About Dr. Winell


Summary of Professional Background

Education and Professional History

Current Work

Summary of Professional Background:

  • B.A. and M.A. in Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine, 1975, 1977
  • Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State University, 1983
  • Licensed psychologist in Colorado, 1987
  • Registered psychologist in Australia, 1994
  • University teaching and research
  • Social work and residential programs for adolescents
  • Psychotherapy: individual, couples, group, family
  • Human Development consulting and programs
  • Religious Recovery training and coaching
  • Author and speaker on religious trauma

Education and Professional History

Dr. Winell's undergraduate studies were in Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine, where she focused on mental health and juvenile justice. She went on to earn the Masters in Social Ecology, with a special study of marriage and family relations.

After a counseling internship, Dr. Winell worked for a number of years in the community mental health field. This included social work primarily with adolescents, needs assessments for program development, residential therapies, hotline work and training, workshops, and teaching continuing education classes on numerous topics. A highlight was leading the establishment of a shelter home for adolescents, including a family counseling program. An important aspect of this background in social ecology was the emphasis on understanding the context of human problems. That is, individuals are part of larger systems and any "diagnosis" or "treatment" must be systemic instead of individually based as in traditional psychology.

Following this, Dr. Winell earned her Ph.D in Human Development and Family Studies from Penn State University. Her area of special study was adult development - the changes people experience from late adolescence to old age. The division of the program was Human Development Intervention, which is the study and development of programs to enhance human development in adulthood. In particular, Marlene trained with the Relationship Enhancement project, which is an empirically based program for couples and family communications and relationship skills. She also studied and taught helping skills for paraprofessionals, including basic counseling methods. Her graduate research was on the subject of personal goal hierarchiesand "self-direction." This continues to be an area of study, and coincides with the notions of personal responsibility and freedom that she emphasizes in her programs for religious recovery.

Dr. Winell's academic teaching began at Penn State and continued at Colorado State University, where she taught courses in adult development. At Boulder Graduate School and University of California, Santa Cruz, she taught communication skills for personal relationships and skills for living in a diverse society. At the University of Queensland in Australia, during the International Year of Tolerance, Marlene led a group which examined diversity issues as they applied to teaching and learning at the university. Part of this project was to write and direct a short film, using a comedy-drama to look at how and why people have multiple perspectives on reality. Upon returning to the United States in 2001, Dr. Winell taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz and then moved into program development, consulting, writing, and filmmaking.

After licensure in 1987, Dr. Winell had a private practice in Colorado and again in Australia. It has also been her privilege over the years to supervise other therapists and teach subjects in psychotherapy. Her approach as a therapist was "existential/humanistic." This orientation emphasizes a trusting therapist/client relationship while examining with courage the key challenges of being human. Marlene has generally avoided long, extensive, traditional psychotherapy and instead collaborated with clients to develop skills for their own lifelong application. This is consistent with the proactive, enhancement focus of human development.

Dr. Winell has also had special training in clinical guided imagery, which is a unique, interactive kind of hypnosis. Beyond simple visualization, these techniques are effective for facilitating deep and lasting changes in a relatively short time. Marlene received advanced training in this area and has taught these skills to individuals and groups.

A special area of expertise is Dr. Winell's work on religious recovery, which is based on both personal and clinical experience. Inspired by her own journey out of Christian fundamentalism, she worked with clients in Colorado who had experienced a variety of damaging religious influences. She then interviewed widely on this subject and published her first book, Leaving the Fold: a Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion in 1994. Since then, Marlene has specialized in this area of work - consulting, teaching, and leading recovery workshops for people coming out of various religions.

Expanding into art and public discourse, Marlene organized artists and clients to exhibit artwork with her on the topics of religious damage, recovery, and reclaiming spirituality. The art exhibits were well-received in Colorado, California, and Australia. Her one-act play was also performed at these venues.

Filmmaking has also been an interest of Dr. Winell's for some time. Her initial training was while in graduate school. Later she directed two docudramas at Colorado State University. One was The Myth of the Superwoman, which explored the challenges women face in juggling family, career, and personal development. Personal Change: Finding the Courage was the story of an artist who, like many people, struggled with accepting herself and pursuing her dream. In Australia, Marlene continued work in educational film and screenwriting. She directed What Do You Say? for the University of Queensland and produced Hair Today, along with an educational cur riculum for understanding perception and perspectives.

Current Work

At present, Dr. Winell divides her time between writing, speaking, training, and consulting. As a human developmentalist specializing in human development intervention, she works with couples and groups using "Relationship Enhancement," an educational program focused on communication skills, and based on the empirical research of Bernard Guerney at Penn State. She is listed with the International Directory of RE Providers with the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement and Center for Couples, Families and Children.

Dr. Winell continues her work in the area of religious recovery in a number of ways. With her ongoing research on the way controlling religions both traumatize individuals and truncate normal human development, she is writing and publishing as well as speaking about these findings. She facilitates an online support group and conducts workshops using her book and accompanying educational materials as curriculum for transitioning out of a dependant religious lifestyle and moving ahead with adult development and life skills. Dr. Winell produces educational videos, webinars, and training materials for paraprofessional group facilitators. She is the director of Journey Free, a growing network of organizations allied to provide resources for people recovering from harmful religion. Her time is primarily dedicated to the administrative task of developing these allied services, disseminating information about them, and raising awareness about the issues in the general population. As she is able to make the time, she is writing a book about religious trauma and editing a volume of invited essays.