Research in the Department of Psychology, Counselling and Therapy

The Department of Psychology, Counselling and Therapy is recognised nationally and internationally for its research. 

We deliver high-quality research training, skills development and research support to local health professionals, supervisors, students and external stakeholders.

We are rated at well above world average in Excellence in Research for Australia and produce significant outputs in the form of publications, presentations and media engagement.

Our contribution aligns with La Trobe University's research themes: Social change and equityHealthy people, families and communitiesResilient environments and communities, Sustainable food and agriculture and Understanding and preventing disease.

Find out more about how our partnerships enable transformative research.

Research areas

We make meaningful discoveries in our discipline areas and build evidence for best practice counselling and therapy interventions.

Our research is grouped into eight key areas:

Our researchers specialise in developing and evaluating art therapy interventions for mental health populations, implementing and analysing mixed methods research, and designing supervisory governance models and clinical-based best practice guidelines for art therapy services.

We focus on art therapy practices with clinical populations including maternal health; eating disorders; adult mental health and wellbeing; justice mental health and cancer care. We also generate community-based art therapy programs for childhood trauma, immigration trauma and neurodiversity.

Our researchers have expertise across a range of areas affecting the wellbeing and functioning of individuals, couples, families and communities. Our research aims to understand the psychological processes that cause and maintain challenging health and emotional problems across the lifespan. We use these understandings to develop effective change approaches.

Our researchers specialise in acceptance and commitment therapy; body image, eating problems, and eating disorders; child and adolescent mental health; health psychology and behavioural medicine; LGBTIQ mental health and intervention; mindfulness and acceptance-based treatments; parenting and parent mental health; perinatal psychology; psychosis; sleep and trauma.

Our research is interdisciplinary, spanning molecular/cellular through to behavioural and cognitive neuroscience. Our researchers specialise in the interaction between the immune system and behaviour; the biological basis of neuropsychiatric illness, such as schizophrenia; the neuronal circuits controlling emotional behaviour; and visual neuroscience, including the molecular neurobiology of vision and the cognitive neuroscience of perception.

We have a state-of-the-art behavioural neuroscience facility and use a range of technical approaches including histology; immunohistochemistry and neurochemistry; virally-mediated gene delivery; biotelemetry; molecular interaction analysis; electrophysiology; electromyography; transcranial magnetic stimulation; magnetoencephalography, and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Our researchers investigate the cognitive, social, and emotional development of individuals across the lifespan in the general population and specific clinical groups (for example, individuals with autism or mental health problems, or who were born prematurely), seek to understand the aetiology and trajectories of mental health problems, and develop and trial innovative intervention programs.

Our research takes place in purpose-built research laboratories and clinics at La Trobe, in schools and community settings.

Our researchers investigate the cognitive, emotional and behavioural sequelae of a wide range of clinical conditions including alcohol and substance use disorders, stroke, traumatic brain injury, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and cancer; conduct clinical trials evaluating neuropsychological interventions for people affected by acquired brain injury; and make ground-breaking discoveries about the biological mechanisms underpinning neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Our clinical neuropsychology researchers are scientist-practitioners who focus on clinically relevant research questions, including methods for enhancing evidence-based practice and clinician competencies.

We are a leading authority on rehabilitation counselling and enhancing rehabilitation outcomes. Our researchers have expertise in transitioning out of work and sport; behavioural change in rehabilitation settings including physical activity; motivational interviewing; rehabilitation from injuries; culture and health; facilitating outcomes for new mothers; and behavioural change in sports settings.

Our researchers specialise in attention and vision; how vision is used in perception and action; how vision is used to process the size of objects; how vision is processed within and outside conscious awareness; how vision is processed differently by the two hemispheres; and the neural basis of vision.

Our research also focuses on applications, investigating how vision develops in childhood in typically developing and special populations for the purposes of improving educational practice; is processed in artificial versus real environments for the purposes of improving virtual and augmented reality; and is used to process aversive stimuli for the purposes of treating specific phobias.

We use an integrative approach including visual psychophysics, eye-tracking, electromyography, transcranial magnetic stimulation, magnetoencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging, to obtain a more comprehensive characterisation of vision and its underlying neural architecture.

Our researchers specialise in interpersonal, intergroup and cultural processes. Research often crosses disciplinary boundaries, both within psychology (to areas like health, clinical, social and cultural neuroscience, or cognitive psychology) and within academia more broadly (to areas like sociology and cultural anthropology).

Maintaining a long tradition in social psychology, our research examines both basic social psychological processes and their application, to the study of practical problems and their solutions. To meet both aims, some of our studies use purpose-built laboratories and others are conducted in diverse settings in the field, often in partnership with existing organisations.

Graduate research

The Department of Psychology, Counselling and Therapy delivers high-quality training to our graduate researchers.

We have Masters and PhD opportunities, where candidates conduct high impact projects under supervision of experts in their field. PhD candidates also have the option of working with an industry organisation from government, private or not-for profit sector in our industry PhD.

Our graduate researchers are well supported by teams of at least two supervisors, Progress Committees and a carefully tailored milestone program.

They enjoy a vibrant research culture with reading groups, writing workshops, skills-based workshops, and an annual 3 Minute Thesis competition and Higher Degree by Research conference. Some also teach in the Department, preparing them for a career in academia.

All graduate researchers are part of La Trobe’s Graduate Research School, which nurtures a vibrant research community and upskills researchers through the Research Education and Development (RED) team. The RED team run workshops on topics from preparing literature reviews through to data manipulation and visualisation. They also run initiatives including Shut Up and Write!

Find out more about graduate research opportunities at La Trobe, or contact the Department of Psychology, Counselling and Therapy Graduate Research Coordinator, Associate Professor Kristelle Hudry.

Research centres

Our staff make key contributions to several of La Trobe University’s research centres.

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society conducts world-class research and education on the social dimensions of sexuality, gender, health and human relationships. The Centre works collaboratively with other researchers, communities, community-based organisations, government and professionals to advance knowledge and promote positive change in policy, practice and people’s lives.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research is at the forefront of alcohol research. The Centre’s discoveries are used to promote and inform the development of evidence-based, effective alcohol policy in Australia and internationally.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Centre for Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation is a National Health and Medical Research Council-funded centre that aims to transform the health and wellbeing of people with aphasia and their families. The Centre’s research program champions enhanced, cost-effective and sustainable interdisciplinary aphasia rehabilitation and community service.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Centre for Sport and Social Impact is shaping the future of Australian sport and physical activity through research and engagement with industry and government. Its research addresses significant health and social issues including physical inactivity, social exclusion, physical illiteracy, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and gambling. The Centre supports its research partners to develop and deliver policies, strategies and processes to address these critical social issues.

Find out more about the Centre.

The John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research leads research and innovation related to rural aged care workforce and health delivery initiatives; promotes interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration in developing, testing and implementing evidence-based health care delivery solutions for older people in rural areas; and serves as a rural centre for honours and postgraduate research training in rural aged care workforce and health delivery initiatives.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Judith Lumley Centre conducts interdisciplinary, applied research to improve the health and wellbeing of women, children and families. The Centre leads research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family health; breastfeeding; child, family and community health; mother and infant health and maternity services; reproductive health and planned parenthood; preventing and reducing violence against women and children; transition to contemporary parenthood, preparation and support; and work and family.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre works with autistic people and their families to produce high-quality research to facilitate positive developmental outcomes in the lives of autistic people, from infancy through to early childhood and beyond; enable autistic people to realise their full potential throughout their life course; and support families as their young autistic children grow and develop.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Bouverie Centre is an integrated practice-research organisation that draws on our history of bringing family therapy to Australia to promote healthy relationships in families, organisations and communities.

Find out more about the Centre.