Welcome to the Personality, Emotion, and Social Processes Lab directed by Michael Suvak at Suffolk University. An in-depth description of lab research interests and current projects and can be found by exploring the tabs of lab members listed below.

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, check out the doctoral admissions webpage.

Michael Suvak, Ph.D

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 posttraumatic 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 pscyhophysiological 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.

Select Publications & Presentations:

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.

Current Graduate Students

  • Vanessa Alvarez

    Vanessa is a fourth year graduate student at Suffolk University. She is a native South Floridian, receiving her BA degree from the University of Miami in 2007. As a clinician in training, Vanessa has been privileged to serve a diverse population of clients via practicum placements at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Suffolk University’s Counseling Center, and McLean Hospital. Her master’s thesis involved tracking the process of development through conflict resolution in a case of couple therapy using qualitative methods. More recently, Vanessa has become increasingly interested in the link between self-compassion and other-focused compassion, which will be the topic of her dissertation project.

  • Caitlin Chiupka

    Caitlin is a third year graduate student at Suffolk University. She moved to Boston for graduate studies in 2012 from Ontario, Canada. Caitlin completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario), earning an honours arts degree in psychology with a specialization in legal studies and criminology. Caitlin's previous clinical work includes placements at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, St. Joseph's Health Centre - Guelph, the Gunderson Residence at McLean Hospital, and the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Institute at McLean Hospital. During the 2014-2015 academic year Caitlin will be working at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. Her research interests include images and autobiographical memories and emotion granularity in anxiety disorders, with a current focus on the impact of language on mental illness stigma.

    Early Research Project Title: Anxiety and Emotion Granularity: The Impact of Anxious Arousal and Anxious Apprehension on Representations of Emotion

    Dissertation Title (in progress): The Impact of Pejorative Language on Mental Illness Stigma

    Select Publications & Presentations:

    Chiupka, C. A., Carpenter, L. S., Birch, A. L., Dick, A. M., & Suvak, M. K. (2014, May). Understanding specificity of emotional experience: Self-consciousness predicts emotion granularity. Poster presented at the 26th Annual Convention of The Association for Psychological Science, San Francisco, CA.

    Johnston, N., Drysdale, M., & Chiupka, C. (2013). An experiential pedagogical model for developing better global citizens. In J. Benham-Rennick & M. Desjardins (eds.), The world is my classroom: International learning and Canadian higher education (45-62). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Moscovitch, D. A., Chiupka, C. A., & Gavric, D. L. (2013). Within the mind's eye: Negative mental imagery activates different emotion regulation strategies in high versus low socially anxious individuals. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 44(4), 426-432. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2013.05.002

    Chiupka, C. A., Moscovitch, D. A., & Bielak, T. (2012). In-vivo activation of anticipatory vs. post-event autobiographical images and memories in social anxiety. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31, 783-809. doi: 10.1521/jscp.2012.31.8.783

    Groenwald, T., Drysdale, M., Chiupka, C., & Johnston, N., (2011). Towards a definition and models of practice for cooperative education and work integrated learning. In R. Coll & K. Zegwaard (eds.), International handbook for cooperative and work-integrated education (2nd ed.) (17-24). Boston: WACE.

    Chiupka, C. & Moscovitch, D. A., (2011, May). Comparing anticipatory and ruminative autobiographical images and memories in individuals with social anxiety and non-anxious controls. Poster presented at the Inaugural Conference of the Canadian Association of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CACBT), Toronto, ON.

  • Alexandra Dick

    Ally is a second 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 mindfulness/acceptance. Her master's thesis will examine the relationship among mindfulness and related constructs (e.g., experiential avoidance and self-compassion), emotional granularity, and affective instability.

    Early Research Project Title (in progress): Mindfulness, Emotional Granularity, and Affective Instability

    Select Publications & Presentations:

    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. Advance online publication. 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

    Chiupka, C. A., Carpenter, L. S., Birch, A. L., Dick, A. M., & Suvak, M. K. (2014, May). Understanding specificity of emotional experience: Self-consciousness predicts emotion granularity. Poster presented at the 26th Annual Convention of The Association for Psychological Science, San Francisco, CA.

    Wiltsey Stirman, S., Gutner, C., Dick, A., DeVito, A., Meisel, S., Gamarra, J., & Davidson, E. (2013, November) Trauma-focused EBPs in a clinic for Trauma-Exposed Women Veterans: Who Receives Them, Who Doesn't and Why? In S. Wiltsey Stirman & J. Ruzek, Trauma-focused Evidence-Based Treatments in Routine Care: Provider Decisions, Client Characteristics, and Adaptations. Symposium presented at the 29th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Philadelphia, PA.

    Meisel, S., Calloway, A., Dick, A., DeVito, A., Rasmusson, A., Wiltsey Stirman, S. (2013, November). Comparing Self, Clinician, and Observer Reports of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) Adherence. Poster presented at the 29th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Philadelphia, PA.

    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

    Reddy, S., Dick, A., Gerber, M., Mitchell, K. (2013, April). Treatment Seeking Characteristics of Women Participating in a Yoga Intervention for PTSD. Poster presented at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, Denver, Colorado.

    Dick, A.M., DiMartino, D.M., Niles, B.L. & Mitchell, K.S. (2012, November). The inverse relationship between mindfulness and dissociation in a yoga intervention for women with PTSD. Poster presented at the 28th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Los Angeles, CA.

    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.


  • Regina Musicaro

    Regina is a first-year graduate student at Suffolk University. Following the completion of her undergraduate degree at the State University of New York at New Paltz, Regina, a native New Yorker, arrived in Boston in 2007 in pursuit of a research job related to the examination of neural substrates of behavior. Regina worked at the Harvard University Lab of Aging and Cognition, a position that nurtured an interest in better understanding how experiences of suffering and healing might be studied within the framework of cognitive neuroscience paradigms. Following a visit in 2008 to an impoverished orphanage in the Dominican Republic, Regina decided to pursue a career that would benefit struggling communities at home and abroad, with the goal to participate both in research and direct care. Since that time, Regina has participated in organizations such as Upham's Corner Dorchester and Making Roots. She also took several courses in clinical psychology at the Harvard Extension School and took on the position of Clinical Research Coordinator at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute. Regina has engaged in meaningful and rewarding projects related to her interests in neuroscience, mental health, and social justice, and looks forward to continuing this work at Suffolk.

    Select Publications & Presentations:

    Hill, M., Garcia, J., Musicaro, R., Geher, G. (in preparation) Women Having Sex When They Don’t Want To: Exploring the Occurrence of Unwanted Sex in the Context of Hook-Ups.

    Addis, D.R., Pan, L., Musicaro, R., Schacter, D.L. (under review). Divergent Thinking and Constructing Episodic Simulations. (Submitted to Personality and Individual Differences, October 2013).

    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.


  • Kate Smidt

    Kate is a fifth year graduate student at Suffolk University. She graduated from Union College in 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Kate currently works at the VA Boston Healthcare System in Jamaica Plain as a clinical assessor, and at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Counseling Center as a therapist. Her previous clinical work includes training at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, McLean Hospital's OCD Institute, Beth Israrel's Neuropsychological Assessment Center, and Suffolk University’s Counseling Center. Last year, Kate taught two General Psychology courses at Suffolk University. Kate's research and clinical interests are in emotion regulation and trauma. Her dissertation examines the impact of psychological state on emotional granularity.

    Early Research Project Title: Tracking the Developmental Process in Mentor/Supervision Relationships Using the DAPP Framework

    Dissertation title (in progress): Emotional Granularity and State Effects

    Select Publications & Presentations:

    Smidt, K. E., Suvak, M. K., Chiupka, C. A., & Carpenter, L. S. (2013, November). Investigating correlates of emotional granularity. Poster presented at the 47th Annual Convention of The Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Nashville, TN.

    Smidt, K. E. (2013, February). Tracking the Developmental Process in Mentor/Supervisory Relationships at Summer Camp. Paper and poster presented at the American Camping Association, Dallas, TX.

    Smidt, K., Basseches, M., Thomas, A., Alvarez, V., Clapp, M. (2012, June). The importance of more general human relational-developmental processes in change mechanisms in psychotherapy, Paper presented at the Society for Psychotherapy Research, (SPR), Virginia Beach, VA.

    Smidt, K. E. & DeBono, K. G. (2011). On the effects of product name on product evaluation: An individual difference perspective. Social Influence, 6, 131-141.

Lab Alumni

  • Sarah Valentine

    Sarah graduated from the Suffolk University clinical psychology Ph.D. program in 2014. She is currently a postdoctoral clinical and research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School (MGH/HMS) in the Community Psychiatry Program for Research in Implementation and Dissemination of Evidence-Based Treatments (Community Psychiatry PRIDE). She recently completed an APA-accredited predoctoral internship program in Behavioral Medicine at MGH/HMS (2013-2014). Prior to graduate school, Sarah worked at Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago as an HIV/AIDS prevention counselor through the National AIDS Fund Americorps Program. As an undergraduate, she conducted research home visits for a study at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center investigating health disparities in child/adolescent obesity, including the contribution of trauma history to weight and psychosocial functioning. Sarah's research and clinical interests are in trauma and health. More specifically, her research interests are in trauma treatment, mechanisms of revictimization, HIV prevention, and addressing health disparities through implementation science.

    Dissertation Title: Does Sexual Victimization Impair Decision-Making? An Investigation of Cognitive, Physiological, and Perceptual Factors Among Women

    Early Research Project Title: Correlates of Perceptual and Behavioral Definitions of Abuse in HIV-Positive Sexual Minority Men

    Select Publications and Presentations:

    Valentine, S. E., Bankoff, S. M., Poulin, R., Reidler, E., & Pantalone, D. W. (in press). The use of dialectical behavior therapy skills training as stand-alone treatment: A systematic review of the treatment outcome literature. Journal of Clinical Psychology.

    Pantalone, D. W., Horvath, K. J., Hart, T. A., Valentine, S. E., & Kaysen, D. L. (in press). Traumatic revictimization of HIV-positive men who have sex with men engaged with medical care. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

    O’Cleirigh, C., Valentine, S. E., Pinkston, M., Herman, D., Bedoya, C. A., Gordon, J. R., & Safren, S. A. (in press). The unique challenges facing HIV-infected patients who smoke: Cigarette smoking, HIV viremia, adherence, and engagement in HIV care. AIDS & Behavior.

    Bankoff, S. M., Valentine, S. E., Jackson, M. A., Schacht, R. L., & Pantalone, D. W. (2013). Compensatory weight control behaviors of women in emerging adulthood: Associations between childhood abuse experiences and adult relationship avoidance. The Journal of American College Health, 61(8), 468-475.

    Andrasik, M. P., Valentine, S. E., & Pantalone, D. W. (2013). Sometimes you just have a lot of bitter to make it sweet: Substance use and partner abuse in the lives of HIV-positive men who have sex with men. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 25(3), 287-305.

    Valentine, S. E., & Pantalone, D. W. (2013). Correlates of perceptual and behavioral definitions of abuse in HIV-positive sexual minority men. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(5), 417-425.

    Gefter, J. R., Bankoff, S. M., Valentine, S. E., Rood, B. A., & Pantalone, D. W. (2013). Feminist beliefs associated with young women’s recovery from male-perpetrated abuse. Women & Therapy, 36(3-4), 332-355.

    Valentine, S. E., Bankoff, S. M., & Pantalone, D. W. (2013). Finding meaning after same-sex partner abuse: A content analysis of HIV-positive men’s experiences. Violence & Victims, 28, 161-177.

    Pantalone, D. W., Schneider, K. L., Valentine, S. E., & Simoni, J. M. (2012). Investigating partner abuse among HIV-positive men who have sex with men. AIDS & Behavior, 16, 1031-1043.