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

Alexandra Dick

Ally is a fifth year graduate student at Suffolk University. Originally from the Boston area, Ally graduated from Brown University where she majored in Visual Art. She subsequently worked at a community-based organization serving immigrants in Rhode Island for several years. She completed a Master's in General Psychology at Boston University and worked as a research assistant at the Women's Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD at the Boston VA before coming to Suffolk. Her research interests include trauma, PTSD, emotion regulation and self-compassion. Her master's thesis examined the relationship among mindfulness and related constructs (e.g., experiential avoidance and self-compassion), emotional granularity, and affective instability. For her dissertation she is examining relationships between attachment and self-compassion.

Early Research Project Title: Mindfulness, Emotional Granularity, and Affective Instability

Select Publications & Presentations

Dick, A. M. & Suvak, M. K. (in press). Borderline personality disorder affective instability: What you know impacts how you feel. Personality: Theory, Research and Practice.

Dick, A. M., Niles, B. L., Street, A. E., DiMartino, D. M. & Mitchell, K. S. (2014). The influence of mindfulness, psychological flexibility, and emotion regulation on PTSD symptoms in a yoga intervention for women. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 70, 1170-1182. doi:10.1002/jclp.22104.

Mitchell, K.S., Dick, A.M., DiMartino, D.M., Smith, B.N., Niles, B., Koenen, K.C., & Street, A.(2014). A pilot study of a randomized controlled trial of yoga for PTSD symptoms in women. Journal of Traumatic Stress. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/jts.21903

Shivani R., Dick, A.M., Gerber, M.G. & Mitchell, K. S. (2014). The effect of a yoga intervention on alcohol and drug abuse risk in Veteran and civilian women with PTSD. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(10), 750-756. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0014.

Iverson, K. M., Dick, A., McLaughlin, K. A., Smith, B. N., Bell, M. E., Gerber, M. R., & ...Mitchell, K. S. (2013). Exposure to interpersonal violence and its associations with psychiatric morbidity in a U.S. national sample: A gender comparison. Psychology Of Violence, 3(3), 273-287. doi:10.1037/a0030956

Resick, P.A., Bovin, M.J., Calloway, A.L., Dick, A.M., King, M.W., Mitchell, K.S., Suvak, M.K., Wells, S.Y., Wiltsey-Stirman, S., & Wolf, E.J. (2012). A critical evaluation of the complex PTSD literature: Implications for DSM-5. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 25, 241–251.

Kayla Lord

My name is Kayla Lord, and I’m a second 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. I graduated from PSU in 2016 with an honors BA in Psychology, and an honors BA in Communication Arts and Sciences. My research interests center on interpersonal functioning and its reciprocal relationships with mood, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders with a secondary interest in statistics and research methods. Additionally, I study various trauma related topics through my work as a research assistant at The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute. For my ERP, I’m investigating the relationship between social anxiety, rejection sensitivity, adult theory of mind, and compassionate responding. I’m also researching the role of perceived criticism in anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as the associations between social roles and posttraumatic stress symptoms. I am currently on practicum at the Center for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Research at McLean Hospital administering assessment with adolescents who are in the partial hospitalization program, and intervention with adolescent outpatients.


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.

Presented Posters:

Lord, K. A.*, Parnes, M., Alvarez, V. A., Dick, A. M., Smidt, K. E., & Suvak, M. K. (2017, May). Latent structure of the Self-Compassion Scale. Accepted to the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, Boston, MA.

Parnes, M., Lord, K. A.*, Alvarez, V. A., Schwartz, S. E. O., & Suvak, M. K. (2017, May). A latent profile analysis of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. Accepted to the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, Boston, MA.

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

Lord, K. A.*, Jacobson, N. C., & Newman, M. G. (2016, April). A possible temporal mechanism between anxiety and depression: Social support. Poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Psi Chi Research Conference, University Park, PA.

Rose Luehrs

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.

Regina Musicaro

Regina Musicaro is originally from the boroughs of New York City. She completed an honors degree in psychology concentrating in psychobiology and evolutionary studies from SUNY New Paltz. After graduating, Regina first worked as a research assistant at the Harvard University cognitive neuroscience Lab of Aging and Cognition and then switched from a cognitive neuroscience focus to a clinical psychology focus. For the past seven years, she has worked in various roles at the Trauma Center at JRI such as Senior Clinical Research Coordinator, project manager and clinician. She is involved in community service at home and abroad and her main areas of study are traumatic stress, neuroscience, and social justice.

Select Publications & Presentations

Musicaro, R. M., Spinazzola, J., Arvidson, J., Swaroop, S. R., Goldblatt Grace, L, Yarrow, A. & Ford, J., (2017) The complexity of adaptation to childhood polyvictimization in youth and young adults: recommendations for multidisciplinary responders, Journal of Trauma, Violence and Abuse.

Price, M., Spinazzola, J., Musicaro, R., Turner, J., Suvak, M., Emerson, D., & van der Kolk, B. (2017) Effectiveness of an extended yoga treatment for women with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

van der Kolk, B., Gapen, M., Hodgdon, H., Musicaro, R., Suvak, M. & Spinazzola, J. (2016) A randomized controlled study of neurofeedback for chronic PTSD, PLOS one.

Addis, D.R., Pan, L., Musicaro, R., Schacter, D.L. (2014). Divergent Thinking and Constructing Episodic Simulations. Personality and Individuals Differences, (1):89-97 DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2014.985591.

Addis, D. R., Musicaro, R., Pan, L. & Schacter, D. L. (2010). Episodic simulation of past and future events in older adults: evidence from an experimental recombination task, Psychology and Aging, Vol. 25, No. 2, 369-376.

References & 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.