Professor Colette Hirsch
Professor in Cognitive Clinical Psychology
- Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Having gained a thorough training in cognitive-experimental research on anxiety during her PhD in Cambridge, Professor Colette Hirsch focused on developing her cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) skills as part of her D.Clin.Psych. at King’s College London and CBT training at The Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, USA. Professor Hirsch worked as a clinical psychologist in local and national CBT services, before returning to KCL to focus on clinical anxiety research during her fellowship. She is now a Professor of Cognitive Clinical Psychology and Consultant Clinical Psychologist leading the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Service at the Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Professor Hirsch's clinical work is integral to her translational research, helping her develop models of emotional disorders and transdiagnostic processes, inspiring new clinical research ideas, which in turn lead to clinical innovation and translation.
Her research focuses on cognitive processes that maintain anxiety, depression and distress, both within clinical and sub-clinical populations, as well as at the interface between physical and mental health. She also conducts research to understand key mechanisms that maintain resilience. Her translational research has led to new interventions to prevent and treat emotional disorders and distress, via adaptations to face to face CBT, as well as via novel digital therapies. She is Deputy Lead for the Digital Therapies Theme at NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.
- Cognitive processes such as attentional control, attentional bias, verbal processing and imagery processes that maintain transdiagnostic processes in emotional disorders
- Interpretation bias and its transdiagnostic role in maintaining repetitive negative thinking
- Intervention development for Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) such as worry and rumination
- Cognitive processes and RNT that contribute to perinatal mental health
- Cognitive processes that maintain psychological distress in physical health conditions (e.g., MS; Parkinson’s; Cancer survivorship)
- Anxiety in Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Cognitive processes that promote resilience to long term stress (e.g., being an unpaid caregiver, teacher)
- Prediction of outcome for psychological interventions
- Digital therapeutics for anxiety, worry, and stress
Teaching and research supervision:
As a clinical psychologist with applied research expertise in Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Depression and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Professor Hirsch provides specialist teaching on anxiety across numerous courses ranging from undergraduate psychology to specialist cognitive behaviour therapy training course such as Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies. She aims to inspire future clinicians and researchers to understand mechanisms that maintain anxiety, and value the importance of research in the development of better treatments.
She also provides research Project Supervision across a number of course ranging from BSc in Psychology to Doctorate in Clinical Psychology as well as for PhD students. Projects offered focus on different populations, but all aim to further the fields understanding of mechanisms that maintain distress or promote resilience and enable new interventions to be developed. Her supervisory style aims to fosters an understanding of how to conduct high quality clinical research and use critical thinking in research design.
Expertise and Public Engagement:
Professor Hirsch has provided a clinical anxiety perspective for the arts. For example, working with theatre makers Hannah Ringham and Glen Neath portrayal of anxiety in ‘Die or Run’ and with Michelle McMahon upcoming play ‘Fear’. She was also an anxiety consultant on ‘Wake’, a new play by Alex Froom, and on a production of ‘Bellville’ at the Donmar Warehouse. She was on the Science Gallery London’s curatorial advisory group ‘On Edge: Living in the Age of Anxiety.
Through other public engagement events Professor Hirsch has spoken about how research helps us develop and refine psychological interventions (e.g., ‘Department for Culture, Media and Sport’ in Whitehall on World Mental Health Day, October 2018; ‘Cheltenham Science Festival’ June 2018; ‘The Age of Anxiety’ March 2016). She has also contributed to panel discussions on mental health. For example, at a ‘Sad Girls’ London event in January 2018 which was attended by girls and young women who suffer from anxiety and depression. She has disseminated her research on resilience in the aftermath of cancer via ‘Maggie’s’ 2021 and ‘Keeping Abreast’ 2020.