Dr Melissa Norberg
Hi! I'm Melissa, the Director of the Behavioural Science Laboratory (BSL). I am also the Director for the Centre for Emotional Health (CEH) and National President for the Australian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (AACBT).
My research involves studying factors and processes that contribute to the aetiology and maintenance of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and addictive disorders. I am an internationally recognised expert for hoarding disorder, which is currently conceptualised as an obsessive-compulsive and related disorder. My lab has been studying the causes, consequences, and treatments for hoarding disorder with the aim of improving the lives of people affected by this chronic and disabling condition. My interests have been shaped through my various educational experiences. To understand where I am at now, it might be helpful to understand my academic history.
First, I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). At UNL, academics that excelled at teaching and conducting research inspired me. I first became interested in understanding anxiety and the therapeutic process while completing my honours research project under the supervision of Dr Debra Hope.
I furthered these interests by completing a Master’s degree and PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). At UWM, I worked with Dr Vincent Adesso and learned how to use the balanced placebo design to delineate between a drug’s pharmacological properties and a person’s drug expectancies. I also began to investigate the relationship that social anxiety has with alcohol use. In my later years at UWM, I worked with Dr Douglas Woods. Most of my training under Dr Woods focused on using learning theory to understand and treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and Trichotillomania. During my final year of the PhD, I completed my full-time clinical internship at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. During this year-long internship, I was able to refine my skills in providing cognitive-behavioural therapy to persons experiencing obsessive-compulsive behaviour, post-traumatic stress, and substance use problems.
After graduating, I moved to Connecticut to complete a clinical internship at the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living under the supervision of Dr David Tolin. These final years of my training focused on understanding and treating obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding disorder.
From 2015-2002, I was the Deputy Director for the Centre for Emotional Health (CEH). In January of 2023, I became its Director. The CEH is a Macquarie University centre that aims to improve emotional health across the lifespan through scientific research, intervention, and dissemination. Our members have unique interests in areas such as bullying and eating disorders, but our interest in anxiety unites us. The Centre is also home to the CEH-Clinic, which sees over 800 clients a year. Before becoming its Director, I maintained a small private practice in the CEH-Clinic, focused on helping people overcome obsessive-compulsive or hoarding-related problems. I am currently taking a break from private practice so that I can sufficiently carry out my other roles.
In 2019 and in 2022, I was elected the National President for the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy for 3-year terms. The Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy is a multidisciplinary national professional body for ~1,000 mental health professionals interested in the practice, research, and training of evidence-based behavioural and cognitive therapies. My goal as National President has been to increase access to and to provide greater diversity in our professional development activities.
Please check out my publications, the lab’s current research projects, and my students’ research interests to learn what my lab is currently working on. I also welcome you to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. You can also learn more about me and my lab’s work by visiting my Macquarie University staff page.