Christianne Esposito-Smythers

Christianne Esposito-Smythers

Christianne Esposito-Smythers


adolescent suicide, adolescent substance abuse, development of cognitive behavioral prevention and intervention programs for adolescent mental health problems

Dr. Christianne Esposito-Smythers received a B.A. from Lafayette College in 1995 where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a double major in Psychology and English. She received her M.S. in 1997 and her Ph.D. in 2000 in Clinical Psychology (Child Track) from Virginia Tech. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Clinical Child Psychology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University from 2000-2001. She completed a T32 NIAAA funded Postdoctoral Fellowship in alcohol intervention research at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies from 2001-2003. After completing this fellowship, she joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She left Brown Medical School to join the Clinical Psychology faculty at George Mason University (GMU) in 2008. Dr. Esposito-Smythers is currently a Professor in the Psychology Department at GMU, Director of Clinical Training/ Program Director for the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at GMU, as well as an adjunct faculty in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University. She is also a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

Dr. Esposito-Smythers’ research interests include the development and testing of cognitive-behavioral, family-focused, interventions for adolescent suicidal behavior, depression, substance abuse, and other high risk behaviors. In addition to outcomes, she studies mechanisms that underlie improvement in the context of these interventions. She is also interested in the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based interventions into community-based settings. Dr. Esposito-Smythers also studies risk factors and social-cognitive processes that underlie adolescent suicidality, substance abuse, and other high risk behaviors. Her research has been funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS. Her papers have appeared in the Behavior Research and Therapy, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Journal of Traumatic Stress, Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, American Journal on Addictions, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, and many other journals. She is sits on the Scientific Advisory Council for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Fairfax County Youth Suicide Review Team (Chair), and multiple Fairfax County workgroups dedicated toward improving access to evidence-based assessment and treatment for youth and families.

Dr. Esposito-Smythers will be accepting a new PhD student for the Fall 2022 application cycle. 

Selected Publications

Selected Manuscripts

Esposito-Smythers, C., Hadley, W., Curby, T., & Brown, L.K. (2017). Alcohol, self-harm, and HIV prevention among youth in mental health treatment: A randomized controlled pilot trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2016.11.005. PMC5345345

Esposito-Smythers, C. Brown, L.K., Wolff, J., Xu, J. Thorton, S., & Tidey, J. (2014). Integrated cognitive-behavioral and contingency management intervention for HIV infected young adults: Results of an open pilot trial. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 46, 244-250. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2013.07.008. PMC23988190

Esposito-Smythers, C., Spirito, A., Kahler, C. W., Hunt, J., & Monti, P. (2011). Treatment of co-occurring substance abuse and suicidality among adolescents: A randomized trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79, 728–739. doi: 10.1037/a0026074 PMC3226923

Esposito-Smythers, C., Spirito, A., Uth, R., & Lachance, H. (2006). Cognitive behavioral treatment for suicidal alcohol abusing adolescents: Development and pilot testing. American Journal on Addictions, 15(suppl), 126-130. doi: 10.1080/10550490601003631 PMC1821071

Donaldson, D., Spirito, A., & Esposito-Smythers, C. (2005). Treatment for adolescents following a suicide attempt: Results of a pilot trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 113-120. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200502000-00003

Selected Book Chapters

Esposito-Smythers, C., Rallis, B., Machell, K., Williams, C. & Fischer, S. (in press). Brief interventions for adolescents with substance abuse and comorbid psychiatric problems. In P. Monti, Colby, S, & O'Leary, T. (Eds) Adolescents Alcohol and Substance Abuse: Reaching Teens Through Brief Interventions. New York, NY: Guildford Press.

Spirito, A., Esposito-Smythers, C., & Wolff, J. (2017). Developing and testing interventions for adolescent suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury. In J. R. Weisz & A.E. Kazdin (Eds.) Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Children and Adolescents. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Esposito-Smythers, C., Perloe, A., Machell, K., & Rallis, B. (2015). Suicidal and non-suicidal self-harm behaviors. In Y. Kaminer (Ed.), Youth Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Esposito-Smythers, C., Weismoore, J., Zimmermann, R.P., & Spirito, A. (2014). Suicidal behaviors among children and adolescents. In M. Nock (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Suicide and Self-Injury. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.





Grants and Fellowships

Current/Recent Grants and Contracts

Intensive Outpatient Protocol for High Risk Suicidal Teens

1R01MH097703 (Esposito-Smythers/Spirito, Multiple PIs)

National Institute of Mental Health

Aim: Compare the relative efficacy of an intensive outpatient cognitive behavioral treatment protocol for depressed adolescents hospitalized for a suicide crisis, with a suicide attempt, non-suicidal self-injury and/or a substance use disorder, to treatment-as-usual in community outpatient mental health services in a Stage II randomized clinical trial.

Role: Multiple PI with Anthony Spirito, Ph.D.

Dates of grant: 7/1/12-6/30/17

Total costs: $2,911,138


Integrated Mental Health Treatment and HIV Prevention for Court Involved Youth

R01MH087520 (Brown, PI)

National Institute of Mental Health

Aim: Compare the relative efficacy of an integrated mental health/substance abuse treatment and HIV prevention program to enhanced treatment-as-usual in community based outpatient mental health services for court involved youth referred for treatment through the Rhode Island Family Court and Fairfax County Juvenile Court in a Stage II randomized clinical trial. 

Role: Co-Investigator / GMU Site PI

Dates of grant: 7/1/10-6/30/15

Total costs: $3,249,659

PI/Co-Investigators: Larry Brown, M.D. (PI), Sarah Fischer, Ph.D., Marina Tolou-Shams, Ph.D., Wendy Hadley, Ph.D., & Ronald Seifer, PhD.


Inova Kellar Center Clinical Research Service Contract

Aim: To aid the Inova Kellar Center (part of the Inova Healthcare System) in the development and implementation of web-based routine outcomes monitoring, also known as measurement-based care (MBC), in collaboration with OWL Insights, LLC. The Kellar Center provides behavioral health treatment to children, adolescents, and their families, and offers a full continuum of services including partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, intensive home-based services, outpatient, medication management, psychiatric evaluations, psychological testing, and a therapeutic school. Use of MBC will allow the Kellar Center to use client self-report data, collected via empirically validated assessments, to guide treatment and discharge planning, monitor client progress, evaluate the efficacy of all services, and address accreditation requirements. These data will also be used to prepare research papers and provide pilot data for grant applications.

Dates of Contract: 6/7/16-6/6/18

Total Costs: $165,298



Courses Taught

Psyc 810: Psychological Assessment I

Psyc 811: Psychological Assessment II

Psyc 861: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Youth

Psyc 325: Abnormal Psychology

Psyc 414: Behavioral Disorders in Childhood




1995 B.A. Psychology/English, Lafayette College

1997 M.S. Clinical Psychology, Virginia Tech

2000 Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, Virginia Tech

Recent Presentations

Esposito-Smythers, C., Fagan, C., Mehlenbeck, R., & Peterson, A.P. (2017, August). For good measure: Hands-on experience putting measurement-based care into clinical practice (Workshop number 123). Workshop to be presented at the 125th APA Annual Convention, Washington, D.C.

Esposito-Smythers, C., Hadley, W., Brown, L.K., & Curby, T. (2015, October).  The development of a suicide, alcohol, and HIV prevention program for teens in mental health treatment.  In C. Esposito-Smythers (Chair), Adapting interventions for suicidal youth: Consideration of comorbidity, culture, and setting. Symposium presented at the International Summit on Suicide Research, New York. NY.

Esposito-Smythers, C., Hadley, W., Brown, L.K., Curby, T., Short, J., Weismoore, J., Miller, A., Schaefer, K., MacNeil, L., & Perloe, A. (2014, June).  Alcohol, suicide, and HIV prevention for teens in mental health treatment: Preliminary results of a clinical trial. In C. Esposito-Smythers (Chair), Socially based brief interventions for adolescents and emerging adults: outcomes and mechanisms of change. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, Seattle, WA.

Sprito A. & Esposito-Smythers, C. (2014, August). Project InVest. In G. Diamond (Chair), State of the art treatment and research for suicidal adolescents. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C. 

Esposito-Smythers, C. & Fisher, S. (2013, July). CBT Skills To Enhance Mindfulness and Adolescent Well-Being. Workshop presented at the The Science of Well-Being: Interventions for Children, Adolescents, and Families International Symposium, Sophia, Bulgaria. 


Dissertations Supervised

Annamarie B. Defayette , A Multimethod Approach to Understanding the Association Between Interpersonal Stress, Inflammatory Response, and Suicidality (2022)

Emma D. Whitmyre, Implementation of Measurement Based Care and Electronic Safety Plans for Youth (2021)

Caitlin Ann Williams , A Developmental Look at the Impact of Childhood Trauma in Treatment-seeking Samples (2020)

Bethany Rallis, A Brief Peer Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention Training: Preliminary Examination of Efficacy and Individual Factors That Influence Outcomes (2016)

Alexandra Perloe, A Longitudinal Examination of the Association Between Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, Emotional Intelligence, and Family Context in Adolescents (2015)

Laura Martinson, A Longitudinal Examination of the Association Between Parenting Behavior, Social-Emotional Coping, and Adolescent Disordered Eating (2015)

Karen Schaefer, Suicidal Ideation in a U.S. Jail: Demographic and Psychiatric Correlates and a Test of Baumeister's Escape Theory (2014)

Adam Miller, A Formal Test of the Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide and a Closer Look at the Role of Social Support in Adolescent Suicidal Ideation and Behavior (2014)

Julie T. Weismoore, A Proposed Model of Non-suicidal Self-injury, Negative Life Events, Coping, and Emotional Regulation (2011)