Dr. Megan A. Thoen
Title: Research Assistant Professor
Education: Ph.D., Texas Tech University (Counseling Psychology), 2013;Postdoctoral Study, Texas Tech University – Institute for Forensic Science (focus on forensic assessment), 2014-2015
Research Areas: Disenfranchised groups (e.g., minority races and cultures, severely mentally ill) and their treatment within the criminal justice system (including case proceedings and case outcomes), the management and care for the incarcerated mentally ill (particularly pre-trial incarceration), and the mental health and wellness of law enforcement members (e.g., police officers, correctional officers).
Office: Institute for Forensic Science, Room 134
November 25, 2017: Two posters from the lab were accepted for presentation at the upcoming American Psychology-Law Society Conference in Memphis, TN-- "Forensic Evaluations Via Telecommunication: Legal Perspectives of Advantages and Disadvantages" and "A Study of New Correctional Officers: Observations of Wellness and Job Satisfaction."
October 10, 2017: Ethan Dodson, Dr. Megan Thoen, Dr. Brandy Pina-Watson (TTU Dept. of Psychological Sciences), and Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo (TTU Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies) had their poster, "Mental Wellness and Suicide Prevention Programming Among United States Police Agencies," accepted for the upcoming American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference in Seattle, WA.
March 18, 2017: Dr. Thoen presented a poster entitled "Impact of Changing Shift Schedules on Officer Wellness and Job Satisfaction" at the 2017 Annual Conference of the American Psychology-Law Association in Seattle, WA. Co-authors on the poster included Andy Young, Ed.D. (Lubbock Christian University, Department of Behavioral Sciences), Ethan Dodson (graduate student, Forensic Sciences), Chaise Edwards (lab alumni), Bailea Coffel (undergrad, Psychological Sciences), Braden Anderson (lab alumni), Breanna Turner (graduate student, Forensic Sciences), Preston McCullough (undergrad, Psychological Sciences), and Tatiana Blanco-Alvarez (graduate student, Forensic Sciences).
February 16, 2017: Lab student Tatiana Maria Blanco-Alvarez recently had a paper accepted for publication in the Revista Costarricense de Psicología [Costa Rican Journal of Psychology], "Factores Asociados al Estrés Laboral en Policías Penitenciarios Costarricenses" [Related Factors to Work Stress among Costa Rican Correctional Officers], based on her thesis, with Dr. Thoen.
December 2016: Dr.Thoen was awarded a grant through the Texas Tech University 2017 Catalyst Scholarship Program to assist with her project entitled "Assisting Their Own: Assessing Suicide Prevention & Wellness Programs Utilized By Law Enforcement Agencies."
August 2016: Dr. Thoen and several members from her lab presented a poster entitled "Impact of Cultural, Criminogenic, and Psycholegal Characteristics on Indigent Defense" at the 2016 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association under Division 41 (American Psychology-Law Society) in Denver, CO. Pictured from left to right are Braden Anderson (undergrad, Psychological Sciences), Bailea Coffel (undergrad, Psychological Sciences), Chaise Edwards (undergrad, Psychological Sciences), Dr. Thoen, and Tatiana Blanco- Alvarez (graduate student, Forensic Science). Other poster authors not pictured: Kevan Galyean (staff, Institute for Forensic Science), Stephanie Van Horn (graduate student, Psychological Sciences), Breanna Turner (graduate student, Forensic Science), and Crystal Blair (graduate student, Interdisciplinary Studies).
Current Research Projects
Forensic Evaluations Via Telecommunication: Legal Perspectives of Advantages and Disadvantages: The use of telecommunication (aka telemedicine, telehealth, video conferencing) is growing in popularity given its cost-effectiveness and use to access more rural locations. One potential use of telecommunication is for the completion of forensic evaluations (i.e., competency to stand trial, insanity/criminal responsibility, or risk assessments). Little research exists regarding legal perspectives of how the completion of these assessments via telecommunication will be perceived by legal professionals (i.e., judges and attorneys); what potential legal challenges may arise if these evaluations were conducted in this manner? Judge and attorney perspectives of the potential advantages, disadvantages, and challenges to the use of telecommunication for forensic evaluations will be gathered. Collaborators include Dr. Ashley Bastastini and her student, Ms. Madison Pike, of the University of Southern Mississippi, who are collecting similar data but on forensic psychologist perspectives. Data collection began in January 2018.
Assisting Their Own: Assessing Suicide Prevention & Wellness Programs Utilized By Law Enforcement Agencies: The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing identified "Officer Wellness and Safety" as one of six pillars for best practices promoting crime reduction and improving public trust. Recommendations included improving attention to all aspects of officer wellness, including mental health and resiliency. Limited research exists documenting details of the utilization of officer suicide prevention or other wellness programs, and/or the impact these programs have on officer wellness. Often programs are only utilized retroactively (e.g., response to an officer-involved shooting), despite preventative programs are shown to be more impactful regarding resilience and wellness. This study, with co-investigator Dr. Brandy Piña-Watson (TTU Department of Psychological Sciences) has two aims: 1) Identify and describe the suicide prevention and wellness programs utilized by law enforcement agencies, and 2) Determine if there are wellness differences for officers in agencies utilizing suicide prevention and wellness programs and those that do not. Officer perspectives regarding the need for suicide prevention and mental wellness programs will also be examined. Data collection began in January 2017 and was completed in December 2017.
Impact of Changing Shift Schedules on Officer Wellness and Job Satisfaction: Along with co-investigator Dr. Andy Young of Lubbock Christian University, we have partnered with the Lubbock Police Department to study the impact of newly-implemented shift schedules. The most beneficial shift-length for police officers in terms of job effectiveness, satisfaction, and well-being, is still debated. This project will provide insight into the impact schedules have on these concepts. Surveys are provided to officers every few months, and results of this study will be useful for officer recruitment, retention, and other aspects of agency operations. This project manuscript is in preparation.
A Study of New Correctional Officers: Observations of Wellness and Job Satisfaction: It is well-known that correctional institutions experience a high rate of officer turnover. This project (in partnership with the Lubbock County Detention Center) will help provide further possible explanation for the reasons for high turnover through the study of officer job satisfaction and well-being, including physical and psychological aspects, over the course of the training and beginning stages of being a new correctional officer. There are two main purposes to this study: 1) To track the well-being and job satisfaction of new correctional officers from their initial training through 2 years in their position, and 2) For those new officers who choose to leave their positions, to obtain more information about their reason for leaving, including their current levels of well-being and job satisfaction. Data collection began in August 2016 and should be completed in 2018.
Impact of Cultural, Criminogenic, and Psycholegal Characteristics on Indigent Defense: Data collection on a project with the Lubbock Private Defenders' Office was completed in July 2016 and the manuscript is in preparation. As little research of legal treatment within indigent defendants has been conducted, this project had three aims: 1) Identify the basic cultural (i.e., race, gender, age, homelessness status, diagnosis of mental illness), criminogenic (i.e., most recent offense, number of prior charges and convictions in the sampled county), and psycholegal characteristics (i.e., competency to stand trial and insanity status, agency caseload), 2) Identify differences in case proceedings (i.e., amount of initial bond offer, acceptance of a plea bargain, length of time to resolve the current legal case), and 3) Identify differences in case outcome (i.e., resolution type, sentence type, the length of sentence) of the sample. A file review was conducted to evaluate relationships between the described variables in a sample of indigent defendants charged from the years 2010 to 2014 and legally represented by an agency that assigns all counsel for indigent defendants for misdemeanor and non-capital felony offenses in a southwest U.S. county. Generally case proceedings and outcomes were equal regardless of cultural characteristics, supporting the notion of "equal treatment for all." The few exceptions included differential initial bond offer, length of case resolution, case dismissal, and jail and probation sentence length. This project manuscript is in preparation.
Blanco-Alvarez, T. M., & Thoen, M. A. (2017). Factores Asociados al Estrés Laboral en Policías Penitenciarios Costarricenses. [Related Factors to Work Stress among Costa Rican Correctional Officers.] Revista Costarricense de Psicología [Costa Rican Journal of Psychology], 36(1), 45-59.
Morgan, R. D., Mitchell, S. M., Thoen, M. A., Campion, K., Bolaños, A., Sustaíta, M. A., & Henderson, S. (2016). Specialty Courts: Who's In and Are They Working? Psychological Sciences, 13(3), 246-253. doi: 10.1037/ser0000085
Shigemoto, Y., Thoen, M. A., Robitschek, C., & Ashton, M. W. (2015). Assessing measurement invariance of the Personal Growth Initiative Scale-II among Hispanic/Latina/os, African Americans, and European Americans. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62, 537-544. doi: 10.1037/cou0000075
Thoen, M. A., & Robitschek, C. (2013). Intentional Growth Training: Developing an intervention to increase Personal Growth Initiative. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 5, 149–170. doi:10.1111/aphw.12001
Robitschek, C., Ashton, M. W., Spering, C. C., Geiger, N., Byers, D., Shotts, G. C., & Thoen, M. A. (2012). Development and Psychometric Evaluation of the Personal Growth Initiative Scale – II. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59, 274-287. doi: 10.1037/a0027310
Robitschek, C. & Thoen, M. A. (2015). Personal growth initiative in colleges and universities. In J. D. Wade, L. I. Marks, & R. D. Hetzel (Eds.), Positive Psychology on the College Campus, Oxford University Press: New York, NY. Invited book chapter.
Thoen, M. A., Dodson, L. E., Piña-Watson, B., Trejos-Castillo, E., McCullough, P., & Escalera, E. (2018, August). Assisting Their Own: Police Utilized Suicide Prevention & Wellness Programs. Poster submitted for presentation at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA.
Thoen, M. A., Escalera, E., Batastini, A. B., & Pike, M. (2018, March). Forensic Evaluations Via Telecommunication: Legal Perspectives of Advantages and Disadvantages. Poster to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, Memphis, TN.
Thoen, M. A., Blanco-Alvarez, T., McCullough, P., Dodson, L. E., & Escalera, E. (2018, March). A Study of New Correctional Officers: Observations of Wellness and Job Satisfaction. Poster to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, Memphis, TN.
Dodson, L. E., Thoen, M. A., Piña-Watson, B., & Trejos-Castillo, E. (2018, February). Mental Wellness and Suicide Prevention Programming among United States Police Agencies. Poster to be presented at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences 70th Annual Scientific Meeting, Seattle, WA.
Kemboi, S. K., Prada, P. A., & Thoen, M. A. (2017, September). Hand Odor Volatiles and Drug Abuse: A Pilot Study using a Chemical Dependent Target Group. Poster presented at the 6th International Conference on Forensic Research & Technology, Houston, TX.
Thoen, M. A., Young, A. T., Dodson, L. E., Edwards, C., Coffel, B. A., Anderson, B. E., Turner, B. L., McCullough, P. E., & Blanco-Alvarez, T. M. (2017, March). Impact of Changing Shift Schedules on Officer Wellness and Job Satisfaction. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, Seattle, WA.
Thoen, M. A., Galyean, K. D., Van Horn, S. A., Blanco-Alvarez, T. M., Edwards, C., Coffel, B. A., Anderson, B. E., Turner, B. L., & Blair, C. (2016). Impact of cultural, criminogenic, and psycholegal characteristics on indigent defense. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Denver, CO.
Morgan, R., Mitchell, S., Thoen, M., Sustaita, M., Bolanos, A., & Campion, K. (2015, June). Specialty courts: Who's in and are they working?Paper presented at the 2015 North American Correctional and Criminal Justice Psychology Conference, Ottawa, Canada.
Morgan, R., Mitchell, S., Thoen, M., Sustaita, M., Bolanos, A., & Campion, K. (2015, March). Specialty courts: Who's in and are they working? In R. Morgan, Chair, Working to improve correctional practice: Assessing risk, community intervention, and understanding desistance. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Psychology-Law Society, San Diego, CA.