Dave's Face!

I am a Professor in the Department of Psychology, where I direct the Laboratory for Social Connectedness and Health. I am also the Director of Clinical Training (DCT) for the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology.

About my research interests:

Human health – both psychological and physical – is inextricably tied to our close relationships. This statement, perhaps fanciful or even heretical a mere forty years ago, is now fairly indisputable: A mountain of evidence demonstrates that high quality social relationships are positively associated with increased life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing, and negatively associated with illness and death from a range of diseases. My research program fits within the larger enterprise of studying relationships and health. As a psychological scientist, I study why and in what contexts relationships promote or hinder good health, and I also investigate the consequences of ending a relationship. Many of my studies focus on the psychological and biological correlates of non-marital breakups and divorce, as well as how people cope with these difficult relationship transitions.


Technical appendix for Sbarra & Allen (2009) is here.


Some "recent" news from our lab group:

Aeon longform essay on the psychological science underlying CBT.

A press release from APA, including a new paper on which Sbarra is a co-author.

UA News story on our recent narrative expressive writing paper in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Garrison Institute blog featuring Sbarra's 2017 Mind & Life SRI Talk

New podcast interview. Divorce and health: Who cares and what's the point?

Vox piece on busyness

Science of Us on interpersonal synchrony

UA News Story on one of our recent papers: BMI--> Inflammation--> Cognitive Decline

A UA News piece about my new book!

A NPR story on our latest research: https://t.co/BY1E6z0bEb. This was a paper by one of my students, Kyle Bourassa.

Great radio interview by Kyle Bourassa (@ 51:50) regarding the paper cited immediately below...

Press Release on our new Psych Science paper!

(See here for another story on the same paper.)

Super radio interview by our new post-doc, Allison Tackman, about her recent JPSP study on interpersonal judgements of emotional suppression: http://ijpr.org/post/mon-9-am-downside-keeping-it-all-inside#stream/2​

TEDx Tucson talk.

Op-Talk piece in the NY Times about our "research participation" and self-concept paper.

(NPR Blog story about the same paper.)

Arizona Public Media story on mental illness and health.

HuffPost article on our expressive writing paper.

(UA News story on the same paper.)

Divorce and death coverage.

About the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology

Applying to the doctoral program in clinical psychology (A FAQ of sorts...)

Participate in our research on marital separation and divorce.

From my old website, on the matter of having a nice website... Circa 2012. Not all of this still applies, but some of it's still very relevant to how I see the world (if you care).

Why is your website so boring and crappy?

There’s an easy answer to this question and a more serious or complicated answer, both of which say a little bit about me as a person. First, I have no idea how to program in HTML; I don’t have much desire to learn, and I find even the off-the-shelf WYSIWYG web editors to be boring and more or less a waste of time.

This brings me immediately to the more serious answer to the question of why this website is so boring. I have come to believe deeply in minimalism as a way of life. (If you saw all the junk on my desk right now, you’d laugh at this statement!) A central idea in minimalist thinking is to “eliminate the unnecessary” as Leo Babauta notes on the page I linked to above. The internet is necessary for us to do our work, and webpages are a necessary part of communicating what we are doing to the rest of the world. Yet, most everything that’s out there is a complete waste of time. It’s unnecessary. So, with these pages, I’ve tried to keep things simple and bring you the information that’s necessary to communicate about the work I am doing at the University of Arizona.

There’s also a deeper reason why these pages remain so boring. My boring presence on the internet means to me that I am spending my time doing the things that I love to do. I am having fun with my family; I am enjoying being outside or reading or working. I am definitely not spending time making my website look as good as it could be.

I am overwhelmed by the sense that something fundamental is changing about the way people live their lives. We spend way too much time sitting at our desks zoning-out at our computers. We spend way too much time checking our phones, updating our statuses on Facebook or Twitter, and it seems more and more that this is really messing with our brains. I often get the sense that if someone doesn’t post a picture to Facebook (about a meal, a get together, a success, or anything of the like), then they feel it never happened. To me, we seem incredibly addicted to the ephemeral bursts of reward that come from all these activities and, consequently, that we are creating a world of sound bites at the cost of thoughtfulness and deliberate living.

All this sounds like I am getting old and curmudgeonly, right? Could I really be a luddite? I am not even 40. Maybe it's so, but I’ve decided I enjoyed life a lot more before I felt the urge to make a really tricked-out webpage. Before Facebook, before the iPad in bed, before social media, trending, and status updates. All of these things are actually ingrained parts of my own life now, too, but I try to engage with them in a way that creates opportunities to do real things with real people.

None of this is meant to be an indictment of any way of living. (If other people enjoying doing something like making cool websites, I don't care at all... that's a fine use of their time, as far as I am concerned.) Rather, I’ve noted all this here as a basic explanation for why my website is boring and simple, and so you can understand what I am up to when I am not here making things look good. There’s an irony in all of this, I realize—why would someone who doesn’t care about how things look comment on why things don’t look good? That’s easy to answer: Because people have told me it’s so boring and asked why I don’t spend more time making it look good, including people who think, for marketing or book purposes, I should get more serious about my “online presence.”

I’ve decided instead to get more serious about my “real life” presence.

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Frequently Asked Questions: UA Doctoral Program.

Question 1. I am interested in applying to the UA doctoral program in clinical psychology and, in particular, working with you. Will you be admitting a new student to join your lab in the Fall of 2018?

  • Most likely, no. If you think we have an ideal research match and remain interested in working with me, I ask that you please email me an updated version of your resume/CV that includes your contact info, education history, GPA, GRE scores, and all relevant experiences, especially research experience. It will help the application process go smoothly if I can take a look at some of your experiences before reviewing your application. Also, if you have an interest in working with me, please list me by name in your personal statement and be sure to describe the match between your own interests and our ongoing work. HOWEVER, as I said, it's unlikely I'll be in a position to accept a new student this coming year... If you're interested in my work, my colleagues, Drs. John Ruiz and Mary-Frances O'Connor, do the research and might also be of interest.

Question 2. What kind of experiences do you look for in an applicant?

  • I am interested in working with students who have had substantial research experiences in the years prior to coming to graduate school. Typically, this means that most successful have worked in at least two different laboratories and have gained a variety of different experiences relevant to conducting psychological science (including, but not limited to, working with one to several of the available statistical software packages, learning about the IRB process and human subjects consenting, having a familiarity with the basic procedures of human data collection, and/or working on manuscript preparation-- honors thesis, master's thesis, or otherwise, etc.). A great deal of our work involves the assessment of autonomic physiological indicators, so any applicants with experience in autonomic psychophysiology would be especially welcome. In addition, we look for people with strong quantitative reasoning skills (backgrounds in math, statistics, computer science, etc.) who would like to pursue ideas related to the quantitative assessment of psychological change.

Question 3. I have taken the GREs twice and can't seem to crack 160 on either section, should I still apply to work with you?

  • Sure. We're looking for people with demonstrated smarts, creativity, and critical thinking ability. Standardized tests are sometimes not the best means of assessing all of these characteristics. Having said this, all things being equal, I am more likely to pursue an applicant with stronger tests scores because... well, everything else is equal. I should mention that I do look carefully at an applicant's undergraduate GPA. For better or worse, I believe this has prognostic value for graduate school.

Question 4. I have read your response to FAQs. #1 and #2 (above), and it seems like you're pretty into research. I know you're a licensed clinical psychologist, too, and although I find the idea of research appealing, I see myself (right now) as wanting a primarily practice-oriented career. Can I still apply to work with you?

  • Of course, but you're wasting your time. I am interested in working with people who want careers as producers of psychological science. This does not mean the people who work with me need to be research-oriented college professors, but this does mean that we look to train people who want to conduct research as their primary occupation. I realize that interests change over the course of graduate school, but you have little chance of being admitted here if you do not have a demonstrated background in research and a definite interest in pursuing a research-oriented career.  There are many fine places you can go to graduate school to pursue a clinically-oriented Ph.D. (click this link to find out more).

Question 5. I have read your response to FAQ. #4 (above), and I REALLY want to express how much I want to be a clinician/therapist. I know you won't work with, but will another faculty member in your program?

  • Highly unlikely. Many of our students also REALLY want to be therapists, but they want to do so in the context of conducting clinical science research. If you're unsure of our general program-wide philosophies, click this link.

Question 6. Do you accept people who are about to receive their master's degree? What about people straight out of college?

  • Yes, and yes! We're looking for accumulated, relevant experiences combined with demonstrated academic potential. If you have these qualities, I don't really care how you've gotten to this point.

Question 7. What would you say is the single best thing I could do to prepare myself for a research-oriented graduate school?

  • Before I answer this question, let me make several qualifications. First, this is just my opinion, and I am sure other people much smarter and more experienced than me may advise you different. Second, I think there are probably a handful of different activities that provide excellent experience and will prepare you well for graduate school (e.g., completing a senior honors thesis in lab of an established researcher, taking a graduate statistics course, being a lab manager, being an intern at NIH during the summer, co-authoring a research paper, traveling South America by raft, etc., etc.). If I were to name just one thing that I believe is the best thing to do in preparation for graduate school, it would be this: Major or minor in math or statistics (or, connect yourself to a research program that specializes in research methodology); minoring in psychology and spending your undergraduate time majoring in an applied science is a great way to prepare for graduate school in clinical psychology. In my book, a very close second would be to spend over 12 months as the project coordinator on an R01-level research grant. This would provide tremendous relevant experience.

Question 8.  I was born and raised in Tucson (or, I am relocating to Tucson), and after a period of being away at college, I want to return to graduate school. I really like the UA program and want to apply. What do you think my chances are of getting accepted? I have no other options because I MUST be in Tucson, but I also really want to go to graduate school.

  • If you're qualified and have an interest in a clinical science graduate program, your chances are good. If you do not have too much relevant research experience, your chances of being accepted with us are slim. Being a Tucson native does not provide you with any special benefit when you apply to our program.

Question 9. Why are you so negative, and why are you trying to make it so hard for me to go to graduate school in clinical psychology?

  • I am sorry you feel this way; it's not my intention to be negative. By providing you with a sense of what we're looking for in applicants to our program, I am trying to save you time down the road. I see no reason why you should waste your hard-earned money applying to the UA Graduate College if we're not a good fit with your experiences and interests. Beginning around September of each year, I receive about two emails a week from folks who want to apply to our graduate program. In the end, only about 6% of these people are admitted. Therefore, I am hopeful that you can read these FAQs and decide for yourself if the UA and my laboratory are the right place for you study clinical psychology.

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