Our work focuses on understanding and developing interventions for anxiety disorders, stress, and coping with cancer. We study mindfulness and acceptance-based as well as exposure-based behavioral interventions. Combining basic and applied research methods, we aim to address the following areas in our work:
Mindfulness and acceptance-based treatments for anxiety
In several randomized clinical trials for the treatment of anxiety disorders, we have compared mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions (such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy [ACT] and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. This line of research seeks to rigorously evaluate the utility of mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions relative to the current gold standard of cognitive behavioral therapy, We also aim to understand potentially unique pathways by which such interventions operate and for whom each is most effective.
ACT for cancer survivors experiencing anxiety
Working in collaboration with community-based cancer care centers, we have adapted and piloted ACT to address anxiety and fear of uncertainty among cancer survivors. Now and for the next four years, we are funded to conduct a randomized clinical trial of ACT for cancer survivors experiencing anxiety, at cancer care sites throughout Colorado. We also have multiple projects in the planning stages that apply insights from ACT and behavior therapy more generally to address challenges confronted by cancer survivors.
Studying the acceptability of exposure therapy
Studying the public’s knowledge and acceptability of exposure therapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders (and CBT more generally), and finding ways to increase it, represents another active area of research focus. In various populations, we have studied how various ways of framing exposure therapy (from ACT, traditional CBT, and inhibitory learning perspectives) impacts its credibility and people’s willingness to consider using it.
Laboratory assessments of anxiety
Integrating anxiety inductions into assessment is a hallmark of our clinical trial and experimental work. Laboratory paradigms expand self-report through behavioral and experiential measures of anxiety, particularly in the context of social anxiety disorder. Our laboratory work includes the assessment of peripheral physiology (heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration, GSR) and salivary stress markers (cortisol, alpha-amylase).
The impact of mindfulness and self-compassion on stress responding and well-being
Across clinical trials as well as basic laboratory studies, we are interested in the relationships between mindfulness, self-compassion, and emotional experience. We have also explored the potential for mindfulness to enhance math performance and daily sensory experience. Finally, ongoing work examines the biopsychological impact of brief self-compassion and mindfulness interventions on reducing anxiety and stress reactivity and increasing well-being.