Deakin University Logo

Gina Howland

Gina Howland is a PhD student within the Food and Mood Centre in the School of Medicine at Deakin University. Gina is a Clinical Psychologist, holds multiple degrees in psychology and teaching, and currently provides evidence-based clinical services to individuals with complex trauma needs.

Gina is one of Australia’s first Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Professionals and has a particular interest in the relationship between nutrition and mental health. She is also a qualified and experienced primary school teacher with a unique and practical understanding of disorders which impact learning or behaviour in the classroom.

She has extensive experience in the provision of evidence- based clinical services (assessment and treatment) to young people with complex needs who have experienced abuse, trauma, homelessness and displacement coupled with trauma (such as refugees) and/or may present with post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm, suicidal ideation or addiction. This experience has occurred across variety of settings including private practice, disability services, schools and highly specialised child protection settings.

Gina has comprehensive experience in the delivery of professional services (assessment, intervention, training and consultation) to clients involved in the care or support of children and young people. This includes delivery of parenting programs, training child protection caseworkers in policy and procedures and training multi-level government staff about psychological disorders or presenting issues such as trauma, suicide and self- harm, behaviour management and client motivation. This experience also encompasses the development and implementation of staff training for non-government agencies involved in service provision for children and young people.

 

She is currently involved in the following research project:

IDIP: A randomised controlled trial to examine the effectiveness of an Internet Dietary Improvement Program for PTSD symptoms.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating, prevalent, costly and highly co-morbid trauma condition. Research into alternative or adjunct treatment strategies such as diet, to alter the physiological and biochemical dysfunctions in mental health disorders, has been recently investigated with promising findings. However, data on the utility of taking a dietary approach is still in its infancy. The primary aim of Gina’s trial is to investigate the effectiveness of an online diet treatment approach on reduction of PTSD symptoms.

A sample of 200 Australian adults, with some degree of PTSD symptoms will be recruited online. Participants will be randomly allocated to two study groups:

  • Participants randomly allocated to the control/ placebo group are asked to maintain their customary diet whilst they undertake an online dietary supplements program for 10 weeks.
  • Participants randomly allocated to the diet treatment group are required to maintain an intervention dietary pattern based on the traditional Mediterranean diet and will engage in an online Mediterranean dietary information program about this diet for 10 weeks.

If diet is shown to be efficacious in the reduction of PTSD symptoms it could provide a pragmatic and cost-effective alternative or adjunct treatment strategy for the management of this prevalent and debilitating disorder.

 

Research areas & skills:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; trauma; disrupted attachment; stress response: lifestyle intervention; anxiety; dietary interventions; gastro-intestinal presentations; research translation