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John Cecero


Associate Professor
Rector, Fordham Jesuit Community
Department of Psychology
Dealy 437; Lincoln Center 819C
441 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY 10458-9993

Phone: 212-636-6341; 718-817-0639
Office Hours: By appointment

Research Interests

Clinical Interests

As a clinical psychologist and Jesuit priest, my current interests are in the integration of spirituality and psychotherapy.  More specifically, within the context of Schema Therapy, which focuses on the identification and change of early maladaptive schemas, I am interested in the application of spiritual techniques, e.g. meditation, contemplation, and other prayer techniques to complement psychotherapeutic strategies at the phases of assessment and intervention.  Following on an earlier publication of a book designed to describe this approach, Praying through Lifetraps: A Psycho-Spiritual Approach to Freedom (2002), I am likewise interested in the integration of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola within psychotherapy (Cecero, 2009).

Major Research Interests

Spirituality and Mental Health
Over the last several years, I have become increasingly interested in role of spirituality as a protective factor in mental health (Cecero, 2004; 2005). More specifically, within the context of Schema Therapy (ST), I have generated theories about how a spiritual orientation and religious practices may supplement ST to create more positive and lasting therapeutic benefits (Cecero, 2010). In my book on this subject, Praying through our Lifetraps: A Psycho-spiritual Path to Freedom (2002), I outline these theories and practices for personal and clinical use with others.

Empirically, I am interested in supporting the moderating role of spirituality in the relationship between maladaptive schemas and their hypothesized toxic consequences, i.e. depression and anxiety, problematic interpersonal relationships, and other maladaptive behaviors. One of the problematic and challenging tasks of this line of research is to generate a common definition of spirituality. Until such a definition emerges, I am using variables such as image of God, religious coping, spiritual transcendence, spiritual well-being, and intrinsic/extrinsic religiosity. In two separate undergraduate samples, image of God appears less of a moderator between perceived parental rejection and dysphoria than does image of self (Cecero, Marmon, Beitel, Hutz, & Jones, 2004). Positive religious coping, on the other hand, may be a more promising spirituality variable (VanDyke, Glenwick, Cecero, & Kim, 2009), as it appears to buffer the relationship between perceived parental rejection and dysphoria (Racine & Cecero, 2005) and substance use (Cecero & Fried, 2005)

Besides investigating the tonic role of spirituality on mental health outcome, I am also interested in exploring the personality correlates of people who are more spiritually oriented. To that end, I am comparing spiritual and psychological mindedness (Cecero Beitel, & Prout, in progress), and spirituality and healthy dependency, as opposed to over-dependency or counter-dependency (Cecero, Bedrosian, & Bornstein, 2006).

Finally, a third direction for this line of research is the relationship between spirituality and the enactment of values, including moral action (Higgins-D?Alessandro & Cecero, 2003), in the context of teaching and leadership (Cecero & Esquivel, 2007). The faculty spirituality project is being conducted in collaboration with a subset of members of the interdisciplinary faculty seminar that I founded to research spirituality at Fordham University.

Personality Assessment
In collaboration with Dr. Robert Bornstein, I continue to study the construct of dependency, its measurement and construct validity. In a meta-analysis of studies assessing the relation between interpersonal dependency test scores and the five-factor model of personality (Bornstein & Cecero, 2000), we found that dependency scores were correlated positively with Neuroticism and Agreeableness and negatively with Extraversion, Openness, and Conscientiousness. Moreover, comparable score intercorrelations were obtained when participants’ dependency levels were assessed with the dependent personality disorder questionnaire and the dependent personality disorder interview. These findings are consistent with those reported above with APD (Cecero et al., 1999), in suggesting the usefulness of alternative approaches to personality assessment, at least to supplement, and perhaps even to replace the categorical DSM approach. One interesting hypothesis that we explored in two separate studies (Russo, Cecero, & Bornstein, 2001; Fornabia, Cecero, & Bornstein, under review) was that there would be gender differences in dependency in objective (males scoring higher), but not projective, measures of dependency. In both studies, we did not find gender differences either on the objective or projective measures, but we attribute the lack of differences on the objective measures to the nature of the samples. Future studies in this area will focus on the relationship between religiosity and healthy dependence.

In a separate line of inquiry on psychological mindedness (PM), I have been collaborating with former doctoral student Mark Beitel, to establish its construct validity (Beitel, Blauvelt, Barry, & Cecero, 2006). This research represents the flip side of my own earlier research with alexithymia, which has been used to establish its discriminant validity. Dr. Beitel, now a research scientist with my former colleagues at Yale, and I have established a program of research to establish the personality, cognitive, and affective dimensions of PM. Our first published paper together (Beitel & Cecero, 2003) examined the five-factor and attachment style predictors of PM, and Openness to Experience among the factors and Attachment to Peers among the attachment styles emerged as the best predictors. Consistent with the association of PM and Openness, in our second study on the cognitive correlates of PM (Beitel, Ferrer, & Cecero, 2004), PM emerged as positively associated with Ambiguity Tolerance. In our most recent study (Beitel, Ferrer, & Cecero, 2005), the data suggest that PM is related to mindfulness, private self-consciousness, and cognitive and affective indices of empathy. I am especially interested in the mindfulness correlation, and its implications for relating this construct to early maladaptive schemas (Cecero, Beitel, & Prout, 2008) and the spirituality variables that I am presently exploring in my most recent line of research.

Psychotherapy Process and Outcome
As a practicing clinical psychologist, I have an enduring interest in theories of psychotherapy (psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral, and schema therapy), the hypothetical active ingredients in treatment, and the relationship between psychotherapy and outcome.

Schema Therapy is inherently appealing to me, as it integrates a dynamic, object relational approach with standard cognitive-behavioral and gestalt interventions. In addition to my ongoing practice with this model, I have written about its theoretical components in the context of a published case study (Cecero & Young, 2001). I continue to engage clinical graduate students to work with me to empirically validate its tools and tenets (Cecero, Nelson, & Gillie, 2004).

Beyond psychotherapy models and their relationships to outcome, I explore various components of psychotherapy process (Thoma & Cecero, 2009), and more specifically the assessment and function of the therapeutic alliance. Reporting on the reliability and validity of available instruments used to measure alliance (Cecero, Fenton, Nich, Frankforter, & Carroll, 2001), we found that six of the most commonly used measures all had acceptable reliabilities, although these reliabilities did vary by treatment condition, suggesting that psychometric properties, and by extension alliance-process-outcome relationships, may vary across treatments. This finding is potentially significant for researchers in their choice of instruments to study alliance, as treatments that place different emphases on the therapeutic alliance might have different reliabilities, which could affect strengths of relationships between process and outcome. In a follow-up study (Fenton, Cecero, Nich, Frankforter, & Carroll, 2001), we found that alliance as rated by observers was predictive of outcome, whereas client-rated and therapist-rated instruments did not predict outcome.

Continuing research on the therapeutic alliance in collaboration with Jon Morgenstern, PhD, at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and at the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) research of Columbia University, I have served as a consultant and supervisor on a clinical trial to treat alcohol abuse and unsafe sex. Using the short form of the Working Alliance Inventory, I measured client-rated and therapist-rated alliance, but consistent with the study cited above (Fenton, Cecero, Nich, et al., 2001), there was no association in preliminary analyses between alliance and alcohol use or unsafe sex outcomes (Cecero, Hensl, & Russo, 2001). Instead, we found a significant association between readiness to change and outcome. With an adolescent sample, we assessed the predictive validity of alliance in two treatment conditions and found that it was more predictive of outcome in the family condition than in individual CBT (Hogue, Dauber, Faw, Cecero, & LIddle, 2006). Future psychotherapy research will include studies in the measurement and construct validity of Schema Therapy tools and tenets, as well as collaborative studies with Mt. Sinai and CASA in the therapeutic alliance. Predoctoral theses and doctoral dissertation research under my mentorship is currently underway on the alliance, its measurement and predictive validity, in an adolescent substance abuse sample across two treatment modalities, i.e. cognitive-behavioral and multimodal family therapy.

Courses Taught

  • PSYC 6210 - Psychotherapy theories
  • PSYC 1000 - Introductory Psychology
  • PSYC 2900 - Abnormal Psychology
  • PSYC 4900 - Psychology and Human Values

Selected Publications

Cecero, J. (2010). From healing to wholeness: A psycho-spiritual approach. In B.A. Musgrave & N.J. Mcgettigan (Eds.), Spiritual and Psychological Aspects of Illness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Cecero, J. (2009). Spiritual Exercises in Counseling and Therapy. In J. Ponterotto, J. Manuel Casas, L.Suzuki, & C. Alexander (Eds.) Handbook of Multicultural Counseling (3rd edition) (pp.479-490). Thousand Oaks, CA : SAGE Publications, Inc.

Cecero, J., Beitel, M., & Prout, T. (2008).Exploring the relationships among early maladaptive schemas, psychological mindedness, and self-reported college adjustment. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 81(1), 105-118.

Cecero, J., & Esquivel, G. (2007). Measuring faculty spirituality and its relationship to teaching style. Religion and Education, 34, (3), 1-18.

Cecero, J., Bedrosian, D., Fuentes, A., & Bornstein, R. (2006). Religiosity and healthy dependency as predictors of spiritual well-being. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 16, 3.

Cecero, J. (2005). Religiosity and American youth. Youth Activism: An International Encyclopedia.(Vol.2, pp. 521-525).

Cecero, J. & Fried, A. (2005). Parental rejection and religiosity: Differential predictors of mood and substance abuse. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 16, 185-206.

Cecero, J. (2004). Psychoanalysis in adults: Theory and technique. In Applied Developmental Science Encyclopedia (Vol. 2, pp. 885-887).

Cecero, J. (2004). Religiosity and mental health. In Applied Developmental Science Encyclopedia (Vol. 2, pp. 917-918).

Cecero, J., Marmon, T., Beitel, M., Hutz., A., & Jones, C. (2004). Images of mother, self, and God as predictors of dysphoria in non-clinical samples. Personality and Individual Differences, 36 (7), 1669-1680.

Cecero, J., Nelson, J., & Gillie, J. (2004). Tools and tenets of Schema Therapy: Toward the construct validity of the Early Maladaptive Schema Questionnaire-Research Version. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 11 (5), 344-357.

Cecero, J. (October, 2002). Praying Through Our Lifetraps: A Psycho-Spiritual Approach to Freedom , Totowa , N.J. : Catholic Book Publishing/Resurrection Press.

Cecero, J., Fenton, L., Nich, C., Frankforter, T., & Carroll, K. (2001). Focus on therapeutic alliance: The psychometric properties of six measures across three treatments. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice and Training, 38(1), 1-11.

Cecero, J., Hensl, K., & Russo, P. (2001) Nonspecific factors in the treatment of alcohol abuse and unsafe sex. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.ED 457 491).

Cecero, J. & Young, J. (2001). Case of Silvia: A Schema-Focused Treatment Approach. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 11(2 ), 217-229.

Cecero, J. & Carroll, K. (2000, January). Using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to reduce cocaine cravings [Letter to the editor]. American Journal of Psychiatry 157:1, 150-151.

Cecero, J., Ball, S., Tannen, H., Kranzler, H., & Rounsaville, B.(1999). Concurrent and predictive validity of subtyping antisocial personality disorder among substance abusers. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 187, 478-486.

Cecero, J & Holmstrom, R. (1997). Alexithymia and affect pathology among adult male alcoholics. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53 (3), 201-208.

Cecero, J. & Karp, S. (1997). Word Association Profiles of Alcoholics. Journal of Personality Assessment, 69 (1), 199-204.

Cecero, J. & Karp, S. (1996). Denial and self-denigration in the Draw-A-Person profiles of alcoholics. Current Psychology, 15 (3), 254-257.

Ball , S.A. & Cecero, J.J. (2001). Addicted patients with personality disorders: Traits, schemas, and presenting problems. Journal of Personality Disorders, 15(1), 72-83.

Beitel, M., Blauvelt, KS., Barry, D.T., & Cecero, J. (2006). The structure of psychological mindedness [abstract]. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 53, 1301-1305.

Beitel, M. & Cecero, J. (2003). Predicting psychological mindedness from personality style and attachment security. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59 , 163-172.

Beitel, M., Ferrer, E., & Cecero, J. (2005). Psychological mindedness and awareness of self and others. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 6(6), 739-750.

Beitel, M., Ferrer, E. & Cecero, J. (2004). Psychological mindedness and cognitive style. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60, 567-582.

Beitel, M., Hutz, Hopper, K., Gunn, C, & Cecero, J., & Barry, D. (2009). Do psychologically-minded clients expect more from counseling? Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 82, 4, 369-383.

Bornstein, R.F. & Cecero, J.J. (2000). Deconstructing dependency in a five-factor world: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Personality Assessment, 74 (2), 324-343.

Fenton, L., Cecero, J., Nich, C., Frankforter, T., & Carroll, K. (2001). Perspective is everything: The predictive validity of six working alliance instruments. Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 10 (4), 262-268.

Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. & Cecero, J. (2003). The social nature of saintliness and moral action: A view of William James’s Varieties in relation to St.Ignatius and Lawrence Kohlberg. Journal of Moral Education, 32(4), 357-371.

Hogue, A., Dauber, S., Faw,L., Cecero, J., & Liddle, H. (2006). Early therapeutic alliance and treatment outcome in individual and family therapy for adolescent behavior problems. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 74 (1), 121-129.

Loftus, S., Cecero, J., Gomes, C., Malhotra, A., Jaeger, J.  (2004). Temperament and character traits in Bipolar Disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 55, 136S.

Racine, C. & Cecero, J. (2005). Religious coping moderates the relationship between early maladaptive schema origins and negative trait affect. Research in the Scientific Study of Religion, 15, 97-115.

Russo, P., Cecero, J, & Bornstein,R. (2001). Implicit and self-attributed dependency in homeless men and women. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 10, (3), 269-277.

Thoma, N. & Cecero, J. (2009). Is integrative use of techniques in psychotherapy the exception or the rule? Results of a national survey of doctoral-level practitioners. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 46 (4), 405-417.

VanDyke, C., Glenwick, D., Cecero, J., & Kim, S. (2009). The relationships of perceived stress,general coping, and religious coping to psychological distress and adjustment in urban high-school students. Mental Health, Religion, & Culture. 12, 4, 369-383.