Addiction is a major community problem which impacts many Australians both personally and professionally. Research from the addiction group in the School of Psychology centres on two areas.
First, the focus is on the developmental, psychological and societal drivers of addiction and substance use, as well as the impact of the use of various substances (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, heroin) and gambling on individuals and the greater community. Our focus has been on the developmental drivers of addiction, the harms associated with alcohol use in and around licensed venues, social and psychological motivations for alcohol use as well as the predictors of someone experiencing alcohol-related violence.
Our second area of priority is treatment research. Our team of academic and clinical psychologists collaborate with a number of major alcohol and drug services to conduct research with a focus on improving treatment retention and effectiveness with substance use disorders and gambling problems. Our work has a strong focus on managing addictions and mental health disorders in an integrated manner.
Peter Miller is a Professor of Psychology in the School of Psychology and the Co-Director of the Violence Prevention Group at Deakin University's Geelong Campus.
Peter is passionate about reducing alcohol and other drug related violence and believes the best way to do this is to use real data from high impact research to affect policy changes. Peter and his team are involved in numerous projects. In addition to two multi-city studies into nightlife violence, they examine the ways in which alcohol and other drugs impact family and domestic violence, the relationship between alcohol and energy drink use, the ways in which warning labels on alcohol can be improved, the role of alcohol in sexual assault and, most importantly, how the global alcohol, gambling and tobacco industries influence public policy.
All these projects, which are run through Deakin, are leading up to Peter's national agenda to reduce nightlife violence in Australian cities. It worked in Sydney, where Peter was influential in the establishment of the 3:00am 'last drinks' laws, a controversial policy he publicly supported in the ABC documentary 'Dead Drunk' which follows four groups of partygoers on a night out in Sydney's Kings Cross just after the lockout laws were implemented.
The current major project for Peter's Violence Prevention Group is a national study on the role of alcohol and other drugs in family violence. He is currently conducting a nation-wide postal survey going out to 30,000 homes. His team is also accessing police data and tracking offenders and victims over time to predict violence in the future, with the goal of gathering 5 years worth of data across all the police stations in Australia.
Peter completed his PhD in 2002 in Sociology at Deakin, and has also worked for more than 10 years as a bouncer as well as spending 4 years in London working on a prescription heroin trial. So when Peter came back to his hometown of Geelong, he brought with him a wealth of real-world experience into nightlife violence. In another of his many roles, Peter is the Commissioning Editor of the journal 'Addiction', which is the leading specialist journal in the field of pharmacological and behavioural addictions. From his office in London, Peter guides the field internationally, deciding what points to debate and which reviews they need to conduct further. His aim with the journal is to provide a more human face to science and for 'Addiction' to be an active player in the field, to make the research real.
The next step for Peter is to develop his team further with new and improved strategies for violence prevention. He aims to implement practices beyond the policies, to work closely with police and to build a world leading research agenda that will ultimately make Geelong, Victoria and Australia safer places to live.
Dr John Winston Toumbourou BA (Hons), MA, PhD, is Professor and Chair in Health Psychology within the School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing & Behavioural Sciences at Deakin University. He is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow within the Murdoch Children's Research Institute at the Centre for Adolescent Health (Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne). John is a founding signatory and has served as Chair of the College of Health Psychologists within the Australian Psychological Society. John's interests include evaluation, drug abuse prevention and treatment, and the role of community, family and peer groups in adolescent health promotion. He has published over 200 articles and 60 referred journal papers. He is nationally and internationally recognised for his contribution to the prevention of harmful adolescent substance use. In 2008 his research was cited by the National Health and Medical Research Council in their decision to amend Australian adolescent alcohol-use guidelines. In 2007 he was selected by the world's leading medical journal 'Lancet' to head a team reporting on strategies to reduce harmful adolescent substance use. In 2006 he received the award for International Collaborative Research from the Society for Prevention Research, the major society for health promotion and prevention researchers in the United States.
School of Psychology
Melbourne Burwood Campus
Dr Clint Gurtman holds an honours degree in psychology from the University of Sydney, and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Monash University, where he undertook additional specialist training in forensic psychology. Dr Gurtman is a fully registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia, hold endorsements in clinical and forensic psychology, and is a board-approved supervisor of trainee psychologists. Dr Gurtman holds a concurrent faculty position as Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Deakin University where he teaches masters and doctoral level students. In 2014 he was the winner of the inaugural Victorian Metropolitan Health Educator Award, and in that same year won the WJC Banks Award for Excellence in Contribution to Teaching. In 2015 he received a prestigious Commonwealth OLT Citation. Dr Gurtman is an active researcher, who regularly publishes his work and also present’s at and attends international conferences. As a clinician Dr Gurtman provides regular psychological therapy consultation for individuals with various mental health issues, and as an expert witness provides psychological input into various legal matters, including civil, criminal, family and children’s matters. Other relevant appointments Dr Gurtman currently holds include being the Director of an independent psychology practice, an independent medical examiner for WorkCover/TAC, and consultant expert witness to The Childrens’ Court Clinic.
Dr. Kate Hall is a Senior Lecturer in addiction and mental health. She divides her time in a joint appointment between working at Deakin Burwood, and with a partner organisation YSAS – a youth support and advocacy service that focusses on the treatment and advocacy of young people who have alcohol and other drug issues.
Developing effective treatment that can be disseminated readily in to community based alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment settings for young people is a core focus of Kate’s current research. It is often the case that young people struggling with substance use disorders (SUD) have a history of trauma and/or deprivation and have early-onset alcohol or drug use. Many are otherwise homeless or vulnerable. Kate’s work encompasses this, and through YSAS, she is helping to develop a treatment program to disseminate nationally.
Central to Kate’s approach is the desire to address the disconnect between what is studied in a research environment and the service system where people access treatment. Many evidence-based treatments don’t apply to real life settings, or clients with comorbidities. Because of her background as a practicing clinical psychologist, Kate is helping address this gap between research and practice, through developing treatments in partnership with services and clients.
Current successful treatment programs developed by Kate include ERIC (Emotion Regulation and Impulse Control: a transdiagnostic intervention to help young people with mental health and substance use issues) co-authored with Angela Simpson. ‘Ready 2 Change’, a modular intervention helping people with mild to moderate alcohol, cannabis, amphetamine and gambling disorders co-authored by Angela Simpson and David Best.
Dr Sharon Horwood is a lecturer at the Warrnambool campus, and is also the unit chair for HPS111 Psychology A. Past enrolments in this unit have exceeded 1,500 students per annum. Sharon and her colleagues redeveloped the first year psychology program at Deakin, a task for which they received several awards including a nationally recognised Office for Learning and Teaching Citation Award in 2014.
Sharon is currently conducting research into the relationship between Type D personality and chronic illness. Individuals with a Type D personality tend to have high levels of negative affectivity and social inhibition, which can lead to the experience of generalised psychological distress and poor health outcomes. By studying specific personality traits, Sharon aims to develop a greater understanding of how people cope with stress, seek support from their friends and family, and to identify risk and protective factors related to personality. Sharon is hoping to help further develop current health determinate models so that personality characteristics are factored into public health planning and policy.
School of Psychology
Geelong Waterfront Campus
School of Psychology
Melbourne Burwood Campus
Dr Eric Koukounas is a longtime lecturer at Deakin, having been a part of the school since 1995. He is currently based at the Burwood campus where his research focus is on the effects of alcohol, specifically as it pertains to unwanted sexual attention.
Eric’s research has been an ongoing study into ways to accurately assess, and then mitigate, alcohol-fuelled sexual assault. Prior government studies on this topic were limited in their effectiveness due to underreporting, so Eric has been working with Associate Professor Peter Miller on an online questionnaire that doesn’t just classify sexual assault as behavioural, but instead includes the awareness of it being a psychological assault as well, including verbal attacks or comments. With his work, Eric hopes to increase social understanding of problematic situations, as well as reducing the ways in which women are targeted.
In his approach to mitigating the damage caused by alcohol, Eric has also been working on ways to address it from a cognitive perspective. He has recently finished a study that looked to use cognitive distractions as a way of reducing people’s cravings for alcohol. In helping people change their mind-set (e.g, in training them to think about milk instead) Eric was able to utilise the effectiveness of distractions as a turnoff to limit alcohol consumption.
Dr Richard Moulding is a Senior Lecturer for the School of Psychology, in the Faculty of Health, at Deakin's Melbourne Burwood Campus.
Ever since he started at Deakin in 2012, Richard has steadily been improving the lives of people he works with. His research centres around anxiety disorders especially Obsessive Compulsive Disorders such as hoarding. Also central to his interests are the notions of self-presentation and emotional regulation – the way we project ourselves in the world, and our own understandings of the kind of people we want to be.
After completing his PhD in 2006 on the topic of OCD, Richard has been fascinated by the notion of 'intrusive thoughts', and has recently published a multinational report, looking at the involuntary distractions of everyday people.
His research is able to directly benefit many sufferers, shown especially in his facilitation of the Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring Group (CHAG), a 10 week group program for those with hoarding disorder. Previously he has also developed support packages specifically designed to help the families of those who suffer OCD. Technology is also proving useful, and Richard is exploring the possibilities of internet-based treatments with colleague David Austin and Mike Kyrios (head of Psychology at ANU). These treatments being developed through Richard's work all centre around a similar healthy and positive approach – that of normalising the sense of self.
Senior Research Fellow
School of Psychology
Melbourne Burwood Campus
Dr Lata Satyen is part of the Deakin Faculty of Health. She works at both the Geelong and Burwood campuses, but is based in Burwood where she lectures in the School of Psychology. Her current teaching commitments include chairing the Cognitive Psychology unit and teaching of the Introductions to Psychology and Psychology in the Criminal Justice System units. Lata also supervises doctoral and masters research students in the area of family violence.
In her research and pro bono psychologist roles, Lata is a passionate champion for migrant well-being. Her focus on healthy family interactions provides a vital support to Australian communities. Her current research focusses on Intimate Partner Violence in migrants and non-migrants and she hopes to use these results to inform and influence how relationships are fostered within migrant the families. She utilises her research findings and training in her role as a pro bono psychologist and assists migrant women and children who are abused in critical and non-critical situations.
As one of the steps for positive change within these communities, Lata is engaged in training communities and community leaders to implement different strategies for addressing family violence. In tandem with this is the education of specialist workers to prevent and recognise family violence within communities and implement culturally intrinsic strategies to reduce the crime.
Suzanne Vidler is a lecturer based primarily in Burwood. Since 2010, Suzanne has been teaching and studying at Deakin in the field of Forensic Psychology, specifically in the areas of trauma, substance abuse and personality disorders. Suzanne also works in clinical settings part-time, where she provides assessment and treatment for victims of crime or offenders themselves.
Within her clinical role, Suzanne works with offenders who have a history of violence or substance abuse disorders. This involves assessing their risk of reoffending or offering offence-specific treatment. Suzanne also has a strong connection with the community, and part of her work involves seeing clients who are victims of violence. Her treatments and approaches are unique, using Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Solution-focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy just to name a few. Through her work, Suzanne aims to reduce recidivism in offenders, and provide restorative justice for victims.
At Deakin Suzanne is responsible for the coaching and counselling programs. She works with students of both undergraduate and postgraduate level, where she strives for student engagement and satisfaction. Last year she presented a masterclass at the ACSO conference on family violence, and in the future she hopes to continue using her knowledge of Law and Psychology to make a difference to people’s lives.
Dr Arlene Walker is based at the Waterfront campus and has been involved with Deakin as a research fellow from 2001. She is currently Associate Head of School and represents Geelong and Warrnambool in regional rural development.
Her background is in organisational psychology where her original PhD research was in the Occupational Health and Safety domain, specifically Psychological Contracts. These are the unwritten reciprocal understandings between employee and employer. The understanding of these helps provide an awareness of motivations and obligations in the workplace.
Currently Arlene is working on projects to address the effects of intimate partner violence, with a special interest on how intimate partner violence impacts the workplace in terms of the employer and the employee. Rather than just assessing the detriment on the individual and business productivity, Arlene seeks to develop an understanding of appropriate responses and organisational responsibilities.
She is also involved in researching graduate work readiness, specifically health graduates, researching what aspects of work readiness are important for graduates, and how that translates into successful transition into the workplace. Within this she has helped develop a work-readiness measure which is cited and requested continuously. These requests revalidate her work in different contexts throughout the world.
Until recently Arlene worked dual roles simultaneously for a large health organisation as an employee support psychologist, and as an academic. This combination of up-to-date field experience and teaching provided her with a strong awareness of the real world psychology environment. This is further expressed through her work as co-editor of the Australasian Journal of Organisational Psychology.