HDR Scholarship - A biopsychosocial approach to treating benzodiazepine dependence

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'A biopsychosocial approach to treating benzodiazepine dependence'.

Project Supervisor


Melbourne Burwood Campus

Research topic

Deakin University and Reconnexion are offering a PhD scholarship to support an increased focus on identification and treatment of benzodiazepine dependence in primary care. This scholarship is an exciting opportunity for a PhD candidate to be involved in a multidisciplinary team with extensive research and clinical experience working with clients that have complex psychosocial presentations.

Background: Benzodiazepine prescribing guidelines call for short-term use, but this is often not the case in practice, and can quickly lead to iatrogenic dependence. Reconnexion, the Victorian state-wide benzodiazepine specialist service, has been providing education and withdrawal support for benzodiazepine clients for more than 35 years, but has yet to see the problem of benzodiazepine dependence systematically addressed. The introduction of prescription monitoring in Victoria may have created a necessary impetus for change, but emerging data shows that monitoring alone is not enough to resolve benzodiazepine-related harms, and in fact is giving rise to unintended consequences.

The issue: To prevent the abrupt cessation of a benzodiazepine prescription following a notification in the prescription monitoring system, a deprescribing process should be instigated that is informed by both the evidence-base and principles of patient-centred care. A biopsychosocial approach to treating benzodiazepine dependence ensures that multiple and interrelated factors are considered.

The PhD project: This PhD program will consist of multi-disciplinary team led by Associate Professor Petra Staiger from the School of Psychology, Deputy Director of the Deakin University Centre for Drug Use, Addictive and Anti-social behaviour (CEDAAR) along with Dr Mark Johnson a General Practitioner/Academic from School of Medicine, and Dr Anna Chapman from the Institute of Health Transformations (Deakin University), and Dr Erin Oldenhof Research Coordinator from Reconnexion. The primary aim of this program of work is to improve wellbeing and outcomes for individuals experiencing dependence on benzodiazepines in primary care.

Important dates

Applications  will remain open until a candidate has been appointed


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $33,500 per annum tax exempt (2023 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate
  • International students only:  Tuition fees offset for the duration of 4 years. Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • A working knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research methods with particular experience in implementation sciences preferred
  • Demonstrated ability to work as part of a multi-disciplinary research team
  • Academic achievement or background in the fields of psychology, medicine, public health, health promotion, implementation science, or the social sciences is preferable.
  • Strong communication and leadership skills, clinical experience and a working knowledge of evidence-based practice in the fields of primary care, AOD and/or mental health will be advantageous

How to apply

Please email a CV and cover letter to A/Prof Petra Staiger. The CV should highlight your skills, education, publications and relevant work experience. If you are successful you will then be invited to submit a formal application.

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact A/Prof Petra Staiger

A/Prof Petra Staiger
Email A/Prof Petra Staiger
+61 3 924 46876