Lisa O'Donnell

Lisa O'Donnell

Assistant Professor


Lisa O'Donnell


Lisa O’Donnell is joined the WSU Social Work faculty in 2017 as an Assistant Professor. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan’s Joint PhD program in Social Work and Clinical Psychology in 2016. Following her doctoral studies, she was a post-doctoral scholar under the Max Gray Fellowship in the Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program (CHAMP) within UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry with Dr. David Miklowitz.

Overall, her research examines the nature of functional and quality of life deficits such as employment impairments found among individuals with bipolar disorder and other severe mental illnesses, and the impact of current psychosocial interventions on remediating these deficits.

O'Donnell is also a member of The Collaborative RESearch Team to study psychosocial issues in Bipolar Disorder (CREST.BD). This is a multidisciplinary collaborative network of researchers, healthcare providers, people living with bipolar disorder, their family members and supporters.

O’Donnell received her MSW in 2005 from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Michigan. She has been trained in various evidence-based treatments and has years of experience providing individual and group psychotherapy to adolescents, adults and families.

Click here to view Curriculum Vitae

Degrees and Certifications

  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Clinical Psychology
  • MSW, University of Michigan, School of Social Work, Interpersonal Practice and Mental Health
  • B.A., University of Michigan, Communications and Psychology

Teaching Interests

  • DSM-5
  • Interpersonal practice with children, adults and families
  • Cognitive behavioral theory and practice

Areas of Expertise


  • Identifying biopsychosocial predictors of quality of life and functional deficits among adolescents and adults with bipolar disorder
  • Examining evidence-based interventions on improving functional and quality of life outcomes among adolescents and adults with severe mental illness
  • Mental health interventions for underserved and economically disadvantaged populations
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Family-focused therapy


  • Intervention research
  • Qualitative survey research
  • Longitudinal research

Research Project

An Investigation on Predictors of Occupational Functioning in Individuals with Bipolar Disorder

This research identifies biopsychosocial predictors of long-term employment outcomes (work functioning and status) among individuals with bipolar disorder by determining the effects of clinical, neurocognitive, interpersonal and environmental features on long-term employment outcomes. The primary translational aim of this work is to inform novel approaches to remediating poor occupational functioning and, ultimately, to improve the overall wellbeing of individuals with bipolar disorder.

Public Attitudes among Coworkers and Supervisors on Working with Individuals with Bipolar Disorder

Occupational functioning is among the most problematic impairments that individuals with bipolar disorder experience. Disclosure of the illness and the attainment of appropriate workplace accommodations can prevent impaired functioning, leading to improvements in employee and employer satisfaction with job performance. However, due to the potential risk of stigma in the workplace, people with bipolar disorder are faced with the difficult dilemma of whether to disclose their illness at work. Directed by Dr. Lisa O’Donnell, the primary objective of this study is to examine attitudes about working with individuals with bipolar disorder among the general public of employed adults. The relationships between attitudes towards work functioning, visible depressive and manic symptoms commonly exhibited by those with bipolar disorder, and the disclosure of a bipolar disorder diagnosis are examined. A clear understanding of the stereotypes (positive or negative) specific to bipolar disorder that may exist among coworkers and supervisors will help to further clarify the risks of disclosing one’s illness and thereby inform the development of intervention strategies to better address these risks.

A Feasibility Study Assessing Attitudes of a Work Intervention

Currently, there are few available treatments that effectively address work-related outcomes for individuals living with mood and anxiety disorders. Evidence-based psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), are primarily designed for improving clinical outcomes for individuals struggling with these disorders. Work-specific interventions designed for those with severe mental illness, such as Individual Placement and Support (IPS), mainly focus on attaining employment and do not address workplace performance and job retention for employed adults, thereby leading to a critical gap in efforts to increase job satisfaction and functioning for these individuals. There is a need for treatment innovations that address occupational impairments within the workplace to help enhance work performance and maintain employment. Directed by Dr. Lisa O’Donnell, and in collaboration with Henry Ford Health System, the primary aim of this study is to determine the relevance and logistic feasibility of a simulation-based, workplace intervention for adults diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders in the Detroit area by examining the attitudes of both mental health clinicians and patients diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders. Findings will inform the development of interventions that improve employment outcomes for individuals suffering from mood and anxiety disorders, in the City of Detroit and beyond.

Office Location

5447 Woodward Avenue,

Detroit MI, 48202

Office # 030

Grand Challenges Project

O’Donnell’s research portfolio at Wayne State University spans many of the Grand Challenges for Social Work, including advancing long and productive lives, reducing extreme economic inequality, building financial capability for all, and achieving equal opportunity and justice. The primary translational aim of her work is to promote social and economic justice for individuals struggling with mood and anxiety disorders who have historically been stigmatized and oppressed in our society. To that end, her clinical and intervention research examines employment outcomes for mood and anxiety disorders, including efforts to develop, refine, and implement evidence-based treatment.

O’Donnell’s work examines the nature of employment deficits among individuals with bipolar disorder and other severe mental illnesses. Employing clinical trial methodology, she examines evidence-based treatments for underserved and economically disadvantaged populations including youth and adults with depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. Two of her most recent projects examine the nature of interpersonal work challenges (stigma, disclosure, requesting work accommodations, social support, negative impact of one’s condition) and work performance impairments in affected adults and tests the feasibility and acceptability of a simulation-based, work-related intervention that provides training in complex interpersonal skills through interactions with virtual characters in a simulated work environment.

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