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Steffany J. Fredman
Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Summary Statement

Steffany Fredman researches the interpersonal context of mental health (PTSD and related conditions), couples’ adaptation to stress, and couple-based interventions to enhance individual, couple, and family well-being. 

Department
  • Human Development and Family Studies - HDFS
  • Research
  • Family Development
  • Intervention and Prevention
  • Graduate Program
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Education
  • 2007, Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 2007, Pre-Doctoral Clinical Internship, Boston Consortium in Clinical Psychology
  • 1996, B.A., Psychology, Amherst College
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Currently Accepting Graduate Students
Phone
Office Address
205 Health and Human Development Building
Fax
814-863-7963
Professional Credentials

Ph.D.

Research Interests

My research focuses on individual psychological well-being within a couple context and sits at the junction of (1) human development and family studies, (2) clinical psychology and (3) quantitative methods that link individual and couple functioning across multiple time scales.  Broadly speaking, my work seeks to enhance understanding of ways that individual psychological distress affects intimate relationships, how romantic relationships can impact individual mental health, and how involving intimate others can improve individual and relationship outcomes for those with mental health difficulties and their loved ones.  Learn more about work that my students and I are doing in the Couple and Family Adaptation to Stress (CFAS) lab.

Couple Context of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In my lab, we’re studying ways that PTSD affects couples’ relationship quality, communication, parenting, and emotion regulation, including how emotion transmitted through the voice from one partner to the other, can contribute to the maintenance of PTSD and relationship problems.  We’re also studying well-intended but potentially unhelpful behaviors that partners and other family members sometimes engage in as a response to living with a loved one with mental health difficulties but that can inadvertently impede recovery from PTSD and associated relationship problems.  For example, our work demonstrates that partners’ altering their own behaviors to decrease patients’ PTSD-related distress and/or to minimize PTSD-related relationship conflict (i.e., partner accommodation of PTSD symptoms) predicts greater patient and partner psychological and relationship distress but is mitigated by couple therapy for PTSD (Fredman et al., 2014; Fredman et al., 2016).  

On the translational front, I am actively involved in efforts to develop and validate couple-based interventions for PTSD.  I am the co-developer of Cognitive-Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD (CBCT for PTSD; Monson & Fredman, 2012), a couple-based therapy for PTSD that simultaneously treats PTSD symptoms and enhances intimate relationship functioning and is currently being disseminated nationally within the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I am the Principal Investigator of a recently completed grant funded by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs under the auspices of the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD to test an abbreviated, intensive, multi-couple group version of CBCT for PTSD (AIM-CBCT for PTSD) that can be delivered during a single weekend retreat for service members and veterans with PTSD to enhance treatment retention and efficiency.  Our published study (Fredman et al., 2020) demonstrated that this very brief and potentially highly scalable version of CBCT for PTSD was associated with significant reductions in patients’ PTSD and related symptoms (depression, anxiety, anger), along with significant improvements in partners’ mental health and relationship satisfaction.

Couple and Family Adaptation to Stress across the Lifespan

In addition to these PTSD-specific projects, my students and I are collaborating with colleagues from Penn State, the University of Heidelberg, UNC-Chapel Hill, and NYU on a variety of projects investigating how couples and families adapt during high stress contexts across the lifespan.  For example, we’re studying the daily and longitudinal associations between couple relationship quality and co-parenting during the transition to parenthood, the impact of parental psychological distress on couple/family adjustment during the early parenting years, the regulation and co-regulation of anger in community couples, and the intersection of individual mental health and couple functioning in racial minority couples at mid-life.  We’re also exploring the regulation of emotion within and between partners in a dyad across a range of short time scales (second-by-second, within a day, across days) using a variety of research methods (e.g., extraction of voice stress expressed during couples’ conversations, dyadic ecological momentary assessment and daily diary designs) and statistical techniques that capitalize on dyadic time series data (e.g., dynamical systems modeling).  It’s our hope that better understanding of the ways that intimate dyads adapt individually and as a couple in high stress contexts will lead to more targeted interventions that help couples and families thrive across the lifespan.

Professional Experience
  • 2020-present, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family STudies, The Pennsylvania State University
  • 2014-present, Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
  • 2010-2013, Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Psychology, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • 2009-2010, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine
  • 2007-2010, Clinical Research Postdoctoral Fellow, Women's Health Sciences Division, VA National Center for PTSD

Honors

  • 2018-present,  KL2 Scholar, Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, The Pennsylvania State University
  • 2017-2020,  Karl R. Fink and Diane Wendle Fink Early Career Professorship, College of Health and Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University         
  • 2016, Teaching Excellence Award, College of Health and Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University
  • 2015-2017, Clinical Research Loan Repayment Award Renewal, National Institutes of Health
  • 2014-2015, Fran and Holly Soistman Faculty Endowment, College of Health and Human Development, Pennsylvania State University
  • 2012, Texas A&M NSF ADVANCE Center for Women Faculty Workshop Scholar
  • 2011-2012, Clinical Research Loan Repayment Award Renewal, National Institutes of Health
  • 2008-2010, Clinical Research Loan Repayment Award, National Institutes of Health
  • 2007, Participant, Klaus-Grawe Think Tank Meeting, Zurich and Zuoz, Switzerland
  • 2006, American Psychological Foundation Todd E. Husted Memorial Award
  • 2005, Martin S. Wallach Award, Outstanding Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 2004-2006, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, National Institute of Mental Health
Publications
  • Fredman, S. J., Macdonald, A., Monson, C. M., Dondanville, K. A., Blount, T. H., Hall-Clark, B. N., Fina, B. A., Mintz, J., Litz, B. T., Young-McCaughan, S., Hancock, A. K., Rhoades, G. K., Yarvis, J. S., Resick, P. A., Roache, J. D., *Le, Y., Wachen, J. S., Niles, B. L., McGeary, C. A., Keane, T. M., & Peterson, A. L., for the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (2020). Intensive multi-couple group therapy for PTSD: A non-randomized pilot study with military and veteran dyads. Behavior Therapy, 51(5), 700-714.
  • *Jenkins, A. I. C., Fredman, S. J., *Le, Y., Sun, X., Brick, T. R., Skinner, O. D., & McHale, S. M. (2020). Prospective associations between depressive symptoms and marital satisfaction in Black couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(1), 12-23.
  • *Le, Y., Fredman, S. J., McDaniel, B. T., Laurenceau, J.-P., & Feinberg, M. E. (2019). Cross-day influences between couple closeness and coparenting support among new parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(3), 360-369.
  • Fredman, S. J., *Le, Y., Marshall, A. D., Garcia Hernandez, W., Feinberg, M. E., & Ammerman, R. T. (2019). Parents’ PTSD symptoms and child abuse potential during the perinatal period:  Direct associations and mediation via relationship conflict. Child Abuse & Neglect, 90, 66-75. ​​​​
  • Fredman, S. J., Beck, J. G., Shnaider, P., *Le, Y., Pukay-Martin, N. D., *Pentel, K. Z., Monson, C. M., Simon, N. M., & Marques, L. (2017). Longitudinal associations between PTSD symptoms and dyadic conflict communication following a severe motor vehicle accident. Behavior Therapy, 48, 235-246.
  • *Le, Y., Fredman, S. J., & Feinberg, M. E. (2017). Parenting stress mediates the association between negative affectivity and harsh parenting: A longitudinal dyadic analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 31, 679-688.
  • Fredman, S. J., Pukay-Martin, N. D., Macdonald, A., Wagner, A. C., Vorstenbosch, V., & Monson, C. M. (2016). Partner accommodation moderates treatment outcomes for couple therapy for PTSD. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84, 79-87.
  • Fredman, S. J., Baucom, D. H., Boeding, S., & Miklowitz, D. J. (2015). Relatives’ emotional involvement moderates the effects of family therapy for bipolar disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83, 81-91.
  • Fredman, S. J., Vorstenbosch, V., Wagner, A. C., Macdonald, A., & Monson, C. M. (2014). Partner accommodation in posttraumatic stress disorder: Initial testing of the Significant Others’ Response to Trauma Scale (SORTS). Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 28, 372-381.
  • Monson, C. M., Fredman, S. J., Macdonald, A. M., Pukay-Martin, N. D., Resick, P. A., & Schnurr, P. P. (2012). Effect of cognitive-behavioral couple therapy for PTSD: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 308, 700-709.
  • Monson, C. M., & Fredman, S. J. (2012). Cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: Harnessing the healing power of relationships. Guilford.