Anthony Spirito, PhD

Director, Division of Clinical Psychology

Anthony Spirito, PhD is director of the division of clinical psychology and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Spirito earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Cornell University and a PhD in clinical Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Spirito completed a predoctoral Fellowship in Clinical Psychology and a postdoctoral Fellowship in Behavioral Psychology at Children's Hospital Medical Center/Harvard Medical School.

Research Interests

Dr. Spirito has been conducting research in adolescent suicidality and depression for 25 years. Most recently, he has focused his efforts on treatment. Working with a postdoctoral fellow, he published the first randomized trial of individual therapy with adolescents who attempt suicide. He also conducted an intervention trial designed to improve treatment attendance in this population. He was also site CBT supervisor for a large multisite study “The Treatment of Resistant Depression in Adolescence.” He currently is conducting treatment development studies to determine if new approaches will increase the efficacy of depression treatments for adolescents. The first trial is examining whether concurrently treating the depressed parent of a depressed teen will improve outcomes for the adolescent. The second study is examining whether the addition of an exercise component to a CBT protocol will improve depression outcomes in overweight adolescents treated with CBT. The third trial is testing an integrated approach for treating conduct problems in depressed adolescents.

With respect to alcohol and substance use treatment research, he has used individual motivational interventions with adolescents who presented to the Emergency Department (ED) with an alcohol-related admission.  In an extension of the original work, he broadened the scope of the brief intervention to include a parent motivational intervention. He currently is using this parent motivational approach, the Family Check-Up, with families who have teenage siblings in which one has been identified after an alcohol-related incident. He has also modified the Family Check-Up for a protocol designed to prevent the onset of substance use in middle schoolers receiving mental health treatment.  He is currently using both an individual adolescent motivational interview and the Family Check-up to address marijuana, sexual risk behavior, and school attendance in high school students who are truant from school.  He is also developing and testing an alcohol prevention program with middle schoolers being treated in the ED for an injury.


Spirito has received numerous distinctions and awards, including the Martin P. Levin Mentorship Award from the Society of Pediatric Psychology (2005); and the Research Mentor Award (2001), Outstanding Teaching Award in Clinical Psychology (1997-1998),  and the Faculty Mentoring Award from the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School.

Selected Publications

  • Prinstein, M. J., Nock, M. K., Simon, V., Aikens, J. W., Cheah, C. S. L., & Spirito, A. (2008). Longitudinal trajectories and predictors of adolescent suicidal ideation and attempts following inpatient hospitalization. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology76, 92-103. PMID: 18229987  
  • Spirito, A., Abebe, K., Iyengar, S., Brent, D., Vitiello, B., Clarke, G., Wagner, K. Asarnow, J., Emslie, G., & Keller, M. (2009)Sources of site differences in the efficacy of a multi-site clinical trial: The Treatment of SSRI-Resistant Depression in AdolescentsJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 77, 439-450. PMCID: PMC2692068  
  • Esposito, C., Spirito, A., Rizzo, C., McGeary, J., & Knopik, V (2009)Associations of the DRD2 Taq A polymorphism with impulsivity and substance use. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 93, 306-312 (NIHMS 106960). PMCID: PMC2706288  
  • Goldstein, B.I., Shamseddeen, W., Spirito, A., Emslie, G. Clarke, G., Wagner, K.D., Arsarnow, J.R., Vitiello, B., Ryan, N., Birmaher, B., Mayes T., Onorato, M., Zelazny, J., Brent, D.A. (2009). Substance use and the treatment of resistant depression in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 48, 1182-1192. PMID: 19858762  
  • Spirito, A., Sindelar-Manning, H., Colby, S., Barnett, W., Lewander, W., Rohsenow,D., & Monti, P. (2011). Individual and family motivational interventions for alcohol-positive adolescents treated in an Emergency Department: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 165, 269-274.  PMID: 21383276  




Brown University
Box G-BH Clinical PS
Providence, RI 02912
United States


  • Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
  • Fellowship:  Children's Hospital Medical Center/Harvard Medical School