Michael K. Suvak, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychology

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  • PhD, Boston University
  • MA, Boston University
  • BS, The Pennsylvania State University

Specialty Areas

Emotion and psychopathology; emotion and affect regulation; experimental investigation of emotion; adaptation following exposure to trauma; posttraumatic stress disorder; multivariate statistics; quantitative procedures to analyze change over time

My program of research focuses on two primary areas of inquiry. First, I am interested in understanding the processes involved in generating and regulating emotions and how these processes contribute to psychosocial adaptation, including various forms of psychopathology (or mental disorders). For instance, I have studied how individuals differ in the specificity in which they experience and represent emotions. Research has shown that some people tend to experience and represent emotions in a very fine-grained, nuanced manner, while others experience and represent emotions in a crude, very global manner. My past research has shown that women with borderline personality disorder tend not to use information regarding how aroused or activated they are in their representations of emotions leading to a pattern of “all-or-nothing”, non-nuanced emotional responding.

The second component of my research program involves understanding how individuals adapt following exposure to potentially traumatic events. More specifically, I am interested in understanding why some people experience significant psychological distress that does not remit following exposure to a traumatic event and why some individuals respond in a more resilient manner. In addition, I am interested in understanding the diversity in ways individuals experience psychological distress following trauma. For example, some people develop posttraumatic stress disorder, others develop depression, others develop drinking problems or problems with aggression, etc.

I use a variety of research methods to investigate these two areas of inquiry. My research on emotion includes laboratory/experimental investigations that incorporate pscyhophysiological assessments and other laboratory procedures to measure social-cognitive processes. Much of my research on adaptation following exposure to traumatic events has involved applying multivariate statistics to understand how individuals change over time.


  • Lord, K. A. Suvak, M. K., Holmes, S., Shields, N., Lane, J. E. M., Sijercic, I., Wagner, A. C., Wiltsey Stirman, S., & Monson, C. (in press). Bidirectional relationships between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social functioning during Cognitive Processing Therapy. Behavior Therapy.

  • Hodgdon, H. B., Suvak, M., Zinoviev, D., Liebman, R. E., Briggs, E. C., & J. S., Spinazolla (in press). Network analysis of exposure to trauma and childhood adversities in a clinical sample of youth. Psychological Assessment.

  • Dick, A. M, & Suvak, M. K. (2018). Borderline personality disorder affective instability: What you know impacts how you feel. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 9, 369 –378.

  • Suvak, M. K., Litz, B. T., Sloan, D. M., Zanarini, M. C., Barrett, L. F., & Hofmann, S. G. (2011). Emotional granularity and borderline personality disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120, 414-426.

  • Suvak, M. K., & Barrett, L. F. (2011). Considering PTSD from the perspective of brain processes: A psychological constructionist analysis. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 24, 3-24.  

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Courses Taught

  • PSYCH 216 - Research Methods
  • PSYCH 222 - Human Sexuality
  • PSYCH 715 - Psychological Trauma
  • PSYCH 718 - Research Methods and Ethics
  • PSYCH 722 & 723 - Graduate Statistics in Psychology