Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Psychology, Clinical-Community

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Tara E. Galovski, PhD


Gary Morse, Ph.D.

Matthew Taylor, Ph.D.

Ann Steffen, Ph.D.


There is little known about the mechanisms by which persons with SMI cope with their stress, and virtually no research is available on the influence of comorbid PTSD (SMI-PTSD) on coping within the SMI population. The current study examined coping strategies utilized by individuals with SMI versus those with SMI-PTSD, while also investigating the role of PTSD symptom severity, overall psychological distress, and substance use on coping strategy usage. Participants included adults (N = 90) recruited through a metropolitan community mental health center, all describing current symptoms of an SMI, 48 of whom met criteria for SMI-PTSD. Results of this study revealed high rates of trauma exposure, with 83% of the total sample endorsing at least one traumatic event. Mean scores for posttraumatic symptom severity, psychological distress and substance abuse all fell within the ranges of clinical severity. Avoidance coping was used to a greater extent by the SMI-PTSD group as compared to the SMI group with no comorbid PTSD. PTSD symptom severity was a significant predictor of psychological distress experienced by trauma exposed participants. Additionally, for those exposed to trauma, avoidance coping partially mediated the relationship between their PTSD symptom severity and psychological distress. Substance use did not prove to be an influential variable in describing or predicting coping strategy use. These findings highlight the role of avoidance coping in the relationship between PTSD symptom severity and overall psychological distress within an SMI sample. Implications for treatment are considered.

OCLC Number


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Psychology Commons