School of Psychology

Staff Profiles

Dr Stephen Barton

Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and Degree Programme Director CBT



Back in the mid 1980s I did undergraduate studies in Psychology at Glasgow University, and after a brief period at Edinburgh University returned to Glasgow to complete a PhD. At that time my main interest was cognitive science, specifically the cognitive processes involved in the interpretation of written language. I was (and remain) fascinated in inference; that is, our ability to elaborate on minimal linguistic information to construct coherent mental representations of texts. Put more plainly, as readers how do we know when to go beyond what is written, and what devices do writers use to signal and control our inferential activity?

This became a broader interest in constructivism, the cognitive and social processes that influence our active constructions of the external world, other people and our selves. I was drawn more and more towards clinical psychology and the study of abnormal psychological states, and I trained as a clinical psychologist at Leeds University in the mid 1990s, staying on their as lecturer until 2003.

Gradually my interests converged on cognitive and emotional aspects of depression, specifically the change processes as people recover from major depression. I'm convinced there is much more to be learned about the psychological processes that cause and maintain depressive episodes. Similarly I'm a staunch advocate that when psychological therapies are at their most effective, they are driven by an individualised formulation of the patient's problems strongly guided by models that are specific to the disorder in question.

Consequently in recent years I have trained and specialised in cognitive therapy which has a substantial evidence base in the treatment of mood disorders. It is an effective treatment, but that doesn't mean all patients experience complete recovery. Nor does it mean that all who recover stay well. Like all treatments for major depression, relapse and recurrence are commonplace.

My research programme aims to contribute to the further development of cognitive therapy for depression, by revising and refining the underlying models that guide CBT interventions, and by studying process of change (or non-change) within the therapy itself. Specifically, people's first episode of major depression has tended to be overlooked within the field of CBT (and in the British NHS too), and I'm currently conducting a number of studies that aim to tailor CBT treatment and relapse prevention for this specific population.


Research Interests

My primary research interest is cognitive therapy for depression, particularly cognitive-behavioural treatments for first-episode depression and it's associated relapse prevention. This work spans clinical psychology, cognitive therapy and cognitive science, and there are two linked foci: modelling cognitive processes within mood disorders (particularly self-representation) and understanding therapeutic processes within CBT (particularly mechanisms of cognitive change).

Most of the research is embedded in a basic-clinical shuttle between experimental and other controlled studies at the University, and clinical case studies conducted at the Newcastle CBT Centre (NHS). I am also involved in projects exploring the interaction of cognitive, biological and neuropsychological processes within various mood disorders. The over-arching aim is to contribute to the development of more effective and lasting treatments for major depression.


Postgraduate Teaching

I am one of the Research Tutors attached to the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. My main duties are supervising clinical research projects and contributing to teaching on research methods.