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

Profile Picture of Sarah Hopkins

I am a fourth-year clinical psychology candidate in the Clinical Psychology PhD program. I’m 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 residential counselor in a residential home for children and teenagers utilizing a DBT-based program.  I was also a research coordinator in the Psychotic Disorders Research Program at UMass Medical School in Worcester, MA, where I was responsible for conducting daily study visits and research-related tasks for those participating in investigational medication trial and psychosocial intervention studies.  In this role, I also conducted clinical eligibility screenings for the First Episode Psychosis Clinic (STEP). 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’ve had clinical training experiences conducting individual psychotherapy at Suffolk's Counseling Health and Wellness (CHW) center and Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD), as well as neuropsychological assessment experience at Grove Counseling Services. During the upcoming academic year, I will continue my training in research and clinical practice at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Integrated Brain Health Clinical and Research Program (IBHCRP). I am particularly interested in the dimensionality of physical and mental health through the brain and widespread effects that brain health interventions can have on disease prevention, recovery and management of physical and mental illness.  Through this practical training at MGH, I hope to support efforts to enhance the connection between research and clinical practice in the mental health field.

Complementing these clinical experiences, I enjoy teaching at the undergraduate level and look forward to broadening my educational training by teaching a class in General Psychology this fall through remote, online classes.  In my spare time, I enjoy outdoor activities and eating good food with close friends and family!

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 across the lifespan. I enjoy studying these variables with a multi-systems perspective by utilizing a combination of variable and person-centered statistical analyses.  My master’s thesis involved a person-centered approach to examining how social cohesion and perceived stress combine to impact each other, peer aggression, and prosocial behavior outcomes in early adolescents from a multi-systems perspective. Other investigations have focused on children’s experience of mixed emotions, social behavior patterns in youth, and the framing effect. For my dissertation, I am investigating how different communicated frames about bullying impact current bystander behavior particularly related to risk-taking in social settings, and how individual factors including moral disengagement may mediate the association between communicated frames and outcomes of interest. As the intervention will involve participants writing personal narratives about past bullying experiences, there will be both qualitative and quantitative data results collected.

I am a sixth-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. For two years, I then worked in Cambridge, MA as a Residential Counselor Supervisor and group leader in a treatment facility for people with eating disorders. As a clinical psychology student at Suffolk, I have trained within the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA), Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Newton Public Schools (NPS), Suffolk's Counseling Health and Wellness (CHW) center, and Boston Medical Center (BMC). This year, I am pursuing predoctoral internship training at the Albany Psychology Internship Consortium, training within Albany Medical College, NY state Capital District Psychiatric Center, and the Stratton VA Medical Center..

As a psychological scientist, I value elucidating intrapsychic and interpersonal variables that expedite change toward holistic well-being. I am intrigued by the psychological mechanics of health acquisition and maintenance, and I enjoy using complex statistical methods to model nuanced processes. My dissertation research examines the sleep-emotion relationship as a bidirectional process, relating to insomnia and cognitive patterns associated with transdiagnostic constructs. The experimental component of my dissertation examines how methodological assessment timing can bias self-reporting behavior. My Master's project at Suffolk employed multilevel moderated mediation to compare how the relationship between stress and sleep quality is augmented by two cognitive processes - rumination and worry (i.e., repetitive negative thought about the past and future, respectively).

Additional research projects examine other sleep-related variables including dreams and sleep-wake equilibration, the framing effect, memory bias, social resilience, and biological wellness. For the past three years as a research Analyst within Suffolk's Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, I enjoyed engaging in institutional level data analytics informing decision making to promote student success and positive systemic change. At Suffolk, I have taught the Human Sexuality course, mentored junior students in the lab, and for three semesters I led zazen groups within Suffolk’s Interfaith Center. The dimensional integration of human experience is of utmost interest.

Research Interests

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

Selected Research Projects

Tousignant, O.H. & Fireman, G.D. (2020). Effects of Biotic and Abiotic Crises: A 13-item assessment (EBAC-13). Qualtrics.

Fergusson, A., Hopkins, S., Stark, A.M., Tousignant, O.H., Fireman, G.D. (2020). Children expressing mixed emotion in a nonsocial context. The Journal of Genetic Psychology.

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

Treva Kennedy-Pyers

I am a first-year psychology graduate student in Suffolk University’s Clinical Doctoral Program.

I grew up on a small farm in Loomis, California and I received my bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from the University of California, Davis. After working for several years as a counselor in a health clinic, I moved to NYC to do a post-baccalaureate program in psychology at Columbia University.

While at Columbia, I managed the Metacognition and Memory Lab under Dr. Janet Metcalfe. There, I aided in the development and computer programming of several experiments on memory, learning and epistemic curiosity.

Simultaneously, I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Christine Cha’s Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental studies (LCDS) where I gained experience studying clinical populations. At LCDS, I assisted with a study that looked at suicidal and non-suicidal adolescents’ abilities to imagine the future and remember the past. I also completed my own study looking at the relationship between suicide gesture and different types of interpersonal stress.

My experiences as a counselor and researcher solidified my desire to pursue both clinical work and research. I am interested in studying memory for social events, particularly where cyber-victimization is involved.

In my free time, I like to run, cook, write and help my husband design puzzles and games for his job.

Publications

Metcalfe, J., Kennedy-Pyers, T., Vuorre, M. (2020). Curiosity and the Desire for Agency: Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me! Manuscript submitted for publication.

Kennedy-Pyers, T. M., & Cha, C. B. (2019, October). A two-study investigation of suicide gesture: Exploring the potential role of interpersonal stress. Poster presented at the IASR/AFSP International Summit on Suicide Research, Miami Beach, FL.

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.