Psychology and Addiction—Patricia Henrie-Barrus ('77, '98)

How one person with a voice can make a difference

When Patricia (Trish) Henrie-Barrus was attending graduate school for her master’s in counseling psychology at BYU’s McKay School of Education, she told herself that she would never work with addictions and she would never do research. Today, she is doing both.

“I guess that goes to show that you should never limit yourself!” she advised.

Barrus originally graduated from BYU with her bachelor’s degree in 1977, returned to complete her master’s in counseling psychology in 1998, and received her doctorate at the University of Utah in 2006.

“Never believe you are too old,” she shared. “Some of the greatest masterpieces, inventions, and ideas have come from people in their 70s and 80s. Never give up!”

And indeed, Trish Barrus is proof of her own advice. She currently teaches several courses on positive psychology at the University of Utah, sits on various State committees dealing with opioid abuse problems, and was recently involved in creating a recovery program to help addicts find rehabilitation through positive psychology.

“I got involved with positive psychology when I did my dissertation on gratitude,” she explained. “I had felt for some time that psychology was going down the wrong road . . . it was focusing too much on what is wrong with the world instead of what is right.”

Through her research Barrus discovered that a grateful heart can literally change how people interact and experience their world. She cited D&C 59:7, 21 that instructs us to be grateful in all things. With that in mind, she began her journey into positive psychology.

“[We] are researching forgiveness, altruism, wisdom, curiosity, and other characteristics that are traditionally taught in the various world religions,” she detailed. “And the research is showing that indeed the cultivating of these traits has a positive impact on not only mental health, but physical as well. I love when science and religion intersect!”

Now, Barrus uses her training and experience in positive psychology to work with addiction rehabilitation.

“I realized that most of the treatment in this country is ineffectual,” she shared. “We focus too much on the symptomology . . . and not enough on changing the . . . addictive thinking patterns. When this happens, people go from one addiction to the next.”

In her current work, Barrus is not focusing only on changing thinking patterns and behaviors by using positive psychology but also integrating medical treatment. She believes that to truly be effective with helping people recover, the body and mind must be healthy. The program being developed uses simple amino acids to restore the dopamine receptors in the brain which are harmed from addictions.

“Our program looks extremely promising because we have integrated medicine and psychology by first detoxing people through amino acids; their brains clear in about two weeks. They can then focus on behavioral change instead of physical cravings and withdrawals.”

Over her professional life, Barrus has been able to combine her teaching skills, her knowledge of psychology, and her research methods to help find solutions for problems affecting mental health. Different skills are needed to help solve today’s problems.

To the younger generation, Barrus advises, “Teachers and administrators are usually underpaid and undervalued, but we need good people in education. We need new voices and energy so that [we] will prosper in the future.”

Barrus is the perfect example of how one voice with energy can make a difference.

Writer: Madison Houghton

Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562

Alumni First Name
Patricia (Trish)
Alumni Last Name
Henrie-Barrus
Alumni Graduation Year
Masters Counseling Psychology—1998, BS— 1977