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Shift Focus

A study testing an online training designed for young people to help shift focus away from worry

The Shift Focus research study is led by Professor Colette Hirsch and launched in September 2021. The team is embedded within the Cognition in Emotional Disorders and Resilience (CEDAR) Group within the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.

Many of us, including young people, experience high levels of worry that they find hard to shift away from. Our previous research found that a single session training increased control of worry during a stop worry task in the short term. We are currently developing a new user-friendly mobile app to help manage worry and enable users to shift their mind away from worry when they want to.

Our study aims to determine whether the training leads to a greater ability to stop worry when it starts, to lower levels of overall worry. We are looking at this in young adults aged 16-25 years old. We will also assess the acceptability of the training and the feasibility of conducting a future large-scale trial.

Principal Investigator: Professor Colette Hirsch (Professor in Cognitive Clinical Psychology & Clinical Psychologist).

Co-Investigators: Jessica Steward (Research Assistant), Victoria Ferreira (Honorary Research Assistant), Hayley O’Sullivan (Trainee Clinical Psychologist).

Who are we looking for?

We are aiming to recruit 102 young adults aged 16-25 years old who find it difficult to stop worrying. The young adults will be randomised to complete the multi-session training on a mobile app or to the “life as usual” group.

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI)

We are lucky to work with young adults from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Digital Research Advisory Group based in Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and young people in CAMHS in South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The young people provide invaluable feedback and are working collaboratively with us to develop our new online sessions.


We worked with Dr Aika Hui to develop short accessible animations to explain psychological concepts in our online sessions. The audio and visuals for the animations have been informed by young people from CAMHS. Dr Hui’s work can be found here: TheOxfordPsych


The study has received ethics clearance from the College Research Ethics Committee at King’s College London (HR-19/20-14855).


The project is funded by MQ Mental Health Research.

Take part

Find out how to take part.