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.

Gary Fireman

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

My research interest is in the role of emotional complexity, intensity and experience in relation to judgment, social reasoning, personal narrative, and sleep quality. I am particularly interested in applying these research concerns to understanding children and adolescents who are identified as aggressive, rejected, peer-victimized, and as having poor emotional regulation and limited pro-social skills. I am also interested in emotion functioning in relation to sleep quality, nightmares and disturbed dreaming, and related cognitive processes. My clinical interests include child, adolescent, and adult therapy, as well as psychological and psycho-educational assessment.

Current Graduate Students

Sarah Hopkins

My name is Sarah Hopkins and I am a first year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Suffolk University. 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. I enjoy studying vulnerable populations, specifically young adults and adolescents, as well as those with psychotic-spectrum disorders. For my ERP, I plan to explore the ways perception impacts one’s experience of bullying retrospectively.

Abigail Stark

My name is Abigail Stark and I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at Suffolk University. 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 and acceptance based therapy for anxiety disorders across the developmental lifespan. I gained clinical experience at the McLean OCD Institute Jr., McLean Anxiety Mastery Program, MGH Bipolar Clinic, as well as within neuropsychological assessment at Newton public schools. While at Suffolk I have also gained the opportunity to teach an introductory psychology course 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

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

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) "I'm 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.

Stark, A., Tousignant-Pienkos, O., Fireman, G. (under review). The Effect of Frames on Narrative Reconstructions of Bullying Memories.

Olivia Tousignant

I am a third-year graduate student in Gary Fireman's 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 in a residential treatment facility for people with eating disorders. While pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Suffolk, I have been fortunate to partake in clinical training at Angier Elementary School and at Suffolk's Counseling Health and Wellness (CHW) center. These experiences and the coursework at Suffolk have informed my clinical interests. Additionally, my lifelong passion for understanding how people's experiences shape their day-to-day perspectives on their well-being informs my approach to psychology. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with loved ones, going on adventures in nature, and eating delicious food.

Within The Fireman Lab, my research investigates how the relationship between stress and sleep is informed by intrapsychic and interpersonal processes. 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 (two forms of repetitive negative thought oriented toward the past and future, respectively). For my dissertation, I plan to expand on this research to incorporate measures of social belonging in understanding relationships between stress, sleep, and well-being.

Research Interests

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

Publications & Posters

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(1), 18-25. doi: 10.18689/mjbss.2017-104

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. (2017, May). Reciprocal relationship between stress and sleep: A bivariate latent change analysis. Poster presented at the Association for Psychological Science (APS), Boston, MA.

Stark, A., Strangie-Brown, E., Tousignant, O.H., Fireman, G. (May, 2017). Differences in primed memories of bullying experiences. 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. (October, 2016). 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.

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.

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.