Mind-Body Medicine


Saybrook University Graduates First PhD in Mind-Body Medicine: Beth Haggett

Beth Haggett and Daughter Michaela
Beth Haggett and Daughter Michaela

Over 30 years ago, as a 19 year old girl, Beth Haggett told her husband that someday she wanted to earn a PhD in Psychoneuroimmunology. When she first heard that Saybrook University was developing a PhD program in Mind-Body Medicine, she jumped at the opportunity and  became the first to apply for the new program.

On December 28, 2012, Beth defended her doctoral dissertation, and became the first student to complete the new PhD. Her degree is a “PhD in Mind-Body Medicine with a specialization in Health Care Systems.”  She achieved her goal within the time frame that she set for herself of three and one half years. Most importantly, because of her mind-body learning, and the self-care that was a component in her mind-body medicine education, her own mental, emotional, and physical health have improved dramatically in the course of her education. Beth’s husband and adult children have also benefitted greatly from applying mind-body skills to their lives.

Beth Haggett is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the state of Utah, specializing in work with individuals, adolescents, and couples, using a variety of methodologies. She also works as a corporate consultant. 

On the personal side, Beth has four grown children ages 30, 28, 25 & 22, a wonderful daughter and son-in law, three grandchildren, and a daughter pregnant with twins. She has been married for 33 years and reports that she is still very much in love with her husband.

Beth wanted to write a dissertation that would be meaningful to herself, and that would be consistent with her deepest values. Beth came from a childhood with significant family dysfunction and adverse experiences; she wanted to understand how her childhood impacted both her desire and her ability to be a good mother. She used “hermeneutic auto-phenomenology” to study the lived experience of motherhood from a first-person perspective, that is, to systematically study the depths of her own experience and her own strivings to transcend the dysfunction of her childhood.

In conducting a phenomenological study, Beth sought out top figures in the field of phenomenology. Beth completed a phenomenologically oriented pilot study, guided by Valerie Bentz, author of Mindful Inquiry in Social Research and Transformative PhenomenologyChanging Ourselves, Lifeworlds, and Professional Practice.  She then recruited a dissertation coach, Linda Finlay, author of Phenomenology for Psychotherapists and a specialist in reflexive phenomenology.  Her studies with Linda Finlay took her to a seminar in Normandy with Linda Finlay and British Gestalt therapists Ken and Joanna Evans.

Beth’s dissertation chair, Lisa Kelly, and a committee member, Donald Moss, both completed phenomenologically oriented dissertations, and have published phenomenological studies. Her final committee member, Connie Corley, is a specialist in qualitative research and narrative inquiry.

The study Beth completed was informative and transformational for her.  She prepared herself by extensive reading and study of phenomenology, hermeneutics, first-person methods, and research on motherhood, breaking cycles of abuse, attachment, and resilience. Among other things, her dissertation confirmed two personal theories: 1) there is a personal cost for a woman who breaks the chains of abuse or dysfunction, and 2) the experience of motherhood can be a pathway for developing resilience.

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