Today we’re talking with Dr. Danielle Arigo, director of the Clinical Health Psychology Research Group at The University of Scranton. She described to us her research interests and the goals of the group.
UofSHealthPsych: Let’s start with what the team is all about. What is the Clinical Health Psychology Research Group?
Dr. Arigo: The group is a team of U of S students and a faculty advisor (me) who are interested in physical and mental health – especially the overlap between the two. We discuss published research and professional activities, generate and test new research questions, volunteer for health-related service projects.
UofSHealthPsych: Sounds pretty active! Can you tell us more about the projects that you’re working on?
Dr. Arigo: We are pretty active for a group that started in August! We have three primary projects, and students also have independent work. The first is a small test of a new program to promote physical activity among women. The program uses FitBit technology and social networking to connect participants and help them problem-solve when they’re not motivated to exercise.
The second is an experimental test of social perceptions on the health behaviors in college students. We’re looking to see whether certain perceptions are associated with motivation to improve health. Third is a qualitative study of writing about body image in college women. We know that writing can be helpful for some people, and we’re examining different writing styles to determine what might be most helpful.
UofSHealthPsych: And what are students working on?
Dr. Arigo: They’re really involved with the research I just described, from coordinating data collection to managing incoming data and participant interaction. Independently, they’re also testing whether self-perceptions align with actual behaviors (in college students and in patients with diabetes), the role of social perceptions in stress processes, and how well social perceptions predict future physical and mental health.
UofSHealthPsych: These all fall under your specific research topics, right? How did you get interested in these areas?
Dr. Arigo: Yes, these really are my favorite topics. I’m a licensed clinical psychologist – my background is in assessing and treating psychological problems. Early on, I recognized that I’m especially interested in sleep and eating disorders, which are often about unhealthy (vs. healthy) behaviors. The more I learned about these disorders, especially eating disorders, I became interested in health behaviors more generally, and helping people manage chronic illnesses that require a lot of self-care, like diabetes.
UofSHealthPsych: Do a lot of professionals focus on these disorders?
Dr. Arigo: Yes, there is a lot of interest in these areas. We’ve learned a lot about treating them in the past 20 years.
UofSHealthPsych: So how does your Clinical Health Research Group differentiate itself from others studying these problems?
Dr. Arigo: Great question. Our specific focus is on influences from the social environment – how the presence of, or thoughts about, other people can affect our health behaviors. These influences can be positive or negative. Knowing more about these effects can help us design treatment programs that emphasize them, which could be more effective than what we have now.
UofSHealthPsych: And can we expect these topics to come up on this site in the future?
Dr. Arigo: Absolutely. We’ll be posting about these and related topics, and also tweeting from @UofSHealthPsych. You’ll also be able to read more about lab members in the next few weeks.