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MBCT and preventing depressive relapse

Willem Kuyken

PhD, DClinPsy

Professor of Clinical Psychology

  • Principal Investigator, University of Oxford Mindfulness Research Centre
  • Fellow, Kellogg College

Preventing depression, enhancing human potential

Research focus

My work focuses on depression and evidence-based approaches to depression. In particular, my research examines how mindfulness and mindfulness-based programs can prevent depression and enhance human potential across the lifespan. Several studies have arisen out of this work that suggest Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy as an alternative to maintenance antidepressants (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2008; Lancet, 2015; JAMA Psychiatry, 2016), as well as a universal approach to preventing depression in adolescence (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2013). I am also interested in the interface of ancient wisdom traditions and contemporary science. I co-authored Compassion in the Landscape of Suffering, with Christina Feldman. Our book Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology will  be published by Guilford Press in the Spring of 2019. It was described by Jon Kabat-Zinn as "a tour de force ... that elaborates in exquisite detail yet with utter accessibility and clarity what mindfulness is, where it comes from, its profound ethical foundation, its clinical applications, its growing evidence base, and its potential for healing."

Another research focus is cognitive-behavioural therapy, with a particular emphasis on collaborative case conceptualization, the crucible where “science and art/practice” come together. My work explores how therapists develop and share conceptualizations to enhance the effectiveness of therapy. I co-authored Collaborative Case Conceptualization: Working Effectively with Clients in Cognitive-behavioral Therapy, with Christine Padesky and Rob Dudley (2009). This book was described by Aaron T. Beck as “setting a gold standard for how to develop individualized case conceptualizations with our clients.” I have supervised and mentored more than 40 graduate students, many of whom have gone on to productive careers in research, teaching and the health service. My research has been supported by the National Institute for Health Research, Wellcome Trust, Economic and Social Research Council, NHS, Oxford Mindfulness Foundation, Medical Research Council and British Academy.


Public engagement

Science is not only about developing new knowledge but also about using that knowledge in ways that are beneficial; taking responsibility for communicating science in balanced and effective ways. I regularly give keynotes and workshops on MBCT and compassion for a range of organisations. These have included national associations (e.g., Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United States), public and third sector organisations (UK National Health Service, schools), as well as policy and governmental groups (e.g. Cumberland Lodge, UK All Party Parliamentary Groups).  My work has been covered in numerous media outlets including CBS, MaccleansNew Statesman, Le Monde, der Zeit,  the Telegraph, the Guardian, the BBC and many others. I have authored blogs for the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, NIHR Dissemination Centre and the Huffington Post. I am privileged to work with a range of groups who are skilled in public engagement, including the National Mental Elf, Present Moment podcasts,  Voices from Oxford, Catalyst and It Gets Brighter.


Relevant websites

Google Scholar publications 


Brief biography

I am a research clinical psychologist. I earned my PhD from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, and my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Salomon's Clinical Psychology Training Programme. I learned cognitive-behavioural therapy over two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Cognitive Therapy, University of Pennsylvania / Beck Institute, working with Aaron T. Beck. Since the mid-1990s, my training in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has included: participation in MBCT/MBSR workshops and retreats; supervision with John Teasdale, Trish Bartley and others; and support of my mindfulness practice in the insight/vipassana tradition from Christina Feldman and Catherine McGee. 

From 1999 to 2014, I worked at the University of Exeter, where I held a number of roles including heading up the doctoral clinical psychology training programme (2001-2004) and leading the clinical research group (2001-2010). During my time in Exeter, I co-founded the Mood Disorders Centre, directing it through its formative years (2004-2012) and co-founded (with Alison Evans) the Masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapies (2008). Since 2014 I have directed the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. I was awarded the May Davidson award for clinical psychologists who "have made an outstanding contribution to the development of clinical psychology within the first ten years of their work as a qualified clinical psychologist." I was "grand-fathereded" as a Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy.

You can read a profile here.  


Declaration of Interest Statement

Since arriving in Oxford, I receive no payment for public engagement or consultancy, and any remuneration is paid in full to the not-for-profit charity Oxford Mindfulness Foundation. I receive royalties for my co-authored book (above).