Australian Rotary Health (ARH) is pleased to award the Royce Abbey Postdoctoral Fellowship to Dr Katrina Prior this year, to develop a cognitive-retraining program for youth with comorbid anxiety and alcohol use.

Katrina and her team at the University of Sydney will focus on preventing the exacerbation of comorbid anxiety and alcohol use through a 6-session cognitive retraining program.

This funding follows the completion of Katrina’s PhD, supported by the Ian Scott PhD Scholarship, which investigated the relationship between social phobia, depression and substance use disorders.

“Through speaking to people with lived experience, I quickly learnt that people with comorbid disorders get stuck on a “comorbidity roundabout”, where they are referred on from one specialist service to the next because of their dual-disorder presentation,” Katrina said.

“My research aims to tackle this issue by developing an intervention for young people with both anxiety and alcohol use problems.”

Katrina says that anxiety and alcohol use disorders have underlying cognitive biases, or unconscious, maladaptive ways of thinking, that maintain or worsen their respective symptoms.

“To prevent these co-occurring conditions from becoming chronic and entrenched in adulthood, it is crucial that early interventions consider and address the role of cognitive biases.”

The project, broken up into three phases, will involve consultations with youth service providers and young people with anxiety and problematic alcohol use to inform the development of the program, which will then be tested using a pilot trial.

Excited by the program’s potential, Katrina believes it could not only help young people lead healthier lives, but also reduce disease burden and optimise future early interventions targeted at youth.

“Excitingly, the program can be effectively delivered online, thereby maximising efficiency and scarce resources, and serving to sustainably increase early intervention options for vulnerable populations, at a low cost.”

We wish Katrina all the best with her research this year.


Media Contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or