Reaching Others University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
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Ronda L. Dearing, PhD

Ronda L. Dearing, PhD

Senior Research Scientist

Clinical Psychology

Contact Information

1021 Main Street
Buffalo, NY  14203-1016
Phone: (716) 887-2587

Primary Research Areas

Help-seeking and facilitating access to substance abuse treatment; shame and guilt; addiction treatment process and outcome; self-change in hazardous alcohol use.

Heart Rate Variability and Impulse Control During Alcohol Dependence Treatment

Houston | Dearing | Connors | Homish
This study will examine the association between impulse control and heart rate variability in people with alcohol use disorders and the feasibility of implementing heart rate variability training (breathing exercises) in these patients as a potential way to reduce the impulse to drink.

Impulse control may serve as an important mechanism of change in the treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Prior studies have also suggested a link between impulse control and heart rate variability (HRV), a physiological index of self-regulation. This study is designed to examine whether a direct association exists between impulse control and HRV in AUD individuals. In addition, the study will provide preliminary data regarding feasibility of implementing a breathing training to enhance HRV in this population. Results of this study should provide a foundation for future studies examining the effects of HRV training on impulse control and drinking in relation to AUDs. Dr. Houston’s co-investigators include Drs. Ronda Dearing and Gerard Connors and Gregory Homish of UB’s Department of Community Health and Health Behavior. Funded by a grant of $73,400 from NIAAA, 2012-2014.

Therapeutic Alliances in Alcoholism Treatment

Connors | Maisto | Dearing | Lucke
The working relationship between the patient and therapist during treatment for an alcohol use disorder will be studied to examine its influence on treatment effectiveness and post-treatment functioning. 

The establishment of a therapeutic alliance between the patient and therapist is generally viewed as a central component of the behavior change process in the treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). In this study, the therapeutic alliance, from the perspective of the patient, will be studied regularly over the course of outpatient treatment and its relationship to treatment variables (such as attendance) and posttreatment functioning (including drinking behavior) evaluated. The study is intended to advance knowledge on therapeutic alliances, the enhancement of which is anticipated to improve treatment outcomes. Co-investigators include Drs. Stephen A. Maisto of Syracuse University, Ronda L. Dearing, and Joseph Lucke. Funded by a grant of $2,445,873 from NIAAA, 2012-2016.

Video Vignettes: Measuring Risk Perception in Alcohol Related Sexual Assaults

Parks | Testa | Dearing | Hequembourg
Researchers are developing short video clips of potential assault scenarios to help women better understand the nonverbal cues that could indicate the risk of sexual assault.

Prior research suggests that a woman’s ability to perceive or interpret cues about a potential sexual assault can be influenced by alcohol consumption and her history of prior assault. In the past, research designed to assess deficits in women’s ability to perceive risk cues for sexual assault have utilized written and audio vignettes. In this study, Dr. Kathleen A. Parks and colleagues are developing video vignettes, that will include nonverbal (e.g. facial expressions) risk cues that can not be presented in the more traditional written and audio vignettes. The hope is that these video vignettes, by including nonverbal, verbal, and environmental risk cues, will provide a more realistic depiction of a sexual assault scenario. The primary goal of developing more realistic scenarios with these imbedded risk cues is to be able to more accurately assess women’s ability to perceive risks for sexual assault during heterosexual drinking situations. Development and validation of this measure will occur through a rigorous, multi-method process involving five small studies. These include the development of the vignette scripts through focus groups, individual, and expert feedback, and validation of the different levels (ambiguous, low and high risk) of risk cues, through presentation to women during sober and moderate alcohol conditions. Future goals include the development of unique prevention programs using the video vignette measure as a training tool for improving women’s risk perception, thereby reducing sexual assault risk. Funded by a grant of $416,063 from NIAAA, 2011-2014.

Help-Seeking for Alcohol Problems: A Prospective Study

This Mentored Research Scientist Development Award from NIAAA provided five years of support to Dr. Ronda Dearing for mentored training, advanced coursework, and data collection in the field of help-seeking and treatment for alcohol problems. In the context of the proposed study, individuals with a range of alcohol problem severity were recruited and their help-seeking behavior tracked over a two-year period. The primary aim of the study was to assess whether attitudes about alcohol and alcohol treatment predict help-seeking for alcohol problems. Other potential predictors of help-seeking behavior investigated included: problem severity, pressures to enter treatment, shame-proneness, and guilt-proneness. Dr. Dearing’s mentors for this program of study included Dr. Gerard Connors and Dr. Kimberly Walitzer of RIA. Funded by a grant of $585,095 from NIAAA, 2005-2011.

Impulse Control as a Mechanism of Change in the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence

Houston | Dearing | Connors | Homish

This project used a multi-modal measurement approach to the assessment of impulse control before, during, and after a cognitive behavioral treatment for alcohol dependence. Since it is likely that the decision to initiate drinking is indicative of a momentary lapse in impulse control for individuals with an alcohol disorder, this study 1) investigated whether changes in impulse control during treatment are related to alcohol use during treatment, as compared to pre-treatment and 2) whether changes in impulse control during treatment result in changes in post-treatment alcohol use, as compared to pre-treatment. A two-group design consisting of a Standard Assessment Group and a Frequent Assessment Group was used with men and women who met DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence to examine the multi-dimensional nature of the impulsivity construct. Results yet to be published will better define the role of impulse control as a potential mechanism of behavioral change and inform the development of subsequent avenues of investigation on this mechanism in the treatment of alcohol use disorders. Results will also provide information about refining existing treatments as well as developing new treatment methods. Dr. Houston’s co-investigators are Drs. Ronda L. Dearing and Gerard J. Connors of RIA, and Dr. Gregory G. Homish of UB’s Department of Health Behavior. Funded by a grant of $416,063 from NIAAA, 2007-2010.