Stephen Saunders, Ph.D.

Saunders headshot
Stephen Saunders, Ph.D.Marquette University

Cramer Hall, 328R

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-7459

Assistant Chair and Professor


Dr. Saunders lives with his wife, Ruth. He has three children who have graduated college. He enjoys bike riding, playing golf poorly, hiking, playing basketball and watching baseball.

Research Lab: Mental Health Services Research Lab


Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1990 
M.A., Northwestern University, 1987 
B.A., Northwestern University, 1985

Courses Taught

Dr. Saunders teaches a summer 100% online undergraduate general psychology course and “Introduction to Clinical Psychology,” as well as graduate courses in interviewing skills, consultation/supervision, and advanced research methods.

Research Interests

Dr. Saunders research interests include all aspects of the "mental health services delivery system," which include who needs, who obtains, the best way to deliver, and the different ways to evaluate mental health treatment. Saunders has published studies on the effect of the therapeutic alliance on treatment effectiveness in psychotherapy; on practical aspects of measuring treatment effects within real-world clinical settings; and evaluating whether involving spirituality in alcohol treatment improves effectiveness.

Current major research interests include the help-seeking process and the role of spirituality in mental health care. Studies in the former area include how persons determine that they need professional help for a psychological problem, how persons with a mental health problem (such as depression or alcoholism) get into treatment, and barriers experienced while seeking treatment, whereas studies in the latter area include the proper inclusion of spiritual and religious beliefs in the therapeutic process and graduate students’ attitudes towards including spiritual and religious content in treatment.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Dr. Saunders has worked with numerous undergraduate in his lab. Most undergraduate students that have worked in his lab have gone on to obtain advanced (graduate) degrees in mental health care.

Graduate Students

Graduate students who have completed their doctorates with Dr. Saunders are shown on the following page. They have conducted research into the effectiveness of treatment for borderline personality disorder (Sara Little, Ph.D. and Melissa Miller, Ph.D.), the effectiveness of suicide assessment in emergency departments (Megan Petrik, Ph.D.), factors influencing the therapeutic alliance (Karen Zygowicz, Ph.D. and Cody Carson, Ph.D.), barriers to treatment seeking for mental health problems among lawyers (Joan Ravenelli-Miller, Ph.D.) and military personnel (Laura Bein, Ph.D.), the stigma associated with mental illness among mental health professionals (Lynn Servais, Ph.D.), ethnicity-related issues that affect treatment-seeking and treatment effectiveness (Carolina Mendez, Ph.D. and Angelique West-Lewis, Ph.D.), and the effects of "wraparound" treatment programs (Erik Seybold, Ph.D.).

Selected Publications

  • Saunders, S.M. (2023.) Martin Luther on Mental Health. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO.
  • Woods, D. W., Ely, l. J., Bauer, C. C., Twohig, M. P., Saunders, S., Compton, S. N., Espil, F. M., Neal-Barnett, A., Alexander, J., Walther, M. R., Cahill, S. P., Deckersbach, T., & Franklin, M. E. (2022). Acceptance-Enhanced Behavior Therapy for Trichotillomania in Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 158.
  • Johnson, B., Grau, P., Saunders, S.M. (2020). Psychiatric medications and stigmatizing attitudes in college students. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 34:4, 287-301, DOI: 10.1080/87568225.2019.1600092
  • Saunders, S.M. (2019). A Christian Guide to Mental Illness, Volume 2: Understanding and Utilizing the Mental Health Treatment System. Northwestern Publishing, Milwaukee, WI.
  • Bein, L., Grau, P., Saunders, S.M., & deRoon-Cassini, T. (2019). Military mental health: Problem recognition, treatment-seeking, and barriers. Military Behavioral Health, 7, 228-237. DOI: 10.1080/21635781.2018.1526147
  • Saunders, S.M. (2016). A Christian Guide to Mental Illness, Volume 1:  Recognizing and Understanding Mental Illness in Church and School. Northwestern Publishing, Milwaukee, WI.
  • Geerling, D. & Saunders, S. (2015). College students’ perceptions of individuals with anorexia nervosa: Irritation and admiration. Journal of Mental Health, 24, 83-87. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2014.998807
  • Petrik, M., Gutierrez, P. M., Berlin, J.S., & Saunders, S.M. (2015). Barriers and facilitators of suicide risk assessment in emergency departments: A qualitative study of provider perspectives. General Hospital Psychiatry, 37(6), 581-586.
  • Petrik, M., Bein, L., Saunders, S.M., & Wojcik, J.V. (2014). Discrepancy Between Parents and Children in Reporting of Distress and Impairment:  Association with Critical Symptoms. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
  • Saunders, S.M., Petrik, M. L., & Miller, M. L. (2014). Psychology doctoral students’ perspectives on addressing spirituality and religion with clients: Associations with personal preferences and training. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.
  • Stulz, N., Lutz, W., Kopta, S.M., Minami, T., & Saunders, S.M. (2013). Dose-effect relationship in routine outpatient psychotherapy: Does treatment duration matter? Journal of Counseling Psychology.
  • Kopta, S. M., Petrik, M. L., Saunders, S. M., Mond, M., Hirsch, G., Kadison, R., & Raymond, D. (2014). The utility of an efficient outcomes assessment system at university counseling centers. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 28, 97-116. doi: 10.1080/87568225.2014.883876
  • Bowersox, N. & Saunders, S.M., Berger, B. D. (2012). Predictors of re-hospitalization in high-utilizing patients in the VA psychiatric medical system. Psychiatric Quarterly. 83, 53-64. doi: 10.1007/s11126-011-9182-2
  • Miller, M. L. & Saunders, S.M. (2011). A naturalistic study of the associations between changes in alcohol problems, spiritual functioning and psychiatric symptoms. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 25, 455-461.
  • Saunders, S.M., Miller, M. L. & Bright, M. (2010). Spiritually conscious care. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41, 355-362.
  • Lutz, W, Stulz, N., Martinovich, Z., Leon, S.C., & Saunders, S.M. (2009). Methodological Background of Decision Rules and Feedback Tools. Psychotherapy Research, 19, 502-510.
  • Bowersox, N. W., Saunders, S.M., & Wojcik, J.V. (2009). An evaluation of the utility of statistical versus clinical significance in determining improvement in alcohol/other drug treatment in correctional settings. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 27, 113 – 129.
  • Servais, L. & Saunders, S.M. (2007). Clinical psychologists' perceptions of persons with mental illness. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 214-219.
  • Saunders, S.M., Lucas, V., & Kuras, L. (2007). Measuring the discrepancy between current and ideal spiritual and religious functioning in problem drinkers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21, 404-408.
  • Saunders, S. & Bowersox, N. (2007). The process of seeking treatment for mental health problems. Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 4, 99-123.
  • Krause, M.S., Lutz, W. & Saunders, S.M. (2007). Empirically certified treatments or therapists: The issue of separability. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 44, 347-353.
  • Lutz, W, Saunders, S.M., Leon, S.C., Martinovich, Z., Kosfelder, J., Schulte, D.,  Grawe, K., & Tholen, S. (2006.) Empirically and clinically useful decision making in psychotherapy: The validation of treatment response models with sequential analysis. Psychological Assessment, 18, 133-141.
  • Saunders, S.M., Zygowicz, K.M., & D’Angelo, B.R. (2006). Person-related and treatment-related barriers to alcohol treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 30, 261-270.
  • Cisler, R. A., Kowalchuk, R. K., Saunders, S. M., Zweben, A., Trinh, H. Q.  (2005). Applying clinical significance methodology to alcoholism treatment trials:  Determining recovery outcome status with individual- and population-based measures. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 29, 1991-2000.
  • Saunders, S.M. & Wojcik, J.V. (2004). The reliability and validity of a brief self-report questionnaire to screen for mental health problems: The Health Dynamics Inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 11, 233-241.

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Department of Psychology
Cramer Hall, 317
604 N. 16th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 288-7218

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