Psychology and Cognitive Sciences – Chris Crawford

Get to know Chris Crawford

I can sum up the number one reason to undertake an RHD at CQUniversity in one word: Supervisors.

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences – Chris Crawford

Personal experience

As is perhaps typical of my vintage, the journey has been varied. I became fascinated with the brain and how it worked after watching brain surgeries on my family’s black and white television when I was a child.

Between 1981 and 1985, I moved to the United States and completed a BA in English Literature and took some classes in counselling. I taught rock-climbing over the summers and worked in the library during the academic year. After graduating, I returned to Australia and worked in relationship, grief and crisis counselling for about 14 years, which steered me closer towards psychology. In 1994, I began studying psychology at CQUniversity on a part time basis and graduated in 1998.

During 1999, I was employed at Capricornia Correctional Centre as a provisional psychologist, and I was picked up by the newly formed Acute Care Team based at Rockhampton Hospital the following year. The primary task was to provide assessment and treatment for clients in the acute phase of mental illness.

I continued working for Queensland Health in various roles, including, community psychologist, and senior psychologist, as well as team leader for the Capricorn Coast Mental Health Service and allied health program coordinator for Rehabilitation Service at Rockhampton Base Hospital. From 2002 I also maintained a part time private practice based on the Capricorn Coast, receiving referrals primarily from GPs.

Around the middle of 2015, an old colleague suggested I apply for a part time position at CQUniversity. I’m currently a lecturer in undergraduate psychology and working towards completing my PhD.

During my spare time, I volunteer as an auxiliary firefighter on the Capricorn Coast.

Research at CQUniversity: Psychology and Cognitive Sciences

I can sum up the number one reason to undertake a Research Higher Degree (RHD) at CQUniversity in one word: supervisors. During my research journey, the supervision provided has been essential to learning research skills, development of hypotheses and maintaining focus, while working within sound ethical and theoretical frameworks.

Research at CQUniversity usually has a practical focus on improving the lives of individuals or improving the effectiveness of programs and interventions. We have a very active research community that covers a significant breadth of topics.

In Adelaide, for example, we have one of the world’s premier sleep research laboratories, the Appleton Institute, with an associated focus on fatigue management and human factors. Bundaberg researchers are exploring gambling addiction, while youth justice, resilience to disasters and animal-human interactions are all being researched at the Rockhampton campus.

There is also a strong track record of publication and success in obtaining research grants.

Current research projects

By the early 2000’s, it was mandatory for mental health services to collect outcomes measures (completed by clinicians and clients of the service). Research has traditionally indicated that a strong working alliance between individual clinicians and clients is a strong predictor of good therapeutic outcomes. It’s an interesting time to be exploring these measures as we’re able to benchmark and therefore analyse programs more effectively.

My PhD focuses on how outcome measures can best be used as indicators for positive outcomes for mental health consumers. Essentially, I propose that a strong working alliance between mental health services and clients will also be a predictor of good outcomes. This can be inferred by exploring the level of agreement between measures completed by clinicians and those completed by clients.

The research also incorporates key performance indicators, such as pre-admission care, post-discharge care, seclusion and restraint statistics, and the rate of return to inpatient units within 28 days.

Despite being regional – or maybe because we are regional – I chose to do my research at CQUniversity because it’s well known for providing excellent support to RHD psychology students. Supervisors are readily accessible; in my case, I can literally walk down the corridor and knock on my supervisor’s door (which is usually open anyway). There’s also an excellent professional network system of staff: If I need specialist advice on a particular matter, I am quickly linked with an expert in that area.

Career highlights

One of the most interesting and rewarding times was working in the Rehabilitation Service at Rockhampton Base Hospital. Clients would come to the unit with significant dysfunction, and it was the task of our team to conduct assessments, formulate a therapy plan, implement the plan and provide a follow up on discharge.

Rehabilitation was conducted using an interdisciplinary approach with geriatricians, clinical nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and social workers. The collaboration of disciplines in a coordinated therapy plan usually resulted in significant improvements for the people we worked with.

If I wasn’t researching, I’d probably be travelling the world. Instead of exploring new places, I am exploring new knowledge.

Explore more about current research at CQUni’s School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences.