James Nelson


James Nelson Professor, Department of Psychology jim.nelson@valpo.edu 219.464.5440 Chairperson, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Committee
Affiliate Faculty, Department of International Studies
College of Arts and Sciences (ASB) Room 358


Professor Nelson was born and raised in Eastern Washington state, where he met and married his wife, Dr. Jeanne Brown, now a local psychologist.  After completing his education, he joined the faculty of Valparaiso University in 1987.  At the university, Professor Nelson directed the clinical mental health counseling program for 10 years, and served as director of the VU China overseas program on 3 occasions.  He was also the founding chairperson of the university interdisciplinary program in the neurosciences.   In addition to his service at VU, he has been a visiting faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, the University of Notre Dame, and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. Currently he also serves as coordinator for visitation ministry at Valparaiso Nazarene Church, working with individuals who are housebound, in extended care facilities or hospice.

He lives in Valparaiso with his wife and Yui, their cat who is the actual head of the family.  His son, Anthony, is a student at Fuller Seminary and works with homeless ministry in the Los Angeles area; his daughter Teresa is a bioengineering student at Purdue.  His hobbies include cooking, sailing, and photography.


B.A. (1976), Communication Studies, Eastern Washington University
M.Div. (1981), Fuller Theological Seminary
M.S. (1983), Ph.D. (1987), Washington State University

Courses Taught

Professor Nelson has taught over 20 different courses in a variety of areas including psychology and religion, abnormal psychology and cross-cultural psychology.  Currently he regularly teaches classes in the psychology of personality and human neuropsychology.  He also works individually with students on a variety of research projects and regularly takes them to regional and national professional meetings.

Research Interests

Professor Nelson’s research interests focus on the boundary between psychology and other fields of study, particularly neurobiology, philosophy, theology, and anthropology.  He is currently writing a book on the history of the concepts of mental health and illness in Western society.  His most recent publication was a book chapter on applications of neuroscience in the practice of art therapy.

Selected Contributions

Nelson, J. & McMillon, P.  (2017).  Neuroscientific applications for expressive therapies.  In S. Degges-White & N. Davis (Eds.), Integrating Expressive Arts into Counseling Practice.  New York:  Springer.

Nelson, J. & Slife, B.  (2016).  A new positive psychology: A critique of the movement based on early Christian thought.  Journal of Positive Psychology.  DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1228006

Nelson, J.  (2014).  What’s in a Name?  Theology, science and theistic psychology.  Christian Psychology: A Transdisciplinary Journal, 7, 35-37.

Nelson, J.  (2014).  Body, soul and spirit:  Psychological reflections on gender and personhood.  Invited paper given at the Orthodox Theological Research Forum conference, Hoddesdon, UK; organized by Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, Oxford University.

Nelson, J.  (2014).  Epistemological reflections on the dialogue between psychology and religion.  Invited paper given at the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University.

Nelson, J.  (2014).  Positivism.  In T. Teo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology (pp. 1437-1444).  New York:  Springer.

Nelson, J. & Slife, B.  (2013).  Theoretical and epistemological foundations of the psychology of religion.  In L. Miller (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality (pp. 21-35).  New York:  Oxford University Press.


Professor Nelson is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Valparaiso University Alumni Association, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indiana Counseling Association.  He is a licensed psychologist in the State of Indiana.  He has been an invited guest speaker at a number of domestic and international sites, including the Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences in Beijing, China.

  • Indiana Counseling Association
  • Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
  • Society for the History of Psychology
  • Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
  • Society for Clinical Neuropsychology