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Personal profile

Biography

I am a Professor of Clinical Psychology in the School of Psychological Sciences, Macquarie University. I am the Director of the newly established Macquarie University Lifespan Health & Wellbeing Research Centre. This centre brings together two previous research centres; the Centre for Ageing, Cognition and Wellbeing, and the Centre for Emotional Health to join with colleagues from Psychology, Law, Business, Medicine, Education, Health Economics, Linguistics and others.  

My research interests relate broadly to understanding and treating mental disorders across the lifespan. My research has been recognised with an MRFF Emerging Leader 2 Fellowship (2021-2025), NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (2009-2013), NSW Young Tall Poppy award (2016), and the Allastair Heron Award (Australian Psychological Society Clinical College) for contributions to older adult mental health. 

I am a Registered Psychologist with clinical endorsement (AHPRA Registration Board Registration No: PSY0001283368) and AHPRA Endorsed Supervisor for Psychology registrars.

Research interests

My research focuses on understanding the underlying mechanisms of anxiety and depression, and on the psychological treatment of these disorders in children, adolescents and older adults. I am particularly interested in how the mechanisms underlying anxiety and depression, the symptoms of, and treatment of depression and anxiety differs across the lifespan. I have developed a number of psychological interventions for children, adolescents and older adults through randomised controlled trials. I have a particular interest in translating evidence-based practice into public and private mental health settings and schools. 

 

OLDER ADULTS

I have a special interest in understanding and treating anxiety and depression in older adults. I have developed and led the evaluations of the Ageing Wisely program for treating comorbid anxiety and depression in older adults. I have also developed its adaptations for use in Parkinson's patients, and for reducing risk for dementia. I have trialled this program in randomised controlled trials in university clinics, in telehealth formats, internet formats, and in community mental health settings. To access this program follow this link below:  https://shop.centreforemotionalhealth.com.au/product/ageing-wisely/

I am also interested in understanding the barriers to treatment for older people. In conjunction with my collaborators I have developed a resource for General Practitioners to assist them to identify older adults with anxiety and depression who would benefit from treatment. This resource is currently available here through the links to the STOP and SPAA studies below.    

You can see some of my previous research here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDWXY2-6c8I

My current major projects in older adults are:

The Ian Potter Foundation - Improving adoption of evidence-based psychological treatments in residential aged-care settings: A system wide approach (2024-2028). This project is led by Professor Sunil Bhar at Swinburne University of Technology.

NHMRC-EU Collaborative Grant - Strengthening resilience and mental wellbeing through the Support4Resilience toolbox for leaders in elderly care (2024-2028). This project is led by Dr Louise Ellis at Macquarie University.

MRFF project - Chronic disease risk reduction in older adults with high dementia risk: CogCoach trial (2024-2028). In this project we will evaluate the effectiveness of a program to reduce chronic diseases in people with mild cognitive impairment. This project is led by Professor Kaarin Anstey at UNSW.

ARC Discovery project - Drivers of ageing and adaptive ageing in middle-aged and older adults (2023-2027). This project will follow up three generations in the Australian Temperament Study to examine mechanisms associated with adaptive ageing. This project is led by Professor Craig Olsen at Deakin University.

NHMRC Project grant - Targeting mechanisms underlying loneliness in chronic conditions in older adults (2023-2028). In this project we will be identifying and modifying the mechanisms underlying loneliness in older adults with chronic health conditions. 

MRFF Dementia, Ageing & Aged Care grant - EMBED: A stepped wedge cluster randomised trial of a tailored, integrated model of care to reduce symptoms of depression in home aged care (2022-2027). Led by Tanya Davison at Silverchain, this project trials a new health model for screening and treating depression in older adults receiving home aged care. 

NIHR-NHMRC Collaborative Research grant - A randomised CONtrolled trial of Tailored Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for older people with treatment resistant Generalised Anxiety Disorder (CONTACT-GAD) (2022-2027). This multinational, multisite clinical trial evalautes the clinical and cost effectiveness of acceptance and committment therapy for older adults with treatment resistant Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This project is led by Professor Rebecca Gould, University College London, and I am the Australian lead. 

MRFF Emerging Leadership Fellowship II (2021-2025). This investigator grant is focused on increasing the identification and treatment of mental disorders in older adults, including identifying and treating risk factors for dementia in primary care. As part of this project, we have codesiged a primary care Wellbeing Check for detecting and treating risk for dementia and poor wellbeing in later life. This Wellbeing Check is currently being evaluated. This project is also supported by The Ian Potter Foundation.

NHMRC Project Grant - Translating Evidence-Based Psychological Interventions for Older Adults with Depression and Anxiety into Public and Private Mental Health Settings Using a Stepped Care Framework (2018-2024). We are currently evaluating a multi-site evaluation of a stepped care intervention for treating anxiety and depression in older adults. This intervention can be delivered remotely using telephone, internet and video conferencing methods, or delivered face-to-face. The interventions are based on the Ageing Wisely program and the clinicial trial is cofunded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Beyond Blue. We are seeking older adults aged 65 years and old with symptoms of anxiety, worry or low mood to participate. More information about this trial is available here:  STOP Study

NHMRC Project Grant - Improving Mental Health and Social Participation Outcomes in Older Adults with Depression and Anxiety (2018-2024). SPAA TRIAL: We are currently recruiting for a clinical trial to evaluate potential enhancements to the Ageing Wisely program. This clinical trial is cofunded by the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Beyond Blue. We are seeking older adults aged 65 years and old with symptoms of anxiety, worry or low mood to participate. More information about this trial is available here: SPAA Study

 

YOUTH

I have developed and led the evaluations of the Study without Stress program for treating academic anxiety in senior school students, the Cool Teens/Chilled Out online anxiety program for adolescents, and I have assisted in the development and evaluation of newer editions of the Cool Kids program for treating child anxiety. I have evaluated these programs in university clinics, schools, and community health. To access these materials follow the below links:

Study without Stress: https://shop.centreforemotionalhealth.com.au/product/study-without-stress-program-kit/

Cool Kids: https://shop.centreforemotionalhealth.com.au/product-category/forprofessionals/clinical/

Chilled Out: https://www.mq.edu.au/about/campus-services-and-facilities/hospital-and-clinics/centre-for-emotional-health-clinic/programs-for-children-and-teenagers/online-treatment-accordions/chilled-out-online/ChilledOutFlyer.pdf

My current major projects in youth are:

James N. Kirby - Study without Stress Online Student Platform (2023-2024). This project is developing an online version of the Study without Stress program. 

Australian Rotary Health - Translating experimental neuroscience into treatment: Preventing the return of fear in youth with anxiety disorders using memory reconsolidation mechanisms. (2020-2022)

ARC Discovery Project - Explaining the link between reading impairments and emotional disorders. (2020-2023)

 

Research Themes:Anxiety; Depression; Academic Stress; Prevention of Mental Disorders and Cognitive Decline; Psychopathology

Populations: Older Adults; Children and Adolescents

Research Methods: Clinical Trials, Psychosocial Therapy, Translational Research (public health, schools), Systematic Reviews, Experimental Methods.

Research engagement

I am the inaugural director of the Macquarie University Lifespan Health & Wellbeing Research Centre, and former director of the Centre for Ageing, Cognition and Wellbeing, Faculty of Medicine, Health & Human Sciences, Macquarie University. 

Previously I have served in various National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) roles including on the MRFF Peer Review panel (2019), NHMRC Assigners Academy (2018) and Grant Review Panels (2015, 2016, 2017, 2023). I have previously served on the Executive Committee of the Centre for Emotional Health (2016-2020), and Centre for Smart Green Cities (2017-2019).

I was also Research Chair and Deputy Head (Research) in the Department of Psychology, Macquarie University (2017-2018).

I have also serve on the following Editorial Boards (peer-reviewed scientific journals): Clinical Gerontologist (2016-current), Contemporary Behavioral Health Care (2015–2019), Child Psychiatry and Human Development (2014–current). I was previously an Associate Editor on the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology (2016-2018).

Research student supervision

HDR Completions

Primary Supervisor, Dino Zagic, Combined Ph.D./Masters of Clinical Psychology (2019- 2023). Thesis title: Loneliness and Social Connectedness: Underlying Mechanisms and Treatment Targets.

Primary Supervisor, Xiaojing Lei, Masters of Research (2021-2022). Thesis title: The Effects of Social Media Use on Older Adults' Mental Health and Wellbeing: A Systematic Review and A Longitudinal Study.

Primary Supervisor, Nine Wolters, Joint Ph.D. University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Macquarie University (2019- 2022). Thesis title: This loneliness won’t leave me alone. Emotional- and social loneliness in relation to social isolation, mental health, and cognitive processes in emerging adulthood.

Associate Supervisor, Melissa Pehlivan, Masters of Research (2021-2022). Thesis title: Body Image Experiences of Individuals Living with Endometriosis.

Co-primary supervisor (Wuthrich & Johnco), Trudy Green, Masters of Research, (2019-2020). Thesis Title: Age Differences in Post-Traumatic Processing.

Associate Supervisor, Chris Kilby, 2017- 2020, Ph.D. Thesis title: Stressing the Importance of Stress Beliefs.

Primary Supervisor, Kate Davis, 2018-2019, Masters of Research, Thesis Title: Parenting factors associated with children’s school-related anxiety: A preliminary study of parental overprotection and family accommodation.

Primary Supervisor, Jessica Shen, 2017, Masters of Research, Thesis Title: Physiology in Anxious Children: A Systematic Review and Empirical Thesis.

Primary Supervisor, Catherine Lowe – 2014-2015 (part-time), Masters of Research, Thesis title: Student and Teacher Stress in High Stakes Testing.

Primary supervisor, Jacqueline Frei – 2012-2016 (part-time) Master of Philosophy, Macquarie University. Thesis Title:  The Role of Dispositional Mindfulness in Affective and Physiological Reactivity Across the Adult Lifespan.

Primary supervisor, Jamie Nowlan, 2012-2016, Combined Master of Clinical Psychology/Ph.D, Macquarie University. Topic: Positive Reappraisal in Older Adults: Examination of a Cognitive Emotion Regulation Strategy.

Associate Supervisor, Iris Bartula, 2013-2015, Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology), Macquarie University, completion 2015. Topic:  Assessment of Sexual Dysfunction in Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

Primary supervisor, Dusanka Vujkovic – 2010-2014 (Conferred 12th August, 2014), Combined Masters of Clinical Psychology/Ph.D, Macquarie University. Topic area: Cognitive, Emotional and Behaviour differences in anxiety and depression between younger and older adults.

Co-Primary supervisor (Wuthrich & Rapee), Carly Johnco – 2010-2014 (Degree conferred March 2014), Combined Masters of Clinical Psychology/Ph.D, Macquarie University. Topic area: Understanding the role of cognitive flexibility in cognitive restructuring skill acquisition in older adults. VC Commendation.

Current HDR Students:

1. Primary Supervisor, Xiaojing Lei, Ph.D., (2024- current).

2. Primary Supervisor, Wing Yin (Theodora) Leung, Ph.D., (2024-current).

2. Primary Supervisor, Sahana Narayan, Combined Ph.D/Masters of Clinical Psychology, (2022-current).

Teaching

I teach on the Masters of Clinical Psychology Program.

PSYC8995 Therapy 4 (I teach on assessment and treatment of mental disorders in older adults, dementia, working with carers, and adjustment disorders).

Community engagement

I was the elected National Convenor of the Scientific Committee of the Australian Psychological Society Psychology and Ageing Interest Group (2019 - 2023).

I was an elected Board Member of WayAhead (formerly NSW Mental Health Association) (2016-2019).

I served on the Executive Committee of the Macquarie Univeristy Human Research Ethics Committee (2016), as well as being a core member (Clinical Care) of the full committee (2015-2016).

External positions

National Convenor Psychology & Ageing Interest Group, The Australian Psychological Society Limited

25 Nov 201925 Nov 2023

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