Date of Award

Spring 4-15-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Counseling Psychology


Professional Psychology and Family Therapy


Laura K. Palmer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brian P. Cole, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margaret Jones Farrelly, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Smith, Ed.D.


cannabis, marijuana, cannabis use disorder, psychology training, clinical judgment, bias


The incidence of cannabis use disorder is increasing across the United States as a function of increased cannabis use (Hasin et al., 2015); accordingly, it is critical that mental healthcare professionals be able to accurately identify cannabis use disorder. In light of this imperative, the current study explored potential barriers to diagnosing cannabis use disorder among doctoral psychology trainees. Participants (N = 123) were doctoral students in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and related disciplines. Utilizing a quasi-experimental analogue design, the study examined whether doctoral psychology trainees’ personal cannabis use predicted their perceptions of the risks of cannabis use and attitudes toward substance use. Additionally, the study explored whether doctoral psychology trainees’ personal cannabis use histories, perceptions of cannabis’ risks, and attitudes toward substance use would predict accurate diagnosis of cannabis use disorder. A series of t-tests revealed that trainees’ beliefs about the risks of cannabis use and attitudes toward substance use varied with history and recency of personal cannabis use. Additionally, partial correlation analyses revealed that doctoral psychology trainees’ perceptions of cannabis’ risks were negatively correlated with select attitudes toward substance use. Despite these findings, the study found that none of the attitudes explored significantly predicted diagnostic decisions among trainees. Additionally, contrary to study hypotheses, current cannabis use among doctoral psychology trainees increased the likelihood that trainees would accurately make a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder. Implications for graduate training, clinical practice, and public health are considered and recommendations for future research are provided.



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