Research in this area focuses on the interaction between psychological and physiological factors in a wide range of phenomena of experience and behavior, including processes of organic and mental disease and their prevention and management. Faculty and students are engaged in investigation a range of topics, including:
- Psychobiology of anxiety disorders and respiratory disease
- Biobehavioral treatment approaches to anxiety disorders and asthma
- Lifestyle and behavioral interventions for chronic diseases
- Prevention and treatment of obesity and eating disorders
- Aging effects on memory ability
- Influence of social cognitive and individual difference factors on decisions about health behaviors
In addition to recruiting participants and treating patients from the community, active collaborations exist with a number of local medical institutions, including UT Southwestern Medical School, Baylor University Medical Center, Presbyterian Hospital, Children’s Medical Center, Cooper Institute, and Cooper Aerobic Center as well as many scientists at national and international research institutions. In recent years, our faculty has obtained research funding from a variety of sources, including the National Institutes of Health (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) and the Department of Defense as well as companies and private donors.
Students participate actively in all stages of research and receive training in a wide spectrum of methods of assessment and analysis, which includes:
- Questionnaire development and application
- Interview and text analysis
- Longitudinal and multilevel data analysis
- Ambulatory physiological and self report assessment
- Laboratory emotion and stress induction techniques
- Bioelectrical impedance analysis
- Psychophysiological monitoring techniques
Family psychology is a science dedicated to advancing knowledge about families and individual family members. It is also a clinical science, concerned with both the generation of basic scientific knowledge and the application of this knowledge to policy and clinical practice. At SMU, students admitted into the doctoral program in clinical psychology can obtain training that emphasizes family psychology. Specifically, students with research interests in this area have the opportunity to enroll in courses in family psychology, work with SMU faculty members on pioneering research in family psychology, and gain essential clinical experience in working with families, which can inform their research.
Currently, SMU faculty members are conducting cutting-edge research on a number of important family psychology topics. This research can be classified as falling in four general areas: Development of problematic family interaction patterns and relationships; the family’s role in the development and maintenance of individual psychopathology and problematic health outcomes; clinical assessment of children, the family, and family relationships; and the prevention and treatment of clinical phenomena in family populations.
These topic areas include specific studies on:
- The emergence of family problems for which family members seek clinical services, such as marital distress and problematic parent-child relationships.
- Behaviors within the family for which family members are court-mandated to receive treatment, such as intimate partner violence and child abuse.
- Characteristics of couples in which one partner has a severe mental illness
- The role of couple relationships in the exacerbation or prevention of psychiatric symptoms.
- The family’s role in the development and maintenance of health-related outcomes such as obesity, nutrition awareness, and the regulation of negative emotions.
- Family-based interventions for weight loss and nutritional awareness.
- The development of a variety of forms of child psychopathology within violent families such as conduct disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- The development and evaluation of measures to assess family competence, children’s perceptions of family conflict, and relationship violence.
- Interventions for families in need of clinical services (e.g., couples therapy, parenting interventions)
- Parenting and its role in healthy and maladaptive child development
Psychopathology is a diverse field that includes research on the risks for the development of psychological disorders and distress, the factors that contribute to improvement or worsening of such difficulties over time, and the development and dissemination of scientifically-based treatments. Graduate students in the Ph.D. program at SMU have the opportunity to work with several faculty members on various aspects of psychopathology and empirically-based interventions for psychological disorders.
Specific research topics currently being addressed within the area of Psychopathology area are:
- Psychosocial factors that contribute to bipolar disorder
- Biobehavioral aspects of anxiety disorders
- Novel intervention for anxiety disorders, including biofeedback and acceptance therapy
- Etiology, prevention and treatment of eating disorders
- Pharmacological augmentation of exposure-based treatments for anxiety disorders
- Exercise interventions for anxiety disorders and nicotine dependence
- Role of anxiety in health behaviors