Social & Emotional Well-Being Lab

Dr. Gary Fireman's lab explores social and emotional well-being, guided by two branches of study: sleep and bullying.

Dr. Gary Fireman

To learn more about Dr. Gary Fireman and his work, please visit his faculty page.

Current Research Projects

The sleep branch of the lab examines how emotions are processed through dreams, bad dreams, and nightmares as well as how the relationship between stress and sleep is informed by intrapsychic and interpersonal variables. We are investigating how nightmares and disturbed dreams relate to emotions, affect load, and experiential avoidance. Recent sleep research also has investigated factors that are involved in the reciprocal relationship between stress and sleep. We have studied how fear and anger affect cardiovascular reactivity and recovery in relation to sleep quality. Additionally, we have investigated how one's tendency to ruminate, worry, and/or react with hostility influences the stress-sleep relationship.

The bullying branch of the lab has explored several different components of peer aggression and exclusion. Recent research focused on the experience of electronic bullying, or cyberbullying, versus in-person or more traditional views of bullying. The research examines differences in emotions associated with cyber versus traditional bullying as well as behavioral responses and coping mechanisms for different types of bullying. We also have studied how different forms of bullying, such as peer exclusion versus embarrassment, affect pro-social behaviors and emotional reactions. Current ongoing research investigates how the framing effect interacts with memories of bullying experiences. This research probes the cognitive frames that influence our conceptualization of bullying experiences and affect emotional well-being, behavioral reactions to bullying, expectations of future bullying, and self-concept. Overall, the bullying branch of the lab seeks to better understand the pathways leading to differential outcomes and trajectories after being bullied, from those who experience resilience in the face of bullying to those who suffer more negative long-term consequences. 

Current Graduate Students

I am a third-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology PhD program. I am originally from Central Massachusetts and completed my undergraduate education at Elon University in North Carolina. I graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in Psychology and concentration in Latin American studies. My post-bachelor’s experience included working as a research coordinator on clinical trials in the Psychotic Disorders Research Program at UMass Medical School. I also conducted clinical eligibility screenings for the First Episode Psychosis Clinic (STEP). Additionally, I worked as a Senior Residential Counselor in a group home for adolescents with severe mental illness and/or substance abuse through The Bridge of Central Massachusetts. These experiences helped me realize my passion for working with individuals suffering from psychopathology and led me to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist. Since beginning in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program here at Suffolk, I have had clinical training experiences conducting individual psychotherapy at Suffolk's Counseling Health and Wellness (CHW) and experiences conducting neuropsychological assessments at Grove Counseling Services. During the upcoming academic year, I will continue my clinical training at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). Complementing the coursework at Suffolk, these clinical experiences are shaping my areas of interest in the field and are expanding my understanding of psychological phenomena. In the fall semester I look forward to teaching an undergraduate course in General Psychology.

Research Interests

As a member of the Social and Emotional Well-Being Lab, I conduct research on the impacts of relational variables and group processes on social and emotional adjustment outcomes. My master’s thesis involved a person-centered approach to examine how social cohesion and perceived stress combine to impact each other, peer aggression, and prosocial behavior outcomes in early adolescents. For my dissertation, I hope to continue investigating social relational variables and adjustment outcomes in adolescents and young adults. I plan to implement empirical strategies that emphasize multi-systems perspectives and person-centered approaches to statistical analysis.

My name is Abigail Stark and I am a fifth-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at Suffolk University. Currently I am on internship within Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School’s child track. Prior to attending Suffolk, I graduated cum laude from Williams College in 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology and English. I then spent two years working at the Massachusetts General Hospital OCD clinic where I aided with research on treatment mechanisms of exposure therapy for anxiety disorders. While at Suffolk, my clinical experience has focused thus far on the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety disorders and Dialectical Behavior Therapy for emotional dysregulation across the developmental lifespan. I gained clinical experience at the McLean OCD Institute Jr., McLean Anxiety Mastery Program, MGH Bipolar Clinic, McLean 3East DBT Program, as well as within neuropsychological assessment at Newton public schools. While at Suffolk I have also gained the opportunity to teach several introductory psychology courses where I emphasize an integration of the latest research and major theories of psychology. Currently, my research focuses on peer aggression and exclusion throughout the developmental lifespan. Specifically, both my Early Research Project and my proposed dissertation research focuses on cognitive frames and their impact on behaviors and emotions after bullying experiences. I hope to better understand how conceptualizations of past experiences with peer aggression affect our current emotions and ways of approaching peer interactions.

Research Interests

Child and adolescent development, aggression and bullying in childhood, child and adolescent anxiety disorders.

Selected Publications

Forbes, H., Stark, A., Hopkins, S., Fireman, G. (in press). The Effects of Group Membership on College Students’ Social Exclusion of Peers and Bystander Behavior. The Journal of Psychology Interdisciplinary and Applied.

Stark, A. M., Tousignant, O., & Fireman, G. D. (in press). Gender-based effects of frames on bullying outcomes. The Journal of Psychology Interdisciplinary and Applied. doi:
https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2019.1578192

Asher, Y., Stark, A., & Fireman, G. (in press). Online bullying in a college sampling. Computers in Human Behavior.

Schwartz, S., Kanchewa, S., Rhodes, J., Gowdy, G., Stark, A., Horn, JP, Parnes, M. Spencer, R.
(in press) "Im having a little struggle with this, can you help me out?" Examining impacts and processes of a social capital intervention for first-generation college students. American Journal of Community Psychology.

Berman, N.C., Stark, A., Ramsey, K., Cooperman, A., & Abramowitz, J. S. (2014). Prayer in response to negative intrusive thoughts: Closer examination of a religious neutralizing strategy. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly.

Berman, N. C., Stark, A., Cooperman, A., Wilhelm, S., & Cohen, I. G. (2015). Effect of patient and therapist factors on suicide risk assessment. Death Studies.

Abramovitch, A., Abramowitz, J., Mittelman, A., Stark, A., Ramsey, K., Geller, D. (2015). A meta-analytic review of neuropsychological test performance in pediatric obsessive compulsive disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(8), 837-847.

Geller, D.A., Abramovitch, A., Mittelman, A., Stark, A., Ramsey, K., Cooperman, A., Baer, L., Stewart, S.E. (2017). Neurocognitive Function in Pediatric Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 1-10.

Park, J.M., Stark, A., & Deckersbach, T. (in press). Phenomenology of Tourette syndrome. In J. Abramowitz, D. McKay, E.A. Storch (Eds), Handbook of Obsessive Compulsive Related Disorders Across the Lifespan. Wiley

I am a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Social and Emotional Well-Being Lab. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelor's Degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. I then spent two years working as a Residential Counselor Supervisor and group leader in a treatment facility for people with eating disorders. While in graduate school at Suffolk, I have been fortunate to partake in clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Angier Elementary School, Suffolk's Counseling Health and Wellness (CHW) center, and Boston Medical Center (BMC). This year I will be working with combat veterans at a VA readjustment center. These experiences and Suffolk's coursework have contributed to my passion for understanding how individual's day-to-day experiences shape their perspectives on their well-being, further informing my approach to- psychological science.

Within the Social and Emotional Well-Being Lab, my research investigates the relative strengths of variables governing cyclical relationships across time. My dissertation research examines the bidirectional nature of the sleep-emotion relationship and how methodological assessment timing influences self-reporting behavior. My Master's project / Early Research Project (ERP) used multilevel moderated mediation to explore how the relationship between stress and sleep is influenced, through pre-sleep arousal, by rumination and worry (i.e., two forms of repetitive negative thought oriented toward the past and future, respectively). I am involved in additional projects relating to both intrapsychic and interpersonal processes. I am also an Analyst within Suffolk's Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA).

Research Interests

Sleep; Emotions; Framing Effect; Lifespan Development; Education; Holistic Health

Publications & Posters

Tousignant, O. H., Taylor, N. D., Suvak, M. K., & Fireman, G. D. (2019). Effects of rumination and worry on sleep. Behavior Therapy, 50, 558-570. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2018.09.005

Stark, A.M., Tousignant, O.H., & Fireman, G.D. (2019). Gender-based effects of frames on bullying outcomes. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 153, 555-574. doi:10.1080/00223980.2019.1578192.

Tousignant, O.H. (2018). Reconsidering our Investments: A commentary on gut-brain health. Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine, 12, 1-2. doi:10.4172/1747-0862.1000335

Sullivan, E.L., Tousignant, O.H., & Fireman, G.D. (2017). Fear-based stress associated with sleep quality. Madridge Journal of Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1, 18-25. doi: 10.18689/mjbss.2017-104

Tousignant, O. H., Glass, D. J., Suvak, M. K., & Fireman, G. D. (2019, May). Dreams, bad dreams, and nightmares as predictors of daily change in negative affect. Poster presented at Association for Psychological Science (APS), Washington, D.C.

Tousignant, O.H., Glass, D. J., Stark, A.M., Marks, A.K., Suvak, M.K., & Fireman, G.D. (2018, June). Exploring the emotion processing function of disturbed dreams. Poster presented at SLEEP conference, Washington, D.C.

Tousignant, O.H., Taylor, N., Stark, A., Suvak, M., & Fireman, G.D. (2017, May). Reciprocal relationship between stress and sleep: A bivariate latent change analysis. Poster presented at the Association for Psychological Science (APS), Boston, MA. 

Tousignant, O.H., Taylor, N., Stark, A., Suvak, M., & Fireman, G.D. (2016, October). Effects of rumination and worry on sleep. Poster presented at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), New York, NY.

Tousignant, O.H., Taylor, N., Suvak, M., & Fireman, G.D. (2016, October). Trait hostility, presleep arousal, and sleep quality in a range of sleepers. Poster presented at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), New York, NY.

Stark, A., Tousignant, O.H., Fireman, G. (2016, October). How we talk about bullying: The framing effect’s influence on memories of bullying. Poster to be presented at the 50th annual convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), New York, NY.

Interested in joining the lab?

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I contact Dr. Fireman to determine if he is accepting students?

To see if I am currently accepting students and to get an overview of my areas of expertise, check the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program Admissions page.

What type of applicant are you looking for?

I am most interested in doctoral applicants with strong academic credentials, outstanding letters of recommendation, solid research experience and a personal statement that clearly articulates the way in which your specific interests match with my areas of expertise.

Can I work in the lab if I am an undergraduate?

Yes, you can work in our lab either for course credit (PSYCH-510) or as a volunteer. Please consult our webpage to see whether your areas of interest match and feel free to contact me or the graduate students in the lab.