Richard Beck, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

Dr. Beck's curriculum vitae (pdf)

Chair of the Department of Psychology

Current Position:

Associate Professor of Psychology, Abilene Christian University (‘98-present)

Past Positions:

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Lipscomb University (‘97-‘98)

Educational Background:

Ph.D., Experimental Psychology.  Southern Methodist University (1997).

M.S., Clinical Psychology. Abilene Christian University (1992).

B.S., Christian Ministry. Abilene Christian University (1989).

Research Publications:

Beck, R., & Fernandez, E. (1998). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of anger: A Meta-analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 63-74.

Beck, R., & Fernandez, E. (1998). Cognitive-behavioral self-regulation of anger. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 20, 217-229.

Beck, R. & Miller, C.D. (2000).  Religiosity, agency and communion and their relationship to religious judgmentalism. Journal of Psychology, 134, 315-324. 

Beck, R. & Miller, J.P. (2001). The erosion of belief and disbelief: The relationship of belief in the supernatural with belief in the paranormal. Journal of Social Psychology, 141, 277-287.

Beck, R., Baker, L., Robbins, M., & Dow, S. (2001) A second look at Quest Motivation: Is Quest multidimensional or unidimensional?Journal of Psychology and Theology, 29, 148-157.

Beck, R. & Perkins, T.S. (2001). Cognitive content-specificity for anxiety and depression: A meta-analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 651-663.

Beck, R., Perkins, T.S., Holder, R., Robbins, M., Gray, M., & Allison, S. (2001). The cognitive and emotional phenomenology of depression and anxiety: Are worry and hopelessness the cognitive correlates of NA and PA?Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 829-838.

Frenandez, E. & Beck, R. (2001). Cognitive-behavioral self-intervention versus self-monitoring of anger: Effects on anger frequency, duration, and intensity. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 29, 345-356.

Beck, R., Robbins, M., Taylor, C., & Baker, L. (2001) An examination of sociotropy and excessive reassurance seeking in the prediction of depression. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 23, 101-105.

Beck, R., Taylor, C., & Robbins, M. (2003) Missing home: Sociotropy and autonomy and their relationship to depression and homesickness in college freshmen.  Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 16, 155-166.

Beck, R., Benedict, B., & Winkler, A. (2003). Depression and Anxiety: Integrating the Tripartite and Cognitive content-specificity assessment models. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 25, 251-257

Beck, R. & McDonald, A. (2004). Attachment to God: The Attachment to God Inventory, tests of working model correspondence, and an exploration of faith group differences. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32, 92-103.

Beck, R. & Jessup, R. (2004). The multidimensional nature of Quest motivation. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32, 283-294. 

Beck, R. (2004). The function of religious belief: Defensive versus existential religion. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 23, 208-218.

Morris, J.M., Beck, R., & Smith, A.B. (2004). Examining student/institution fit at a Christian university: The role of spiritual integration. Journal of Education and Christian Belief, 8, 87-100. 

McDonald, A., Beck, R., Allison, S., & Norsworthy, L. (2005). Attachment to God and Parents: Testing the Correspondence vs. Compensation Hypothesis.Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 24, 21-28.

Beck, R. (2006). God as a Secure Base: Attachment to God and theological exploration. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 125-132.

Beck, R. (2006). Communion and Complaint: Attachment, object-relations, and triangular love perspectives on relationship with God. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 43-52.

Beck, R. (2006). Spiritual Pollution: The dilemma of sociomoral disgust and the ethic of love. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 43, 53-65.

Beck, R. (2006). Defensive versus Existential Religion: Is religious defensiveness predictive of worldview defense? Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 142-151.

Morris, J. M., Beck, R., & Mattis, C. (In press). Examining worldview fit and First-Year retention at a private religiously-affiliated institution. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students In Transition. 

Popular Articles:

Beck, R. (2001). Psychological musings about the Churches of Christ. Wineskins, 5(3), 9-12.

Beck, R. (2001). Toxic religion. New Wineskins, Nov./Dec., 42-45.

Beck. R. (2002). Summer and Winter Christians. New Wineskins, March/April, 20-22.

Autobiographical sketch:

I was born in Searcy, Arkansas in 1967. My parents, Richard and Paula, were married students living in the married dorms at Harding University. They were seniors and graduated a few weeks after I was born. We moved first to State College, Pennsylvania (my parents home state) so my dad could pursue a Master’s degree at Penn State. My first memories are of the trailer we lived in. However, my dad began to feel pressure to support his new family. Consequently, he eventually stopped his graduate training and took a job teaching high school in Erie, PA. I remember, years later, discovering in a closet all my dad’s books from college and graduate school. I remember flipping through the pages, noting the places he had underlined. I wondered what he was like as a young man and as a student (he got straight As) and I thought, and still think, of the graduate degree he never received because he wanted to provide for me. I, in my heart, dedicate my graduate degrees to him.

I think the first seeds of wanting to be a teacher were sown in me one day during a kindergarten class. This is my most vivid early childhood memory. I had worked quickly through a worksheet (something about counting bunnies) to the delight of my teacher. She put a sticker on my shirt and declared me “teacher’s helper” for the lesson. And I recall walking amongst my peers offering advice on counting the bunnies.

I lost a lot of that passion for learning during high school. But something changed me during my freshman year of college. I was taking a philosophy class from Dr. Bill Bowen. Intrigued by the class topic I wandered over to the library and checked out The Death of Socrates by Plato. I went to my dorm room and read Socrates’ apology for being a philosopher and was transfixed and overwhelmed. It was, in its effect upon me, a religious experience. From that day I began reading voraciously, a habit that continues to this day.

But my dedication to the life of the mind still needed a practical outlet. I bounced between majors in philosophy and theology, but eventually settled on psychology for my graduate work. Before beginning my graduate training I married Jana, a Dallas native and theater major. We were married on August 10, 1991. 

During my graduate training at Abilene Christian University and Southern Methodist University I became hooked on the experimental side of my discipline. I still remember when it dawned on me that I could spend my life getting paid for wondering about and studying what made people tick. What a wonderful life. A vocation devoted toward satisfying your curiosity on a daily basis. I’m still passionate about my research. Most of my published work to date is in the area of emotional disorders (anger, anxiety, and depressive disorders) and the psychology of religion (the causes, correlates, and consequences of religious faith).

After graduating in 1997 with my Ph.D. from SMU, I taught one year at Lipscomb University in Nashville. It was a wonderful year, mainly due to the birth of our first son Brenden Shea. However, after that year, in 1998, a job became available at ACU, my alma mater, and I jumped at the chance. ACU has been my home since. In 2000, our second son, Aidan Christopher, joined the family. In 2003 I was promoted to Associate Professor, and in the summer of 2005 I assumed the Chair of the Psychology Department. 

Statement of Purpose (Why am I teaching?):

What I want to say is hard to put into words. I teach because I am powerfully affected when I am present at the moment of “comprehension.” Socrates characterized it as being a “midwife,” the joy of facilitating the “birth” of an insight or idea. Reading over those last two sentences makes it seem very abstract and borderline pretentious. But it gets at my feelings when I get up in the morning and head for work. It captures what I love about my job, why I am so passionate about what I do. My guess is that all teachers know how this feels: A moment, a particular group of students, a topic, and a teacher all mix on certain amazing and unforgettable days: Everyone is talking, everyone is excited about the ideas, and, you know, in your heart, that those students just won’t be the same by the end of the class. They came with one view of themselves and their place in the world, and they leave 50 minutes later completely reoriented. Different. Changed. Better. Deeper. Who wouldn’t love to be a part of this process?

But I won’t exaggerate. Those days are rare and unpredictable. They cannot be canned or prompted by PowerPoint. You—heart and mind—just have to be ready. Waiting for the “teachable moment,” trying to catch the wave, or read the pulse of those souls sitting in front of you. How can I reach them? Connect with them? Will the magic happen today? But that is one of teaching’s allures, the sheer unpredictability of it all.

Here is an example from this week. From a statistics class. Students are trickling in to class and I’m thinking about how to start a lecture on Analysis of Variance. And Kristen asks me, “How do you know when you really want to marry someone?” I look at her and see she is serious. She continues, “How did you know you wanted to marry Jana (my wife)?” Well, I have a few options at this point. I could offer a quick platitude and get on with my Analysis of Variance lecture. Or, I could ride this wave. So, I try to answer. And magic happens. For about 30 minutes we talk about love, risk, fidelity, fear, and commitment. I hear stories from them of family, pain, loss, and also, from a recently engaged student, joy. And, because of what I do, I get to be there, in that room. I get to listen and offer advice and share experiences. And I never forget to teach: I talk about what psychological science might have to say about it all. In the end, they are changed and so am I. 

This all sounds so sentimental and maudlin. It isn’t. It is very natural, human, and spontaneous. It happens everyday in a lot of places. But, luckily for me, it happens frequently in college classrooms.

I did, eventually, get around to the Analysis of Variance. And I felt I did a decent job explaining the technique. But that first part of class was one of those moments that makes me passionate about being a teacher. For a moment, a particular group of students, a topic, and a teacher converged to create something very memorable and very special. Perhaps even life changing. That, as best as I can express it, is why I teach.

  • Explore Majors
    Explore Majors

    ACU's mission is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

    View all majors

  • Visit Campus
    Visit Campus

    Satisfy your curiosity about what it means to live and learn at ACU!

    Schedule a visit

  • Apply to ACU
    Apply to ACU

    Apply Online

    Learn more about our application and admissions process.