Counselors discuss spit as anxiety marker

Priscilla D. Tasker

Spit was the main topic of discussion at a luncheon hosted by Counseling and Human Development Services at White Hall yesterday.

Richard J. Hazler, professor-in-charge of counselor education at Pennsylvania State University, and his research associate Jolynn V. Carney, associate professor of counselor education at Penn, have been studying bully anxiety in sixth grade students through “spit studies.”

“It’s always interesting to hear what other faculty are doing in their research,” said Caroline Perjessy, Ph.D. student in counselor education and supervision.

“There are so many hormones and biological markers in spit,” Carney said. “What we are looking for is what happens physiologically when a person is stressed,” she said.

The researchers measure the level of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress response, in the children’s saliva twice a day, once in the morning and just before lunch, Hazler said. Lunch time is generally when students are subject to bullies – this is the time when anxiety is heightened, he said.

The purpose of the research is to understand the level of anxiety among the triad of individuals involved in the bullying experience – the bully, the victim and the by-stander – before the experience happens, Carney said.

“The more someone was exposed to bullying events – that had a significant impact on perceived trauma that was reported and anxiety reported,” Hazler said.

This is an important point, particularly for education counselors, he said. Most of what counselors research is how to take care of something, but they need to try to figure out what’s going on with the person, Hazler said.

Hazler and Carney also discussed the role of counselors in relation to their clients and debated the role wellness plays in the profession.

About 10 students and faculty attended the luncheon, which served as a meet-and-greet before the department’s international honor society, Chi Sigma Iota, induction ceremony last night at which Hazler was the keynote speaker.

Contact health trends reporter Priscilla D. Tasker at [email protected].