Phoenix Australia has welcomed Dr Annett Lotzin to the team for a six-month period. Annett is a senior postdoctoral researcher at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.
Annett works in the field of posttraumatic mental health and is particularly interested in the development and evaluation of interventions for people who survive trauma.
She decided to apply for a research fellowship in Australia after meeting Phoenix Australia’s Head of Research, Professor Meaghan O’Donnell, at the University of Hamburg in 2016. At the time, Meaghan was completing a prestigious Humboldt Experienced Researcher Fellowship to foster research collaborations with Germany. “Meaghan encouraged me to apply for a postdoctoral research fellowship and the opportunity to work with her again brought me to Australia,” says Annett.
During her time at Phoenix Australia, Annett will be learning more about SOLAR – the Skills fOr Life Adjustment and Resilience program. SOLAR was developed by an international consortium of trauma experts from the UK, US, Canada and Asia, led by Phoenix Australia.
SOLAR is a short intervention of five weekly sessions for people who experience ongoing mild to moderate distress after trauma. It can be delivered by non-mental health specialists, and participants learn skills to help them manage distress and to support their emotional recovery. The aim is to improve quality of life and day-to-day functioning, and prevent the development of mental health disorders.
The initial focus of the recovery program was disasters of natural or human origin, but it can be more broadly applied across civilian, emergency services and military settings.
“During my stay at Phoenix Australia I am translating the SOLAR program into the German language,” says Annett. “I also plan to culturally adapt the program and evaluate it in a German sample of refugees. In Germany, SOLAR might be very helpful for refugees who often have experienced multiple stressful events and are often faced with ongoing stress after migration.
“In Europe, for this vulnerable group, there is a lack of short interventions. But given that the frequency and intensity of disasters and other traumatic events are increasing worldwide, there is a great need for interventions like SOLAR that are easy to disseminate.”
Annett will also have the opportunity to collaborate with experts at Phoenix Australia on analysing data from the Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA) study – a large study of resettled refugees and their families, most of whom have been granted permanent humanitarian visas.
“Phoenix Australia has an international reputation in the field of posttraumatic mental health, particularly in the development, evaluation and implementation of interventions after disasters and other traumatic events,” says Annett. “This fellowship provides an excellent opportunity for me to work with highly experienced and recognised researchers in a very supportive and welcoming work environment.”
Professor Meaghan O’Donnell is very pleased that Annett is working on the SOLAR program, “SOLAR is a new way forward in disaster mental health, filling the gap for a brief effective intervention to facilitate adjustment. Adapting it into German and for refugees allows us to test it in this new context, which will increase the evidence base about the program”.
Phoenix Australia welcomes research fellows from around the world. “Fellowships like this can be mutually beneficial as it helps our organisation advance our research and at the same time it allows overseas researchers to learn about new treatments and develop their careers,” Meaghan adds.