide ripple effects. The group served deeply traumatized Bosnian students who saw their family members killed in the war. Although the group could only run one or two small trauma groups of about 8 students per school, those who attended the trauma groups shared with their classmates, friends and family members, leading to about 100 students per school being exposed to trauma treatment.

C-GRP shared what it learned in Bosnia about treating trauma survivors in groups in a study published by the American Group Psychotherapy Association just weeks after 9/11. C-GRP was then invited to train hundreds of clinicians to help survivors and first responders affected by the trauma of 9/11.

Now, C-GRP is researching compassion-focused therapy, or CFT, the goal of which is to “balance destructive perfectionism and self-criticism that can lead to depression and anxiety,” according to Dr. Burlingame. This research is being conducted in BYU Counseling and Psychological Services.

“College students tend to be a bit more perfectionist than the normal population, and they engage in critical self-talk,” Dr. Burlingame said. “CFT helps us quiet this inner-critic through behavioral skills that help increase three flows of compassion: compassion for self, compassion for others and compassion from others.”

Dr. Burlingame compared the ripple effects of C-GRP’s work to the ripple effects possible from the work of all BYU students.

“I don’t think you will ever be able to predict, students, the ripple effects of your work,” Dr. Burlingame said. “So, my advice is to do a good job in the small and simple things. That is the pathway for greater things.”

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