Anxiety, stress/trauma reactions, and interpersonal relationships; scalable solutions to promote mental health
Keith D. Renshaw, Ph.D. is currently Department Chair and Professor of Psychology at George Mason University. In August 2023, he will transition to become Mason's Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education. He will no longer be accepting new doctoral students.
Dr. Renshaw specializes in anxiety, stress/trauma, and interpersonal relationships. Much of his work has focused on the experiences of service members/veterans and their families. He has received over $3 million in extramural funding as PI or co-I, published more than 95 peer-reviewed publications and given more than 150 conference presentations, and given numerous invited talks on these and other topics.
More recently, Dr. Renshaw has focused on the development, evaluation, and promotion of scalable mental health care. In particular he, is focusing on (a) culturally-responsive community-level mental health promotion (e.g., mental health literacy), (b) stepped care models of mental health care that include paraprofessionals delivering lower levels of care, and (c) dissemination and implementation of culturally-sensitive, evidence-based treatments within community agencies. This work includes active collaborations with Dr. Esposito-Smythers, the Director of the department's new Center for Evidence-Based Behavioral Health, and several other faculty and regional partners.
Dr. Renshaw’s own clinical expertise is in cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders, trauma reactions, and couples’ distress. He has performed clinical work in a variety of settings, including outpatient clinics, inpatient hospitals, schools, and VA Medical Centers. He has also supervised numerous graduate students in the delivery of cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and couples’ problems.
Dr. Renshaw has also won multiple teaching awards, including the Distinguished Mentor Award from the American Psychological Association's Division of Military Psychology (2021) and the Teaching Excellence Award from George Mason University (2015). In addition to classroom teaching, he is heavily devoted to the mentorship of doctoral students. Under his direct mentorship, students have received 4 NIH F31 Predoctoral Training Awards, 1 Ford Fellowship award, 1 Ford Fellowship honorable mention, 3 Military Suicide Research Consortium Awards, 6 American Psychological Association awards, 2 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Awards, 2 GMU Provost Dissertation Completion Grant, 2 GMU Dissertation Research Scholar Awards, and 4 GMU undergraduate research awards. In total, his students have received over $250,000 in extramural funding, published over 60 peer-reviewed publications, and given over 100 presentations at national conferences. Further information about his work with graduate students is here.
Dr. Renshaw is also an active member of George Mason's Faculty Senate. He served as Chair of the Faculty Senate and, in this role, as the Faculty Representative to the Board of Visitors from 2016-2019. He has also been chair and co-chair of the Faculty Matters Committee and a member of the Senate Executive Committee, and a faculty representative to various subcommittees of the Board of Visitors. In these roles, he strives to strongly represent the voice and needs of the faculty to others both within and external to George Mason.
In 2020, Dr. Renshaw led the formation and launch of the Military, Veterans, & Families Initiative at Mason. This work seeks to leverage Mason's resources as the largest and most diverse public research university in the region to serve the military and veteran population. The efforts center on education, research, training/workforce development, and direct services. More information can be found here.
My prior research focuses on individual and interpersonal reactions to stress, trauma, and anxiety. The bulk of my research in this area has been devoted to understanding individuals’ and couples’ reactions to deployment in general, and to symptoms of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in particular, in military couples. I have also focused on other stressors (e.g., sexual assault, deployment, COVID-19, and racism and racial trauma). Although I continue to publish and mentor students in this area, I am not actively leading projects of my own in this domain.
More recently, my research focus has turned to the idea of "scalable" solutions to mental health needs. This involves three main facets. First, I am beginning work to understand community-level needs and attitudes related to mental health. This work will include community-based participatory work with individuals holding a wide range of social identities, to understand how they think about and deal with mental health problems. It will then involve applying or refining existing mental health literacy programs (e.g., Mental Health First Aid) with various community-based groups (e.g., church groups, small businesses), or developing new programs as needed.
Second, in collaboration with Dr. Mehlenbeck, the Director of our training clinic (the Center for Psychological Services), I am exploring the creation of evidence-based, stepped mental health care models. "Step 1" of such models is an easy-access, low-intensity "entry point" (e.g., emotional support call-in line), staffed by paraprofessionals (e.g., those with a high school education or bachelor's degree) who are trained in active listening and evidence-informed coping skills approaches, as well as assessing for whether callers need more in-depth assistance. Such callers are referred to "Step 2," a brief (1- to 3-session), evidence-informed intervention for stress, anxiety, and depression. This intervention is delivered by graduate trainees. Finally, those in need of greater service are referred for standard therapy in "Step 3." This type of approach is designed to provide each individual with the level of care and expertise they need, while reserving more intense interventions and professionals for those in greatest need. As such, this type of model enables faster and wider access to more people. We are beginning to explore data collected in the context of an initial model that was launched in 2020.
Third, in collaboration with other faculty members in our clinical psychology program, I have begun work on projects related to dissemination and implementation, through work that now occurs in the newly launched Center for Evidence-Based Behavioral Health. The first project began in Dec 2017 and involved developing trainings in evidence-based treatments for children and adolescents. These trainings and follow-up consultations are offered to clinicians working in our county's community service board and other settings. A new project began in Fall 2020, focused on training clinicians from five counties/localities across Northern Virginia in evidence-based approaches to trauma reactions for both children and adults. We are tracking long-term outcomes in both projects.
Finally, my students and I are beginning a new mixed-methods study of racial and social identity, identity salience, and identity-based stressors. This study will launch in Spring 2023.
* denotes student under my supervision
*Martin, L. N., *Giff, S. T., *Ribeiro, S., & Renshaw, K. D. (in press). Changes in relationship quality in the COVID-19 pandemic: Associations with pandemic stressors and couple communication. American Journal of Family Therapy.
Fredman, S. J., Le, Y., Renshaw, K. D., & Allen, E. S. (2022). Longitudinal associations among service members’ PTSD symptoms, partner accommodation, and partner distress. Behavior Therapy, 53, 1161-1174.
*DiMauro, J., & Renshaw, K. D. (2021). Trauma-related disclosure in sexual assault survivors’ intimate relationships: Associations with PTSD, shame, and partners’ responses. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36 (3-4), NP1986-2004.
Renshaw, K. D., Allen, E. S., Fredman, S. J., *Giff, S. T., & Kern, C. (2020). Partners’ motivations for accommodating posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in service members: The Reasons for Accommodation of PTSD Scale. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 71, Article 102199.
*Giff, S. T., Renshaw, K. D., & Allen, E. S. (2019). Post-deployment parenting in military couples: Associations with service members’ PTSD symptoms. Journal of Family Psychology, 33, 166-175.
*Campbell, S. B.†, & Renshaw, K. D.† (2018). Posttraumatic stress disorder and relationship functioning: A comprehensive review and organizational framework. Clinical Psychology Review, 65, 152-162.
† Authors contributed equally to this manuscript, and are regarded as co-first authors.
PSYC 100: Basic Concepts in Psychology
PSYC 862: Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Adults
PSYC 864: Foundations of Evidence-Based Therapy
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2003
M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1998
B.S., Duke University 1995
* denotes student under my supervision
*Ribeiro, S., Renshaw, K. D., & Allen, E. S. (2021, November). Psychological and relationship distress in military partners: Associations with service members’ PTSD, deployment stress and military life stress. In C. M. Balderrama-Durbin (Chair), Military couple health across the deployment cycle. Symposium presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Orleans, LA.
*Giff, S. T., Renshaw, K. D., & Allen, E. S. (2021, April). Examining within- and between-family associations of military fathers’ PTSD symptoms and child psychosocial functioning. In M. R. Franz (Chair), Parenting after trauma: Addressing the effects of PTSD on the family. Symposium to be presented at the Society for Research in Child Development (virtual conference).
*Fox, A. L., Renshaw, K. D., Caska-Wallace, C., Knobloch-Fedders, L., & Smith, T. W. (2019, November). Momentary associations among conflict behaviors and physiological reactivity in veterans with and without PTSD. In F. Leifker (Chair), Emerging research among military couples: Novel investigations and unique considerations. Symposium presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Atlanta, GA.
*Giff, S. T., Saleem, S., & Renshaw, K. D. (2019, November). Investigating racial/ethnic differences in associations among emotion socialization, emotion regulation, and mental health outcomes in emerging adults. In S. Carter (Chair), Interpersonal relationships among marginalized populations: Implications for mental health and treatment. Symposium presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Atlanta, GA.
Recent Commentary on Public Issues
Mason Mental Health Expert Applauds Increased Funding in Virginia for Mental Health Services (Falls Church Patch Jul 2021)
Post-COVID Reintegration: Learn from the Military (Psychology Today Jun 2021)
Mason Professor Says Return to In-Person Interaction Requires More Frank Discussions, Acknowledgement of Accompanying Anxiety (George Mason University News Mar 2021)
Mental Health Champions: How Dr. Renshaw is Helping to Promote Mental Wellness Among Service Members and Veterans (Medium Jan 2021)
Most Influential in Healthcare 2020: Front-Line Workers (Modern Healthcare Dec 2020)
Workers Leaving 'Healthcare Prisons' Over COVID-19 Stress (Modern Healthcare Nov 2020)
Trapped at Home with People You Met on Craigslist (The Atlantic Apr 2020)
Research & Related Coverage
The Saving Lives and Decreasing Health Disparities Project - Mason News Jan 31, 2023
Mason Doctoral Student Receives National Research Award to Study the Relationship Between PTSD and Children's Emotional Functioning - Mason News Feb 2021
Dissemination & Implementation Project - Fairfax County News Aug 26, 2018
Dissemination & Implementation Project - Mason News Jun 4, 2018
Donald Trump's Comments About PTSD - Yahoo News Oct 4, 2016
PTSD & Couples - Mason News Mar 24, 2016
MVFI & Faculty Senate Coverage
5 Steps for Successful Shared Governance - Feb 20, 2023
Mason Launches Military, Veterans, & Families Initiative - Nov 5, 2020
Collision of Interests: Protecting Academic Freedom and Donor Rights - Jun 13, 2019
Philanthropic Donations: A first-hand view of a controversy - Feb 15, 2019
Association of the US Army 2015
Sarah Giff, Emotion Socialization in Military Families: Associations with Parent PTSD Symptoms and Child Psychosocial Functioning (2022)
Annie Fox, Parent-Child Trauma Communication: Exploration of a Proposed Mechanism for the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma (2022)
Lauren Camille Paige, Living with PTSD Symptoms: A Comprehensive Exploration of Functioning Reports and Symptom Interpretation (2020)
Sarah Carter, Protective Buffering by Service Members and Romantic Partners During Military Deployments: Associations with Mental and Relationship Health (2017)
Jennifer DiMauro, Post-trauma Relationship Processes and Trauma-related Disclosure in Female Survivors of Sexual Assault (2017)
Sarah Burns Campbell, A Daily Study of PTSD and Interpersonal Processes (2015)
Hilary Weingarden, Anxiety and Shame as Risk Factors for Depression, Suicidality, and Functional Impairment in Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (2015)
Sarah Klein, Emotion Regulation and Perceptions of Hostile and Constructive Criticism in Romantic Relationships (2015)
Jeffrey Bergmann, Psychological Well-Being in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans: A Broader Model of Risk and Protective Factors (2014)