Puncky Heppner

Puncky Paul Heppner, born on February 24, 1951, in Bismarck, North Dakota, is a counseling psychologist at the University of Missouri. Early in his career Heppner significantly advanced psychologists’ understanding of the role of social influence in the counseling process. Despite the importance of this work, he is most widely known for his significant theoretical and empirical contributions to our understanding of problem-solving behavior.

Heppner received his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1979 and accepted a position at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) where he remains to date. He has served as training director of the counseling psychology doctoral program and as chair of the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology. He also cofounded and codirects the University of Missouri Center for Multicultural Research, Training, and Consultation.

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In the early 1980s, Heppner developed the Problem Solving Inventory, a widely used measure of applied problem solving that has been used in more than 130 empirical studies. His research on the role of problem solving with stressful life events demonstrated that across a wide range of populations, an individual’s problem-solving appraisal (i.e., problem-solving self-efficacy) can moderate the harmful effects of stress. This program of research shaped the conceptualization of counseling as a process of helping people resolve their personal problems, thereby decreasing their distress and enhancing their well-being.

In 1987, Heppner advocated a change in counseling psychologists’ conceptualization of problem solving. His innovative application of an information processing perspective to understanding problem-solving behavior anticipated a major paradigmatic change in the conceptualizing of problem solving. He also has been known by many graduate students as the first author of a premier research design text in the field of counseling, Research Design in Counseling. Heppner further shaped counseling psychology through his active involvement in professional service. He edited the Lifelines series in the Journal of Counseling Development from 1984 to 1990, which published biographies of pioneers, leaders, and early training institutions in the fields of counseling. He edited The Counseling Psychologist from 1997 to 2002. He has been involved in APA Division 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology) in a variety of roles, most notably serving as president from 2004 to 2005.


  1. Heppner, P. P., & Claiborn, C. D. (1989). Social influence research in counseling: A review and critique [Monograph.]. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 36, 365-387.
  2. Heppner, P. P., Kivlighan, D., Jr., & Wampold, B. E. (2008). Research design in counseling (3rd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  3. Heppner, P. P., & Krauskopf, C. J. (1987). An information processing approach to personal problem solving. The Counseling Psychologist, 15, 371—147.
  4. Heppner, P. P., Witty, T. E., & Dixon, W. A. (2004). Problem-solving appraisal and human adjustment: A review of 20 years of research utilizing the Problem Solving Inventory. The Counseling Psychologist, 32, 344—128.

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