Sarah Robertson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Address: 59 Coming Street, Office 200


Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
Predoctoral Internship and Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2010

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Ph.D., 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.

Courses Taught

Foundations of Psychotherapy
Abnormal Psychology
Psychological Statistics
Introduction to Psychological Science
Internship Experience


Below are some recent publications. Please view my Research Gate profile for a comprehensive list of my published research.

Robertson, S. M. C., Short, S. D., *Auger, L. & *Murray, M.  (2023).  The effect of COVID-focused expressive writing on symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress in college students: Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 42, 238-266.

Robertson, S. M. C., Short, S. D., *McSween, D., *Medlen, S. & *Schneider, K.  (2022).  Randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of expressive writing in reducing symptoms of anxiety: Waitlist control design. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 41, 54-78.

Robertson, S. M. C., Short S. D., *Sawyer, L. & *Sweazy, S.  (2020).  Randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of expressive writing in reducing anxiety in first-year college students: The role of linguistic features. Psychology and Health, 36, 1041-1065. 

Robertson, S. M. C., Short, S. D., *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.Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 38, 427-450. 

Robertson, S. M. C. & Swickert, R. J.  (2016).  The stories we tell:  How age, gender, and forgiveness affect the emotional content of autobiographical narratives. Aging and Mental Health, 22, 535-543.

Swickert, R., Robertson, S. M. C. & *Baird, D.  (2015).  Age Moderates the Mediational Role of Empathy in the Association between Gender and Forgiveness.Current Psychology, 35, 354-360.

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.

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