Red River Psychology Conference 2016

Undergraduate research assistants, Zoe Citrowske Lee and Branden Smith, presented research from our lab at the 30th Annual Red River Psychology Conference. Zoe’s project examined suicide risk among undergraduate students who belong to ethnic minority groups, while Branden’s project examined the relationships between different facets of emotion regulation difficulties and nonsuicidal self-injury. They did an excellent job sharing our research with conference attendees (see pictures below)!
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NDSU at ABCT

I had the pleasure of attending the 49th Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in Chicago over the past several days, and it was an excellent conference!

Four graduate students from the NDSU Psychological Clinical Science program presented their research. 

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Mun Yee Kwan, from our lab, presented on stress generation and bulimic symptoms (details forthcoming in a manuscript that was recently accepted by Journal of Affective Disorders).

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Brandon Saxton, from the Attention and Emotion Lab, presented on differences between anxiety and sadness with regard to dual-attention RSVP performance.

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Tharaki Siyaguna, from the Attention and Emotion Lab, presented on mindfulness moderating the influence of rumination on depression.

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Samantha Myhre, from the Attention and Emotion Lab, presented on trait mindfulness serving as a protective factor against depressive symptoms.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Brooke Ammerman, who was a research assistant and honors thesis student in our lab when she was an undergraduate. She is currently doing important work on nonsuicidal self-injury as a doctoral student at Temple University.brooke

I saw so many compelling presentations on groundbreaking research in the field, including two psychologists who have influenced me as a scientist, instructor, and clinician: Marsha Linehan and Scott Lilienfeld. They each have far too many contributions to list here, but Linehan is best known for creating, developing, and rigorously testing the revolutionary Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Lilienfeld is well-known for his prolific work identifying and calling out pseudoscience and articulating the importance of identifying and stopping harmful mental health practices, among many other contributions.

Some quotes from Linehan’s presentation (with the disclaimer that they are not exact, but rather paraphrased from the best of my memory and my notes):

  • On understanding the perspective of a client who is experiencing suicidal desire so that you can effectively intervene,”Suicide is viewed as a problem by the therapist and as a solution by the client.”
  • On dialectical thinking and the acknowledgement of multiple truths, “If you ask people what you get when you put black and white together, most will say that you get gray, but that’s not true. Black and white together makes plaid.”
  • On her clinical trial that dismantled different components of DBT to see which components were most impactful (e.g., skills group vs. individual therapy), “I try not to go into research thinking I know the answers because that’s when I usually get the worst outcomes. I was confident that the DBT skills reduced suicide attempts, but I wasn’t going to let people die to make a point. We made sure every client in our clinical trial had the formal DBT system of suicide risk assessment and prevention, regardless of group condition.”
  • A point that seems like it may be helpful for rumination prevention, “If your feelings fit the facts in a situation, you should use problem-solving. If your feelings don’t fit the facts, you should change the emotion through other methods.”

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Scott Lilienfeld and NDSU graduate student, Alisson Lass

Some quotes from Lilienfeld’s presentation (with the same disclaimer that I had for Linehan’s quotes):

  • On concern about certain branches of psychology reducing the number of statistics courses required in their graduate programs, “Statistics are the language of psychology.”
  • On the importance of including multilevel analyses of mental disorders such as sociocultural factors, he quoted George Graham, “Mental illness may be ‘in’ the brain, but not ‘of’ the brain.”
  • “Many people think the opposite, but a finding in a low-powered study is actually more likely to be a fluke than the other way around.”
  • “Descartes was so tall, that when he died, he didn’t fit in the casket. They had to cut his head off. In his death, he literally had mind-body dualism.”

We also met Judith Beck, who has made enormous contributions in the area of cognitive behavior therapy, which her father, Aaron Beck, created.

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And last, but not least, we ate some delicious food while we were there.

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the NDSU crew at Girl and the Goat

Data Blitz

Last Friday, the NDSU graduate students participated in a data blitz. They each presented their most exciting research findings from the previous year in 2-3 minutes and 2-3 slides. Below are pictures of our lab members’ presentations. Allison Minnich presented on gender differences in the impact of disordered eating on quality of life, Darren Carter presented on the relationship between alcohol and an aspect of suicidal behavior, and Mun Yee Kwan presented on factors related to suicidal desire among individuals experiencing eating disorder symptoms. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the exciting, diverse research that all of our graduate students are doing!

  Ally Darren Mun Yee Kwan

data blitz

Exciting Week for the Lab

The past 7 days have been very exciting for the Disordered Eating & Suicidal Behavior Lab!

1) ICED – Saturday Recap

On the last day of the International Conference on Eating Disorders, we saw:

  • Dr. Christopher Fairburn present on Minimising* the Risk of Relapse. This presentation focused on helping clients stay well after treatment termination. Through data presentation, clinical examples, and a video, Dr. Fairburn outlined specific approaches for empowering clients with relapse prevention tools. The key idea is that clients can learn to recognize and effectively manage the inevitable setbacks that come with recovery from an eating disorder.

*Fairburn is British.

A blurry picture of Fairburn:

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  • Dr. Jo Ellison from the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute presented on Meal Patterning in the Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa. She described interesting data on how changes in meal patterns from the beginning of treatment to the end of treatment impact disordered eating behavior. There was a lot of useful information, and one main take-home message was that eating breakfast and especially dinner regularly was associated with less bulimic behavior. It can be a struggle for people with eating disorders to stick to eating regular, calorie-sufficient meals because of their concerns about weight gain. However, these data, along with other studies, suggest that a daily routine of consistently eating meals and snacks is really helpful for preventing binge eating and purging.

A slightly less blurry picture of Jo:

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2) NDSU College of Science and Mathematics Community Lecture

My graduate mentor, Dr. Thomas Joiner, gave this year’s community lecture on Wednesday. There was a wonderful turnout at the Fargo Theatre for his talk on Why People Die By Suicide. I heard from several students, faculty, and community members that his talk was informative and inspiring. It was also great to have time to catch up with him. You can listen to the interview he did with Prairie Public here.

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Dr. Joiner describing his theory:

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Our lab group with Dr. Joiner & Dr. Steve Wonderlich:

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3) Area Paper Defense

In our graduate program, students advance to doctoral candidacy by completing a comprehensive, critical analysis and review of a research area of their choice. They write a manuscript and then present their findings to their dissertation committee. Today, Allison Minnich presented on The Relationship Between Appearance-Related Comparisons and Disordered Eating Behaviors. She delved into this literature and emerged with exciting ideas for future research. Her committee was impressed, and she passed with flying colors. Congratulations, Ally!

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