What is thriving?
We all long to become fully alive as ourselves. Thriving involves adapting through the thick and thin of life, attending to our individual needs and strengths, as well as our connections with others and our sources of meaning and hope in order to continually find and pursue purpose. We shed new light on the importance of spirituality for thriving. Deeply informed by psychological science, wisdom traditions, and theology, we recognize that a flourishing world requires spiritually healthy humans who can ultimately lean into love and live out love. Thriving is a practice of growing whole. The agility necessary to thrive comes from practices that ground us, connect us, and direct us.
Who We Are
The Thrive Center for Human Development is an applied research center that exists to catalyze a movement of human thriving, with and for others. We conduct and collaborate with other researchers on cutting-edge psychological questions addressing the most pressing issues of spiritual health and thriving in a pluralistic world. We are real people with real lives and persistent hopes for wholeness and a flourishing world. To this end we convert our research into resources designed to bring about change and spiritual health.
Formerly founded in 1996 as the Center for Research in Child and Adolescent Development (CRCAD), the Thrive Center was established in 2011 within the School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary. We mentor future scholars and leaders in the field of psychology and theology. While we are trained in Christian theology, our empirical research engages diverse perspectives and cultures and explores spirituality broadly inside and outside of religious traditions.
We believe all persons should and can thrive. We offer practical insight and guidance into how, in the midst of life’s opportunities and struggles, we can attend to our needs and strengths, our connections with others, and our sources of meaning and hope in order to continually find and pursue a sense of purpose. We are realistic and know this is not a simple journey, but we believe it is worth the effort. This world needs you to be the best and fullest expression of who you are, so please dive in and join us.
Backed by research
The mind behind the method
We hold that science can provide insight needed to understand spiritual health and develop practices that lead to thriving in everyday life. We’re researchers and psychologists that live real lives and come face to face with the same questions you have.
We are scholars, creatives, learners, connectors, and communicators
Pamela Ebstyne King
Executive Director, Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science
Pamela Ebstyne King, Ph.D. has worked with the Thrive Center for Human Development since its inception in 2011. In 2021, she was named executive director of the Thrive Center and continues to serve as the Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science in Fuller’s School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy.
Her primary academic interests are applied research at the intersection of human thriving and spiritual development. She is passionate about understanding what individual strengths and environments enable humans to thrive and become all God created them to be. She holds particular interest in understanding the role of faith, spirituality, religion, virtues in this process.
Dr. King’s work combines theology, empirical research, and community engagement to further understand what contexts and settings enable people to thrive. She has conducted research funded by Biologos Foundation and John Templeton Foundation, among others.
Jilleen Westbrook, Ph.D. recently joined the staff of the Thrive Center for Human Development in 2022. She earned her Ph.D. in Economics from Claremont Graduate University and has taught at Temple University, the University of Southern California (USC), and Claremont Colleges.
Her academic work involved empirical investigations of the complicated psychological and market effects that result from policy decisions. Before joining, the Thrive Center, she worked as a consultant. Dr. Westbrook has long been interested in issues of faith and well-being, particularly in the practices that encourage mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Operations and Project Manager
With over 10 years of operational & admin experience, Lauren Kim joined the Thrive Center in 2022 to utilize her passion for faith-based creativity and witnessing others’ ability to be joyously renewed. With an innate interest in different cultures and being born & raised in Seoul, Korea, Lauren hopes to connect a bridge between students of various backgrounds and their spirit’s capability to thrive as He intended. In her intimate pursuit of God while cultivating the artistic passions of her heart, Lauren takes pride in being part of a team that brings forth the fruit of encouragement and spiritual joy in all.
Lauren Van Vranken
Lauren Van Vranken is a second year Psy.D. student in Fuller’s Clinical Psychology Program. She received her bachelor’s degree in human development and family sciences from Oregon State University. She has spent the past decade working in prison, jail and juvenile hall settings in Los Angeles and Ecuador as a volunteer chaplain, creative writing instructor, and facilitator of art therapy groups. This sparked her research interests in resilience, restorative justice practices, and collective thriving in the aftermath of trauma. Dedicated to research and clinical work that promote thriving through allyship with adolescents and adults affected by incarceration, she is particularly interested in researching how spirituality and hospitality promote resilience, kinship, and thriving for returning citizens.
Connor Stephenson is a second year PhD student in Fuller’s Clinical Psychology program. He is working with children through the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health as a practicum trainee. Connor received a BA in Theology with an emphasis in Leadership and Pastoral Ministry from Vanguard University. Prior to entering the psychology program, Connor spent the last seven years working with adults experiencing homelessness. He currently serves on the board of directors for the National Human Services Data Consortium, and he previously worked as a research assistant through the Thrive Center on analyzing data from the Fetzer Institute’s study of Spirituality in the United States. When he is not working on research, school, or clinical training, you can find him walking his dog, baking sourdough, and spending quality time with his wife.
Professor of Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary
Dean of the School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy ; PSYD Program Chair and Professor of Psychology, Clinical Psychology Department
Cynthia Eriksson has been a core member of Fuller Seminary’s psychology faculty since 2003 and was named dean of the School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy as of September 1, 2023. Dr. Eriksson’s research and teaching expertise focus on trauma, posttraumatic stress, spirituality, culture, burnout, resilience, and diversity. Much of her work explores the needs of cross-cultural aid or mission workers and the interaction of trauma and spirituality. Through Fuller SoPMFT’s Headington Program, she has developed research and consultation partnerships in Cambodia, Guatemala, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, the Netherlands, Spain, Uganda, and elsewhere. Eriksson is a member of the American Psychological Association, the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, and the National Council of Schools of Professional Psychology, and she has presented internationally at psychology and trauma conferences. In addition to authoring several book chapters, she has been published in The Journal of Traumatic Stress; Traumatology; Mental Health, Religion & Culture; Journal of Psychology and Theology; PLoS ONE, and many others.
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It takes a community to thrive! Every gift helps combine the science of psychology and theology to build more spiritually healthy leaders and communities.
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From academic conferences to community events to recording podcasts, Dr. King and team are working to share our research and offer new perspectives and practices to promote spiritual health and thriving.
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