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Joint PhD with University of Manchester: Exploring therapeutic alliance for digital mental health

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  • Full or part time
    Assoc Prof R Lederman
    Dr K Berry
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Effective digital health interventions can be used to supplement under-resourced traditional forms of therapy or in some cases replace them. These interventions can reduce the resource burden on mental health services, extend services to isolated users, provide 24/7 support, and reduce the stigma and cost of attending traditional services (Mental Health Task Force, 2016.) It is well established that successful face-to-face psychological therapies require the development of a therapeutic alliance (TA) between therapist and client based on the negotiation of shared treatment goals (Martin et al., 2000). The world-wide expansion of digital therapies for mental health problems, which range from internet-based programmes delivered with support from mental health staff to mental health treatment apps independent of therapist support and interventions supported by artificial intelligence, have led researchers to consider the concept of therapeutic alliance in relation to digital mental health technology. Understanding digital TA is key to designing effective digital mental health systems.

This PhD project based in both Universities of Melbourne and Manchester, will explore how technologies should be designed to support the creation of a digital TA. The questions being investigated will involve: How can we maximise current software capabilities to more closely emulate characteristics conducive to the development of TA? How can we improve responsiveness to online therapies and create tailored and personalised intervention strategies?

A suitable candidate will have a background in both Psychology and one of Computer Science/Information Systems/Human-Computer-Interaction/Software Engineering or related field.

Key outputs of the PhD will be:

1) A systematic review and meta-analysis of literature on TA in technology-based mental health interventions.
2) A psychometric valid measure of digital TA that can be used to assess the key therapeutic processes in a growing number of digital mental health interventions.
3) Recommendations for how digital mental health interventions can maximise TA between the user and the digital platform.

Training: The PhD researcher will undertake training in the following:

1) Systematic literature reviews and meta-analysis
2) Exploratory factor analysis and advanced statistical methods in SPSS
3) Confirmatory factor analysis and Stata
4) Qualitative methods: data collection and analysis including the use of NVivo.

Funding Notes

Candidates must meet the entry requirements of both Universities to be accepted. They will spend at least a year at each institution over the course of their candidature and be eligible to graduate with a jointly awarded PhD recognised with a testamur from each University.

Minimum entry requirements for a PhD at Melbourne are summarised here:

All participants have access to UoM living allowance support. Scholarships are awarded for 3 years, with the possibility of 6 months extension. All participants receive a UoM tuition fee waiver for up to 4 years.

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