Denise Hien



Denise Hien, Ph.D., ABPP joined Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, as the new Director for the Center of Alcohol Studies, and Professor in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology (GSAPP) at Rutgers University, New Brunswick on October 2, 2017. Recognized as a leader in the field of post-traumatic stress and addictions, her body of work has contributed to the evidence base on effective interventions for individuals with PTSD and substance use disorders. She and her group have conducted programmatic research through single- and multi-site clinical trials across the United States in community-based substance abuse treatment settings, with continuous funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (19 grants total: 6 R01, 1 multi-site) for over 20 years.  She currently leads an NIDA R25 training grant for translational addiction research for racial/ethnic minority BS/MD, MA and PhD candidates in the biomedical and social sciences. She is board-certified in clinical psychology and has served as a standing and ad hoc member on NIDA, NIAAA, and NIMH Institutional Review Groups, and a health disparities advisory group to the Director of NIDA on Asian/Pacific Islander issues. Dr. Hien will assume leadership to increase the center’s visibility in shaping the national conversation about traumatic stress and its role in the development and maintenance of alcohol and other substance use disorders.

Current Research

Reading Faces: Social Cognition and PTSD

Our prior work (Social SCAN) found that individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) perceive facial stimuli as more trustworthy in comparison to trauma-exposed individuals without PTSD (Fertuck et al., 2016). Reading Faces extends this work by investigating the behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying trustworthiness perception among three groups: individuals with high posttraumatic symptoms, low posttraumatic symptoms, and individuals with no history of trauma exposure. A second aim of the Reading Faces project is to test the efficacy of an attentional learning task: can disruptions in social cognition related to PTSD improve with attentional training?  While electroencephalography (EEG) is being recorded, participants in the laboratory rate faces and then complete an attentional training task.


Social Emotions in co-occuring PTSD and alcohol misuse

PTSD and alcohol misuse or alcohol use disorder co-occur at significantly high rates. Current treatments targeting PTSD with co-occurring alcohol misuse have primarily focused on extinguishing the feeling of fear associated with trauma and reducing the activation of the reward pathway in alcohol misuse. But the efficacy of these treatments have proven to be limited; active and control conditions often show similar outcomes. Social emotions—specifically the feelings of shame and guilt —have been identified as emotions prevalent in both PTSD and alcohol misuse. Unlike fear and disgust, social emotions arise from interpersonal contexts and require self-referential thinking. This project investigates the behavioral and neural mechanism of shame and guilt in a sample of individuals with comorbid PTSD and hazardous drinking.  In a a laboratory session, we look at whether shame and guilt increases alcohol craving and posttraumatic symptoms while using EEG to identify neural signatures for shame and guilt.


Mobile Mindfulness: Smartphone-based meditation training for enhanced cognition and emotion regulation

Research has shown that face-to-face mindfulness meditation has a positive impact on physical and psychological health. The Mobile Mindfulness project examines whether a smartphone-based mindfulness training (SBMT) can result in similar benefits. This projects collects neural, behavioral, physiological, and subjective report data to help us understand how meditation helps us change how we feel, think, and respond. A second aim of this project is to pilot SBMT with individuals who report trauma-related distress and risky drinking. After screening for a good study fit, participants download a SBMT app onto their personal smartphone and use the app for 30 days. During the 30 days, participants complete one guided meditation daily. Before and after the 30-day period, participants attend an EEG laboratory session with attentional and cognitive exercises.


Concurrent Treatment for Substance Dependent Individuals With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This NIDA funded clinical trial will use a randomized, controlled, repeated measures design to assess the efficacy of two active treatments (Concurrent Treatment of PTSD and Substance Dependence and Relapse Prevention Therapy) as compared to a control group in treating individuals with substance dependence and PTSD. Concurrent Treatment for PTSD and Substance Dependence is a manualized 12-week intervention, which applies cognitive-behavioral strategies and prolonged exposure (PE) techniques. Relapse Prevention Therapy is a widely used cognitive-behavioral skills training approach to initiating and maintaining abstinence from various types of substance abuse.This study aims to evaluate the efficacy of the interventions in reducing substance use, PTSD symptoms, and global psychiatric symptoms, as well as assess differences in retention across treatment groups.


Social Scan Pilot Study

This City College of New York CITY SEEDS funded pilot study will employ a case-control experimental design using innovative, transdisciplinary assessment methodologies to examine how sociality affects threat processing in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and contributes to interpersonal impairments. A modified version of the "Trust-Fear Facial Discrimination Task" and a Temporal Flanker Task will be used to investigate how sociality influences threat appraisal in individuals with and without PTSD. The neural markers of social versus nonsocial appraisal will be explored through Evoked-Related Potentials (ERP) markers using electroencephalography (EEG). Participants in the case group will be 40 men and women with PTSD without co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses. The control group will consist of 20 healthy men and women. This study aims to answer critical questions about how sociality affects threat processing in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and contributes to interpersonal impairments, examine whether social and nonsocial threat appraisal tasks will be able to discriminate between individuals with and without PTSD, and evaluate differences in levels of distrust and threat perception between the case and control groups.


Safe Steps

This NIAAA funded clinical trial uses a randomized, double-blind, repeated measures design to evaluate the efficacy of Seeking Safety (SS) in combination with an anti-depressant medication (Zoloft) in reducing alcohol use, PTSD severity and psychiatric symptoms over time. SS is an integrated cognitive-behavior therapy for the treatment of PTSD and substance use disorders. Eligible female participants are randomly assigned to one of two conditions (Seeking Safety plus Zoloft or Seeking Safety plus placebo). This study aims to assess the efficacy of adding an anti-depressant medication to an empirically tested cognitive-behavioral treatment for women with co-morbid PTSD and alcohol related disorders, as well as assess the differences in retention rates across the two treatment conditions.


REM Pilot Study

Racial/ethnic minority (REM) students are significantly underrepresented in doctoral programs in psychology.This privately funded pilot study will usesemi-structured researcher-facilitated discussion groupsto gather information about the factors that influence REM students' decisions to apply to psychology graduate programs. The specific aims of this study are to identify and examine factors that influence REM undergraduate students' decisions to apply to psychology graduate programs, develop a workshop and brochure for REM undergraduate students to aid in their preparation and decisions about applying to psychology graduate programs, and disseminate research findings, workshop resources, and brochures to CUNY programs and local conferences.


TRACC Program

TRACC (Translational Research Training in Addictions for Racial/Ethnic Minorities at the City College of New York and Columbia University Medical Center) aims to increase the number of scientists from underrepresented minority groups conducting translational addiction research. According to a 2011 article in Science, a low percentage of minority scientists achieve success in research award funding despite years of field-wide diversification efforts. Additionally, as the field of translational neuroscience continues to expand, the numbers of qualified minority scientists with interdisciplinary training lags behind. TRACC addresses these gaps by reaching earlier into the career development pipeline to identify and actively facilitate the professional success of the most talented minority students. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded $1.5 million to support TRACC’s mission. TRACC capitalizes on CCNY’s exceptional pool of diverse students, its renowned multidisciplinary faculty and a novel collaboration with substance use researchers at CUMC. TRACC will train 20 researchers over the next five years. Trainees will be selected from a pool of faculty-nominated CCNY graduate psychology students plus students in the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education’s BS/MD program. An initial cohort of four will begin training in the spring of 2014.


2012 –  2017
National Institute of  Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA)
Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD and Alcohol Use: A Randomized Clinical Trial

2012 –  2017
Department of Family Medicine and Community Health University of Massachusetts Medical School/UMass Memorial Health Care
Trauma Intervention in Primary Care  for Pregnant Women

Principal Investigator 
Co-I’s: Frances R. Levin, M.D., Robert Melara, Ph.D., Lesia Ruglass, Ph.D.,
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)
Translational Research Training in Addictions at City College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (TRACC)

PI: Christine Sheffer, Ph.D
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
TREND Partnership: Tobacco Research and Education to Eliminate Disparities

Principal Investigator
Co-PI: Jonathan Jackson
FAR Fund
Derner Hempstead Training Clinic and Outcomes​

PI: Robert Melara, Ph.D.
New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)
Using the Strategic Prevention Framework to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking and Drug Use

PI: Diane Roberts, MA, President
​Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Global Evaluation & Applied Research Solutions (GEARS) Inc

Selected Publications

DA Hien, T Lopez-Castro, S Papini, B Gorman, LM Ruglass (2017) Emotion dysregulation moderates the effect of cognitive behavior therapy with prolonged exposure for co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders. Journal of anxiety disorders 52, 53-61

HC Hahm, STH Chang, GY Lee, MD Tagerman, CS Lee, MP Trentadue, DA Hien (2017) Asian Women’s Action for Resilience and Empowerment Intervention: Stage I Pilot Study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48 (10), 1537-1553

LM Ruglass, A Shevorykin, C Brezing, MC Hu, DA Hien (2017) Demographic and clinical characteristics of treatment seeking women with full and subthreshold PTSD and concurrent cannabis and cocaine use disorders. Journal of substance abuse treatment 80, 45-51

ANC Campbell, SE Back, JS Ostroff, DA Hien, MN Gourevitch, CE Sheffer, KT Brady, K Hanley, S Bereket, S Book (2017) Addiction Research Training Programs: Four Case Studies and Recommendations for Evaluation. Journal of Addiction Medicine 11 (5), 333-338

T Lopez-Castro, D Hien, S Papini (2017) Criminal justice involvement and violence in civilians with substance use disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder. Drug & Alcohol Dependence 171, e122

D Hien, L Ruglass, S Back (2017) Concurrent treatment with prolonged exposure for co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders: A randomized clinical trial. Drug & Alcohol Dependence 171, e88-e89

L Gilbert, A Raj, D Hien, J Stockman, A Terlikbayeva, G Wyatt (2017) Targeting the SAVA (substance abuse, violence and AIDS) syndemic among women and girls: a global review of epidemiology and integrated interventions. 

DA Hien, H Jiang, ANC Campbell, MC Hu, GM Miele, LR Cohen, GS Brigham, C Capstick, A Kulaga, J Robinson, L Suarez-Morales, EV Nunes (2009) Do treatment improvements in PTSD severity affect substance use outcomes? A secondary analysis from a randomized clinical trial in NIDA's Clinical Trials Network. American Journal of Psychiatry 167 (1), 95-101

DA Hien, EA Wells, H Jiang, L Suarez-Morales, ANC Campbell, LR Cohen, GM Miele, T Killeen, GS Brigham, Y Zhang, C Hansen, C Hodgkins, M Hatch-Maillette, C Brown, A Kulaga, A Kristman-Valente, M Chu, R Sage, JA Robinson, D Liu, EV Nunes (2009) Multisite randomized trial of behavioral interventions for women with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 77 (4), 607

LR Cohen, DA Hien, S Batchelder (2008) The impact of cumulative maternal trauma and diagnosis on parenting behavior. Child maltreatment 13 (1), 27-38

SF Greenfield, AJ Brooks, SM Gordon, CA Green, F Kropp, RK McHugh, M Lincoln, D Hien, GM Miele (2007) Substance abuse treatment entry, retention, and outcome in women: A review of the literature. Drug and alcohol dependence 86 (1), 1-21

LR Cohen, DA Hien (2006) Treatment outcomes for women with substance abuse and PTSD who have experienced complex trauma. Psychiatric services 57 (1), 100-106

D Hien, L Cohen, A Campbell (2005) Is traumatic stress a vulnerability factor for women with substance use disorders? Clinical Psychology Review 25 (6), 813-823

DA Hien, LR Cohen, GM Miele, LC Litt, C Capstick (2004) Promising treatments for women with comorbid PTSD and substance use disorders. American journal of Psychiatry 161 (8), 1426-1432

DA Hien, E Nunes, FR Levin, D Fraser (2000) Posttraumatic stress disorder and short-term outcome in early methadone treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 19 (1), 31-37


Dr. Hien received her B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University, and her M.S., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. She received her postdoctoral training in substance use research at the Division on Substance Use Disorders at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she has retained a longstanding adjunct appointment, now as Senior Research Scientist. Over her career, she has served on the doctoral faculties of the Derner School of Psychology at Adelphi University, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and The City College of New York. She has also served in numerous academic leadership roles within each of these institutions.