Professor Ed Watkins
Professor of Experimental and Applied Clinical Psychology/Director of Research for Professional Doctorates


Research interests

  • Cognitive behavioural approaches to depression
  • Cognition and emotion
  • Onset, maintenance, recurrence, treatment and prevention of depression
  • Ruminative thinking, worry, autobiographical memory, emotional processing, problem solving, transdiagnostic processes, procrastination, being effective.
  • New approaches to trial design and methodology, e.g,, MOST, SMART designs

Research projects

1. IMPROVE Study
The Mood Disorders Centre, University of Exeter has just launched an innovative trial to investigate and improve internet-based psychotherapy for depression. The IMPROVE trial provides free and open access internet-delivered cognitive-behavioral therapy for people with major depression, supported by online guidance from a trained psychological wellbeing practitioner. The initial study is funded by a University of Exeter Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund Seedcorn grant to Professor Ed Watkins, a clinical psychologist who leads the Mood Disorders Centre.

2. "Reducing depressive rumination: the role of processing mode".
With support from the Wellcome Trust, a series of experimental studies are investigating whether the style that people adopt when thinking about problems or difficulties can influence whether they get better or worse. Rumination is a term used to refer to unhelpful dwelling on problems, mistakes and losses. In particular, the research is examining whether people can be trained in and out of unhelpful ruminative thinking.

3. Rumination-focused CBT for residual depression.
A randomised controlled trial of CBT for patients who have not fully recovered from depression despite adequate treatment with antidepressant medication is being funded by the National Alliance for Research into Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD).

4. Vulnerability to depression in adolescence.
Cognitive factors that may predict risk for depression are being examined in young people aged between 14-21.


The ADMIT-D consortium consists of researchers and mental health professionals from 14 institutions from six Europeans countries and the United States (VU University Amsterdam, University of Pennsylvania, Universität Tübingen, Universität Trier, Linkoping University, University of Exeter, University of Sheffield, University of York, Universitat Jaume I,  Szkola Wyzsza Psychologii Spolecznej, Ruhr Universität Bochum,  University of Oxford, London School of Economics, Radboud University Medical Centre Nijmegen). The ADMIT-D consortium seeks to promote the use of personalized medicine for depression by developing and implementing a novel treatment selection approach (the Personalized Advantage Index) in mental health systems that matches patients to evidence-based treatments they are predicted to benefit most from.

Research grants:

1. Wellcome Trust - Wellcome Project Grant - 065809 -“Reducing Persistent Depressive Rumination: The Role of Processing Style”. Value £144, 508. Grant started in May 2002 and ran until August 2006. Principal investigator (PI) on the grant. The Grant employed one full-time postdoctoral researcher. External Grant.

2. Psychiatry Research Trust – Project Grant: “Rumination-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Residual Depression – Investigating Mechanisms”. Value £40, 000 for two years from June 2003.
This grant employed one half-term research assistant for two years to investigate the mechanisms of change of cognitive behavioural therapy for residual depression. With Professor Jan Scott. Internal Grant at Institute of Psychiatry.

3. National Alliance Research into Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award: “Rumination-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Residual Depression”. Value $60,000 over two years starting in July 2003, shifted to start in May 2004, running to May 2006. This grant provided monies for a research assistant for two years in order to conduct a pilot randomised controlled trial of rumination-focused CBT. Principal investigator on grant with Professor Jan Scott as mentor. The grant also involves training in administering a randomised controlled trial. External Grant from a prestigious North American mental health charity.

4. Medical Research Council MRC Trial platform: “Preventing depression relapse in NHS practice using Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy”. Value £237,246. For two years from September 2005 to September 2007. Co-PI with Dr Willem Kuyken as PI.

5. Medical Research Council MRC Experimental Medicine Grant: “Cognitive training as a facilitated self-help intervention for depression”. Value £464,000 (full FEC costs £536,426). For 3 years from July 2006 to December 2009. Only 27 out of 199 applications for Experimental Medicine grants were funded – this project was the only psychological (non-medical) project funded. Principal investigator on grant.

6. ESRC CASE Collaborative PhD Studentship: “An investigation of the impact of a facilitated self-help intervention for patients with depression on psychosocial well-being and social functioning”. Funding for PhD studentship for 3 years from October 2006 to October 2009. Value £57900.

7. Wellcome Trust - Wellcome Project Grant 080099/Z/06/Z- “Reducing vulnerability to depression: dysregulation of processing style and depressive rumination.” Value £226, 349. Grant started in September 2006 and ran until August 2009. Principal investigator on the grant. The Grant employed one full-time postdoctoral researcher. External Grant.

8. Great Western Research Collaboration Funded PhD studentship grant: “Psychological Interventions in Palliative Care”. Jointly funded by Great Western Research and Hospiscare. Principal supervisor and applicant. Funding for PhD studentship for 3 years from January 2008 to January 2011. Value £55,000

9. Peninsula Collaborative Leadership in Applied Research Health Care (CLARHC) grant: collaborative partner in bid for £10 million funding from NIHR with £10 million matched funding to develop applied clinical research integrating with the NHS in the Southwest (Mood Disorders Centre a partner in the application).

10.  Wellcome Trust Capital Bid: “Improving Psychological Interventions for Mood Disorders: A Translational Research Approach.” (Grant no: 085965). Principal applicant and co-ordinating applicant for Mood Disorders Centre’s successful bid for developing a new Research Treatment Centre building and Biobehavioural and Virtual Reality Laboratory, £3.6 million.

11. ESRC Research Fellowship: ‘Rumination, goals and autobiographical memory’ (RES-063-27-0254)    Grant value: £168,148. PI – Dr Nicholas Moberly (Prof Watkins acting as Mentor on the grant). Period of award: September 2009- August 2011

12. HTA Grant [08/56/01] – Mindfulness-based CBT as a relapse prevention treatment. Grant value: £2.1 million. PI- Prof Willem Kuyken (Prof Watkins, Co-PI). Period of award: October 2009-September 2013

13. ZonMW (Dutch based funding organisation) – Preventing depression and anxiety disorders by targeting excessive worry and rumination in healthy adolescents. Grant value:  265,500 Euros. Period of award: November 2009 – November 2013. PI- Dr Thomas Ehring (University of Amsterdam) –Prof Watkins, co-PI.

14. Royal Society Travel Award – Determining Selective Information-Processing Biases in Positive and Negative Affect. Period of Award: April to July 2010. Value: £3472 to support sabbatical visit and associated project. PI – Watkins.
15. University of Western Australia Raine Visiting Professor Award – award of $10,000 AUD to support sabbatical collaboration at University of Western Australia

16. NIHR HTA for a Clinical Trials Grant titled “COBRA (Cost and Outcome of BehaviouRal Activation): a Randomised Controlled Trial of Behavioural Activation versus Cognitive Therapy for Depression”. £1.9 million, start date November 2011, for 4 years. PI Professor David Richards (Prof Watkins, Co-PI). This grant has been awarded –final contract details are being settled.

17. The Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence Grant in Mood Disorders Centre (named artist Daniel Jamieson) £12516 from October 2012 for 10 months. PI –Prof Watkins.

Research networks


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