Emotion regulation can help people who suffer from anxiety

Mia Skytte O’Toole from the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences is one of the five recipients of the Aarhus University Research Foundation PhD award, which was presented on 28 May 2015.

The Aarhus University Research Foundation PhD award is awarded annually to five PhD students who have distinguished themselves and written a dissertation of outstanding quality. Mia Skytte O’Toole receives the award for her dissertation entitled "Emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder".

Mia has done a semester at Stanford University to be among the best in the field of emotion regulation, and her work proceeds from the knowledge that the treatment we provide people with anxiety today is not efficient enough – either because they have relapses or the effect is too limited. She wanted to help change that. With the theory on emotion regulation, she discovered new opportunities for helping people with social phobias, which had not previously been explored. The award comes with a grant of DKK 50,000.

What will you use the grant money on?
I have chosen to spend the money on my research, because there are so many things I want to do. I would like to have more supervision on the clinical part of my work, so I can become a better practitioner. And then I would like to take some statistics courses to become a better researcher.

What does this recognition mean to you?
Life as a PhD student can be very lonely, and writing a dissertation is a long and hard process, and your work is not necessarily assessed along the way. So to be recognised for my work is a great pat on the back, and it gives me more confidence for my further work. And I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished.

I also can’t imagine a better job for myself, and when it turns out that I’m actually really good at it, that’s just fantastic.

The further work
I have been on a research stay in New York with an expert on emotion regulation in the field of clinical psychology. In this connection, I was trained in emotion regulation therapy, which I am currently using on relatives of cancer patients who suffer from anxiety and symptoms of depression. I will be working on this for the next two years. For that project I have been granted DKK 1.4 million.

Five PhD students who have completed their projects within the last six months were appointed.

This year’s PhD awards go to:
Mia Skytte O'Toole, Clinical psychology
Mette Løvschal, Prehistoric archaeology
Louise Halleskov Storgaard, Human rights
Søren Ulstrup, Nanotechnology
Søren Dinesen Østergaard, Clinical psychiatry

Read more about the award winners

Mia Skytte O’Toole defended her PhD dissertation on emotion regulation in January 2015. She is currently employed as a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences at Aarhus BSS. For further information, please contact Mia Skytte O’Toole, tel.: 87 16 52 89, e-mail

The award was presented on Thursday 28 May.

The Aarhus University Research Foundation PhD awards – in brief
Every year, the Aarhus University Research Foundation presents PhD awards to promising young researchers who concluded their PhDs at Aarhus University the previous year. At the university’s 75th anniversary in 2003, the first five PhDs received the award in recognition of their research work, and since then the award ceremony has been an annual event.

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