Developing thinking around mental health science: the example of intrusive, emotional mental imagery after psychological trauma

Cogn Neuropsychiatry. 2020 Sep;25(5):348-363. doi: 10.1080/13546805.2020.1804845. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Introduction: One route to advancing psychological treatments is to harness mental health science, a multidisciplinary approach including individuals with lived experience and end users (e.g., Holmes, E. A., Craske, M. G., & Graybiel, A. M. (2014). Psychological treatments: A call for mental-health science. Nature, 511(7509), 287-289. doi:10.1038/511287a). While early days, we here illustrate a line of research explored by our group-intrusive imagery-based memories after trauma.

Method/results: We illustrate three possible approaches through which mental health science may stimulate thinking around psychological treatment innovation. First, focusing on single/specific target symptoms rather than full, multifaceted psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., intrusive trauma memories rather than all of posttraumatic stress disorder). Second, investigating mechanisms that can be modified in treatment (treatment mechanisms), rather than those which cannot (e.g., processes only linked to aetiology). Finally, exploring novel ways of delivering psychological treatment (peer-/self-administration), given the prevalence of mental health problems globally, and the corresponding need for effective interventions that can be delivered at scale and remotely for example at times of crisis (e.g., current COVID-19 pandemic).

Conclusions: These three approaches suggest options for potential innovative avenues through which mental health science may be harnessed to recouple basic and applied research and transform treatment development.

Keywords: Mental health science; global mental health; intrusive memories of trauma; psychological treatments; remote delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / psychology
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / trends*
  • Mental Health / trends*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / psychology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy*
  • Psychological Trauma / epidemiology
  • Psychological Trauma / psychology
  • Psychological Trauma / therapy*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Thinking / physiology