The Clinical Psychology Research Lab directed by Dave Haaga focuses currently on three main areas of investigation:
- Cigarette Smoking and Smoking Cessation
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy in a Naturalistic Setting
- Stepped Care in the 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.
See related articles:
A recent 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. (in press). Depression vulnerability moderates the effects of cognitive behavior therapy in a randomized controlled trial for smoking cessation. Behavior Therapy.
We will be continuing to use this dataset for process-outcome studies aimed at understand the mechanisms responsible for this effect. We are also 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.
McDonald, D., O’Brien, J., Farr, E., & Haaga, D. A. F. (2010). Pilot study of inducing smoking cessation attempts by activating a sense of looming vulnerability. Addictive Behaviors, 35, 599-605.
We are currently 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. Please call 202-885-1732 if you are interested in participating in research on cigarette smoking.
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. Current students are investigating (a) the descriptive characteristics and prognostic significance of “sudden gains” made by patients in the training clinic, and (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.
See more about the James J. Gray Psychotherapy Training Clinic.
Stepped Care in the 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 have developed a stepped-care model to try to improve access to TTM and are conducting a study of this approach with support from the National Institute of Mental Health.
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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.
Six graduate students are currently active in our lab. See more about our students and their work.