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Associate Professor Neil Thomas

Associate Professor

Biography

Associate Professor Neil Thomas is the Centre for Mental Health's Deputy Director, Director of the National eTherapy Centre, Director of the Voices Clinic, and Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist with Alfred Health.


Neil and his research lab, Periscope, conduct research spanning psychological therapies, digital interventions, mental health service delivery, and the psychological processes involved in mental health.

With a background in clinical psychology, psychological treatments are central to Neil’s research, and he has researched cognitive behavioural, third wave and trauma-focused therapies. Neil also believes that we need to look further than traditional therapy delivery models: online therapy can transcend geographic inequalities (e.g. telehealth) and provide treatment at scale (e.g. self-management programs); technologies such as virtual reality can make therapy more potent; and mobile devices are a key tool for supporting mental health self-management in day-to-day life. Connection with peers with shared lived experience also offers a fundamental means of supporting mental health recovery, distinct from what has traditionally been offered by clinicians.


Among clinical populations, Neil is recognised internationally for his work developing interventions for people with severe and complex mental health problems, and he is one of the world’s most published researchers on persisting experiences of hearing voices (auditory hallucinations), which are an intrusive and highly distressing experience in a range of populations. He runs a pioneering Voices Clinic providing treatment to people nationwide, and works with researchers internationally on advancing treatment for this population. In parallel, he heads the National eTherapy Centre at Swinburne, which provides self-guided and therapist-supported cognitive behavioural therapy programs to adults across Australia with anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.


Neil teaches on the postgraduate clinical psychology program, and supervises Honours, MPsych and PhD students. Research students will be able to develop the methodological skills including quantitative and experimental psychological methods, treatment trialing methods, qualitative methods, ecological momentary assessment, codesign/coproduction approaches, and literature synthesis methods.

Research interests

Clinical Psychology; Mental Health

PhD candidate and honours supervision

Higher degrees by research

Accredited to supervise Masters & Doctoral students as Principal Supervisor.

PhD topics and outlines

1. Hallucinations/hearing voices and psychosis research program: Research program on psychological models and interventions for hallucinations and psychotic experiences, integrated with our pioneering specialist Voices Clinic, partners including Orygen Youth Health, and international collaborators in the International Consortium on Hallucination Research. PhD research aims to understand the dynamics of psychotic experiences, and improve therapies.

2. Ecological momentary assessment and intervention: This research program involves understanding how our mental state is impacted by environment and activity on a day-to-day basis, how we can self-manage mental health in the course of daily life, and the role of smartphones and wearable tech in supporting this. International collaboration opportunities.

3. Self-management for persisting mental health problems: People with complex mental health problems live with multiple needs. Substantial impacts are possible from modular approaches that help people to develop skills in particular areas. Work together on developing and trialling online interventions that empower people with skills to overcome key psychological processes that interfere with recovery.

4. Virtual reality and mental health: We are conducting a range of research projects using virtual reality to support mental health interventions, including using virtual environments to learn mindfulness, and using virtual world environments for intervention delivery.

5. Peer support and mental health recovery: People with lived experience of mental health problems speak of the value of peer support. In collobration with local service partners and international collaborators a project is available to deepen the understanding of the effects of peer interaction beyond "recovery", such as on identity, belonging, and social participation.

6. Psychological needs and intervention in cardiac arrest survivors: Collaborative project with Amblance Victoria and a network of hospitals cosupervised with Dr Rosalind Case (Alfred). Join an internationally leading program of psychological research into meeting the needs of survivors of cardiac arrest.

7. Psychological treatment development and trialling: Capitalising on the recent widespread adoption of telehealth, mass delivery of interventions is feasible within the scope of a PhD. We have the opportunity for treatment development and trialling of specialist treatment for a range of clinical populations and transdiagnostic health issues through our digital health platform. Discuss your interests with me.

Applying: I supervise students on both research-based PhDs and the integrated PhD in Clinical Psychology, which combines research with clinical training. Please email me including a copy of your CV and academic transcript if you would like to think about a project, and feel free to approach me to consider clinically-relevant projects not included above.

MPsych projects: MPsych students conduct clinically-relevant projects embedded within my lab's research themes, often contributing an important piece of a broader research question. Masters projects are also available on an ongoing basis within the cardiac arrest research program. Contact me about possible projects when you have a place on the course.

Honours

Available to supervise honours students.

Honours topics and outlines

Clinical and personal recovery : This project will involve analysing existing data on the relationships between symptoms, personal recovery and quality of life in a sample of people with severe mental health problems.

Virtual worlds in youth mental health: This project, integrated with an NHMRC-funded collaboration with Orygen Youth Health, invovles conducting qualiatitive research on youth attitutes to, and experiences of, virtual world based delivery of mental health programs.

Fields of Research

  • Clinical Psychology - 520302
  • Mental Health Services - 420313

Teaching areas

Clinical Psychology

Publications

Also published as: Thomas, Neil; Thomas, N.
This publication listing is provided by Swinburne Research Bank. If you are the owner of this profile, you can update your publications using our online form.

Recent research grants awarded

  • 2022: Technology and Dementia Care ? A Conceptualisation of Digital Twins for Facilitating Better Dementia Prediction, Prevention and Care. *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2019: Production, Delivery, and Evaluation of a Health Literacy Approach and Materials (RFP) *; Mental Health Commission of NSW
  • 2017: A longitudinal examination of the phenomenology of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs) in mood disorders *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2017: A peer-led education program for women who have experience of mental illness and trauma *; Quentin Hanich
  • 2017: Investigating therapeutic mechanisms of a new treatment for bipolar disorder *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2017: Understanding the role of inhibitory dysfunction in affective network alteration and auditory verbal hallucinations in patients with bipolar disorder *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2016: Digitally Assisted Peer Support (DAPS) for Young People with Emerging Mental Health Problems: A Novel Model of Technology-Enhanced Peer Work (Student award - Student: Claire E. Peck) *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2016: Evaluating a Novel Smartphone-Assisted Coping Strategy Intervention for Distressing Voices The SAVVy Study *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2016: Evaluation of e-counselling effectiveness in the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service *; Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service
  • 2016: How do depressive symptoms influence characteristics (phenomenology) of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs) in persons without a need for care? *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2016: Improving quality of life in late stage bipolar disorder: RCT of a novel psychological treatment (ORBIT) *; NHMRC Project Grants
  • 2016: Investigating factors that influence the efficacy of cognitive remediation therapy inindividuals with schizophrenia *; Research Endowment Fund
  • 2016: Online, mindfulness-based intervention for bipolar disorder: Does anyone not benefit *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2016: Understanding trauma-related auditory verbal hallucinations: phenomenology and predictors *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2015: Identity in recovery from persisting mental health problems: Understanding a key therapeutic target *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2015: The Impact of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention for Auditory Hallucinations on Localised Brain Activity, Attention and Subjective Experience *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2014: An examination of the characteristics (phenomenology) of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs) in relation to mood in bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant
  • 2014: Using the latest neuroimaging and genetic advances to improve our understanding of hearing voices *; NHMRC Project Grants
  • 2013: Use of online technology to promote self-management and recovery in people with psychosis (MIRF) *; Victorian Mental Illness Research Fund
  • 2012: Using MEG to better understand the temporal characteristics of auditory hallucinations *; Barbara Dicker Brain Science grant

* Chief Investigator