Our work explores how invalidation, experiential avoidance, and disengagement from personally meaningful activities contributes to psychological distress (particularly anxiety and associated depression) and studies how prevention and intervention programs can target these processes and help people cultivate the skills they need to enhance their well-being and quality of life.
Susan M. Orsillo, PhD
To learn more about Dr. Sue Orsillo and her work, please visit her faculty page.
References & Materials
On this page you will find a list of recent publications with links, whenever possible, to help you locate research content.
Orsillo, S.M. & Roemer, L., (2016) Worry Less, Live More: The Mindful Way through Anxiety workbook. New York: Guilford.
This award-winning book (Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy (ABCT) Self-Help Book of Merit) has also been published in Japanese, Swedish, and Latvian
Orsillo, S.M. & Roemer, L. (2011). The Mindful Way through Anxiety: Break Free from Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life. New York: Guilford.
This best-selling (over 50,000 copies in print), award-winning book (ABCT Self-Help Book of Merit) has also been published in Spanish, German, Finnish, Korean, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Greek, and Russian
Roemer, L., & Orsillo, S.M. (2009). Mindfulness and Acceptance-based Behavioral Therapy in Practice. New York: Guilford.
Orsillo, S.M. & Roemer, L. (2005). Acceptance and Mindfulness-based Approaches to Anxiety: Conceptualization and Treatment. New York: Springer.
Antony, M., Orsillo, S.M., & Roemer, L. (2001). Practitioner’s Guide to Empirically-based Measures of Anxiety. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishing.
Roemer, L., Orsillo, S. M. (in press). Acceptance-based behavioral therapies for GAD. In A Gloster & A Gerlach (Ed.), Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Worrying: A Comprehensive Handbook for Clinicians and Researchers. Wiley-Blackwell.
Roemer, L., Arbid, N., Martinez, J., Orsillo, S. M. (2017). Mindfulness-based treatments (pp.175-197). In Stefan Hoffman (Ed.), The Science of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: From Theory to Therapy. New York, NY: Elsevier.
Danitz, S., & Orsillo, S.M. (2016). Acceptance-based behavior therapy for pre-professional students. In J. Block-Lerner & L. Cardaciotto (Eds.). The Mindfulness Informed Educator: Building Acceptance and Psychological Flexibility in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.
Orsillo, S.M., Danitz, S., & Roemer, L. (2015). Mindfulness- and acceptance-based behavioral and cognitive therapies (pp. 172-199). In A.M. Nezu & C.M. Nezu (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. New York: Oxford University Press.
Morgan, L., Danitz, S., Orsillo, S., & Roemer, L. (2016). Mindfulness approaches to psychological disorders. In H. Friedman (Ed), Encyclopedia of Mental Health (pp. 148 – 155), 2nd ed. New York, NY: Elsevier.
Roemer, L., Fuchs, C., & Orsillo, S. M. (2014). Incorporating mindfulness and acceptance-based strategies in the behavioral treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. In R. Baer (Ed), Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician’s Guide to Evidence Base and Applications, 2nd Edition (pp. 96-120). New York: Academic Press.
Roemer, L., Graham, J. R., Morgan, L., & Orsillo, S. M. (2014). Mindfulness and acceptance-based behavioral therapies for anxiety disorders. In P.M.G Emmelkamp & T. Ehring (Eds.), International Handbook of Anxiety Disorders: Theory, Research and Practice (Volume 2). (pp. 804-823). Wiley-Blackwell.
Roemer, L., & Orsillo, S.M. (2014). Acceptance-based behavior therapy for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. In D.H. Barlow (Ed.). Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders, 5th Edition (vol. 5th edition, pp.206-237). New York: Guilford Press
Roemer, L. & Orsillo, S.M. (2013). Anxiety: Accepting what comes and doing what matters. In C. K. Germer, R. D. Siegel, & P. R. Fulton (Eds.). Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition (pp.167-183). New York: Guilford Press.
Roemer, L. & Orsillo, S.M. (2012). Anxiety disorders: Acceptance, compassion and wisdom. In C. Germer & R.D. Siegel (Eds.). Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice (pp.234–248). New York: Guilford.
Serowik, K. L., Orsillo, S. M. (in press). The relationship between substance use, experiential avoidance, and personally meaningful experiences. Substance Use and Misuse. DOI: 10.1080/10826084.2019.1618329
Eustis, E. H., Hayes-Skelton, S. A., Orsillo, S. M., Roemer, L. (2018). Surviving and Thriving During Stress: A randomized clinical trial comparing a brief web-based therapist-assisted acceptance-based behavioral Intervention versus waitlist control for college students. Behavior Therapy, 49, 889-903. DOI: 10.1016/j.beth.2018.05.009
Danitz, S. B., Orsillo, S. M., Beard, C., Björgvinsson, T. (2018). The relationship between personal growth and psychological functioning in individuals treated in a partial hospital setting. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74, 1759-1774. DOI: 10.1002/jclp.22627
Sagon, A. L., Danitz, S. B., Suvak, M., Orsillo, S. M. (2018). The Mindful Way through the Semester: Evaluating the feasibility of delivering an acceptance-based behavioral program online. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 9, 36-44., doi.org/10.1016/j.jcbs.2018.06.004
Serowik, K. L., Khan, A. J., LoCurto, J., Orsillo, S. M. (2018). The conceptualization and measurement of values: A review of the psychometric properties of measures developed to inform values work with adults. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 40, 615-635. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10862-018-9679-1
Arauz, J., Danitz, S. B., Orsillo, S. M., Coyne, L. W. (2017). A preliminary exploration of education values, distress, and acceptance among self-identified white and non-white incoming college freshmen at a private university. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 6, 288-292 doi:10.1016/j.jcbs.2017.05.001
Eustis, E. H., Hayes-Skelton, S. A., Roemer, L., Orsillo, S. M. (2016). Reductions in experiential avoidance as a mediator of change in symptom outcome and quality of life in acceptance-based behavior therapy and applied relaxation for generalized anxiety disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 87, 188-195. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2016.09.012
Fuchs, C. H., West, L. M., Graham, J. R., Kalill, K. S., Morgan, L. P.K., Hayes-Skelton, S. A., Orsillo, S. M., Roemer, L. (2016). Reactions to an Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy for GAD: Giving voice to the experiences of clients from marginalized backgrounds. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 23, 473-484. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpra.2015.09.004
Danitz, S. B., Suvak, M., Orsillo, S. M. (2016). The Mindful Way Through the Semester: Evaluating the impact of integrating an acceptance-based behavioral program into a first-year experience course for undergraduates. Behavior Therapy, 47, 487 - 499.
Margolis, S. E., Orsillo, S. M. (2016). Acceptance and Body Dissatisfaction: Examining the efficacy of a brief acceptance-based intervention for body dissatisfaction in college women. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 44, 482-92. DOI: 10.1017/S1352465816000072
Current Research Projects
The Mindful Way through Anxiety
Sue has spent the past sixteen years developing, refining, delivering, examining, supervising, providing training in, and writing about acceptance-based behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorder in collaboration with her colleague Liz Roemer from U Mass Boston. Currently, Sue’s lab is focused on developing adaptations of ABBTs for use in different contexts aimed at increasing access to care. For example, we are now examining the effectiveness of a self-help book based on the treatment. We are also conducting research aimed exploring the best way to train therapists in this approach and measure ABBT competence.
College Student/URM Doctoral Student Mental Health
Our lab is exploring how an acceptance-based behavioral therapy (ABBT) program might help first year students with the transition to college. Although college can be a time of great academic and personal development, for a growing number of students, the transition to college is characterized by increased psychosocial distress. Surveys suggest that over a third of college students feel “so depressed that it is difficult to function.” We’ve developed several in-person and online programs focused on, the Mindful Way through the Semester (MWTS) that has been shown to be helpful in protecting students against depression.
We’ve also begun to expand this work to underrepresented minority doctoral students. Doctoral student Alex Miller led a study that showed acceptance and engagement in personally valued actions contributed to mental health functioning and belongingness over and above the effects of microaggressions and racial stressors. We are considering ways to use this knowledge to improve satisfaction and retention among URM doctoral students.
Consent Negotiation among Sexual Minorities
John McKenna is the lead researcher on a mixed-method project aimed identifying the methods that LGBTQ+ young adults use to negotiate consent in order to inform inclusive sexual violence prevention programming. We have collected data from almost 400 young adults (over 250 sexual minorities) and are in the process of exploring the roles of gender identity, sexual identity, gender role endorsement, and sexual assertiveness on use of consent strategies and attitudes about consent. We are also currently using multi-group confirmatory factor analyses to explore whether or not there is measurement invariance across diverse sexual identity groups on measures of internal and external consent and coding responses participants provided about how they define consent and communicate and interpret both sexual consent and sexual refusal signals.
Current Student Graduates
I grew up in Amherst, NH and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015 with a major in psychology. At Michigan, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to enroll in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). I spent my four years researching a variety of subjects ranging from PTSD to emotional regulation and self-control. During my summers in college, I worked at a treatment program for children with psychosocial disorders, designing and implementing behavioral modification plans. After observing the effect of these programs on the children, I became passionate about exploring the value of taking an individualized approach to treatment. Both my research and clinical experiences steered me towards applying for and pursing a PhD in clinical psychology. My current clinical work focuses on the use of Acceptance and Commitment therapy in the context of anxiety, depression, and trauma. Outside of school I enjoy eating delicious foods, spending time with friends and family, and being active!
Clinical and Research Interests: Early on, my research focused on the intersection between acceptance based behavioral therapies, mindfulness, and social connection. My early research project was designed to examine the feasibility of using an online program to deliver strategies to alleviate the unique stressors of the transition to college for first year students. Currently, my research focuses on emotion regulation in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. My dissertation is designed to explore the unique profile of emotion regulation in children with ASD.
ERP Title: The Mindful Way Through the Semester: Evaluating the Feasibility of Delivering an Acceptance-Based Behavioral Program Online
The purpose of this project is to explore the applicability of an online acceptance-based workshop focused on mindfulness and values articulation aimed at addressing depressive symptoms in first-year students as they transition to college.
Emotion Regulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Development and Psychometric Evaluation of the Emotion Regulation Coding System
The purpose of this project is to develop and examine a coding system for measuring emotion regulation behavior in a population of children with ASD. Psychometric analysis will be conducted to assess the fit of the modal model of emotion regulation for measuring emotion regulation in this population.
Sagon, A. L., Danitz, S. B., Suva, M. K., & Orsillo, S. M. (2018). The Mindful Way through the Semester: Evaluating the feasibility of delivering an acceptance-based behavioral program online. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 9, 36-44.
Sagon, A.L., Danitz, S. B., Orsillo, S. The Mindful Way through the Semester: Impact on social connectedness. (2016, October). Poster session presented at the ABCT Annual Convention, New York, NY.
Sagon, A.L., Danitz, S.B., Orsillo, S. The Mindful Way through the Semester: Impact on social connectedness. (2016, March). Poster session presented at the Annual Depression on College Campuses Conference, Ann Arbor, MI.
Cheng, G.C., Cascio, C.N., O’Donnell, M.B., Tinney, F., Sagon, A., & Falk, E.B. (April, 2013). Mediated social influence associated with online reviews. Poster presented at the University of Michigan UROP Symposium, Ann Arbor, MI.
Sagon, A.L., Siracusa M., Knox, D. (April, 2012). Testing scoring methods in fear conditioning experiment. Poster presented at the University of Michigan UROP Symposium, Ann Arbor, MI.
I am a fifth-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Suffolk University. Originally from Boston, I graduated from Northeastern University in 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology with a focus on gender and sexuality studies. Prior to coming to Suffolk, I worked in a variety of labs investigating a range of topics, including pre-neural markers of developmental dyslexia, how the gender binary influences children’s categorization and reasoning processes, the impact of unconscious affect on emotion valence and physiology, and how hegemonic discourse shapes historical understandings of feminine domesticity.
Clinical and Research Interests:
Highlights from my clinical training include working as a counselor and psychometrist in an elementary school, as a clinician in a CBT anxiety outpatient clinic in the Boston area, and as a trainee at Cambridge Health Alliance in the Child and Adolescent Assessment Units. My next clinical placements involve administering neuropsychological assessments and providing evidence-based therapy for children and adults with OCD and anxiety-related disorders. I am passionate about working with LGBTQ+ young adult populations and am interested in anxiety- and depression-related disorders, trauma, and integrating mindfulness and acceptance-based behavioral therapies with other therapy approaches.
My research interests broadly include gender and sexual identity development, sexual consent negotiation processes, and the dissemination of acceptance-based behavioral therapy to sexual and gender minority populations.
Sexual Consent Negotiation Among LGBTQ+/Non-Binary Young Adults: An Exploratory Study with a Cisgender Heterosexual Comparison Group
In brief, sexual and gender minority young adults are at heightened risk for sexual assault by an intimate partner, yet programming aimed at improving consent negotiation is primarily informed by research on cisgender heterosexual samples and heteronormative sexual script theories. The primary aim of my dissertation is to advance our knowledge of the sexual consent attitudes and practices of sexual and gender minorities and contribute to the development of more inclusive, research-informed sexual assault risk reduction programming.
Select Publications & Presentations:
McKenna J. L., Roemer, L., Suvak, M., Orsillo, S. (accepted, Nov 2019). Sexual Assertiveness as a Predictor of Sexual Consent Attitudes and Beliefs Among LGBTQ+/Non-Binary Young Adults. Poster presentation at Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), Atlanta, GA.
Coyne, L.W., Michel, R., McKenna, J.L., Gould, E.R. (June, 2019). Self-Harm and Depression in Adolescents with Severe OCD: Relationships with Family Accommodation and Psychological Inflexibility. Symposium at the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) World Conference, Dublin, Ireland.
Bedard-Thomas, K. K., McKenna, J. L., Pantalone, D. W., Fireman, G., & Marks, A. K. (2019). A mixed-methods measurement study of female adolescent sexuality stress and support. Psychology & Sexuality, 1-22. DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2019.1596972
Marks, A. K., McKenna, J. L., & Garcia Coll, C. (2018). National immigration receiving contexts: A critical aspect of native-born, immigrant, and refugee youth well-being. European Psychologist, 23, 6-20. DOI: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000311
I am a third-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University. I graduated from the University of Iowa (Go Hawks!) with honors in 2017 with a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in music. At Iowa, I was fortunate to spend time in Iowa Biosciences Academy (IBA), a program specifically designed to mentor URM students in research as a preparation for graduate studies. This experience had a large impact on my research interests which center around multiculturalism, cultural adaptations for empirically based treatments, and mental health disparities. I am particularly interested in acceptance-based treatments (i.e. ABBT, ACT) and mindfulness for people of color. In my free time, you will frequently find me at farmer’s markets gathering ingredients as I cook my way through the many cookbooks on my shelves and singing with our acapella group, Cohen’s D Major!
Clinical and Research Interests:
Multiculturalism, adaptation and development of empirically supported, culturally sensitive treatments. Mindfulness and acceptance-based behavioral therapies for individuals with anxiety disorders. I have completed a clinical practicum at McLean Hospital’s Obsessive & Compulsive Disorder Institute and will be at Boston Medical Center in Internal Medicine for this year.
ERP Title: Values and Belongingness in Graduate School: Underrepresented Minority Students’ Perspectives
The purpose of this project is to understand the impact that values-based living can have on the belongingness and psychological functioning of students of color in doctoral programs.
Select Publications & Presentations:
Miller, A.N. (November, 2019). Supporting Graduate Students of Color: How to Identify and Overcome Barriers to Success in Predominantly White Institutions. Panel to be presented at the annual meeting of Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in Atlanta, GA.
Miller, A.N. & Orsillo, S.M. Values and belongingness in graduate school: Perspectives from underrepresented students. (March, 2019). Poster presented at the annual meeting of Columbia Winter Roundtable: RISE UP: Racial Justice, Immigration, and Social Activism in Psychology and Education in New York, NY.
Miller, A.N., Serowik, K, & Orsillo, S.M. (November, 2018). Understanding of the Acceptance-based Behavioral Therapy Model and Current Functioning. Poster presented at the annual meeting of Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in Washington, DC.
Interested in Joining the Lab?
If you are an undergraduate seeking a volunteer or independent research experience (Psych 510), please email Dr. Sue Orsillo directly.
Students seeking admission into the PhD program in clinical psychology who hope to join the lab are strongly encouraged to read over the clinical doctoral program material on the webpage and these lab-specific FAQs.
Frequently Asked Questions
I am most interested in students who are passionate about clinical psychology, flexible, open to feedback, hard-working, and self-motivated. It's also important to strong research experience, outstanding letters of recommendation, specific interests that match with my areas of expertise, and solid academic credentials.