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A research study of Augmented Depression Therapy – A new treatment for depression

Clinical depression is a common and debilitating psychiatric disorder. It makes the biggest contribution to the burden of disease of all mental health problems and is predicted to become the second-highest of all general health problems by 2020.

We already have good psychological treatments for depression, but these do not work for everyone and there is room to improve. Current psychological treatments are effective at reducing negativity (thinking and feeling sad and anxious) but are less successful at building positivity (thinking and feeling happy; experiencing wellbeing). We know that reduced positivity predicts that individuals will stay depressed for longer and are more likely to become depressed again in the future. This project aims to develop and evaluate an enhanced psychological therapy for depression that simultaneously reduces negativity and builds positivity in an effort to keep people well in the long term.

Phase 1 of the project developed alongside service-users and NHS clinicians a novel talking therapy for depression targeting positivity and negativity in a way that is acceptable to service-users and can be implemented in the NHS. We have called this novel intervention Augmented Depression Therapy (ADEPT). Whether ADEPT was effective at reducing depression and building wellbeing has been evaluated in a case series design.

Phase 2 of the project is running a pilot clinical trial, evaluating if the novel talking therapy for depression is better than current best practice in the NHS (cognitive behaviour therapy) in reducing depression and in building wellbeing.

When is the project starting and how long is it expected to run for?

The project began in January 2015 and will end in January 2020. The case studies evaluating the novel intervention began in February 2016 and completed in March 2017. The pilot clinical trial contrasting the novel intervention to CBT began recruitment in April 2017 and recruited its last patient in July 2018, and will run until August 2019.

Who will be involved?

Participants are aged over 18 and have a primary diagnosis of ‘Major Depressive Disorder’, assessed through a standard clinical interview by the research team.

Participants have been recruited via selected GP surgeries and local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Services.

Where is the study taking place?

The study is be taking place in Devon, led by the Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter. Both treatments are being delivered by the AccEPT clinic hosted in the Mood Disorders Centre.


The project is funded by a Career Development Fellowship awarded to Barney Dunn by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Contact details

The chief investigator for the project is Barney Dunn, Mood Disorders Centre, University of Exeter. E-mail:

For more information about the study you can contact Emily Widnall on: or 01392 726101