Julia Mosebach wins REACH Award!

Congrats to Julia for winning a REACH (Research Engineered Academic Challenge) Grant! Julia's proposed project is entitled "Examining the effects of cognitive control on repetitive negative thinking and depression in children." The competitive grant will provide $1500 to support her project, to begin this fall. Great job, Julia! 


Dylann Wins the ABCT Anxiety Disorders SIG Poster Award

Dylann's first ever 1st author poster titled, "Differential Effects of Anxiety, Worry, and Emotional Regulation to a Speech Stressor" was selected as the winner of the $250 Anxiety Disorders SIG Poster Award! She presented the poster at ABCT in November. We are very proud of her! 

The aim of the poster was to examine the influence of self-reported trait anxiety, worry, social anxiety, and emotional regulation on subjective positive and negative mood before and after a stressor. Self-reported social anxiety and worry impacted mood reactivity and recovery relative to trait anxiety, reappraisal, and suppression. 

Congrats to Dylann on her first author poster acceptance to ABCT!

Dylann Wilkinson, one of our hardworking undergraduates, recently had her first author poster entitled "Differential Effects of Anxiety, Worry, and Emotion Regulation to a Speech Stressor" accepted to the Association of Behavior and Cognitive Therapies annual convention. She will be presenting her poster this November during the Special Interest Group meeting where she will represent the Anxiety Disorders SIG.  Great work, Dylann! We're proud of you!

-Dr. Kertz

Congratulations, Daniel and Dylann!

We're happy to announce that two of the ABC Lab's undergrads, Daniel Pineau and Dylann Wilkinson, received awards at last week's Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Forum!

Daniel presented the results of his undergraduate honors thesis at this years forum.  He received 1st Place in the social sciences category for his outstanding presentation!

Dylann submitted a proposal for her own undergraduate research project and received a Research-Enriched Academic Challenge (REACH) award, a $1,500 grand to fund her project through the 2015-2016 academic year! Keep an eye on our Projects page for details on Dylann's exciting research.

Congratulations again, you two!  Well done and deserved!

ABC Lab at SIU's Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Forum

Stop by the Student Center Ballrooms Monday, April 6th, to support Daniel Pineau, Madeleine Gagesch, and Travis Rogers as they present the results of their undergraduate research projects!

Maddie will be presenting her poster, Emotion Regulation, Anxiety, and Stress Recovery, at 8:30am today in Ballroom B.  Daniel's poster, An Examination of the Moderators to the Effect of a Brief Mindfulness Intervention in Acute Pain, will be presented at 8:30am in Ballroom C, and Travis is to present his poster, Testing a Theoretical Model of Child Anxiety, at 10:30am in Ballroom C.  We're very proud of our outstanding undergrads; great job!  

We hope to see you there!

Kimberly's 2nd & 3rd Publications!!!

More congratulations (and maybe celebrations?) are in order for Kimberly Stevens!

Her second publication, Testing Cognitive and Emotion-Focused Models of Worry in Black and White Samples, was recently accepted for publication in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy!  And as if that weren't enough, her article, Repetitive Negative Thinking Predicts Depression and Anxiety Symptom Improvement during Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, was also accepted for publication in Behavior Research and Therapy! Way to go!

Look for these articles, and for more materials with Kimberly's name, on our Publications & Presentations page soon. -ABC Lab Team-

ABC lab travels to Philadelphia

Things are getting busy in the ABC lab with the end of the semester quickly approaching. Next week several members of the ABC lab will travel to the annual convention for the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT). It is an exciting opportunity to travel and network with others who are interested in psychology! 

The ABC lab at ABCT will be well represented at the conference. Below are the titles and times for our poster presentations. If you are attending ABCT this year, then come by one of our presentations! We would be happy to tell you a little about SIU and life in the ABC lab. 

If you are not attending ABCT, but are interested in any of the following posters, we will add a link to the pdf of the poster to the website following the conference.

-Kimberly Stevens



11:00 AM-12:00 PM: 

Dagong Ran, Rinad Bakhti, and Sarah Kertz will present the poster titled: Psychometric Properties of the Perseverative Thinking Questionnaire Using Undergraduate Sample

4:00 PM-5:00 PM:

Sam Kramer, Daniel Pineau, Devon Ruhde and Sarah Kertz will present the poster titled: Predicting Socially Anxious Group Membership Using Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory 


8:30 AM-9:30 AM:

Kristin Wiggs*, Kimberly Stevens*, and Sarah Kertz will present the poster titled: Worry: A Transdiagnostic Process Predicting Attention to Emotional Faces 

1:30 PM-2:30 PM:

Dagong Ran*, Alana Curewitz*, Taylor Medernach*, Travis Rogers*, and Sarah Kertz will present the poster titled: Association of Depression and Repetitive Negative Thinking With Difficulty Updating Working Memory in Children 

2:45 PM-3:45 PM:

Megan Aiello*, Megan Kloep*, and Ben Rodriguez will present the poster titled: Negative Appraisals, Avoidant Coping, and Perceptions of Control as Predictors of PTSD and Depression Severity in an Unselected Undergraduate Sample

Megan Kloep*, Megan Aiello*, Sarah Kertz, and R. Hunter will present the poster titled: Effects of a Novel Supplemental Treatment for PTSD on Posttraumatic Cognitions, Depression, and PTSD Severity in Military Veterans 

4:00 PM-5:00 PM:

Alana Curewitz*, Kristin Wiggs*, and Sarah Kertz will present the poster titled: Associations Among Emotion Regulation Strategies, Experiential Avoidance, and Attention 

Kimberly Stevens*, Rinad Bakhti*, and Sarah Kertz will present the poster titled: Emotion Regulation Strategies in Relation to Stress Reactivity and Recovery 

6:30-8:30 PM: Clinical Research Methods and Statistics SIG Poster Session

Kimberly Stevens*, Sarah Kertz, R. Kathryn McHugh, and Thröstur Björgvinsson will present the poster titled: Examining the Latent Structure of Distress Intolerance

Note: bolded names will be attending the conference; * denotes a student author



This past week, I watched the classic 1968 film, The Odd Couple, an archetype of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) according to Movies and Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology. I’ve heard about the distinctions between OCPD and a related disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but never felt like I fully understood it. Here’s what I found out:

The DSM-5 notes that one of the best ways to distinguish OCD from OCPD is to determine if true obsessions and compulsions are present. Their presence is required for an OCD diagnosis but not an OCPD diagnosis (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). I envision that when symptoms are accompanied by magical thinking, order/symmetry obsessions are easier to discern from the overvalued order found in OCPD; however, in the absence of magical thinking, symptom distinctions become more difficult to assess.

A fact sheet published by the International OCD Foundation recommends two other domains to consider: insight and interpersonal relationships. Although insight varies widely (and DSM-5 includes specifiers to denote it), those with OCD recognize that their unwanted thoughts are unreasonable to some extent. In OCPD, individuals hold strong convictions to their self-imposed rules and rigidity, believing that these rules truly are the best way to operate. Understandably, these convictions can interfere with interpersonal relationships. In work settings, an individual with OCD may find that symptoms interfere with task performance. However, an individual with OCPD may find that excessive devotion to work and fixation with details does not interfere with task performance as much as it does with their coworkers.

Research on OCPD is increasing in popularity but still rather limited to date. Some studies have proposed a subtype of OCD comorbid OCPD (Garyfallos et al., 2010), a comorbidity that may impact treatment response (Pinto, Liebowitz, Foa, & Simpson, 2011).

As studies on OCPD gain popularity, I hope broader understanding of OCPD's distinctiveness from OCD will increase as well.



American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Garyfallos, G., Katsigiannopoulos, K., Adamopoulou, A., Papazisis, G., Karastergiou, A., & Bozikas, V. P. (2010). Comorbidity of obsessive–compulsive disorder with obsessive–compulsive personality disorder: Does it imply a specific subtype of obsessive–compulsive disorder?. Psychiatry research, 177(1), 156-160.

Pinto, A., Liebowitz, M. R., Foa, E. B., & Simpson, H. B. (2011). Obsessive compulsive personality disorder as a predictor of exposure and ritual prevention outcome for obsessive compulsive disorder. Behaviour research and therapy,49(8), 453-458.

Do I get to lie on a couch and talk about my feelings?

We still see it everywhere. In movies, on the internet, and in comic strips where a psychologist or psychiatrist holds up a clipboard, jotting down notes as his/her patient or client lies on a couch, venting out emotions. This is not what therapy looks like, at least not completely. So what would you see in therapy?

1.     Am I going to get analyzed by my counselor /clinician?

 In the majority of the therapy that uses empirically supported techniques, the counselor or clinician is there to help the client process his/her concerns, whether emotional or behavioral. So does this mean the same as getting analyzed? In a sense, it is. The counselor or clinician is there to help the client systematically process the causes, triggers, and maintenance factors of his/her concerns. The therapist is also there to help look at how the client has been dealing with his/her concerns in the past, what worked, what didn’t, and why. Most of the therapy techniques today do not ask about the content of the client’s dreams in order to get a close insight of the unconscious struggles.

2.     Is my therapist going to tell me what’s wrong with me and cure me?

First of all, there is nothing really “wrong” with any patient or client. Clients come to seek therapy because they feel that their life or daily functioning has been affected by emotional, behavioral or other concerns. A therapist is there to help the client deal with such problems, and discover ways to solve them or cope with them.

3.     So do I just show up to therapy and things will all work out fine again then?

Unfortunately, that is not how therapy works. Going through therapy is a lot of work especially for the client. Most of the behavior and cognitive therapy techniques today requires a lot of effort from the client. For instance, exposure therapy designed to help individual dealing with anxiety issues is a quite unpleasant process at the beginning, but the client must suffer through the process to gain improvement. In another example, when helping parents dealing with their child’s behavior issues, therapy often requires that the parents work out a detailed behavior plan with the therapist, and implement it rigorously at home.

Therapy used to be exploring your unconscious with your Freudian analyst, but it is often not the case anymore in today’s world. Just like seeing a medical doctor for physical complains such as high blood pressure and diabetes, working with a therapist for psychological concerns requires you to deal with the problem methodologically. This often is a complex process that involves making changes to many aspects of your behaviors and even life styles. 


Dagong Ran

Congrats to Kimberly on her thesis defense!

A big congrats to Kimberly Stevens, who successfully defended her thesis, entitled "The process of repetitive negative thinking: An examination of worry, rumination, and attention bias"  earlier this week. Well done, Kimberly! We're all very proud of you! 

Feel free to add a photo of your balloons, Kimberly! 

-Dr. Kertz



Last week I was co-leading a DBT skills group and we were spending a fair amount of time discussing the concept of validation. In my opinion, it seems to be a concept that sounds simple at first, but it is incredibly important and challenging to implement at times. So what do I mean by validation? When we validate someone’s feelings we reassure them that what they feel inside is real, important, and makes sense. Furthermore, validation is non-judgmental and does not indicate that you agree, approve, or disapprove of a particular behavior. Self-validation can be particularly difficult for people who grew up in invalidating environments. They may often ask themselves, “Do I really feel this way?” or “Should I feel this way...is this the ‘right’ thing to feel?” Such a pattern may lead one to trust other’s feelings more than his/her own inner experiences. An individual may even spend significant time and energy proving to himself or others that his experience is real and should be taken seriously, which at times results in further conflict or crisis (e.g. self-harm).

As you can imagine, validation is very important for the therapeutic relationship and is an important intervention in itself. From my perspective as a clinician, I try to be very intentional about validating client’s emotional experiences while also implementing interventions that involve examining thoughts in alternative ways. This isn’t always effortless of course. Now and then I have to catch myself when I recognize a new client catastrophizing an event because there is a pull within me to jump right in and help them problem solve or reappraise the situation right away before first taking a moment to acknowledge and validate their emotional experience. I feel I should mention here that by no means am I implying that validation and cognitive restructuring (or let’s say defusion, for example, if you’re coming at it from an ACT perspective) are in any way incompatible scenarios. My intervention will depend on the context. Of course if this were a new client and we hadn’t established a good rapport yet, my well intentioned actions could be perceived as quite invalidating if not done tactfully. It is in moments like these that I might bookmark in my mind where I see maladaptive thought patterns or behaviors and shelf them for later while focusing on helping the client feel understood.  

Sometimes I find it useful to use an analogy that provides a rationale for change and recognizes that clients are doing their best. I’m sure there are probably many other variations of this analogy, but this is what I use: “If you were in a shipwreck in the middle of the sea it could be perfectly reasonable and effective to use the top of a piano to keep afloat. However, let’s say at some point later in life you go swimming at a pool with a friend. Although a piano top would technically keep you afloat in the pool, it would likely cause unnecessary burden and there are many other more effective ways to stay afloat. Although the piano top worked before, it may now be best to try something else that better suits the situation.” I like this simple analogy because it takes into account one’s learning history and recognizes that at one point the behavior of interest served a purpose for coping in a stressful situation. When faced with a similar situation (water) but with different contexts (pool instead of sea), it’s understandable that we would look to what worked in the past (piano top) and use those behaviors although we come to find now that those behaviors aren't working like they used to since the context has changed (you’re no longer at sea). I’ve found this little analogy to be helpful for both clients and myself for stimulating non-judgmental insight, validation, empathy, and motivation for change. Likewise, when my empathy is running low and I notice thoughts of frustration with someone’s behavior, I try to step inside their shoes and pick out the various reinforcements that may have shaped their behavior along the way, and I find that doing so deepens my understanding and empathy.    


Tips for Self-Care

After getting a severe cold during my first week of graduate school it became clear to me that if I fail to take care of myself it would be a long miserable four years.  One of my top goals would have to be to engage in self-care. But what exactly is self-care? Self-care is any intentional action that you do to improve your overall health and well being. Self-care can be different for each person and may be harder for some to incorporate in daily life. However it is essential to have a happier and healthier life. Here are some tips to get started on self-care.


·       Food

Make sure you are eating enough each day. Also, what is equally important is the quality of food that you are consuming. With a busy schedule quick and easy foods that are bad for you often become the main source for meals. Changing what and how much you eat will improve energy levels, mood and overall well being. One way that I make sure I eat enough is by packing a lunch. In that lunch I make sure to have fruits and veggies, enough food to spread through out the day, and a little treat to look forward to through out the day. Another equally important point is to drink lots of water!

·       Exercise

This is probably one of the hardest things to add into a busy schedule. But there are so many benefits for getting enough exercise it is essential to self-care. A few easy ways to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule is to take the stairs, walk instead of driving or riding the bus when possible, take a short walk during lunch, and exercising during commercial breaks. The biggest things when trying to add exercise into your schedule is to start slow and small, set reasonable goals, and it’s okay to miss a day or week, just keep trying!


·       Sleep

Sleep is so essential to well being and unfortunately is often over looked, especially during the undergraduate and graduate school years. Getting enough sleep doesn’t only improve your overall mood but can also help improve the mood of others. No one wants to be around a cranky person. I make sure that I go to bed at a reasonable time by setting an alarm that reminds me it is late and I need to wrap up what I am doing so I will not be miserable tomorrow.


·       Be grateful

At the end of each day write down or think about three things you are grateful about, and reflect on why they were meaningful to you. Think about what made you happy that day and think about the people that contributed to that happiness. This can really help change your outlook on your day.


·       Try to do something you really enjoy daily.

It can be something small and may not happen everyday. Some ideas are take a long bath, read a book, watch your favorite tv show, buy yourself flowers or some other small thing that makes you happy.


I hope you found these tips helpful and you are able to find a way to incorporate them into your daily life. Start slow and find what works for you!


Congrats to Kimberly on her first publication!

We're very pleased to announce that we've recently had a paper entitled "Distress Intolerance and Worry: The Mediating Role of Cognitive Vulnerabilities" accepted for publication in Anxiety, Stress, & Coping. This paper is the result of a collaboration with two of our friends and colleagues from McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kate McHugh, of the Division of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, and Throstur Bjorgvinsson, of the Behavioral Health Partial Program.

This is Kimberly's first publication (of many, I'm sure), so be sure to give her a high five if you see her. We'll post additional information about our findings in the coming weeks.

Well done, Kimberly!

--Dr. Kertz

Work-Life Balance

Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, I have struggled with balancing my academic work and social life.  I frequently think, “Did I study enough?” or “I wish I wasn’t studying and doing something fun.”  I struggle with wanting to do everything and I hate missing out on an opportunity.  I use to run and flip through notecards on the treadmill.  I also tend to be working on my computer while in conversation with others.  Over the years, I’ve learned a mental and physical balance.  I think it is important to be fully engaged in the present, whether this is a social conversation or academic task.  If I put 100% of my effort into either, I tend to enjoy it more and be more efficient.

First, I’ve learned that when I am working and I become frustrated, it is best for me to take a break rather than continue working.  This break may consist of frozen yogurt with a couple of friends, going for a long run, or watching an episode of Law and Order SVU (three of my favorite past times).  If I continue to work (past frustration), I am inefficient and just overall miserable.  Also, after taking the break, I can return with a new perspective and the mind power to tackle the challenge.

Second, I’ve learned that in order to become motivated to complete a task, such as reading articles for a dissertation or studying for an exam, it is important for me to have something to look forward to.  This can be something as simple as dinner with friends or something bigger, such as a weekend trip to St. Louis or Chicago.  For example, I have found that blocking off an entire weekend to be productive leads me to be less productive during the week.  Why? Because I know I have all weekend to complete the tasks.  If I have fun activities planned, I work hard during the week in order to have the time to pursue those activities.  I have something to look forward.  I have a purpose for working on a Monday night at 7 pm rather than watching TV.  After I have completed the tasks, I can be present and enjoy activities without worrying about everything else.

While I know these methods will not work for everyone, they’ve worked for me.  I still struggle with getting to bed at a regular time (which many of my peers would agree with) and I am often exhausted after a long weekend of traveling.  Overall, I am happy with having a large workload at school and an active social life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.