Steven L. Sayers, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center he is the Director of the Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment. He is also faculty at the Center for Couples and Adult Families, University of Pennsylvania Health System. Dr. Sayers is the Director of a national VA call center for family members who are concerned about the mental health of a Veteran who is reluctant to access care (www.va.gov/coachingintocare). His research has focused on the role of family members and other social supports in mental and physical health.
Dr. Sayers’s earliest work examined the processes that might have an impact on the functioning of families in which one family member had a major mental illness. His observational studies of couples in which the wife has clinical depression, underscored the role of specific types of cognitions in producing negative mood in both spouses after a laboratory discussion of a marital problem. In another observational study of laboratory interactions of families in which one member had schizophrenia, he found that the quality of family members’ communication predicted negative interactional behavior more than did the severity of the identified patients’ symptoms.
Dr, Sayers’s more recent work has focused on the role of family members in medical and psychiatric health of military Veterans. In 2008 he presented testimony to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs regarding his research with veterans and their family members. One line of study showed that heart failure patients with greater social support were more likely to make attempts to follow a low-salt diet and adhere to the use of multiple medication regimen than those with a low level of available social support. Another line of study examines the family reintegration problems experienced by combat Veterans. A study funded by Health Services Research & Development, Department of Veterans Affairs from 2010-2015 will study these processes using quantitative data and qualitative interviews of Veterans and their spouses.
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