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Faculty Profiles

Sandra Yu Rueger, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

On Faculty since 2011
630.752.5753
BGC M215


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I am licensed as a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist with experience in a wide range of mental health settings, including psychiatric medical centers, community mental health centers, a church-based counseling center, and private practice. As a clinician, I specialize in cognitive-behavioral therapy for mood and anxiety disorders, couples therapy, and family therapy with children and adolescents using empirically-supported approaches.

As a researcher, I aim to add to the scientific understanding of risk and resilience factors related to stress adaptation, and inform clinical practice in the prevention and treatment of depression and alcohol use disorders. What I enjoy most about being at Wheaton College is the opportunity to mentor students. It is a privilege to walk beside these amazing young men and women on their path of growth and learning, and support them in their preparation for what God has for them in the future. When not working, I love spending time with family and friends, playing games, eating good food, and just laughing and sharing life together. Oh, and I keep meaning to start working out again.

Northern Illinois University
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, 2010

Wheaton College
M.A., Clinical Psychology, 1989

Northwestern University
B.A., Psychology, 1985

Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Predoctoral Internship, 2010

The University of Chicago
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Substance Abuse, 2011

State of Illinois
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#166000356), 1995

State of Illinois
Licensed Clinical Psychologist (#071008856), 2014

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  • Depression
  • Family Therapy
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • American Psychological Association
  • Society for Research on Child Development
  • Association for Psychological Science
  • Research Society on Alcoholism

Clients, therapists say culture plays key role in mental health treatment
Daily Herald

The collectivist nature of some cultures can deter people from seeking treatment, says Sandra Yu Rueger, a psychologist and professor in Wheaton College's clinical psychology doctoral program who is researching mental health among Korean Americans. People think, "If I were to seek out help, not only does that mean there's something wrong with me, but there's something wrong with my family -- or my parents didn't do their job," Yu Rueger said...
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No Youth is an island: Examining social support and depression through a multidisciplinary lens
Annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.

Fostering church-psychology collaborations to address the mental health needs of Asian Americans
Annual Conference of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Chicago, IL

Reaching faith-based communities with empirically supported treatments for adolescent depression
Annual Conference of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Chicago, IL

Effects of friend support and friend characteristics on depression in early adolescent boys and girls
Annual Conference of the Association for Psychological Science, Chicago, IL

Attributional style for positive events, self-esteem and depression in early adolescence
Annual Conference of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada

Asian American drinking motives during adolescence
Annual Meeting of Research Society on Alcoholism, San Antonio, TX.

  • Family Theory and Therapy
  • Research and Statistics II: Research Methods
  • Substance Abuse
  • Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology: Motivational Interviewing
  • Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology: Meta-Analysis
  • Practica Seminar group
  • Family Systems Theory and Counseling (M.A. program)
  • Collaborative Research
  • Research Lab Section (B.A. program)

My research interests focus on individual differences in responses to stress, and the risk and resilience factors related to adaptive coping and persistence in the face of negative events. I am particularly interested in vulnerabilities related to pessimistic thinking patterns and the protective role of social relationships, especially during life transitions. I also have interests in the development and testing of psychometrically sound assessment instruments used in research, and synthesizing knowledge from previous research using meta-analytic strategies.

I also continue to collaborate at the University of Chicago in the Clinical Addictions Research Lab on alcohol-related risk and resilience factors, especially in underserved minority populations. The newest project under development is focused on collaborating with churches and social service agencies to better understand psychosocial and familial risk and protective factors in youth from Korean and Chinese origins.

I direct the Youth Risk and Resilience Lab.

A meta-analytic review of the association between perceived social support and depression in childhood and adolescence, Psychological Bulletin 
Rueger, S. Y., Malecki, C. M., Pyun, Y., Aycock, C., & Coyle, S., 2016 
This meta-analysis evaluated the relation between social support and depression in youth and compared the cumulative evidence for 2 theories that have been proposed to explain this association: the general benefits (GB; also known as main effects) and stress-buffering (SB) models. The study included 341 articles (19% unpublished) gathered through a search in PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, ERIC, and ProQuest, and a hand search of 11 relevant journals. Using a random effects model, the overall effect size based on k = 341 studies and N = 273,149 participants was r = .26 (95% CI [.24, .28]), with robust support for the GB model and support for the SB model among medically ill youth. Stress-buffering analyses suggest that different stressful contexts may not allow youth to fully draw on the benefits of social support, and we propose value in seeking to better understand both stress-buffering (effects of social support are enhanced) and reverse stress-buffering (effects of social support are dampened) processes. Key findings regarding other moderators include a different pattern of effect sizes across various sources of support. In addition, gender differences were largely absent from this study, suggesting that social support may be a more critical resource for boys than is typically acknowledged. Results also demonstrated the importance of using instruments with adequate psychometric support, with careful consideration of methodological and conceptual issues. Building upon these collective findings, we provide recommendations for theory and practice, as well as recommendations for addressing limitations in the extant literature to guide future investigations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Using Jones’ integration approach to accommodate Attachment-Based Family Therapy to Christian treatment of depression in adolescence. Journal of Psychology and Theology.
Rueger, S. Y.
, Jones, S. L., & Worthington, E. L., Jr. (2019, in press). 

Indirect effects of attributional style for positive events on depressive symptoms through self-esteem in early adolescence, Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Rueger, S. Y., & George, R., 2016

Stability and change in perceived support from adults in the development of depressive symptoms during the transition to middle school, Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 
Rueger, S. Y., Chen. P., Jenkins, L. N., Choe, H. J., 2014

Effects of peer victimization on psychological and academic adjustment in early adolescence. School Psychology Quarterly, 29, 77-88
Rueger, S. Y.
& Jenkins, L. N. 2014. 

Validation of the Brief Biphasic Alcohol Effects Scale (B-BAES), Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Rueger, S. Y. & King, A. K., 2013

Effects of stress, attributional style, and perceived parental support on depressive symptoms in early adolescence: A prospective analysis. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 347-359. 
Rueger, S. Y.
, & Malecki, C. K. 2011.

Dr. Rueger’s research interests focus on individual differences in responses to stress, and the risk and resilience factors related to adaptive coping and persistence in the face of negative events.  She is particularly interested in the role of attributional style and social support as intrapersonal and interpersonal risk and resilience factors, and the use of substances (i.e., alcohol and cigarettes) as a maladaptive coping response to stress.  She is currently working on a longitudinal study, called “Adolescents Moving On Study” (AMOS), which is focused on these risk and resilience factors in the transition from adolescence into early adulthood.  She is also working on a project, in collaboration with Andrea King at the University of Chicago, on ethnic differences in subjective response to alcohol.  This work has been funded by NIAAA (#R01 AA013746-S).  She also has interests in peer victimization as a chronic stressor in the lives of adolescents, the development and psychometric evaluation of assessment tools, and the use of meta-analysis to quantitatively review a literature in order to inform future directions in research.

Dr. Rueger directs the Youth Risk and Resilience Lab (YouRR Lab). The focus of YouRR Lab (Youth Risk and Resilience) is on adolescents and young adults, individual differences in response to stress (including substance use as coping), and cognitive vulnerability to depression as a response to stress, and social support as a protective factor. I am also interested in ethnic/racial differences, as well as gender differences in these risk and protective factors.