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Cathy Creswell

Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology

  • NIHR Research Professor
  • NIHR Senior Investigator
  • Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist (Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Theme lead: Oxford and the Thames Valley NIHR ARC, Mental Health across the Lifespan

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My research mainly focuses on the development, maintenance and treatment of anxiety disorders in children and young people. My team in The Oxford Psychological Interventions for Children and adolescents (TOPIC) research group apply a broad range of methods (including experimental, longitudinal, clinical trial and qualitative methods and systematic reviews)  with children, young people and families in both community and clinical settings, with the ultimate aim of improving access to and outcomes from psychological treatments for these common conditions.


Our current research projects and interests include the following:

  1. Anxiety disorders often onset in the preadolescent years, yet we have identified that a shockingly low number of pre-adolescent children who have an anxiety disorder access evidence-based treatments. To address this need, based on our clinical and experimental work, we have developed a brief, therapist-guided, parent-led cognitive behavioural treatment for child anxiety disorders which we have shown to be effective and cost-effective. This treatment is now widely used across the NHS (and beyond). We are now particularly focused on how to enable earlier access, through online delivery and direct access through schools.
  2. Alongside this we are determined to improve the identification of anxiety problems in children and young people. We currently have a line of work to address limitations with existing measures (including them being overly long for screening purposes and having modest sensitivity and specificity) so that children with anxiety problems can ultimately be accurately identified in a way that is acceptable for families and schools.
  3. Although many children benefit from the brief treatment that we have developed, not all children do and we need to identify who the children are that do not benefit and what they need. We are also keen to establish the applicability of the approach with children that are at elevated risk of anxiety problems yet who have particularly unmet needs (e.g. children with autistic spectrum conditions, chronic physical health conditions, looked after children).
  4. The majority of treatment trials for anxiety disorders in children and young people have either not included teenagers, or have included relatively small numbers of teenagers. As such we know very little about how to treat adolescent anxiety disorders most effectively and efficiently. We are interested in identifying how key cognitive and environmental maintenance factors vary across development, in order to ultimately develop targeted, developmentally appropriate treatments with optimal outcomes across childhood and adolescence.

I am committed to increasing research capacity in clinical psychology and child and adolescent mental health, particularly through supporting training and development opportunities. I have supported a number of Clinical Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellows, am an NIHR Advocate for Practitioner Psychologists, and a registered mentor with the Academy of Medical Sciences. I am happy to talk to people who are keen to develop research in these areas and regularly circulate relevant information on Twitter. 

I also currently lead a UKRI  Research Network Plus called Emerging Minds: Action for Child Mental Health. Emerging Minds aims to transform the promotion of good mental health, and prevention and treatment of mental health problems in children and young people by developing an interdisciplinary and cross-sector research network, providing training opportunities for early career researchers, and facilitating the development of research projects to meet our aims.

Recent publications