Intervention research across the life span
New development of treatments
The high demand for and limited supply of psychotherapeutic services justifies the need to develop treatments that are both effective and efficient. Increasing the efficiency of treatment for disorders with a high prevalence, such as anxiety disorders, would have a particularly positive impact on the supply situation. Our research group has therefore been working for several years on adapting already well-evaluated methods with proven effectivity for the treatment of phobic disorders for the use in large group one session formats. So far, we have demonstrated the feasibility of such one-session large group treatments for a variety of situational fears and observed effect sizes comparable to those of individual treatments for most of these treatments. Additional areas for new developments include online sex therapy, avatar therapy, cognitive bias modification, online interventions to mitigate negative effects of excessive social media use, the promotion of positive mental health and self-efficacy as well as manualized treatments for childhood separation anxiety disorder.
Innovation and digitalization of psychological therapies are enabling people with mental health problems to access health services, by helping to decrease waiting time, reaching out to people in areas with less resources or rural areas and even reducing time and energy for those with very busy routines. Our group aims to investigate and adapt the potential of digital tools (e.g., mHealth, eHealth and VR) to improve assessment, adherence, access and engagement to evidence-based psychological therapies.
Mechanisms of psychological treatments
Even though effective cognitive-behavioral treatment approaches are available today for most mental disorders for adults as well as for children and adolescents, some patients still do not benefit in the desired way. A precise understanding of the mechanisms underlying the effects of therapeutic interventions can help to improve their outcome in the future. With a focus on exposure-based treatments, our translationally oriented group is therefore working at the interface between basic and applied research to evaluate the efficacy of mechanisms identified in laboratory studies in clinical contexts. A major challenge for enhancing mechanistic understanding has been to conduct psychotherapy with sufficient standardization, and to implement experimental paradigms in sufficiently large samples, in order to be able to uncover often subtle underlying mechanisms. Our group has newly developed a highly standardized “Large Group One Session Treatment (LG-OST)” protocol, in which psychotherapeutic interventions are carried out in large groups of up to 125 patients. This not only generates large sample sizes, but also eliminates unwanted variability and thereby provides a novel efficient method for investigating biopsychosocial mechanisms of change during psychotherapy.
Cognitive Bias Modification
In addition to assessing dysfunctional associations, appraisals, and interpretations the group also works on studies testing whether such dysfunctional cognitions can be manipulated, and whether this has an effect on symptoms of anxiety.
Within the experimental lab work the group mainly focuses on testing causal hypotheses, for example whether dysfunctional interpretations can trigger symptoms of anxiety. However, we are also keen to apply our lab findings clinically, e.g. by testing whether a CBM training to reduce dysfunctional interpretation has beneficial effects as a treatment add-on.
“Translating the lab work on cognitive dysfunctions into clinical applications can be quite challenging, however, when it does work out, it is extremely rewarding, and I have also learned a lot from my patients during the last few years”, states group leader Marcella Woud.
Dr. Marcella Woud
Dr. Elske Salemink (Utrecht University, NL)
Woud: WO 2018/3-1, 2x3 years, €1.540.249
Start in May 2021
Negative biases in the interpretation of ambiguous information are a hallmark feature of anxiety disorders. However, despite considerable advances in research, a number of significant challenges remain, in particular regarding the biases’ underlying mechanisms. The proposed projects will use a mechanistically-focused and interdisciplinary approach, combining paradigms from basic and clinical translational science: Via (experimental) research in at-risk and clinical samples, interpretation biases will be assessed and manipulated via a computerized interpretation training, and the effect of the manipulation on both symptoms of anxiety and treatment outcome will be examined. In parallel, mechanisms underlying (changes in) interpretation biases will be investigated (e.g., neuronal correlates). The primary aim of the present proposal is thus to bridge the gap between lab-based and clinical research, in order to test and refine theoretical models of anxiety disorders, and to accelerate and improve their treatment. This scientific fusion brings with it the potential to produce more meaningful and significant results in the context of interpretation biases in anxiety disorders, therefore enabling a step-change in both research and treatment.
Prevention and treatment of mental disorders must be proven in the long term and in the real world. The aim of our outcome research is to identify effective prevention and therapies and to understand how we can improve treatment for different patients of all age groups. We are especially interested in the long-term outcome of our treatment and how we can transfer new treatment approaches into the broad dissemination.
Principal Investigator and Team
Prof. Dr. Silvia Schneider
Dr. Lukka Popp
Dr. Sabrina Fuths
September 2012 – September 2014
We investigated the acceptance and first indicators of efficacy of the universal group parenting training Baby Triple P (BTP) compared to a care as usual (CAU) control condition focusing on early regulatory behavior. In all, 49 couples were randomly allocated to receive either eight BTP sessions delivered in a group before birth and individually per telephone after birth or to take part in CAU. Infant behavior was observed with a diary while regulatory problems were diagnosed with a structured diagnostic interview at T3. Parental self-report measures of parental mental health, partnership quality and parental competence were assessed before birth (T1), 10 weeks after birth (T2) and at 6-month follow-up (T3). Results indicated that infants in the intervention-group cried less inconsolably but were more frequently awake and content than infants in the control-group at T3. No beneficial outcomes were found for partnership quality, parental sense of competence or the number of RPs in infants.