Academic Title

Associate Professor, Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Research Interests
  • Trauma
  • Counseling
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Bereavement
  • Resilience
  • Post-traumatic growth
Research Summary

As both a researcher and practicing clinician, my research interests are inspired by my desire to identify empirically-based solutions to better serve my clients. My primary research areas have focused on four intersecting domains that are salient to college students: the developmental period of emerging adulthood, bereavement among college students, resilience, and post traumatic growth. I am interested in examining how current operationalized definitions of resilience, post traumatic growth, and available grief discourse impact the bereavement process. In a second line of my research, I am examining the impact of chemotherapy-induced alopecia and hair retention on the well-being of women with breast cancer. The common themes in my research are a commitment to adopting a critical and multicultural lens, a strengths-oriented perspective of the individuals and groups I study, and genuine curiosity about the human experience.

  • Ph.D., Counseling Psychology, UMass Boston
  • M.S., Mental Health Counseling, UMass Boston
  • B.A., Psychology, Boston College
Areas of Expertise
  • Trauma
  • Complex Trauma
  • Counseling/Clinical practice
  • Bereavement
  • Emerging Adulthood
  • Resilience
  • Post traumatic growth
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Psychological Assessment
Recent Publications

Plocha, A., Modrak, S., Hoopes, M., Priest, A., & Donahoe, A. (2022). Developmental
reengagement without depression: A grounded theory of resilience among bereaved college students. OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying. https://doi.org/10.1177/0030222822113358

Oh, S., Shillingford, J., & Plocha, A. (2022). Challenges for parents of color in children’s
STEM career aspiration. The Career Development Quarterly, 70(2), 110-124. https://doi.org/10.1002/cdq.12290

Plocha, A., Modrak, S., Hoopes, M., Priest, A., & Donahoe, A. (2022). Resilience among bereaved college students: Indicators, facilitators, and barriers. Death Studies, 47(2), 121-129. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2022.2032483

Plocha, A., & Bacigalupe, G. (2020). How do parentally bereaved emerging adults define resilience? It’s a process. Journal of College Counseling, 23(3), 247-261. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/jocc.12169

Honors and Awards
  • Academic Innovation Opportunity Grant, Merrimack College, 2022
  • Faculty Development Grant, Merrimack College, 2019, 2020/2021, 2022, 2023
Licenses and Certifications

Licensed Psychologist, Massachusetts (License #: 10911)