hero image
Andrea  Wittenborn - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Andrea Wittenborn

Associate Professor | Michigan State University


Dr. Wittenborn is an expert on depression, couple therapy, and intimate partnerships.






Andrea K. Wittenborn, Dyadic Research in Marriage and Family Therapy



Dr. Andrea K. Wittenborn is an associate professor of human development and family studies. She also holds an appointment in the Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, and is a Fellow at the Sparrow Health System/MSU Center for Innovation and Research. She earned her Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy from Purdue University and completed a doctoral research internship in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Prior to joining Michigan State University in 2014, she served on the faculty at Virginia Tech for seven years.

Industry Expertise (4)


Writing and Editing


Mental Health Care

Areas of Expertise (4)





Accomplishments (1)

2017 AAMFT Outstanding Research Publication Award (professional)

Awarded by the AAMFT

Education (1)

Purdue University: PhD, marriage and family therapy 2000

Affiliations (4)

  • Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
  • Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy
  • Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
  • Sparrow Health System/MSU Center for Innovation and Research

News (2)

9 Things People With Depression Wish You Knew About Living With the Condition



“Reaching out and saying, ‘I care about you,’ makes a world of difference,” Andrea K. Wittenborn, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Michigan State University, tells SELF. It can take years for many people who have with depression to seek help, she points out. So letting them know that your door is open for whenever they feel comfortable talking can be crucial.

view more

MSU Scholar Appointed to Michigan Board of Marriage and Family Therapy

MSU Today  online


"Andrea Wittenborn, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, was appointed to the Michigan Board of Marriage and Family Therapy by Gov. Rick Snyder..."

view more

Journal Articles (3)

Depression as a systemic syndrome: Mapping the feedback loops of major depressive disorder

Psychological Medicine

A. K. Wittenborn, H. Rahmandad, J. Rick, N. Hosseinichimeh

2015 Depression is a complex public health problem with considerable variation in treatment response. The systemic complexity of depression, or the feedback processes among diverse drivers of the disorder, contribute to the persistence of depression. This paper extends prior attempts to understand the complex causal feedback mechanisms that underlie depression by presenting the first broad boundary causal loop diagram of depression dynamics. Method: We applied qualitative system dynamics methods to map the broad feedback mechanisms of depression. We used a structured approach to identify candidate causal mechanisms of depression in the literature. We assessed the strength of empirical support for each mechanism and prioritized those with support from validation studies. Through an iterative process, we synthesized the empirical literature and created a conceptual model of major depressive disorder. Results: The literature review and synthesis resulted in the development of the first causal loop diagram of reinforcing feedback processes of depression. It proposes candidate drivers of illness, or inertial factors, and their temporal functioning, as well as the interactions among drivers of depression. The final causal loop diagram defines 13 key reinforcing feedback loops that involve nine candidate drivers of depression. Conclusions: Future research is needed to expand upon this initial model of depression dynamics. Quantitative extensions may result in a better understanding of the systemic syndrome of depression and contribute to personalized methods of evaluation, prevention and intervention.

view more

Augmenting Antidepressant Medication Treatment of Depressed Women With Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples: A Randomized Pilot Study

Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Wayne H. Denton, Andrea K. Wittenborn, Robert N. Golden

2012 This is the first study to evaluate adding emotionally focused therapy for couples (EFT) to antidepressant medication in the treatment of women with major depressive disorder and comorbid relationship discord. Twenty‐four women and their male partners were randomized to 6 months of medication management alone (MM) or MM augmented with EFT (MM + EFT). MM followed the Texas Medication Algorithm Project guidelines. Fifteen EFT sessions were delivered following the EFT treatment manual. The primary outcome was severity of depressive symptoms (assessed by the 30‐item Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology—Clinician Rated version [IDS‐C30] administrated by evaluators blinded to cell assignment). Secondary outcome was relationship quality as assessed by the Quality of Marriage Index. Results from assessments at intake, termination, and two posttreatment follow‐ups were analyzed using growth analysis techniques. IDS‐C30 scores improved over 6 months of treatment, regardless of the treatment assignment, and women receiving MM + EFT experienced significantly more improvement in relationship quality compared with women in MM. Because relationship discord after depression treatment predicts worse outcome, interventions improving relationship quality may reduce depression relapse and recurrence. Testing this hypothesis in larger samples with longer follow‐up could contribute to knowledge on the mechanisms involved in determining the course of depressive illness.

view more

Dyadic Research in Marriage and Family Therapy: Methodological Considerations

Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Andrea K. Wittenborn, Megan L. Dolbin‐MacNab, Margaret K. Keiley

2012 With training that emphasizes relationship systems, marriage and family therapists are uniquely attuned to interpersonal dynamics, interdependence, and the influence of relationships on individuals’ perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes. While recent statistical advances have contributed to a proliferation of resources designed to introduce researchers to dyadic data analysis, guidelines related to the methodological aspects of dyadic research design have received less attention. Given the potential advantages of dyadic designs for examining couple and family relational and therapeutic processes, the purpose of this article is to introduce marriage and family therapy researchers to dyadic research methodology. Using examples from our own research, we discuss methodological considerations and lessons learned related to sampling, measurement, data collection, and ethics. Recommendations for future dyadic research are provided.

view more