The faculty and research labs within the Clinical Psychology PhD Program are divided into the following research emphases. The list below indicates whether a lab is recruiting students for the current season.
Judith T. Moskowitz, PhD, MPH, studies behavioral and psychosocial factors in the context of significant illness or other life stress. Her current research is focused on the adaptive role of positive emotion regulation for support of beneficial health behavior change (such as diet and physical activity) and prevention of maladaptive health behaviors (such as substance abuse). Her work addresses health and health behaviors in a range of patient populations, including dementia caregivers, high school students, people with type 2 diabetes, women with stage IV breast cancer and people living with HIV. She examines the unique adaptive role of positive emotion in the process of coping with various types of health-related and other life stress and, through randomized trials, determines whether a positive emotion regulation intervention can increase positive affect, reduce stress and depression and improve health behaviors in at risk samples. Visit the lab website.
Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology
The Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology is directed by Hendricks Brown, PhD. He and J.D. Smith, PhD, serve as primary mentors. We seek to learn what the goal, opportunities and capacities are of communities, institutions and agencies around prevention programs designed to reduce drug abuse, HIV infection and sexual risk behavior. This information is critical to our planning to address the needs in the practice of, as well as research on, prevention implementation over the next five years and beyond.
To facilitate successful program implementation and evaluation at the federal, state, county and local levels, we are developing new methods for improving implementation in communities as well as new methods for conducting implementation research, quality improvement and evaluation in practice settings. Our methodologic tools include many of the new “system science” approaches that address the complex, interacting and multilevel factors that affect program implementation, program quality and ultimate impact on communities. These system science methods include social network analysis, agent based modeling and intelligent data analysis.
Our team collaborates and consults on implementation projects that are funded or being planned, as well as providing training to diverse groups engaged in implementation. We also provide opportunities for early career investigators to receive mentoring in this new field of implementation science and provide funding for pilot projects on a competitive basis. We provide opportunities for postdoctoral fellowships and collaborations with leading prevention implementation scientists across the country.
This research lab and primary mentor Brian Hitsman, PhD, incorporate treatment, human laboratory and genetic epidemiologic methods to identify psychological and biological factors associated with the development and persistence of nicotine dependence. The primary goal is to inform the development of innovative psychological and pharmacological smoking cessation therapies. Current investigations focus on the neurobehavioral regulation of cigarette cravings and smoking behavior in smokers with and without chronic depression and an effectiveness trial of maintenance therapy for nicotine dependence. Visit the Hitsman Lab website.
Griffith is also interested in mental health, including measurement issues in rumination and autobiographical memory. Current projects include Multidisciplinary Assessment of Pelvic Pain, Symptoms of Lower Urinary Tract Dysfunction Research Network and collaborations with the Apkarian Pain Lab and T. Schnitzer's Lab examining clinical trials in spinal cord injury patients.
Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing
The Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing conducts translational research to improve the health of the LGBT community and to increase understanding of the development of sexual orientation and gender identity. We seek to achieve this mission by developing innovative, evidence-based interventions, collaborating with the LGBT community, training the next generation of LGBT scholars and disseminating research findings to scientific and general audiences. The primary mentor is Michael E. Newcomb, PhD.
Exercise and Health Lab
The Exercise and Health Lab is focused on understanding the determinants and health outcomes of physical activity participation and the translation of this research into practice using technology and innovative research methods. We are particularly interested in the role of physical activity in cancer prevention, control and survivorship. However, we are interested in exploring ways to get everyone to be more active.
Current research focuses on developing and implementing a mobile phone-delivered physical activity promotion intervention for breast cancer survivors using the Multiphase Optimization Strategy Trial methodology and an observational study examining changes in patient reported outcomes and physical activity in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy using ecological momentary assessment methodology. The primary mentor is Siobhan Phillips, PhD.
The Spring Lab focuses on health promotion, risk behaviors (e.g., cigarette smoking, poor quality diet, inactivity, obesity, stress, depression), behavioral interventions, evidence-based practices and e-technology. The overarching goal of the research is to develop health promotion interventions that retain the efficacy of individual intensive behavioral treatments while attaining the reach, reduced cost, and impact of population-based interventions. A current research emphasis concerns identifying optimal ways to modify several unhealthy behaviors at a time (for example, high saturated fat, low fruits and vegetables, low physical activity, high “screen time”). Another emphasis involves using electronic technology to extend the reach of behavioral interventions. Other research interests concern health disparities, food “addiction” and comorbid depression. Primary mentors:are , and .
Health Literacy & Learning Program (Recruiting!)
Northwestern University Health Literacy & Learning Program (HeLP) both explores the cognitive, psychosocial and health system factors that affect an individual’s ability to successfully manage one’s health and develops interventions to help patients and families obtain, process and understand health information to make appropriate health decisions and adopt recommended behaviors.
Active HeLP projects include epidemiological investigations of patients’ ability to perform common health tasks (e.g., prescription and over-the-counter drug use, blood pressure monitoring, healthcare navigation, provider-patient communication) and clinical trials testing innovative strategies to promote health behaviors (e.g., medication adherence, diabetes and hypertension self-management). HeLP sits at the intersection of health communication and behavior, patient safety, health equity and meaningful use of health technologies (e.g., electronic health records, mobile technologies, internet, multimedia).
Neuropsychology & Behavioral Neuroscience
Laboratory of Translational Neurobiology
Research in the Laboratory of Translational Neurobiology focuses on the study of the interactions between genetic, epigenetic and environmental influences on neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration and their mechanisms relevant to the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Our research strategies are multidisciplinary and collaborative, combining multiple approaches from molecular biology to animal model behavior. The ultimate goal of our lab is to establish animal models for better understanding of the mechanisms of the neuropsychiatric disorders and to develop therapeutic strategies for the slowing of disease progression and the prevention of disease onset. Current projects include aging and antipsychotic efficacy, transgenerational epigenetic effects on dopamine receptor development, regulation of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease via CRF and the effects of stress and THC on schizophrenia progression. The primary mentor is Hongxin Dong, MD, PhD.
The Clinical Neuropsychology lab is directed by Sandra Weintraub, PhD, ABCN, ABPP. Weintraub’s lab is within the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease and focuses on studies of cognition in “normal” aging, “SuperAging” (better than normal cognitive functioning in the elderly) and age-associated dementias, such as those caused by Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
Current studies address behavioral, genetic and neuroimaging markers of these conditions, risk factors for healthy and diseased cognitive aging (including the relationship between sleep and memory loss) and the relationship between cognitive deficits and neuropathology at postmortem brain autopsy. One of the key areas in which students are conducting research is the clinical syndrome of primary progressive aphasia. This disorder is characterized by the insidious onset and progressive loss over time of language function (aphasia) due to neurodegenerative disease that targets the left cerebral hemisphere neuroanatomical network underlying normal language function.
Findings from this lab have been published in top neurology and neuropsychology journals and have spanned neuropathology, neurolinguistics, structural and functional neuroimaging, genetic risk factors and the impact of disease on patients and their caregivers. Cross-lab collaborations in Chicago and Evanston permit students to broaden the translational value of research.
Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (Recruiting!)
This lab is directed by Emily Rogalski, PhD. Rogalski’s lab within the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease focuses on structural neuroimaging and non-pharmacologic interventions related to cognitive systems in healthy aging and neurodegenerative disease. She leads studies on SuperAging, primary progressive aphasia (PPA), and atypical forms of Alzheimer's disease. Her studies investigate the relationship between cognitive mechanisms of language and memory and structural as well as molecular brain changes (measured by MRI and PET) that accompany aging and dementia. She also develops support, intervention and educational interventions for individuals with dementia. Training in her lab provides students with skills for imaging analysis as well as non pharmacologic intervention.
Laboratory for Translational Neuropsychology (Recruiting!)
This lab is directed by , and Michael Brook, PhD, and is focused on forensic neuropsychology and neurocriminology, areas of research that involve the application of neuropsychological theory and methods to the understanding of the root causes of violent aggression and criminal behavior. Specific projects in the lab address:
- Examining neuropsychological functioning in homicide offenders
- Exploring relationships between neurocognition, emotion processing, psychopathy and violent behavior
- Development of comprehensive violence risk assessment instruments.
Laboratory of Cognitive Control and Clinical Neuroscience
This lab focuses on understanding how cognitive control processes — those processes that help guide thought and behavior based on internally generated goals — are altered in individuals with or at risk for various forms of psychopathology. We use translational laboratory and fMRI approaches adopted from the cognitive neurosciences to study the functional neural networks involved in the control of attention, working memory and behavioral responding and how these are altered in individuals with psychopathology (primarily schizophrenia and affective psychoses) and those at genetic or clinical risk for such disorders, as well as the impact of pharmacological treatments on these networks. Students in our lab have the opportunity to learn diagnostic and clinical assessment procedures of severe psychopathology, standard neuropsychological methods for evaluating cognitive functioning and laboratory and fMRI based acquisition and analysis of neurophysiologic data. The primary mentor is .
Neuroimaging & Applied Computational Anatomy
The Neuroimaging and Applied Computational Anatomy Lab is focused on the development of multidimensional and multimodal neuroimaging biomarkers using the tools of computational anatomy. Working with collaborators from engineering, mathematics, psychology and clinical specialties, we focus on the following major areas:
- Mapping of brain structures using MRI: We develop automated pipelines to delineate brain structures based on simultaneous mappings of multiple structures from multiple atlases. This includes deep brain structures (such as the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus and basal ganglia) and cortical structures.
- Complex neuroimaging biomarkers: We develop modeling and statistical approaches for the analysis of these maps. We develop frameworks for joint, integrated analyses of multidimensional, multimodal information based on the structural mapping of the brain.
- Clinical applications: We are interested in developing neuroimaging markers to characterize neuropsychiatric disorders, disease progression and prediction and monitoring of treatment.
- Neuroinformatics: Data sharing and data mediation.
- Preclinical applications: Neuroimaging of animal models.
The primary mentor is Lei Wang, PhD.
Health Disparities and Public Policy (Recruiting!)
The Health Disparities and Public Policy program provides opportunities to study the health needs and outcomes of underserved populations. We have studied men in jail, women in jail and youth in juvenile detention. We have focused on the development and persistence of psychiatric disorders, disparities in risk and protective factors associated with psychiatric disorders, service utilization, victimization and perpetration of firearm violence and HIV/AIDS risk behaviors. The program’s current study is the Northwestern Juvenile Project: Next Generation, a study of the children of the original 1829 participants in the Northwestern Juvenile Project, focusing on characteristics that promote resilience in at-risk families. We recently received grants from the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institutes of Health focusing on resilience to drug abuse and firearm involvement. In addition, we plan to examine how a parent’s incarceration (especially during the child’s lifetime) affects their children and what factors promote mental health, being substance-free, avoiding problem behaviors and positive educational outcomes.
Overall, our mission is to provide empirical data on populations that are seldom investigated, help improve services for traditionally underserved populations and guide the development of innovative public policy. Our studies have been cited in Supreme Court amicus briefs, in congressional hearings, in recent reports of the surgeon general and by many federal agencies, private agencies and advocacy groups.
Mental Health Services & Policy Program
The Mental Health Services and Policy Program (MHSPP) provides research, evaluation, outcomes management, training and technical assistance that helps improve the lives of individuals and families who receive publicly funded mental health services and supports providers across a range of service settings. Funded by state contracts and federal grants, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, MHSPP faculty, staff and students assess and address a range of mental health, child welfare and child trauma needs in community settings.
Our NCTSN-affiliated Center for Child Trauma Assessment, Services and Interventions (CCTASI) offers national expertise on trauma-informed assessment and practices and addresses gaps in trauma-informed services across a range of settings, including child welfare, juvenile justice and education. Our CCTASI work emphasizes programs for early education and transition age youth through training and implementation support, resource development and evaluation of trauma-informed services.
Our unique relationships with multiple state and federal agencies and court systems allow students to conduct program and policy evaluation using data from the child welfare, mental health and juvenile justice systems. Through research and evaluation, coursework and clinical practicum opportunities, MHSPP prepares students to contribute to policy and administrative decisions affecting youth and families who receive publicly-funded mental health, child trauma and child welfare services.
For the coming year, we seek applicants to the Clinical Psychology PhD Program with interests in the areas identified above or individuals interested in Northwestern’s JD/PhD program who wish to focus on legal or policy issues associated with children who receive services in the public sector. Applicants with experience or interest in program evaluation are encouraged to apply.
Psychopathology & Treatment
OCD and Anxiety Disorders Laboratory
This lab focuses on designing interventions to improve the long-term treatment and outcome of patients with emotional disorders, with particular emphasis on OCD and anxiety disorders. The lab focuses primarily on two intersecting areas: the hypothesis-driven development and adaptation of empirically-supported treatments and using translational research methods to identify critical, transdiagnostic mechanisms of dysfunction and barriers to recovery. A secondary focus of the laboratory is on eating disorders particularly as they relate to other OC spectrum conditions. The primary mentor is Tina Boisseau, PhD.
M-Body Lab (Recruiting!)
The M-Body lab focuses on developing, testing and implementing evidence based mental health interventions that are accessible and acceptable among high-risk disadvantaged populations. Depressive disorders are common, particularly among disadvantaged individuals, such as women who are unemployed, with less education and income. This high-risk, disadvantaged population is also more likely to hold stigmatizing beliefs and negative attitudes toward traditional mental health treatment and less likely to receive treatment.
The aims of the M-Body Lab are to:
- Understand stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs related to psychiatric disorders and treatment
- Use this knowledge to adapt existing or develop new evidence based interventions that are culturally appropriate and acceptable
- Examine the efficacy of novel mental health interventions among high-risk disadvantaged populations
- Create a model of implementation that facilitates easy access to treatment and broad dissemination
The primary mentor is Inger Burnett-Zeigler, PhD.
Center for Childhood Resilience
The Center for Childhood Resilience is committed to promoting the training of child and adolescent mental health workers from a public health perspective. It is generally acknowledged that the vast majority of children and adolescents in need of mental health services do not receive them through traditional delivery methods, such as fee-for-service individual treatment. In response to this public health crisis, our center is working within the community to identify mental health needs and to disseminate and implement empirically supported treatments that are viable within community settings.
The emphasis of this program is on school mental health, community-based trauma training, restorative justice and public policy and advocacy. Our research is focused on fidelity of treatments as they move out of the research lab into the community as well as on the outcomes of dissemination and implementation, including moderators and mediators that make for more effective treatment outcomes.
Primary mentors are Colleen Cicchetti, PhD, and .
Bipolar Disorder Technology Laboratory
The Bipolar Disorder Technology Laboratory focuses on improving our understanding and treatment of bipolar disorder. Even with current pharmacological treatment, bipolar disorder is a costly, chronic mental illness with high levels of morbidity and mortality. The addition of psychosocial interventions can improve outcomes, but access to these interventions is limited. The laboratory seeks to increase access to psychosocial interventions with demonstrated efficacy for bipolar disorder by utilizing behavioral intervention technologies (BITs), such as mobile apps. In addition, by using BITs to provide real-time assessment and feedback to patients and providers, we aim to increase intervention impact. Furthermore, by using BITs we are able to investigate underlying phenotypes and intervention mechanisms on behavioral targets with the goal of establishing the groundwork for ongoing improvement of bipolar disorder treatment. A randomized clinical trial investigating these questions using a smartphone-based BIT developed in the laboratory is currently underway. Primary mentors are Evan Goulding, MD, PhD, and Cynthia Dopke, PhD.
Affective Science and Treatment Lab
Our research program aims to build neuroscience-informed behavioral interventions that effectively treat depression. Our goals focus on three areas:
- Identifying the neurophysiologic substrates of emotion in depression
- Conducting treatment outcome research to identify neurophysiologic and affective predictors of accelerated therapeutic response
- Adapting and developing behavioral activation interventions that target specific neurophysiologic mechanisms of change in depression
Current projects include a telemedicine behavioral activation treatment for anhedonia among women with mood disorders, testing maternal reward learning in postpartum and characterizing accelerators of treatment response to Behavioral Activation. The primary mentor is Jackie Gollan, PhD.
Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab
The Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Laboratory is directed by Molly Losh, PhD. The lab investigates the language and related abilities that define autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities and the neuropsychological, genetic and environmental features that may be associated with the behavioral and cognitive profiles of these different groups.
Specific study goals include:
- To understand the different developmental strengths and weaknesses in language and related abilities in autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities
- To define subtle language and neuropsychological profiles that may relate to the genes involved in autism and fragile X syndrome, among unaffected relatives
- To document the interactions between genes and environment in neurodevelopmental disabilities
Chicago Lab for Emotion and Physiology
Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies
Northwestern’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITS) is a multidisciplinary center that integrates behavioral science, information and communications technologies and clinical intervention research to develop and evaluate behavioral intervention technologies to improve health. Core CBITs faculty have particular emphasis on mental health especially depression and anxiety. CBITs work includes the development, implementation and evaluation of internet and mobile treatments and the exploration of novel applications of technology, such as smartphone sensors, to further our understanding of psychopathology and its treatment. David C. Mohr, PhD is the director of CBITS.
Dr. Andrea Graham is interested in using online/mobile technologies for screening, prevention, and treatment of eating disorders and obesity among youth, adults, and families, and on evaluating the implementation of behavioral interventions. She also is interested in understanding issues such as the costs of treatment that impact adoption of interventions in practice, and in training providers to deliver evidence-based interventions for mental and behavioral health problems.
Emily Lattie, PhD is interested in digital mental health programs for healthcare and university settings. Specifically, Dr. Lattie is interested in the development and evaluation of technology-enabled mental health services for depression and anxiety delivered via mobile app or website. As a health psychology specialist, she is particularly interested in adapting these services to subpopulations of patients who experience barriers to access to care, as well as examining the contexts, including school and healthcare settings, in which these programs can be implemented.
Practice-Based Clinical Science Lab
This lab focuses on data obtained in naturalistic clinical environments. Working in conjunction with a large behavioral health hospital and system, primary mentor Jason J. Washburn, PhD, ABPP, leverages both existing clinical data and large patient populations to examine novel topics in the areas of nonsuicidal self-injury, depression and eating disorders. He is also interested in dissemination and use of clinical outcomes in routine practice, as well as implementation and dissemination of evidence-based practices.
Mechanisms of Health and Disease Hub
The Mechanisms of Health and Disease Hub within the Department of Medical Social Sciences has done leading-edge work at the interface of clinical and developmental science. In particular, the lab is internationally recognized for its work on the developmental specification of early onset psychopathology and its prenatal origins.
Themes of developmental mechanisms research are to:
- Describe the phenomenology and course of disruptive behavior from infancy across the lifespan, including the generation of developmentally sensitive measures of early emerging psychopathology that differentiate normative misbehavior from the onset of clinical problems
- Elucidate early life mechanisms of early emergence, persistence and variations in disruptive behavior patterns over time and their intersection with other psychopathologies and environmental contexts, with central emphasis on how adverse prenatal and early life environments (such as prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke and stress) shape these pathways
- To translate these findings into approaches that enhance early identification and prevention in the earliest phase of the clinical sequence