Personality, Emotion, & Social Processes Lab

Welcome to the Personality, Emotion, and Social Processes Lab, directed by Michael Suvak at Suffolk University.

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 post-traumatic 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 psychophysiological 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.

Dr. Michael Suvak

To learn more about Dr. Michael Suvak and his work, please visit his faculty page.

Current Graduate Students

Kayla Lord, is a four year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University. I grew up in northern New Jersey, and then moved to Happy Valley to attend The Pennsylvania State University. She graduated from PSU in 2016 with an honors BA in Psychology, and an honors BA in Communication Arts and Sciences. Her research interests focus on interpersonal functioning and its reciprocal relationships with mood, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders with a secondary interest in statistical and research methodologies. Additionally, she studies various trauma related topics through her research assistantship at The Institute for Research, Inquiry and Evaluation at Justice Resource Institute. This upcoming year Kayla will be on advanced practicum at McLean Hospital Hill Center for Women, teaching as an adjunct professor at Suffolk University and as a teaching adjunct professor at Suffolk University and as an teaching fellow for Harvard Extension School, and proposing her dissertation.

Connect with Kayla on LinkedIn

Selected Publications and Presentations:

Jacobson, N. C., Lord, K. A., & Newman, M. G. (2017). Perceived emotional social support in bereaved spouses mediates the relationship between anxiety and depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 211, 83-91.

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

Lord, K. A., Harkness, K., Suvak, M. K., & Stewart, J. G. (in revision). The affective dynamics of reassurance seeking in real-time interactions.

Lord, K. A., Suvak, M. K., & Liverant, G. I. (under review). Being nice to be liked?: Social anxiety, rejection sensitivity, and compassionate responding.

Lord, K. A., Jacobson, N. C., Suvak, M. K., & Newman, M. G. (under review). Social criticism moderates the relationship between anxiety and depression 10 years later.

Lord, K. A., Suvak, M. K., & Hodgdon, H. B. (2019, November). Social Functioning and PTSD Symptom Change among Youth in Residential Care: A Multilevel Cross-lagged Growth Analysis. Poster accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Boston, MA.

Lord, K. A. Suvak, M. K., Holmes, S., Shields, N., Wiltsey Stirman, S., & Monson, C. (2019, March). Patterns of symptom and functioning changes in CPT for PTSD. Presented as part of C. Johnson (Chair), Cognitive Processing Therapy and Associated Symptom Change. Symposium accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Chicago, IL.

Lord, K. A., & Suvak, M. K. (2017, April). Are those eyes negative?: Social anxiety, rejection sensitivity, and theory of mind. Presented at the annual meeting of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Washington, DC.

Lord, K. A., Jacobson, N. C., & Newman, M. G. (2016, March). Social support in bereaved spouses mediates the relationship between anxiety and depression. Presented at the annual meeting of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Philadelphia, PA.

Lord, K. A., Jacobson, N. C., & Newman, M. G. (2016, March). Social criticism moderates the relationship between anxiety disorders and depressive disorders 10 years later. Presented at the annual meeting of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Philadelphia, PA

My name is Rose Luehrs and I am a first year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University. I am originally from Newark, Illinois, but moved to Boston in pursuit of my educational and career aspirations. I graduated from Bradley University in 2014 with a B.S. in Psychology, and with a M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Valparaiso University in 2016. My research interests are related to the influence of individual differences in risk and resiliency factors on post-trauma adaptation.

Virginia McCaughey is a first-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University. She graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina in 2017 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Crime, Law, and Society. Upon graduation, she began working as a research assistant at the Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Virginia’s research interests focus on investigating risk and resiliency in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder as well as identifying key variables that hinder or promote recovery from PTSD.

Selected Publications and Presentations:

Buchholz, K. B., McCaughey, V. K., & Street, A. E. (in press). What is psychological trauma? In V. Ades (Ed.), Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: A Complete Clinical Guide. New York, NY: Springer.

Cogan, A. M., McCaughey, V. K., & Scholten, J. (2019). Gender differences in outcomes after traumatic brain injury among service members and veterans. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

Banducci, A. N., McCaughey, V. K., Gradus, J., Street, A. E. (2019). The associations between deployment experiences, PTSD, and alcohol use among male and female veterans. Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106032

McCaughey, V. K. & Galovski, T. E. (2019, November). Modifying cognitive processing therapy: Do treatment gains extend beyond primary outcomes? In S. Krill Williston (Chair), Modifying trauma-focused evidence-based psychotherapies: What? Why? And How? Symposium to be conducted at the 35th annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Boston, MA.

McCaughey, V. K. (2018, September). Embracing mentorship and creating a network of professional support. International Society for Traumatic Stress, StressPoints, 32, 5.

McCaughey, V. K., Fuentes-Carpentier, M., Smith, B., Resick, P. A., & Galovski, T. E. (2017, November). Brain injury incurred during domestic violence: The influence on recovery from PTSD. Poster presented at the 33rd Annual Conference of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Chicago, IL.

Reference & Materials

On this page you will find a list of recent publications to help you locate research content. Please feel free to contact Michael Suvak (PI) for copies of articles, conference presentations, or any of the research materials/instruments used in our studies.

Dr. Suvak was the recipient of a $3 million research grant in October 2016. Click here to see the full story and learn more about his research.

Gradus, J. L., Suvak, M. K., Wisco, B. E., Marx, B. P., & Resick, P. A. (2013). Treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder reduces suicidal ideation. Depression and Anxiety, 30(10), 1046-1053.

Pineles, S. L., Suvak, M. K., Liverant, G. I., Gregor, K., Wisco, B. E., Pitman, R. K., & Orr, S. P. (2013). Psychophysiologic reactivity, subjective distress, and their associations with PTSD diagnosis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122(3), 635-644. doi:10.1037/a0033942

Suvak, M. K., Taft, C. T., Goodman, L. A., & Dutton, M. (2013). Dimensions of functional social support and depressive symptoms: A longitudinal investigation of women seeking help for intimate partner violence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(3), 455-466. doi:10.1037/a0031787

Liverant, G. I., Suvak, M.K., Pineles, S. L., & Resick, P. A. (2012). Changes in posttraumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms during cognitive processing therapy: Evidence for concurrent change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(6), 957-967. doi:10.1037/a0030485

Suvak, M. K., Sege, C. T., & Sloan, D. M., Shea, M. T., Yen, S., & Litz, B. T. (2012). Emotional responding in borderline personality disorder. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(3), 273-282. doi: 10.1037/a0027331

Suvak, M.K., Brogan, L. A., & Shipherd, J. C. (2012). Predictors of sexual functioning in a sample of U.S. Marine Recruits: An 11-year follow-up study. International Journal of Sexual Health, 24, 26– 44.

Liverant, G. I., Suvak, M.K., Pineles, S. L., & Resick, P. A. (in press). Changes in posttraumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms during Cognitive Processing Therapy: Evidence for concurrent change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

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.

Interested in Joining the Lab?

Undergraduate students: If you want to apply to become a research assistant in the lab, please send an email to Dr. Suvak.

Potential graduate students: To see if Dr. Suvak will be accepting new graduate students for the upcoming academic year, or for more general information about Suffolk's clinical psychology program, visit the doctoral admission webpage.