Using Technology to Help Reduce Substance Addiction

By: Mila Chial on

UCF clinical psychologist and Professor Lidia Meshesha works tirelessly to help improve the lives of people afflicted by addiction.

She knows from previous studies, that many people relapse after treatment.

“I have seen too many patients who struggle with addiction, and despite going to treatment and reporting that they don’t want to use alcohol or drugs anymore, they find themselves back in the same situation year after year,” Meshesha says. “I want to find ways that can help them escape this unwanted vicious cycle.”

That’s why Meshesha’s research focus is on utilizing brief and easily accessible interventions to help patients achieve better outcomes through technology. Currently, her primary interest lies in developing interventions that patients can access on their digital devices, such as smartphone apps.

Her work was recognized in 2020 when the National Institutes of Health awarded her with a $1 million career grant.

Meshesha was born in Ethiopia and moved to the U.S. as a child. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Williams College, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Memphis. She completed a clinical psychology residency and postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University.

She has always been interested in clinical psychology and how people cope once they receive psychological treatment. However, she did not start with an interest in addiction. It was after college, she worked on a project with hospitalized patients with opioid dependence. The experience motivated her to focus on this population and improve treatment outcomes for those who need it most.

At UCF, Meshesha also funnels her passion for psychology into teaching while mentoring graduate students in her Designing Research and Education for Addiction Management (DREAM) lab. She helps her students develop their line of research, work on their master’s thesis and form their dissertation.

“I absolutely love watching them develop and grow their passion for the work we do, whether it is research or clinical work with patients,” she says. “It is an incredible feeling.”

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