Meet the research team
Professor Jennifer Hudson, Director
Having a child who experiences difficulties with anxiety or sadness can take its toll on parents and families. Since having children, and developing a greater awareness of the pressures families face, I can understand this now with greater clarity. Understanding the factors that contribute to children’s emotional health, and continuing to improve the services we provide for children and families is my passion. My research endeavours to improve our understanding of the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to excessive anxiety and fear. I am committed to developing, evaluating and disseminating programs to continually improve outcomes for children’s emotional health.
Associate Professor Melissa Norberg, Deputy Director
My interest in psychology involves helping people change unwanted behaviour and maintaining that change. Such unwanted behaviour includes seeking reassurance when feeling uncertain (OCD), saving too many items (Hoarding Disorder), experiencing a panic attack when confronted by a spider (Specific Phobia), and abusing psychoactive substances. Some of these behaviours require minimal help from a therapist. For example, most people are able to let a spider crawl on them after less than a few hours of graded exposure. Other behaviours require more extensive help. For instance, some people may only reduce their substance use by half after being in treatment for months. Regardless of whether unwanted behaviours are easy or difficult to change, most people will experience relapse. Relapse can be triggered by new situations, stressful events, or merely by the passage of time. My research involves finding methods to improve treatment and reduce sources of relapse. I help translate this research knowledge by maintaining a small practice through the CEH clinic and by providing clinical supervision to therapists working in Sydney.
Learn more about Melissa's research and her students' research. Learn about Melissa's publications and grants.
Distinguished Professor Ronald Rapee (Founding Director)
Despite a wide range of interests, I have focused most of my research in the last 25 years onto anxiety and its disorders. I am fascinated by the ways people's lives change over time and so my work with anxiety disorders has now covered the entire lifespan, from infancy to older age. This research has culminated in several books and over 300 scientific papers in some of the leading international journals in my area. I was honoured to be recognised in 2009 by awards from the two leading professional organisations in my field, the Australian Psychological Society (Distinguished Contribution to Science) and the Australian Association of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (Distinguished Career Award). And I was most especially honoured to be made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012 for my services to clinical psychology. International recognition of my research leads to invitations to present scientific papers and professional training workshops all over the world. It is particularly rewarding to make a difference to people's lives through my input to scientific, mental health, and government bodies and by developing new and effective treatments that are used by therapists all around the world.
Learn about Ron's publications and grants.
Associate Professor Andrew Baillie
I am an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at Macquarie University, a Chief Investigator on the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use and an honorary Clinical Psychologist with Drug Health Services at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. My research focuses on testing diagnostic systems, on understanding and treating problems with alcohol anxiety and depression, and on testing new treatments for mental disorders. I work as a clinical psychologist with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with people who have problems with drinking, anxiety, and depression. We know a lot about these problems and there is so much more to learn. In my spare time I enjoy being with my family, soccer, bushwalking, and building things.
Learn about Andrew's publications and grants.
Associate Professor Kay Bussey
I am committed to understanding more about how children learn to guide and self-regulate their behaviour. The self-regulatory processes that children select to use have profound effects on the skills they develop and on their socioemotional development. The main features of my research include a strong theoretical basis derived from Bandura’s social cognitive theory, a focus on the child’s perspective, and the investigation of psychological processes that are amenable to intervention. From these guiding principles, I consider not only personal factors related to the child such as their temperament, thought processes, and biological makeup but also social influences from parents, teachers, peers, and the media. I am particularly interested in how children construct their beliefs about themselves and about others from diverse experiences and how they use this information to self-regulate their own behavior. I have researched and published articles in leading psychology journals on children’s self-regulatory development in a number of areas including bullying and victimization, trust and honesty, gender relations, parent-child interactions, and children’s participation in the legal system.
Learn about Kay's publications and grants.
Associate Professor Jennifer Cornish
I obtained my PhD in neuropharmacology from Monash University (1997). My primary research focus is on changes to neural circuits and behaviour involved in drug addiction and associated disorders (anxiety, depression, psychoses).
I have over 15 years experience with neuropharmacology and animal models of behaviour and have published over 60 peer-reviewed papers in this area. I have focused on dopamine system regulation and how this system interacts with amino acid transmitters (glutamate, GABA) and neuropeptides (oxytocin, vasopressin, orexin). I completed my PhD in cardiovascular neuropharmacology, researching the effects of mesocorticolimbic dopamine systems in hypertension and regulation of vasopressin in awake animals, providing me with a background in blood pressure control and homeostasic mechanisms. I expanded my interest in neuroscience to behavioural neuroscience following my PhD and have since gained expertise in many animal models including: locomotor measures, behavioural sensitisation, intravenous drug self-administration (methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin), conditioned place preference, social interaction test, novel object recognition, elevated plus maze, cat odour anxiety, morris water and radial arm maze and delayed reinforcement tasks. I also have experience in c-Fos immunohistochemisty, radioimmunoassays, microdialysis and more recently proteomics. The aim of my laboratory is to bring together molecular, autonomic and behavioural techniques to discover how environmental influences (drug or diet) alter our brain function to cause mental illness.
My research interests capture a broad range of questions, all broadly related to three main topic areas: functional somatic syndromes, disordered gambling, and the cognitive science of religion. With respect to somatic syndromes, I am investigating how neurophysiological recording tools (e.g., electroencephalography and electrogastrography) might be used in capturing the order in which, among people with high anxiety, the gut and pain processing centres in the brain respond to physical discomfort. Within the gambling field, I have been involved in projects on decision-making, impulsivity, online gambling, and the boundary between gambling and video-gaming. I also seek to apply what I'm learning through my research on decision-making and religion to developing a body of research on the extent to which concepts of luck are the same across cultures, borrowing from concepts of "randomness" on the one hand and "higher powers" on the other. My experience so far also provides me with the tools for investigating which forms of gambling are particularly likely to be pursued for their ability to (temporarily) ease anxiety.
Doctor Sally Fitzpatrick
Peer victimisation and bullying are significant problems in Australian schools. My research is focussed on implementing evidence-based interventions to reduce bullying and the negative outcomes associated with bullying behaviours. I am a postdoctoral researcher managing a large research trial examining the efficacy of two different bullying interventions, and their combination, to reduce peer victimisation in NSW and WA schools. Read more about PAVe (Preventing Anxiety and Victimisation through education). In addition to my research work I also conduct individual therapy at the Centre for Emotional Health Clinic.
Learn about Sally's publications and grants.
Doctor Jasmine Fardouly
Humans are social beings. Our social relationships and cultural norms not only shape our attitudes and beliefs; they can also influence our mental and physical health. Broadly speaking, my research aims to identify sociocultural factors that negatively impact people’s wellbeing and to find ways to reduce that impact. Given the widespread popularity of social media among young people, I am particularly interested in understanding how social media usage may impact their body image, mood, and anxiety. I am also interested in research on attitudes and stigma related to obesity and bariatric surgery. Currently, I am working as a Postdoctoral Researcher with Distinguished Professor Ron Rapee on the Risks to Adolescent Wellbeing (RAW) Project which aims to identify risk and protective factors to adolescents’ emotional wellbeing over time.
Doctor Carly Johnco
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns across the lifespan. Although anxiety can occur at any age, there are some important developmental factors that can affect the way in which these conditions develop, are identified and treated at the younger and older ends of the age spectrum. I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and a registered Clinical Psychologist. My research is focused on understanding and treating anxiety and related disorders in youth and older adults. Specifically, my research has three main streams: 1) understanding the mechanisms that contribute to the development of anxiety, including neurocognitive and learning mechanisms, 2) identifying age-relevant factors that maintain anxiety and related conditions, and 3) whether we can use our knowledge of the mechanisms that underpin anxiety to enhance our treatments.
Professor Mike Jones
I have wide ranging interests in the association between psychological disorders, particularly anxiety and depression, and the functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Individuals diagnosed with FGIDs have much higher than normal rates of clinically diagnosable anxiety and depressive disorders. My main focus is on trying to understand the psychobiological mechanisms that trigger and maintain the link between the psychological disorders and these apparently physical disorders. Given my background in biostatistics this tends to be through developing mechanism hypotheses, collecting data then using complex statistical modelling to evaluate those hypotheses. I do however utilize a wide range of research designs, including complex sampling schemes, and statistical methods including meta-analysis and structural equations models. I hold current accreditation as a statistician in Australia (Statistical Society of Australia) and the UK (Royal Statistical Society).
Associate Professor Maria Kangas
Although it is an unfortunate fact, a high proportion of people throughout their lifespan will experience highly stressful events, including being diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions or caring for persons with life-threatening or progressive medical conditions (e.g., cancer and dementia). However, people are also quite resilient in psychologically adapting to highly traumatic events. In my research, I am very interested in understanding what factors help people emotionally recover from medical and other stressful life events, as well as helping family carers. Through my research, I am also testing therapy programs tailored towards specific stress and carer populations to help people recover and enhance their resiliency. I find my clinical research rewarding as I endeavour to contribute to the improvement of psychosocial screening and treatment programs for stressed members of the community. Currently, I am assisting clients with a range of issues at the Centre for Emotional Health Clinic. In 2009, I was honoured that my research in this field was recognized internationally, by receiving the Early Career Research Investigator Award by the Society of Behavioral Medicine (USA).
Learn about Maria's publications and grants.
Doctor Lauren McLellan
Anxiety and related emotional health issues are increasingly common. These issues not only affect adults, but are sadly experienced by more and more children and adolescents each year. Broadly speaking, my research aims to understand how anxiety develops and is maintained so it can be prevented and effectively treated. I am passionate about increasing access to effective treatments so that more young people can live emotionally healthy lives. I am also passionate about improving outcomes for anxiety treatments in youth. While psychological treatment is effective for many, my research aims to identify (before treatment) those individuals that may not respond as well as others to standard treatment programs. By understanding the differences between individuals that impact on treatment response, unique treatment packages can be developed that may lead to improved outcomes for more young people experiencing anxiety and related emotional health problems.
Learn about Lauren's publications and grants.
Doctor Natasha Magson
My career began in educational and social psychology working with disadvantaged youth and researching the impact of social capital on their physical, psychological, educational, and socio-economic outcomes. During this time I became increasingly aware of the high levels of emotional distress experienced by this populace and became passionate about developing ways to reduce the emotional suffering in this already vulnerable population. I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow working on the “Risks to Adolescent Wellbeing” (RAW) Project which aims to identify and understand the behavioural and psychosocial risk and protective factors that influence adaptive and maladaptive emotional functioning in adolescents. Once these factors have been identified and have become better understood, the research also aims to develop new initiatives and preventive strategies for improving adolescents overall emotional functioning. By identifying the complex mix of factors that lead some young people to struggle with emotional distress and others to cope effectively with it, it is hoped that the results will assist in the development of preventative strategies and social educational initiatives that reduce emotional difficulties during adolescence and subsequently throughout the lifespan.
Associate Professor Cathy McMahon
My research focuses on the earliest origins of parenting: the psychological experience of pregnancy and how parents come to establish attachment relationships with their infants. A recent study has focused on the trend to delayed childbearing and describes the experience of pregnancy and early parenthood for older compared with younger parents as well as the impact of prior infertility and assisted reproductive technology on psychological wellbeing during this time. Unsettled infant behaviour (particularly excessive crying) is the most common reason for new parents to seek professional help and my research has also examined associations between infant crying, postnatal depression and infant development. An exciting new study explores associations between mothers' mood and stress responses in pregnancy their care giving and their infants' behaviour in the early months of life. We hope to understand the earliest origins of individual differences in a child's capacity to regulate their emotions. I have a commitment to research findings being translated into better services for parents and I am involved in several initiatives to assist parents in better understanding their infant's development and behaviour during the early years of life.
Learn about Cathy's publications and grants.
Doctor Deborah Mitchison
There are many misconceptions regarding eating disorders, least of which include that these are disorders that only affect young white women. Further, while disorders such as anorexia nervosa are more readily detected (at least in young women), our current classification schemes have difficulty defining other presentations. My research is concerned with directly challenging eating disorder stereotypes and improving how we define eating and body image disorders. Some of the findings from this research, using large population-based data, include that eating disorder symptoms are experienced by a large proportion of males and across all age groups, rather than confined to young women. Two key research questions of mine are: 1. what characterises eating and body image disorders (especially aside from those symptoms indicated in classification schemes)?, and 2.) what characterises people who experience eating and body image disorders (e.g., in terms of weight, ethnicity, sex, and age)? I complement epidemiological research with clinical research, to facilitate comparisons between the clinic and the wider community, with the ultimate aim to close the gap on detection and provision of treatment to people who do not meet current ‘eating disorder stereotypes’. I also work as a clinical psychologist, specialising in the treatment of eating and body image disorders.
Doctor Ella Oar
Childhood anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders are highly prevalent. My research aims to better understand the factors underlying the development of these disorders in addition to enhancing treatment outcomes and access for youth who suffer from these debilitating conditions.
After I completed my clinical training in 2009 I travelled to the United States and undertook a research fellowship with Distinguished Professor Thomas Ollendick at the Child Study Centre, Virginia Tech University where I received specialist training in the delivery of intensive cognitive behavioural treatments for childhood phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Upon returning to Australia in 2011 I commenced a PhD at Griffith University examining the effectiveness of an intensive treatment for Blood-Injection-Injury phobia in children and adolescents.
I am now working as postdoctoral fellow for Distinguished Professor Ron Rapee on his Risks to Adolescent Wellbeing (RAW) Project” which aims to identify and understand risk and protective factors for anxiety and depression in adolescents. I also work as a clinician at the Centre for Emotional Health Clinic.
Doctor Lorna Peters
Since beginning study of psychology in the 1980's, I have been intrigued by how people differ from one another and by the uniqueness of each individual. My passion for understanding how individuals differ from one another has translated into my research which focusses on how the unique characteristics of an individual contribute to their progress in treatment for anxiety disorders. My research has two broad aims: firstly, to discover how psychologists can accurately measure unique characteristics of individuals who suffer from an anxiety disorder; and, secondly, to develop treatment procedures that take each person's unique characteristics into account in order to deliver the best outcomes for people with anxiety disorders.
Learn about Lorna's publications and grants
Doctor Carolyn Schniering
In my experience as a child psychologist, I have seen first-hand the way in which emotional problems can interfere with achieving goals and enjoyment of life, in children and adolescents. Therefore, my passion as a member for the Centre of Emotional Health is to increase our understanding of childhood emotional difficulties, and to improve treatment programs for anxiety and depression in youth. In particular, in recent years I developed and evaluated a new treatment that targets both anxiety and depression simultaneously, for adolescents. This program is one of the only integrated treatments for anxiety and depression in Australia. I also developed a questionnaire called the Children’s Automatic Thoughts Scale (CATS) which has been used on a national and international scale to identify unhelpful thinking styles associated with emotional difficulties in youth. In future, I will continue to develop innovative treatments for anxiety and depression in young people. Early intervention is so important in this age group in order to prevent continued emotional problems and reduced life potential into adulthood.
Learn about Carolyn's publications and grants.
Associate Professor Kerry Sherman
After witnessing friends and family experience a cancer diagnosis, I have had a passion to apply my knowledge of psychology in this area. Since 2004 I have been working closely with the Westmead Breast Cancer Institute, where I have a secondment. I am particularly interested in how we can help women diagnosed with breast cancer to manage this experience in the best way possible. I believe that our families are very important to us when we face a health crisis, and so much of my research focuses on how breast cancer affects family members, and how in turn, family members can support a woman with breast cancer. I am also very interested in how genetic testing for disease affects families. I am looking at ways for people to better understand this complex genetic information and to cope with the testing process. I get a real sense of fulfilment knowing that my research is helping the lives of these women and their families. In August 2014 I was honoured to be awarded the Distinguished International Affiliate award from Div 38 (Health Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.
Learn about Kerry's publications and grants.
Associate Professor Viviana Wuthrich
I am a Developmental Psychologist with broad research interests in understanding the development and presentation of mental health across the life span. However, I have particular interests in understanding and treating anxiety in children and adolescents, and in understanding and treating anxiety and depression in older adults. I have developed a number of evidence based psychological interventions to treat anxiety and depression for different age groups, and I conduct research to understand the factors that maintain anxiety and depression, and importantly how these differ across the lifespan. I enjoy working with people (young and old) and teaching them essentially simple techniques that can have a powerful effect on their emotional health and well being.
Associate Members (other than CEH Clinic staff)
- Doctor Henry Cutler
- Doctor Natalie Taylor
- Jessica Alcorso
- Doctor Heidi Brummert Lennings
- Doctor Miriam Forbes
- Doctor Lisa Iverach
- Doctor Josephine Paparo
- Doctor Catherine Quinn