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Kimberly A. Van Orden, Ph.D.

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Phone Numbers

Office: (585) 275-5176

Fax: (585) 276-2065

URMFGA member of the University of Rochester Medical Faculty Group

groupAn Accountable Health Partner

assignmentNot Accepting New Patients

Research Labs

Faculty Appointments



My goal as a researcher is to increase our understanding of how to address the significant public health problem of social isolation in later life. My colleagues and I conduct studies to better understand the different ways isolation (both perceived and 'objective') is expressed and experienced in later life, from restricted social networks, to loneliness, to low social support, to feeling as if one does not belong. We also strive to understand how to reduce isolation and promote connectedness using behavioral interventions. The strong associations between isolation and poor health, as well as the strong associations between social connectedness and good health and well-being, suggests that promoting social connectedness--positive interactions and relationships with others--should in turn positively influence trajectories of health and well-being. However, there are few studies that provide compelling evidence of strategies to increase connectedness. My lab --the HOPE (Helping Older People Engage) Lab is focused on developing new interventions to increase connectedness, as well as testing existing interventions that have promise for increasing connectedness, but have not been tested. Social isolation (in its many forms) is also strongly linked to suicide across the lifespan. Another focus of my work is theory testing to promote understanding of suicide and illuminate mechanisms that can serve as intervention targets. I have contributed to the formulation, refinement, and evaluation of the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide. Much of my work in interventions is informed by this theory and what it suggests may be effective strategies for helping individuals connect and contribute in ways that are meaningful for them.



PhD | Florida State University

Post-doctoral Training & Residency

07/01/2009 - 06/30/2010
Fellowship in Psychology at University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

07/01/2008 - 06/30/2009
Internship in Psychology at Montefiore Medical Center


Edwin S. Shneidman Award for outstanding contributions in research in the field of suicidology
Sponsor: American Association of Suicidology

2008 - 2009
P.E.O Scholar Award

Melissa Institute Belfer-Aptman Dissertation Research Award

American Association of Suicidology Student Research Award

Florida State University Dissertation Research Grant

Phi Beta Kappa

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Clinical Trials

Engage Psychotherapy to Promote Connectedness in Caregivers: A Pilot Study of the Rochester Roybal Center for Social Ties and Aging Research

Lead Researcher: Kimberly A Van orden

Adults (age 50 or older) who are providing care for someone with dementia will participate in what we call ‘Engage Coaching.’ This involves meeting with an Engage Coach up to 8 times. Typically, meetings will occur weekly, but you will have up to three months to complete your sessions. These meetings are brief (approximately 30 mins) and can be done in your home or wherever is convenient for you, including via phone if needed. The coaching is designed to help you enhance your relationships and improve well-being while managing caregiving stress. Your coach will help you identify aspects of your social relationships that are helpful to you and aspects that are not. Using this information, your coach will help you identify goals for improving your social relationships. Each session, your coach will help you complete a process we call ‘action planning,’ in which you set a goal for the week, brainstorm strategies to meet the goal, and identify concrete steps to take to achieve the goal. You will work with your coach to identify any aspects of caregiving that may present barriers to improving your relationships and develop strategies to address these barriers. Participants will also complete two follow-up interviews after completing the coaching--three months after enrolling in the study (after completing Engage Coaching) and six months after enrolling.

View Study Details

Helping Older People Engage

Lead Researcher: Kimberly A Van orden

The purpose of this study is to compare two activities — reflecting on one’s past (called “life review”) and volunteering in the community (“volunteering”). We are interested in learning how these activities may improve social connectedness and well-being among adults age 60 and older. Additionally, we may ask questions about social distancing, so to that end this study is relevant to managing the psychosocial implications of COVID-19. Volunteering involves participate weekly in a flexible volunteer program with Lifespan that involves a menu of options including helping at senior centers, co-leading classes, mentoring/tutoring and many other options. Life review involves participating in a one-year reminiscence program that is self-guided and involves completing monthly exercises such as writing about one’s memories.

View Study Details


Journal Articles

Lutz J, Van Orden KA. "Sadness and Worry in Older Adults: Differentiating Psychiatric Illness from Normative Distress." The Medical clinics of North America.. 2020 Sep 0; 104(5):843-854. Epub 2020 Jul 15.

Van Orden KA. "Considering the Impact of Research Assessments: A Commentary on "COVID-19 Related Loneliness and Psychiatric Symptoms Among Older Adults: The Buffering Role of Subjective Age"." The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry.. 2020 Aug 11; Epub 2020 Aug 11.

Conwell Y, Van Orden KA, Stone DM, McIntosh WL, Messing S, Rowe J, Podgorski C, Kaukeinen KA, Tu X. "Peer Companionship for Mental Health of Older Adults in Primary Care: A Pragmatic, Nonblinded, Parallel-Group, Randomized Controlled Trial." The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry.. 2020 Jun 2; Epub 2020 Jun 02.

Books & Chapters

Book Title: The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide: Guidance for Working with Suicidal Clients
Author List: Thomas E. Joiner, Kimberly A. Van Orden, Tracy K. Witte, M. David Rudd
Published By: American Psychological Association 2009