BSc (Hons), MSc, DClinPsy
Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology
- Consultant Clinical Psychologist
My research focuses on three areas: memory and cognitive processes linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety, treatment development and evaluation, and how best to achieve clinician competency in evidence-based interventions for psychological disorders. I am particularly interested in developing internet-based cognitive therapy treatments for anxiety disorders. Most recently, we have developed an internet-based cognitive therapy for social anxiety disorder and our plan is to develop an internet-based treatment for PTSD.
My PTSD research primarily focuses on why people over-remember what they most wish to forget. I have a special interest in how traumatic memories are formed and how they drive symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am looking at factors (such as poor sleep, rumination, and suppression) that may affect how unwanted memories develop and how they then become intrusive and easily triggered. I am also looking at how to transform traumatic memories with cognitive therapy.
Since memories of distressing events appear to be linked to the onset of many anxiety disorders, I also investigate how memory of socially traumatic events, such as being bullied as a child, maintains anxiety in adults with social anxiety disorder and how to update these memories. This research is relevant for people suffering from PTSD or social anxiety because it helps us to better understand what keeps anxiety going and how to transform distressing memories and the images linked to them.
My PTSD research is relevant for people who are regularly exposed to traumatic events, such as emergency service workers, military personnel, journalists working in conflict zones, and peacekeepers because it provides clues about how we may be able to prevent the unwanted memories from developing in the first place and therefore reduce rates of traumatic stress and depression in these groups.
I am currently leading a programme of research with the London Ambulance Service, the world’s largest emergency service, to identify risk factors that make some people vulnerable to developing PTSD or depression after experiencing a traumatic event. Our aim is to develop a programme to reduce psychological stress after trauma.
I also research training in cognitive behavioural therapy and how this links to clinical competence and outcome.
I am dedicated to raising awareness of common disorders and their effective treatment and I am enthusiastic about communicating science in accessible language. I regularly write articles for the press about trauma-related problems and regularly appear in the media giving expert commentary on psychological issues.
I hold an honorary senior lectureship with King’s College London and sit on the board of external examiners for the University of Reading, the University of Hull and the University of Liverpool. I am a member of the scientific committee of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies.