Within the Nezu Stress and Coping Research Lab, a major theme that underlies the majority of our research and program development efforts involves developing and evaluating interventions to attenuate the negative effects of life stress on people’s emotional and behavioral health.
A primary focus is on the role that social problem solving (SPS) plays as a mediator and moderator of this stress-distress relationship. SPS is the process by which individuals attempt to identify or discover adaptive means of coping with the wide variety and range of stressful problems, both acute and chronic, encountered during the course of everyday living. Moreover, it represents the process whereby people direct their coping efforts at altering the problematic nature of a given situation, their emotional reactions to such problems, or both.
Based on research that continues to identify ineffective SPS to serve as both a vulnerability and maintaining factor regarding a wide range of psychological disorders and health-related problems, Problem-Solving Therapy (PST) has been developed as a means of enhancing one’s overall coping abilities and skills aimed at reducing extant distress symptoms and psychological difficulties. Drs. Art and Chris Maguth Nezu, directors of this research lab, are co-developers of PST, which is a system of psychotherapy that has wide applicability and has been identified as an evidenced-based treatment for decreasing psychopathology, especially clinical depression, by multiple professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and NIMH. It has also been applied as a means to enhance relapse prevention, to foster treatment adherence to other forms of medical and psychosocial interventions, to enhance physical health outcomes, and to prevent future psychopathology from occurring for those who may be vulnerable by enhancing their resilience to stress. Based on advances in the fields of psychopathology, psychotherapy, and affective neuroscience, we have recently updated PST (now termed Emotion-Centered Problem Solving Therapy (EC-PST), to incorporate intervention strategies to help individuals better understand and manage negative affectivity as a means of fostering their ability to effectively apply various cognitive problem-solving strategies.
For additional information about PST, click here to go to the Center for Deployment Psychology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Defense, for a blog about PST written by Dr. Art Nezu (published April 6, 2016).
During the past several years, we have developed a PST-based program for the VA and DoD. This program, entitled Moving Forward, is a 4-session group protocol and was created to foster coping skills among both U. S. Veterans and Active Service Members. It is currently being disseminated among VA centers and hospitals across the country, as well as in selected DoD facilities. Research supportive of the efficacy of this program was published in 2013 (click here for reference). In addition, as part of this work, a free web course was developed, also titled Moving Forward (click here to access the course), as well as a smartphone app for the iPhone platform (go to the iTunes app store to download Moving Forward for free; click here for flyer).
We are currently evaluating the effects of EC-PST in reducing suicide risk and improving overall well-being of U.S. veterans who are at risk of suicide. This is part of a grant funded by the Pew Charities Trusts entitled New Beginnings (click here to access website).
In general, our major current research interests involve:
- Applying a SPS framework to better understand and reduce suicide risk, particularly regarding U.S. veterans and service members
- Comparing and contrasting assessment of SPS with neuropsychological proxies of executive functioning in predicting suicidality and depression