1). Please tell us a little about yourself:
Hi, I’m Katrina, or Kat to those who know me well. I live down the south coast near Wollongong and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle it has to offer – I’m a big fan of picnics in the park, strolls by the beach, and breaky at a café. I have a daughter who just turned one, so my husband and I have been busy raising her over the past 12 months, and thankfully she’s still alive 😉. I’ve worked at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health & Substance Use at the University of Sydney since the end of 2018, prior to which I worked and completed my PhD at NDARC, UNSW.
2). What is your research on?
My research focuses on co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, particularly anxiety and alcohol use, among young people. The bulk of my research involves developing and trialling digital interventions for this comorbidity, such as the ‘ReTrain Your Brain’ online cognitive training intervention (an adjunct to face-to-face care) and the ‘Inroads program’ online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-based intervention, both of which are currently recruiting participants. I’m also involved in various epidemiological research studies and conduct focus groups with people with lived experience to help inform my interventions.
3). What are the real world consequences of your research?
Our research has advanced prevention, early intervention and treatment of co-occurring mental and substance use disorders through the development and testing of novel interventions with strong theoretical rationales. Ourresearch has made, and will continue to make, a tangible positive impact in the community, whereby our scientific discoveries have informed effective treatments, leading to a reduction in anxiety levels and harmful alcohol consumption among young people in Australia. For instance, the Inroads intervention significantly reduced harmful drinking (by ~62 standard drinks per month), binge-drinking (by ~4 sessions per month), and severity of anxiety over 6-months, compared to psychoeducation control condition.
4). What does digital health mean to you?
In my line of research, we know that traditional face-to-face treatment models are insufficient to curb the burden of mental health and substance use disorders. Digital health interventions, on the other hand, help overcome commonly reported barriers to seeking support, including fear of judgement or stigma, cost, and difficulties accessing treatment at a convenient time and location. They can also be delivered widely and sustainably at minimal cost, including in rural areas where access to support services is severely lacking. In this way, digital health care provides critical tools in addressing shortfalls in mental health service availability, which has been particularly critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
5). Do you have any resources or links you would like to share?
If you are interested, please register to participate in (or refer clients to) our ‘ReTrain Your Brain’ online cognitive training intervention or ‘Inroads’ online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-based intervention. Both interventions have been designed for youth aged 18-30 with heightened anxiety and problematic drinking.