Sarah Robertson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Address: 59 Coming, Office 200
Phone: 843.953.5590


Predoctoral Internship and Postdoctoral Fellowship, Northwestern University, Chicago (2010)

PhD, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2009)

Research Interests

I am a clinical psychologist, and my research centers around the understanding and treatment of mental health symptoms. My research program primarily involves assessing the efficacy of expressive writing interventions. More specifically, I’m interested in how expressive writing interventions help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in college students. Expressive writing interventions are typically completed on three consecutive days, and I also collect long-term follow-up data to better understand the durability of symptom improvement. My most recent studies have been focused on the efficacy of a COVID-focused expressive writing intervention in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

A second focus of my research program involves identifying mental health factors associated with the expression of autobiographical narratives in early and late adulthood. Clinical psychologists often discuss the importance of the story-telling process in the context of psychotherapy, with one main thesis asserting that telling difficult stories about one's past allows one to extinguish the fear associated with that particular story/event and ultimately heal from the associated pain. Avoidance of painful events is associated with negative mental health outcomes, and likewise, telling stories about painful events is associated with the promotion of healing. This part of my research program involves assessing how mental health variables affect the emotional expressivity of autobiographical narratives, how mental health variables affect one's physiology (heart rate and blood pressure) during the expression of these autobiographical narratives and how aging might affect these processes across the lifespan, particularly in relationship to the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST). Students in my lab collect data with participants, conduct statistical analyses, contribute to the publication of manuscripts, and present posters and talks at local, regional, and national conferences.

Recent Publications:

Robertson, S. M. C., Short, S. D., *Sawyer, L., & *Sweazy, S. (2021). Expressive writing as a mechanism for reducing anxiety in first-year college students: The role of writing quality. Psychology and Health, 36, 1041-1065.

Robertson, S. M. C., Short, S., *Asper, A., *Venezia, K., *Yetman, C., *Connelly, M. & *Trumbull, J.  (2019).  The effect of expressive writing on symptoms of depression in college students:  Randomized controlled trial.  The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 38, 427-450.

Robertson, S.M.C., Swickert, R.J., *Connelly, K. & *Galizio, A. (2015).  Physiological reactivity during autobiographical narratives in older adults: The roles of depression and anxiety.  Aging and Mental Health, 19, 689-697.

Swickert, R., Robertson, S.M.C. & *Baird, D. (2016).  Age moderates the mediational role of empathy in the association between gender and forgiveness. Current Psychology35, 354-360.

Robertson, S.M.C., Hopko, D.R. (2013).  Emotional expression as a function of aging and gender: Support for the socioemotional selectivity theory. Journal of Adult Development, 20, 76-86.

* denotes student collaborators

Courses Taught

Foundations of Psychotherapy
Abnormal Psychology
Psychological Statistics
Introduction to Psychological Science