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Psychology | Clinical Psychology Research Lab

The Clinical Psychology Research Lab directed by Dave Haaga focuses currently on three main areas of investigation:

  1. Cigarette Smoking and Smoking Cessation
  2. Cognitive Behavior Therapy in a Naturalistic Setting
  3. Treatment of Trichotillomania


1. Cigarette Smoking and Smoking Cessation

We have conducted a good deal of research on smoking, with special emphasis on smokers prone to depression, much of it supported by the National Cancer Institute. For example, descriptive research showed that depression-prone smokers show deficits in the cognitive coping skills taught in cognitive therapy of depression.

A clinical trial following up on the earlier study found that a smoking cessation treatment incorporating coping skills adapted from cognitive behavior therapy was specifically effective for smokers showing higher levels of depression-proneness.

  • Kapson, H.S., & Haaga, D.A.F. (2010). Depression vulnerability moderates the effects of cognitive behavior therapy in a randomized controlled trail for smoking cessation. Behavior Therapy, 41, 447-460.

We have continued to use this dataset for process-outcome studies aimed at understanding the mechanisms responsible for this effect, including Kapson, H.S., Leddy, M.A., & Haaga, D.A.F. (2012). Specificity of effects of cognitive behavior therapy on coping, acceptance, and distress tolerance in a randomized controlled trail for smoking cessation.

Currently, we are working on the problem of how to motivate smokers to attempt to quit in the first place, making use of John Riskind's "looming vulnerability" model. Our first pilot study in this area showed that using guided imagery designed to convey a sense that the negative health consequences of smoking are coming closer in space and time (i.e., "looming") significantly lowered smoking rate in the following month. There was also an encouraging trend toward increased quit attempts and use of smoking cessation treatment.

Now, we are following up on this investigation by developing a measure of smokers' perceptions of looming vulnerability to consequences of smoking and by proposing a larger trial of the impact of looming imagery on quit attempts.


2. Cognitive Behavior Therapy in a Naturalistic Setting

Some of our research is based in the James J. Gray Psychotherapy Training Clinic within the Psychology Department.

We have completed studies, using training clinic data, of:

(a) the descriptive characteristics and prognostic significance of "sudden gains" made by patients in the training clinic

Greenfield, M. F., Gunthert, K. C., & Haaga, D. A. F. (2011). Sudden gains vs. gradual gains in a psychotherapy training clinic. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67, 17-30. 

(b) treatment retention and outcome associated with differing methods of clinical supervision – co-therapy, in which the supervisor sits in on sessions with the trainee therapist, vs. the usual arrangement in which the trainee is the only therapist present during sessions

Tanner, M. A., Gray, J. J., & Haaga, D. A. F. (2012). Association of co-therapy supervision with client outcomes, attrition, and trainee effectiveness in a psychotherapy training clinic. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68, 1241-1252. 

See more about the James J. Gray Psychotherapy Training Clinic.

3. Treatment of Trichotillomania

Over the years a number of patients have been treated for trichotillomania (TTM) (compulsive hair-pulling) in our training clinic and reported having had considerable trouble finding treatment providers with expertise in TTM. We developed a stepped-care model to try to improve access to TTM and conducted a study of this approach with support from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Initial results are described in this article to be published in 2014 the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Others aspects of the study have been presented at national conferences, including in a symposium in November 2013 at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) co-chaired by Dave Haaga and AU student Martha Falkenstein.

Martha and Jamie at ABCT 2013 Nashville

Martha and Jamie at ABCT 2013 Nashville.

Our next project on treating trichotillomania, supported 1/1/13–12/31/14 by the Trichotillomania Learning Center, Inc. (TLC), is a treatment development study of the Comprehensive Behavioral (COMB) model of treatment developed by Charles Mansueto, PhD and his colleagues. We are conducting this research in collaboration with the Behavior Therapy Center (BTC) of Greater Washington, of which Dr. Mansueto is the Director.

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More than 30 American University graduate students have worked in this lab with Dave Haaga as their primary research advisor. See our former doctoral and master's students at our Graduates page.

Current Students

Six graduate students are currently active in our lab. See more about our students and their work.

Related Links

James J. Gray Psychotherapy
Training Clinic