Studies in Positive Psychology
The aim of the project is to develop and implement the PhD program “Studies in Positive Psychology”. The PhD program has two research directions, each of corresponding to separate units: (a) positive psychology in personality studies and (b) positive psychology in counseling. The tentative research topics are as follows: (a) emotion related personality dispositions – emotional intelligence, empathy; creativity, psychological well-being, generativity, moral judgment, self and identity, narrative identity, individual differences in personal narratives and repeated narration, HEXACO model of personality; (b) Stress, stigma, and coping strategies; posttraumatic growth and rumination; ambiguous loss, aversive personality characteristics – dark triad and its correlates; cognitive errors, alternative model for personality disorders, narrative construction in therapeutic context, narratives in the context of subjective well-being and mental health. The program is built upon methodological pluralism, and combines quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods for data gathering, analyzing and interpretation. The first year of the project will be spent on the program development and obtaining accreditation from the National center of quality enhancement of Georgia (NCEQE). Three years are set to enroll the first generation of postgraduate students, to teach mandatory and elective courses to PhD students, to design and implement PhD research projects in the positive psychology field, to provide advanced knowledge in research methods and academic writing to doctorates and academic staff involved in the project. International experts are supposed to be enrolled on each stage of the project, starting from preparations and consultation to visits to Georgia for work meetings, talks, workshops for students, and intensive courses.
Existing doctoral programs in psychology do not meet the demands of potential PhD program applicants. The necessity of the presented PhD program is determined by two factors: a few number of current PhD programs and underrepresentation of current tendencies, specifically, the positive psychology research paradigm.
Positive psychology is a new branch in psychology, which was launched in 1999. It completely alters the view of personality, its functioning and approaches to psychological counseling/therapy, and shifts the focus from pathology towards personality growth, mental health, and adaptive functioning. Studies in positive psychology aims at revealing all those personal, social, cultural factors that determine and/or influence individuals’ psychological and emotional well-being.
The primary goal of the PhD program is to generate new scientific knowledge in positive psychology. It is based on scientist-practitioner model. It means that the aim of the program is the preparation of researcher-practitioners, who are able to lead research, academic and practical work in Academia and/or in other fields (e.g. educational and healthcare systems).
The objectives of the program involve teaching (learning & teaching) and research components:
Learning — obtaining, understanding and critically evaluating the new knowledge in psychology this is based on recent empirical research achievements.
Teaching — developing teaching skills necessary to teach at all three levels of university education.
Research — generating new empirical knowledge, conducting scientific-research work, planning, designing and implementing research projects.
Expected Outcomes of the PhD Program
The expected outcome of the project is the preparation of the qualified researcher-practitioner, who meets the criteria of international scientific qualification and is capable to plan and implement scientific-research work independently, to develop course curricula, and lead the teaching process at all three levels of university education.
Besides, the PhD program, which will be developed in the frame of the project, will be in operation during five years  after obtaining program accreditation (until renewal of the accreditation). This will make possible to prepare well-qualified research staff and continue research work by means of those human and material resources that will be produced in the project.
The presented project will the first precedent of structured and organized scientific work in positive psychology in Georgian academia, which will have the potential to attract researchers interested in this field of studies, and to develop to the positive psychology research center in Caucasus region. The conferences and academic visits planned in frame of the project will give opportunity to be involved in the international scientific world and to investigate, implement and study this relatively new direction of psychology in Georgia too. This will be the main asset of the project.
Program supervisor, young scientists and experts are experienced scholars in both, research and teaching fields and their expertise fully corresponds to the PhD program requirements. Here is the brief overview of professional carrier for each member:
Program supervisor – Maia Mestvirishvili, PhD
Maia Mestvirishvili is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Tbilisi State University. Her major research interests are social identity, stigma and coping, moral judgment and religious attitudes. She has received international scholarships at Columbia University, UC Berkeley, University of Leuven, University of Fribourg and City University of NY (CUNY). Maia Mestvirishvili is the Principle Investigator of research projects funded by the Academic Swiss Caucasus Network (ASCN) “Dispositional And Attitudinal Predictors Of Citizenship Style In Georgia” and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) “ Homophobia in Georgia: Can It Be Predicted? '' She is an author of three interdisciplinary courses: ‘Stigma and Health’; ‘Self and Identity’ And ‘Visual Methods In Social Sciences’. She is an author of more than ten scientific publications and conference papers.
Young scientists (1) – Lili Khechuashvili, PhD
Lili Khechuashvili – is an Associate Professor at the Psychology Department, Faculty of psychology and educational Sciences, TSU. In 2008-2015 she received research and academic scholarships at the University of Iowa (USA), Tartu University (Estonia), Central European University (Hungary), and Western Washington University (USA, two different scholarships). She holds a research scholarship from the International Higher Education Support Program of the Open Society Foundations (“Posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being reflected in life story narratives”) and Fulbright research grant (“Master narrative: Culture distributed in life story narratives”). In 2010-2012 she was the author and head of undergraduate program in psychology at the University of Georgia. From 2011 to present she is program accreditation expert at the National Center for Education Quality Enhancement. She is the author of four mandatory and selective courses: Basics in “Applied Statistics with SPSS”, “Study of lives and narrative analysis”, “Studies in Psychobiography”, and “Personality Psychology”. She is the author/co-author of more than ten scientific papers, two text-books and various international conference presentations.
Young scientists (2) – Khatuna Martskvishvili, PhD
Khatuna Martskvishvili – is an Associate Professor at the Psychology Department, Faculty of psychology and educational Sciences, TSU. In 2008-2015 she received research and academic scholarships at the University College of London (Great Britain), Universities of Leuven (Belgium). Towson University (USA) and University of Graz. She holds a research scholarship from the Heinrich Boell Foundation (“The relationship of emotional intelligence with trauma coping) and Shota Rustaveli National Foundation research grant for young scientists (“The role of intelligence, emotion-related personality aspects and selfactualization in creativity”) (because of that grant she doesn’t get a salary in this project). In 2010 -2016 she was co-supervisor of bachelor program in psychology and co-supervisor and coordinator of master program – psychological assessment/diagnostic and counseling. She is author/co-author of more than ten scientific articles, one textbook and more than twenty-five international conference presentations.
Consultant (1) – Prof. Dr. Aljoscha Neubauer
Aljoscha C. Neubauer studied psychology and sociology at the University Of Graz, Austria. Since 1998 he is professor of Differential Psychology at the department of psychology of the University of Graz where he was also head of the department and vice-dean for teaching affairs. He served as president of different scientific societies (International Society of Intelligence Research, ISIR), and International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID) and was/is co-editor or member of the editorial board of several international journals (e.g. Intelligence, Journal of Individual Differences, Personality and Individual Differences). Currently he is president of the Austrian Society of Psychology. The main focus of his research is on human aptitude and all its facets (intelligence, creativity, social and emotional competences, practical intelligence) and neurophysiological bases. Additional research topics are related to applied human resources psychology: Personnel selection and development as well as leadership research. He has more than 200 publications (>100 publications in peer reviewed journals, more than 30 book chapters, several books including two written in collaboration with Elsbeth Stern and several psychological tests).
Consultant (2) – Prof. Dr. Kate McLean
Kate C. McLean, Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University, was trained in Developmental and Personality Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz (Ph.D., 2004). Her research focuses on adolescent and emerging adult identity development. She is on the executive committee of the Association for Research in Personality, and the governing council for the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal Personality and Social Psychology: PPID. She teaches courses in Developmental and Personality Psychology, as well as research methods. Her research focuses on how people recall and interpret their life experiences in narrative form. In her research she tries to better understand how each person’s identity is at the same time unique to his or her own life story, as well as born out of a social context that merits consideration in understanding the whole person as he or she begins to consolidate a sense of identity and purpose in the world. She is the author of more than 100 publications, up to 10 book chapters, 2 textbooks, and co-editor of 2 books.