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Imagine a brighter future: Development of a school-based positive imagery intervention to target anhedonia in adolescents.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, April 12, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Depression is a major public health concern, associated with severe and long-lasting impairment (WHO, 2012). Many cases of depression start in adolescence with adolescent-onsets associated with greater illness burden than adult-onsets (Zisook et al., 2007). Whilst psychological intervention in adolescence may prevent the persistence of depression into adulthood and its debilitating consequences, these are rarely available (Health Committee, House of Commons, 2014). There is also a consistent failure to produce well-replicated efficacious psychological and pharmacological treatments in adolescent depression (Bridge, Birmaher, Iyengar, Barbe, & Brent, 2009; Gabbay et al., 2015). In adults, treatment innovation techniques have tried to focus on specific features, such as anhedonia, that are associated with severity and treatment response. The goal of the project is to develop a brief, manualised intervention for adolescent depression that targets anhedonia through harnessing the ability to imagine positive events.

Through a NIHR-funded project, we have developed a brief therapy manual and implementation protocol for adolescents using co-design methodology, which targets mental imagery in general (rather than positive future mental imagery, in particular) to attenuate depression symptoms (Pile et al., in press). A case series of 9 participants suggests that this intervention is acceptable and may have clinical utility. However, this intervention targets depression generally rather than anhedonia specifically and has only been delivered by an experienced child clinical psychologist.

Therefore, here, we aim to develop a brief, manualised intervention that targets anhedonia in adolescents with depression, which can be delivered in schools by practitioners without extensive training. This project aims to a) investigate whether the study is possible, b) whether the intervention is acceptable, and c) to estimate key parameters to design a fully-powered clinical trial.

Start date: 1st October 2019

Funding Notes

Fully funded for four years, Home/EU tuition fees (studentship not available to Overseas applicants), annual stipend and some research and travel costs.

Applicants should have a Bachelors degree with 2:1 honours (or Overseas equivalent). A 2:2 degree may be considered only where applicants also offer a Masters with Merit.


For information on how to apply, please visit the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neurosciences webpage:

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