Areas of Research

Adversity, chronic life stress (e.g., poverty), and potentially traumatic experiences can all negatively impact human development.  Nonetheless, some individuals appear to exhibit resilience to these stressors.  I am interested in the bio/psycho/social outcomes of various forms of life stress, and the factors that promote resilience in the face of adversity.  I seek to understand the impact of extreme stress by indexing biological (e.g., cortisol, actigraphy), psychological (e.g., objectively measured executive functioning and subjectively reported measures of stress), and social markers (e.g., attachment relationships).  I examine factors promoting resilience, including intervention work to enhance resilience, by conducting selective (i.e., with at risk groups) and indicated (i.e., groups showing early signs) prevention research.

Ongoing Studies in the SPARTA Lab

Exposure, Relaxation, Rescripting and Therapy for Children (ERRT-C) with Trauma-Related Nightmares

The ERRT-C Project (in collaboration with TITAN) was the first randomized controlled clinical trial of a nightmare treatment for children aged 5-17 who had experienced trauma. This treatment was based on the well-established adult version of the treatment (Davis, 2009). This project was conducted both on-site at The University of Tulsa as well as over Telehealth. We are no longer enrolling participants into the study, however, the treatment is now being implemented at the True Blue Neighbors Behavioral Health Center. If you are interested in participating in this treatment or know someone who may be interested in the treatment please contact them at 918-631-3342.

Student Health, Athletic Performance and Education (SHAPE) Project

In collaboration with TITAN, we have collected data from over 400 NCAA Division I athletes at TU.  We are assessing the overall need for psychological services and examining how the athletes’ current life stressors relate to injury incidence and recovery, and athletic performance.  This is a longitudinal study with annual assessments. SHAPE also conducts psycho-educational interventions this year. We have developed a psycho-educational intervention related to sleep hygiene and also time management to help improve health and reduce stress.

Annual reports for the SHAPE project can be found here: SHAPE Report 2012 SHAPE Report 2013 SHAPE Report 2015

Stress and Resiliency in College (StAR-C) Study

We are collaborating with the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) to implement the 4-week TU Tough resiliency training program for first year college students. The TU Tough program is the product of the Stress and Resiliency in College (StAR-C) Study conducted at LIBR. The goals of the TU Tough program are to optimize responses to stress and performance in college and teach skills that foster a growth mindset in the face of challenge. The program consists of four modules where students learn to commit to SMART goals, practice taking control of situations through mindfulness, embracing challenges as opportunities, and identifying resources.


University of Tulsa Pre-Candidacy Projects:
Danielle Zanotti (2014): Family deployment preparedness, reintegration attitudes, and PTSD symptoms in military fathers with young children
Emily Kaier (2013): Adverse childhood experiences: Allostatic load and health among elite athletes
Ashley Louie (2013): Military family stress and resilience
Katherine Cunningham (2012): Human trafficking myth acceptance, sexual trauma history, and attitudes about trafficking victims
University of Tulsa Senior Projects:
Tom Gaus (2014): Correlates of depression in athletes
Brooke Hinch (2014): Examining the relationship of two measures of executive function in young children
Chase Winterberg (2013): Attachment during military reintegration
Mitchell Johnson (2012): Psychological help seeking stigma among NCAA athletes
Kaylene Rojas (2012): A study about the benefits of interacting with a therapy dog following a medical exam