Joseph Breitenstein

Joseph Breitenstein portrait
Professor of Psychology

Office: Valders 340D

Phone: 563-387-1490



Education: Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, West Virginia University; M.A., Clinical Psychology, Mankato State University; B.A., Psychology and English, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point

I am a professor of psychology and licensed clinical psychologist. I teach related courses (Abnormal Psychology, Introduction to Counseling, and Psychology Internship) and have conducted well over 5,000 psychological evaluations involving child abuse/neglect, veterans’ issues, and psychiatric disabilities, often in forensic settings. My students frequently observe an evaluation as part of taking one of my clinical courses. I also have strong interests in the environment and politics and recently developed a new course for Luther called Environmental and Political Psychology.

Most of my interaction with students outside of the classroom involves assisting them in gaining entrance to graduate programs in various helping professions. In 2019-2020 I wrote letters of recommendations supporting successful admission for 15 students to the following programs: Counseling, Master’s in Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, School Psychology, and Speech Pathology.

General Professional Philosophy
Whether I only have contact with a student in General Psychology or work closely with him or her for four years, I want all of my students to appreciate psychology as a practical science that promotes self-awareness and good citizenship by aiding the disadvantaged.

Recent Professional Activity
I represent the practitioner aspects of the scientist-practitioner model in our department. Therefore, most of my professional work is practical in nature, but I dabble in related research with students, mostly with senior projects related to clinical topics of interest to them and that are often presented at regional conferences. My interest in the environment, specifically naturalists with ties to my native Wisconsin, led to me co-editing with Richard Thiel the childhood memoirs of Wallace Byron Grange. This book is entitled, As the Twig is Bent: A Memoir and will be published by University of Wisconsin Press in August 2020.

“Original and refreshing, reminiscent of the poignant writings of Increase Lapham, Fran Hamerstrom, and John Muir. Grange does a superb job of portraying societal life a century ago in Illinois, and the pioneering life of the Grange family in the ‘cutover country’ in northern Wisconsin.”—Sumner Matteson, author of Afield: Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists, Empowering Leopold’s Legacy

“An engaging memoir of the making of a devoted conservationist, evocative of the unhurried pace of a bygone era. Grange shares with us a voluminous, detailed treasure trove of experiences that reveal the making of a man who dedicated his life to the cause of conservation.”—Arthur Pearson, author of Force of Nature

I love silent sports like hiking, snowshoeing, cycling, canoeing, and swimming, alone or with family and friends. I also enjoy going to concerts and reading.  Below is a sample of this summer’s leisure reading.

Afield:  Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists, Empowering Leopold’s Legacy by Sumner Matteson

Braiding Sweetgrass:  Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Principles and Precepts of the Return to the Obvious by Lanza Del Vasto

PSYC 130 General Psychology
An introduction to the field of psychology intended for both majors and non-majors. Topics covered include social processes, personality, emotional disorders, development, thinking, testing, learning, motivation, perception, psychobiology, and animal behavior.

PSYC 245 Environmental and Political Psychology
Environmental Psychology examines the interplay between individuals and their surroundings (natural environments, social settings, built environments, learning environments, and informational environments). Political Psychology studies the foundations, dynamics, and outcomes of political behavior using cognitive and social explanations. The course surveys the two fields and integrates them by examining current issues such as climate change to promote personal and social responsibility. The course includes a required one-week off-campus experiential learning component.

PSYC 465 Abnormal Psychology
An examination of the major psychological disorders including depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychosomatic disorders, organic disorders, and the disorders of childhood. Emphasis is placed on the description and classification of psychopathology and on the research relating to etiology and treatment.

PSYC 468 Intro to Counseling
An introduction to models of counseling with an emphasis on selected processes and skills necessary to apply the models in a variety of settings. One class meeting per week is devoted to the practice of skills. Other topics include professional ethics and the efficacy of major models of counseling.

  • Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, West Virginia University, 1989
  • M.A., Clinical Psychology, Mankato State University, 1987
  • B.S., Philosophy and English, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, 1984