Acceptance, Mindfulness & Emotion Lab

Welcome to the Suffolk University Acceptance, Mindfulness and Emotion Laboratory. We are a translational research lab committed to coupling conceptually driven basic research with treatment development and efficacy efforts in order to gain a better understanding for the complex mechanisms that underlie psychopathology, particularly generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use related disorders.

We are specifically interested in examining how particular responses to internal experiences (images, psychophysiological states, emotions, and thoughts), such as avoidance or suppression, can impact the development and maintenance of problems in psychological functioning. The clinical application of this work involves the development of prevention and treatment programs aimed at integrating acceptance and mindfulness of one’s internal experiences into traditionally behavioral approaches to treatment. Our final goal is to examine the topography and relevance of these processes across different cultures.

We are a collaborative lab with an explicit focus on developing a research community in which faculty, graduate and undergraduate students can challenge themselves and grow and develop as professionals. Together, we aim to sharpen our critical thinking, foster our curiosity and creativity, contribute to the larger scientific community and have fun.

Sue Orsillo, PhD

To learn more about Dr. Sue Orsillo and her work, please visit her faculty page.

Current Graduate Students

Grace Gu

I grew up in Southern California, and graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2007 with a Bachelors Degree in psychology. I feel very fortunate to have been accepted to Suffolk and am thrilled to be a part of the Acceptance, Mindfulness and Emotion Lab. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, friends, yoga, being outdoors, traveling, and dancing on a stationary bicycle (though not necessarily in that order!).

Clinical and Research Interests: My clinical experiences include working with adults at McLean Hospital, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, and at Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, MA. I am interested in working with adults with serious mental illness, mood, and anxiety disorders. I aim to incorporate values and acceptance interventions with more traditional cognitive behavioral approaches to treatment while considering how culture and clients’ unique backgrounds contribute to their current experience of the world.

My broad research interests include therapist factors that impact therapy such as ways to bolster therapists’ training after licensure and therapists’ overall well being. I also have immense interest in the use and dissemination of acceptance based behavioral therapies (ABBT).

Brief Description of Dissertation: My dissertation examines the efficacy of a one-day continuing education training in ABBT as measured by both an ABBT knowledge based questionnaire along with a clinical application based questionnaire. I am also interested in therapist factors (e.g., mindfulness) that help to promote and inspire continued growth with the hope that this can eventually help the clients with whom therapists serve.

ERP Title: Self-Care, Therapeutic Vitality, and Therapists’ Professional and Personal Development

Brief Description of ERP: My Master’s project explored the different ways therapists conceptualize self-care to better understand factors and activities that promote therapist development. This early research project also sought initial evidence as to how such self-care may be related to therapist development (both with respect to professional competence as well as personal growth), therapeutic vitality and perceived efficacy.

John McKenna

I am a fourth-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 and as a clinician in a CBT anxiety outpatient clinic in the Boston area. My current clinical placement is at Cambridge Health Alliance in the Child and Adolescent Assessment Units. 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.

Dissertation Title

Sexual Consent Negotiation Among LGBTQ+ Young Adults: An Exploratory Study with a Heterosexual Comparison Group

In brief, sexual 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 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 minorities and contribute to the development of more inclusive, research-informed sexual assault risk reduction programming.

Select Publications & Presentations:

Marks, A. K., McKenna, J. L., & Garcia Coll, C. (2018). National receiving contexts: A critical aspect of immigrant and refugee youth adaptation. European Psychologist.

McKenna, J. L., & Marks, A. K. (2018). Achievement. In M. H. Bornstein, M. E. Arterberry, K. L. Fingerman, & J. E. Lansford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

McKenna, J. L., & Marks, A. K. (2018). Eriksonian Theory. In M. H. Bornstein, M. E. Arterberry, K. L. Fingerman, & J. E. Lansford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

McKenna J. L., Marks, A. K., & Garcia Coll, C. (April, 2018). Understanding integration policies and child well-being. Poster presentation at the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting, Minneapolis, MN.

Alexandria Miller

I am a first year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University. I’ve moved a lot throughout my life and, with this move to Boston, have now successfully lived in every major region of the US! I graduated from the University of Iowa with honors in 2013 with a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in music. My research interests center around multiculturalism, cultural adaptations for empirically based treatments, and mental health disparities. I am also particularly interested in acceptance-based treatments (i.e. ABBT, ACT) and mindfulness. I will be completing a clinical practicum at McLean Hospital’s Obsessive & Compulsive Disorder Institute during my second year.

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!

Current Position: Doctoral Student

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 & depression.

ERP Title: Values and Belongingness in Graduate School: Underrepresented Minority Students’ Perspectives

Dan Millstein

I grew up in Belmont, MA and graduated from Tufts University in 2010 with a major in clinical psychology. Through this program I was fortunate to have a senior year internship at a first-episode psychosis center, which was helpful in encouraging me to pursue a PhD program that included strong clinical training. Following graduation I worked for two years within the Department of Psychology at Yale University. I was both a research assistant on a treatment trial for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder, as well as the coordinator for an anxiety and mood disorders clinic. These opportunities were invaluable for developing my current interests in mindfulness and acceptance - based treatments for anxiety disorders. Specifically, I hope to examine potential mechanisms of action in an acceptance-based behavior therapy, as well as treatment dissemination and portability for this approach. A side interest is in the application of other contemplative practices (e.g. meditation) towards helping relieve suffering and encourage growth. Clinical experiences so far have included McLean Hospital’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Institute and Anxiety Mastery Program, Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, and the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital. In my free time I enjoy studying and practicing martial arts.

Current Position: Doctoral Student

Clinical and Research Interests: Mindfulness and acceptance-based behavioral therapies for individuals with anxiety disorders, depression, and mixed anxiety/depressive episodes. Dissemination of and therapist training for Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy. Interventions for males with body size dissatisfaction.

Brief Description of Dissertation: My dissertation will look at the effects of a loving kindness and compassion meditation workshop for incoming college students to help them build social support as they transition to school.

ERP Title: Changes in Interpersonal Problems Over the Course of an Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

This research looked at how interpersonal problems prior to treatment predicted outcomes for an acceptance-based behavior therapy. It also examined how changes in mindfulness were related to changes in interpersonal problems over treatments.

Publications:

Millstein, D. J., Orsillo, S. M., Hayes-Skelton, S. A., & Roemer, L. (2015). Interpersonal problems, mindfulness, and therapy outcome in an acceptance-based behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 44(6), 49-501.

Glick, D. M., Millstein, D. J., & Orsillo, S. M. (2014). A preliminary investigation of the role of psychological inflexibility in academic procrastination. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 3(2), 81-88.

Alison Sagon

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. Outside of school I enjoy eating delicious foods, spending time with friends and family, and being active!

Clinical and Research Interests: My research is focused on the intersection between acceptance based behavioral therapies, mindfulness, and social connection. My most recent project has been focused on developing strategies to alleviate the unique stressors of the transition to college for first year students. I am specifically interested in developing this intervention to target both the psychological and social consequences of navigating novel social situations. I hope to eventually develop similar interventions to address the concerns of other vulnerable populations.

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.

Publications/Presentations

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.

Kristen Serowik

Originally from Connecticut, I earned my BA in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University and my MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Prior to coming to Suffolk University, I worked for a number of years as a research assistant at Yale University. The projects that I worked on examined behavioral interventions for individuals struggling with serious mental illness and substance abuse.

Clinical and Research Interests: My research interests broadly encompass the study of evidence-based interventions (i.e., efficacy, dissemination, and mechanisms of action) for vulnerable populations. I have particular interest in how interventions impact those who struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, and forensic issues. Another area of interest is personal values and the role that our identified values/goals play in treatment outcomes.

Dissertation Title: The Mindful Way through Primary Care

My dissertation is focused on examining the efficacy of a self-help book targeting generalized anxiety disorder, Worry Less, Live More: The Mindful Way through Anxiety Workbook, in a primary care setting. Persons receiving care in primary care will be randomly assigned to either receive the self-help workbook or a wait list control. Data will be collected at baseline and post-treatment. Changes between groups over time will be analyzed for a number of psychological variables including worry, anxiety, functional disability, and health-related quality of life.

ERP Title: The Relationship between Substance Use and Personally Meaningful Experiences

The purpose of this project is to enhance the current understanding of valued inaction and substance use among college students by examining the relationship between these constructs and experiential avoidance, drinking motives and mindfulness.

Recent Publications and Presentations

Serowik, K. L. & Orsillo, S. M. (2015). The Relationship Between Substance Use, Experiential Avoidance, and Personally Meaningful Experiences. Poster presented at Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Convention, Chicago, IL.

Rosen, M.I., Ablondi, K., Black, A.C., Mueller, L., Serowik, K.L., Martino, S., Mobo, B.H., Rosenheck, R.A. (2014). Work outcomes after benefits counseling among Veterans applying for service connection for a psychiatric condition. Psychiatric Services.

Serowik, K. L., Ablondi, K., & Rosen, M. I. (2014). Using a think-aloud procedure to modify a counseling website for veterans. Computers and Human Behavior, 37, 26-30.

Serowik, K. L., Rowe, M., Black, A. C., Ablondi, K., Fiszdon, J., Wilber, C., & Rosen, M. I. (2014). Financial motivation to work among people with psychiatric disorders. Journal of Mental Health, 23(4), 186-190.

Rowe, M., Serowik, K. L., Ablondi, K., Wilber, C., & Rosen, M. I. (2013). Recovery and money management. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 36(2), 116-118.

Serowik, K. L., Rowe, M., Bellamy, C., & Rosen, M. I. (2013). Subjective experience of clients in a voluntary money management program. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 16, 136-153.

Serowik, K. L. & Yanos, P. (2012). The relationship between services and outcomes for a prison reentry population of those with severe mental illness. Mental Health and Substance Use, 6(1), 1-11.

Black, R. A., Serowik, K. L., & Rosen, M. I. (2009). Associations between impulsivity and high risk sexual behaviors in dually diagnosed outpatients. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 35, 325-328.

References & Materials

Below, please find a list of books written by Sue. For more information on acceptance based behavioral therapy, please go to MindfulWaythroughAnxiety.com and follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Orsillo, S.M. & Roemer, L., (2016) Worry less, live more: The mindful way through Anxiety workbook. New York: Guilford. Language rights: Japanese, Swedish, Latvian

Orsillo, S.M. & Roemer, L. (2011). The mindful way through anxiety. New York: Guilford.

Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy (ABCT) Self-Help Book of Merit
Language rights: Spanish, German, Finnish, Korean, Chinese-simplified, Greek, Japanese, Russian

Roemer, L., & Orsillo, S.M. (2009). Mindfulness and acceptance-based behavioral therapy in practice. New York: Guilford.
Language rights: Portuguese, Korean
Revision currently in progress

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.

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 Mental Health

Our lab has recently begun to focus on 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 developed a one-session ABBT workshop, the Mindful Way through the Semester (MWTS) and demonstrated its efficacy in two studies. Currently, we are examining the effectiveness of an online version of this program and our preliminary data suggest that this method of delivery is feasible, that students find it useful, and that it reduces rates of depression among who continue practicing the skills over the course of the semester. Another lab project in this domain is aimed at exploring the impact of a compassion-based mindfulness program on students’ interpersonal functioning.

Interested in joining the lab?

Potential Graduate Students

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can I find out whether Dr. Orsillo intends to take a student for the upcoming year?
Check out our departmental admission webpage.

Should I contact Dr. Orsillo directly to express my interest?
There is no need to contact me in advance of submitting your application to our graduate program. Unfortunately, given the volume of applicants to our program, I am unable to correspond via email with everyone who is interested. I honestly do not track who emails me in advance of applying and my decision to admit a student is based solely on their application. Please feel free to contact me if you have a genuine question, but don’t feel like you need to express interest in my work or ask me about my current research to help your application.

What type of applicant are you looking for?
I am most interested in students 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. Applicants who are passionate about psychology, flexible, open to feedback, hard-working, and self-motivated are more likely to "fit" with my mentorship style.

How can I find out more about the doctoral program?
We keep a tremendous amount of very useful information on our public webpage. I encourage you to read over our resources and manuals.

Suffolk Undergraduates Interested in Becoming Involved in Research

Psychology majors who are juniors or seniors and who have successfully completed the course in research methods can apply to take an Independent Study Course (Psychology 510) for 1-4 credits. As part of this course, students become involved in ongoing research in the laboratory and experience hands-on learning as to what it is like to conduct research in the area of clinical psychology. Please contact Dr. Orsillo if you are interested in learning more about this course.