The Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) conducts applied research into:
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
Research is one of CCI’s four core areas of business and is integral to us delivering effective, evidence-based treatments to people with mental disorders at our clinic in Perth, Western Australia. Research also guides the training we deliver to mental health professionals, and helps us develop resources for professionals, consumers and carers that we make available on our website.
CCI’s treatment programs undergo a continual process of development, evaluation, innovation and re-evaluation, to ensure that outcomes are (a) meeting or exceeding national and international benchmarks and (b) continually improving.
What we research
We conduct three main types of research:
1. We evaluate the effectiveness of psychological treatments for mental disorders
We regularly examine how much people benefit from the individual and group treatments we offer at our clinic, and we use this information to improve the treatments over time.
2. We evaluate mechanisms underlying mental disorders and psychological treatment
We investigate factors that maintain mental disorders, and the reasons why treatment is more helpful for some people than others.
3. We develop and evaluate measures of mental health and well-being
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of our treatments and determine how they work, we need to measure how people receiving treatment at CCI progress in treatment. We do this using questionnaires and other methods that assess people’s thoughts, emotions, behaviour, and physiology. We conduct research to evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of psychological instruments for measuring depression, anxiety, and other aspects of mental health and wellbeing. From time to time we also develop psychological instruments that we use in our clinic, and which are used by researchers and mental health clinicians all over the world.
Why we conduct research
Research is critical for ensuring that treatments reduce suffering for individuals with the mental disorders
Psychological treatments can help people to recover and live healthy, meaningful lives, but they do not work for everyone. More effective treatments are needed to increase the chance that someone experiencing mental health problems can make a full recovery as quickly as possible, and stay well for as long as possible.
The overarching aim of research conducted at CCI is to help improve the effectiveness of psychological therapies for common mental health problems. This helps to improve the lives of people with mental disorders.
Research improves CCI’s treatments, training workshops for health professionals, and website resources
Our applied research ensures that CCI is a centre of excellence in clinical practice because it:
1. Helps us to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of treatments we offer at our treatment clinic in Perth
This allows us to help more people to recover from mental health problems than would otherwise be the case, and to do so in a timely and cost-effective manner.
2. Helps us to ensure our training workshops reflect the highest standards of evidence-supported treatments
We provide training in evidence-based psychological therapies to health practitioners such as psychologists, nurses, GPs, and psychiatrists. Our research findings help us to decide what trainings to offer, and to improve the training.
3. Help us to better assist people experiencing mental health problems not only in Western Australia, but worldwide
We make many free resources available on our website for people suffering from mental disorders, carers, and treatment professionals. The research we conduct is used to decide what materials we make available on our website, and to improve the quality of the materials over time.
How we conduct research
We routinely track our clients’ progress during their treatment at CCI, and seek their written consent to use this data for research and quality improvement purposes.
Our team of clinical research experts analyse the data to answer important questions that enable us to improve our treatment programs. We also publish the results in leading peer-reviewed scholarly journals, and report our findings at Australian and international conferences. This helps researchers and clinicians around the world benefit from the work being done in our clinic.
In May 2022, CCI launched its inaugural research strategy. The document emphasizes that research and evaluation are fundamental components of the model of care at CCI, and that as a centre of excellence in clinical psychology we strive to improve the lives of people with mental health challenges through world-class applied research.
The strategy notes that our mission is to support partnerships between researchers, clinicians, and people with lived experience to ensure consumers receive high quality care with outcomes that set new international benchmarks through continual evaluation, quality improvement, and innovative translational research.
The document describes CCI’s research values and guiding principles, such as that we are consumer-focused; that research and practice must be tightly integrated in order to optimise consumer outcomes; and that we while our primary focus is on improving the lives of our clients in Western Australia through our treatment programs, we aim for our research to have a global impact.
The strategy also outlines the centre’s research goals and priorities for the next few years.
To download the CCI research strategy, please click here.
Our research team
Research at CCI is tightly integrated with the treatments we deliver. Our clinical work informs our research questions, and our research findings inform our clinical practice. As a result, everyone at CCI is involved in research on a daily basis – from our receptionist who greets our clients and hands them questionnaires, to our clinical psychologists who provide therapy and enter data, to our team of researchers who analyse and interpret the data.
While everyone at CCI is involved in research, the key personnel in our research team are:
Peter is a Senior Clinical Psychologist and Research Consultant at CCI, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Curtin University and Associate Editor of two scientific journals. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on social anxiety disorder, repetitive negative thinking, and transdiagnostic approaches to treating mental disorders. A transdiagnostic treatment is one designed to treat more than one mental disorder at a time.
David is CCI’s Senior Research Scientist. He is also a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at Curtin University and former West Australian Student Scientist of the Year. David manages CCI’s research database and is the Centre’s statistical expert. He has a strong interest in evaluating the effectiveness of treatments for depressive and anxiety disorders, and in developing statistical techniques that help researchers to do this. His research been covered by numerous media outlets including CNN, the ABC, and Sydney Morning Herald.
Bronwyn is a Senior Clinical Psychologist at CCI and co-director of our eating disorders program. She both provides treatment for eating disorders and conducts research. Bronwyn is very interested in improving the effectiveness of treatments for eating disorders using innovative cognitive-behavioural and family-based approaches and improving access to evidence-based treatments for individuals with eating disorders. She has published numerous research articles in scientific journals and regularly presents her work at the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders national conference.
Our team of researchers regularly collaborates on projects with academics and postgraduate clinical psychology students at institutions such as the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Oxford University, University of Sheffield, and University of Waterloo.
Examples of our research
Improving treatment for social anxiety disorder
People who experience social anxiety disorder (SAD) have a chronic and debilitating fear of being criticised and rejected by other people. People with SAD see themselves as incompetent and inferior, and believe that they will be rejected when other people see how anxious they are. While criticism is an occasional and unpleasant part of life for most of us, people with SAD believe they will be criticised and rejected virtually every time they are around other people. This leads them to avoid social interactions, and to become extremely anxious when they are unable to do so.
An effective group treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder was developed by Professor Ron Rapee from Macquarie University. He conducted clinical trials demonstrating that the treatment helps many people with SAD. In 2008 CCI began running groups to treat SAD using Professor Rapee’s treatment protocol. We collected data on the effectiveness of the treatment when delivered at our clinic in Perth. We found that the treatment worked just as well at our clinic as in clinical trials conducted at Universities, despite the clients we treat having more severe and complex social anxiety. These results were encouraging. However, not everyone with SAD benefited from the treatment. We therefore modified the treatment protocol, using lessons we had learned running groups at CCI and the latest research on SAD to try and enhance the power of the therapy. We tested how well the revised treatment worked at our clinic, and found that it was substantially more effective than the old treatment. Our findings have since been replicated by researchers in Canada. Members of our research team have published a book about the enhanced treatment, and we are further evaluating its effectiveness in a clinical trial funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Improving treatment for excessive worry
Many people referred to CCI suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). They worry uncontrollably and excessively about numerous topics such as their health, finances, and family. The amount of worry is out of proportion to the reality of the situation. People find it hard to control the worry, and often feel very tired, irritable, and on edge. Helpful treatments are available for GAD, but they are less effective than the options available for other anxiety disorders.
Professor Adrian Wells from the University of Manchester developed a treatment called metacognitive therapy. He conducted research which found that metacognitive therapy may be more effective than other treatments for GAD. These findings motivated CCI to develop a 6-session metacognitive group treatment for treating excessive worry – the main symptom of GAD – in our clinic. This is much shorter than treatments used elsewhere in the world. We ran the group in our clinic and carefully assessed how much people’s worrying reduced. We then compared our results to those obtained at mental health clinics and Universities in Europe and North America. We discovered that the 6-session protocol was more effective than other treatments that require up to 30 sessions of treatment. The findings of this research were published in a peer-revised scientific journal and presented at international mental health conferences. After discovering the treatment was effective, we started offering training in the therapy to mental health professionals and made the treatment manual available for purchase on our website. We also developed self-help materials based on the treatment that are freely available on our website.
Improving treatment for eating disorders
Eating disorders are complex neuropsychiatric disorders that will affect up to 9% of people in their lifetime. For example, Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a life-threatening condition in which people severely restrict their nutritional intake, resulting in them becoming severely underweight relative to what is normal for their age and height. People with AN may have an extreme fear of gaining weight or becoming fat or may minimise the seriousness of their low body weight.
Professor Chris Fairburn from Oxford University developed the first scientifically tested, evidence-based treatment for eating disorders. CCI was the first centre in the world outside of Oxford to be trained in the treatment, which is called enhanced Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT-E). We then made the treatment available to clients with eating disorders at our clinic in Perth. We tracked the progress of each client who took part in the treatment. We used this data to evaluate the effectiveness of the therapy in our clinic, and found that it helped many patients. The results of our research were published in a scientific journal and presented at national and international eating disorder conferences. Over the next few years we played a key role in an Australia-wide clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of CBT-E and two other treatments for AN.
We have used the findings of our research, along with the clinical expertise we have built from treating hundreds of clients, to develop many educational materials and self-help materials that are available for free on our website. We have also developed workshops in which we train health professionals to recognise and treat eating disorders. While many individuals with eating disorders benefit from the evidence-based treatments currently available, we need to continue to develop more effective and efficient treatments for these life-threatening disorders. Our research is also being used to help develop novel strategies for treating AN, so that we can help more people in the future than we can with the best treatments available today.
Further information about the Centre’s publications can be found on the publications page.