Psychologists have already conducted a great variety of studies to reveal the mystery of the human mind and behavior. Yet, the scope of unexplored questions still seems to be broad. The author of this paper aims at obtaining a doctorate degree in psychology and make a contribution to this research field. Therefore, the objective of the paper is to identify three potential topic areas, from which the author will select the research question worthy of exploring and based not only on the researcher’s interest. In the end, key search terms, as well as potential resources and search engines, will be identified.
Socioeconomic Status and Access to Therapy
The first general potential topic is the link between socioeconomic status and being able to access therapy. It is clear that the need for handling emotional difficulties and mental disorders is not confined to a particular social class. Therefore, it is important to explore the extent to which different social groups are provided with the ability to get access to psychotherapy.
The author of this paper is seeking to identify the underexplored segments of the population or possible ways of making therapy more available for those in need.
The search through research databases showed that there are not many recent studies focused on the relationship between socioeconomic status and access to therapy. Generally, it has been found that low-income individuals are less prone to seeking therapy and more often quit it before it is accomplished (Delgadillo, 2018).
At the same time, these people are in a higher need for psychological help than their well-off counterparts (Epping, Muschik, & Geyer, 2017). It happens because the risk of mental disorders rises gradually with a decrease in the income, occupational position, and education (Epping et al., 2017). Thus, different studies reveal the increased need for access to therapy in the poverty-stricken segment of the population.
It may be assumed that low earnings are the major circumstance making therapy unavailable for people. However, Epping et al. (2017) managed to find out that income was not the only factor that defined the availability of therapy to various social classes. They conducted a study in Germany, where individuals have access to mental health services regardless of their economic situation (Epping et al., 2017).
Results showed that qualification, meaning the highest degree of education obtained, was the most significant factor that determined individuals’ access to psychotherapy (Epping et al., 2017). People with lower qualifications avoided seeking therapy due to a lack of knowledge about mental health, a lack of verbal skills, and higher levels of stigma (Epping et al., 2017). Hence, the evidence indicates perceived obstacles to access to psychotherapy among people in a higher need for treatment.
The link between socioeconomic status and access to therapy is worthy of further research because it could provide scholars with strategies that would make psychotherapy more available for people of lower social classes. Potential research questions in this topic area could be concerned with how educating people of lower socioeconomic status about mental health would influence their intentions as to psychotherapy. Testing therapies that do not require advanced verbal skills of patients would also make a valuable contribution to this research field.
Influence of Socioeconomic Status and Culture on Human Expression
The second potential topic is the influence of socioeconomic status and culture on human expression. Since individuals do not live in isolation, they are constantly affected by their environment. Norms established in a particular culture and individuals’ positions in society are likely to influence people’s behaviors and other ways of self-expression. The research into this impact could help psychologists to gain deeper insight into the origins of human behavior and peculiarities of interaction among individuals.
This topic does not seem to have been paid much attention recently. It has been found that socioeconomic status influences people’s thinking and emotional experiences, as well as the way they interact with each other (Manstead, 2018). For example, individuals with lower socioeconomic status feel that they have less personal control over their lives and, therefore, tend to attribute various social events to external circumstances (Manstead, 2018).
Social classes are closely related to culture since it serves as a means of expression of people’s socioeconomic status (Becker, Kraus, & Rheinschmidt-Same, 2017). Individuals’ positions in society influence their eating habits, music preferences, and the choice of schools and leisure activities (Becker et al., 2017). However, although culture and socioeconomic status affect human expression, the responsibility of choosing one’s behavior rests with an individual (Becker et al., 2017). These findings may be used in psychotherapy to help patients handle their emotional difficulties and prejudice.
The influence of socioeconomic status and culture on human expression is less worthy of doctoral-level study in psychology because this topic has more potential implications in sociology. Yet, it could be useful to explore whether therapy was able to improve an individual’s mental well-being by addressing attitudes and prejudice inherited from a social class. However, the observed literature does not identify the need for such research.
Impact of Religion on Mental Well-being
The third topic that could potentially be explored is how religion influences the mental well-being of individuals. Although religions have lost part of their impact on people, especially in the Western world, they still have a large number of adherents of different degrees of religiousness. Therefore, psychologists may be interested in identifying the positive effects of maintaining various religious practices and their potential practical implications for psychotherapy.
The review of research databases demonstrated a high interest of scholars in the relationship between religion and psychology. It has been discovered that religion and spirituality improve human well-being to some extent (Cappellen, Toth-Gauthier, Saroglou, & Fredrickson, 2016). Studies that explored this question identified two sources of the positive impact of religiousness: the social resource and the cognitive resource (Cappellen et al., 2016).
Social resources include the possibility of identifying oneself with a group and receive support from it (Cappellen et al., 2016). Cognitive resources mean the sense of belonging to a group and the feeling of meaning in life (Cappellen et al., 2016). Cappellen et al. (2016) also identified the third resource that helps religion to improve well-being.
This resource is positive emotions, such as awe, peace, and gratitude, which people experience in church or during meditation (Cappellen et al., 2016). Although positive emotions have proved to be related to higher well-being, researchers doubt the causal relations between them (Cappellen et al., 2016). Thus, there is still a need for identifying the nature of relationships between positive feelings and religiousness.
The impact of religion on mental well-being is worthy of study because there are still unresolved questions about how exactly religiousness improves the psychological state. Although the positive influence of religion is small, the fact that it has been invariably proved by many scholars suggests that this effect should not be neglected. Furthermore, there is still work to be done to figure out how the mechanisms that allow religion to affect well-being can be applied in non-religious settings.
Identifying Search Terms and Resources
In order to perform the search through databases, several search terms have been identified for each of the three topics. The keywords for the first topic included “socioeconomic status,” “access to psychotherapy,” “socioeconomic inequalities,” “access inequality,” and “access to mental health therapy.” The search terms for the second topic were as follows: “socioeconomic status,” “culture,” “human expression,” “influence,” “socioeconomic influence,” and “cultural influence.”
The third topic was explored by means of keywords “religion,” “mental well-being,” “influence,” and “influence of religion on well-being.” Additionally, advanced search operators, such as AND and double quotes, were used. The publication date range was set to 2016-2020 to find the most recent literature.
Resources that could be used for obtaining scholarly sources include such collections of research resources as Wiley Online Library and SAGE Journals. They contain a great variety of academic journals, including those dedicated to psychology. The use of such search engines as Google Scholar, Google Books, and WorldWideScience, as well as databases available on the APA website, would also be essential while searching for the necessary literature.
To sum up, the author of the paper has identified three general topics that could be used to define the research question for a dissertation. They are the link between socioeconomic status and being able to access therapy, the impact of socioeconomic status and culture on human expression, and the effect of religion on mental well-being. Each of the topics was discussed, and two of them, the first and the third, appeared to be worthy of further research. Apart from that, key search terms were identified, and research resources that could be used for the literature search were mentioned.
Becker, J. C., Kraus, M. W., & Rheinschmidt-Same, M. (2017). Cultural expressions of social class and their implications for group-related beliefs and behaviors. Journal of Social Issues, 73(1), 158-174.
Cappellen, P. V., Toth-Gauthier, M., Saroglou, V., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Religion and well-being: The mediating role of positive emotions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(2), 485-505.
Delgadillo, J. (2018). Worlds apart: Social inequalities and psychological care. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 18(2), 111-113.
Epping, J., Muschik, D. & Geyer, S. (2017). Social inequalities in the utilization of outpatient psychotherapy: analyses of registry data from German statutory health insurance. International Journal for Equity in Health, 16(1), 1-8.
Manstead, A. (2018). The psychology of social class: How socioeconomic status impacts thought, feelings, and behaviour. The British Journal of Social Psychology, 57(2), 267-291.