Project Title

Enhancing engagement: factors associated with young people’s use of digital mental health interventions

Project Type



Research interests of the research team offering the project

Researchers at Orygen Digital believe technology is key to providing timely, effective, and engaging mental health treatment and support. Our mission is to revolutionise all youth mental health services, bringing together the best of technology, research, innovation and clinical care to support young people. We work towards this goal by focusing on some of the biggest challenges in digital mental health:

  • understanding mechanisms of change driving effectiveness;
  • improving uptake of and engagement with digital interventions; and
  • supporting sustained implementation, the integration of digital interventions into health settings.

Our flagship platform, MOST, is becoming available in youth mental health services across Australia, and offers a unique, exciting opportunity and context in which to progress the field.

Details of the project

Digital intervention for youth mental health is both appealing and efficacious. Young people from both general and clinical populations endorse the use of digital health care, and 15 years of research has demonstrated its feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy. However, research consistently reports low adherence and high attrition rates for digital interventions. As a result, most digital mental health interventions are underutilised resources for people needing mental health treatment. We seek an applicant for a PhD project to explore factors contributing to young people's engagement with MOST, a digital youth mental health intervention designed to be used alongside clinical care. 

Working with a multidisciplinary team including researchers, developers, clinicians, and peer workers, the project will use a mixed-methods approach to explore factors, support models, and design features associated with engagement and explore young people's experience of MOST and the meaning they attribute to their experiences. Depending on the candidate’s background, the project may also include an exploration of the role artificial intelligence, chatbots, and personalised care could play in supporting intervention engagement.

Results from the project will be among the first to explore mechanisms of engagement in an intervention being used in real-world settings. Findings will directly inform Orygen Digital's engagement strategies in the live implementation of MOST by guiding the optimisation of facilitators and minimisation of barriers to uptake and ongoing engagement, and ensuring more users are motivated to use and thus benefit from digital mental health treatment.

Project references

  1. Alvarez‐Jimenez M, Koval P, Schmaal L, Bendall S, O'Sullivan S, Cagliarini D, D'Alfonso S, Rice S, Valentine L, Penn DL, Miles C. The Horyzons project: a randomized controlled trial of a novel online social therapy to maintain treatment effects from specialist first‐episode psychosis services. World Psychiatry. 2021 Jun;20(2):233-43.
  2. Valentine L, McEnery C, O’Sullivan S, Gleeson J, Bendall S, Alvarez-Jimenez M. Young people’s experience of a long-term social media–based intervention for first-episode psychosis: Qualitative analysis. Journal of medical Internet research. 2020 Jun 26;22(6):e17570.
  3. Zhang R, Nicholas J, Knapp AA, Graham AK, Gray E, Kwasny MJ, Reddy M, Mohr DC. Clinically meaningful use of mental health apps and its effects on depression: mixed methods study. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2019 Dec 20;21(12):e15644.

Scholarships and fees

A stipend is not available for this PhD project, however we offer generous $10,000 top-ups for PhD scholarships.

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne – find out more here. Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive, so please speak to the contact person below for further details.

Information on fees for domestic and international students is available here.

How to apply

  1. Read information for future students here and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s). 
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, follow the steps outlined by the University of Melbourne here. You can go straight to Step 3. 

You are strongly encouraged to submit your application as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.


Dr Jen Nicholas
[email protected]