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Suzanne Decker, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychiatry; Director of Fellowship, Advanced Fellowship in Mental Illness Research and Treatment at MIRECC

Research Summary

The underlying goal of my research is to ensure that effective behavioral treatments are available to all individuals, and especially to those with high-risk problems like suicidal ideation or substance use. To this end, my research spans three areas: suicide and its correlates, emotion dysregulation as a potential mechanism for suicide and other high-risk behaviors such as substance use, and the development, adaptation, and implementation of skills-based behavioral treatments. Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States in 2019, and is particularly common among individuals who have served in the Armed Forces. Suicide is preventable and multifactorial, not linked to just one mental health concern. My work includes adapting, implementing, and evaluating Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Groups to reduce suicide risk in Veterans with various mental health concerns, and examining emotion dysregulation as a potential transdiagnostic mechanism for suicidal ideation and behavior. My most significant contribution to date is my systematic study of a skills group adaptation of DBT, the most well supported treatment for high-risk suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder. I developed this DBT-SG adaptation from a clinical project into a pilot (Decker et al., 2019) and secured funding for a national hybrid effectiveness- implementation trial at four VA medical centers with m-PI Steve Martino, PhD. This project will help answer longstanding questions about whether DBT Skills Groups can help Veterans reduce suicide attempt and will provide information about barriers and facilitators to this treatment in real-world care settings. In addition to this line of research, I am mentoring a junior faculty member, Frances Aunon, PhD, on her exciting line of research examining lethal means safety counseling in primary care settings.


Research Interests

Mental Disorders; Emotions; Psychotherapy; Suicide

Selected Publications