UQCCR PhD Student wins National Business Award for Innovation

23 Apr 2024

As a Psychotherapist and Counsellor, Kimberley Welsh has been working with patients in the mental health sector for over a decade, but it was the Covid-19 lockdowns that led her to pioneer a new type of therapy and discover her research passion. 

In 2020, when the world shut-down and the mental health crisis deepened, Miss Welsh developed Virtual Reality Therapy.  VR Therapy utilises virtual reality headsets to administer therapy both in person and remotely, and has been empirically proven to effectively treat a wide range of psychological disorders.

VR Therapy’s tailored psychotherapy programs can target specific issues or conditions such as phobias and anxiety, activate behavioural change, enhance psychological flexibility, reduce stress and improve mental performance.

This ‘pivot’ to VR therapy recently won the Australian Business Registration Board 2024 Best Business in Innovations, Operations & Customer Satisfaction award and has also seen Miss Welsh enrol in her PhD at The University of Queensland’s Clinical Research Centre (UQCCR).

“I’m undertaking my PhD in UQCCR’s Dementia & Neuro Mental Health (DNMH) Research Unit under the supervision of Associate Professor Nadeeka Dissanayaka.

“My PhD is focused on the implementation of technology-assisted psychotherapy interventions and this includes a process evaluation of a DNMH project called Tech-CBT. 

“This project is aimed at reducing anxiety symptoms for people living with dementia and mild cognitive impairment and the development of implementation guidelines for future interventions,” said Miss Welsh.  

“I was attracted to the DNMH unit because of their interest in the use of technology to assist in the delivery of psychotherapeutic interventions for different populations and conditions. 

“Through developing VR Therapy, I had direct exposure with the difficulties in introducing new technologies to health systems. 

“My focus is to reduce the ‘implementation gap’, reducing the time it takes for the public to access and use new research and new technologies in the real world. 

“I am hoping that my PhD will inform myself and others on how to implement interventions, particularly technology-assisted interventions, in more efficient and effective ways” said Miss Welsh. 

Miss Welsh is entering the final year of her PhD is also due to complete her Psychology Registration with AHPRA this April.

If you are someone you know who is living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment experiences symptoms of anxiety please contact the Dementia and Neuro Mental Health Research Unit at anxietyresearch@uq.edu.au or on 0419 638 776 or you can register here.