Complex Trauma and Resilience Research Unit (C-TRU)
A collaboration between The University of Manchester and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust to help the NHS better recognise, understand and support people who have experienced trauma.
Our ambition is to conduct high-quality and cutting-edge research to improve the recovery, resilience and wellbeing of people who have experienced trauma.
Trauma is a term used to describe several psychological and emotional responses to events that are very stressful, frightening or distressing. These life experiences can happen at any age and, amongst many others, include physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to war, and loss or separation from a loved one.
While everyone has a different reaction to trauma, in some people it can cause long-lasting difficulties.
Who we are
Established in 2018, we are a team of clinicians, researchers and people with lived experience of distressing life events and mental health difficulties.
We work with a wide range of NHS and voluntary sector services, commissioners and policy makers to design, deliver and maximise the impact of our research.
Meet the team
Filippo Varese (Director)
I am a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The University of Manchester and an Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist in Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH).
My research focuses on the impact of adverse life experiences on the risk of developing severe mental difficulties and the psychological mechanisms that might account for these associations.
My work also includes the development and evaluation of psychological interventions for severe mental health problems and trauma-related difficulties.
I am involved in projects funded by the NIHR looking at the feasibility and efficacy of trauma-focused therapies for people with psychosis and people who are at ultra-high risk for psychosis, the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and social care key workers, and other aspects related to trauma and complex trauma assessment and support in NHS settings.
Sandra Bucci (Co-Director)
I am an NIHR Research Professor and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester. I am also an Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist in GMMH.
My professorship focuses on developing digital care pathways and using digital remote monitoring and intervention methods to improve detection and treatment of severe mental health problems. I am involved in research projects funded by the NIHR (i-Minds), Wellcome Trust (AVATAR2 project) and Medical Research Council (Actissist).
I am also interested in understanding the psychological and social causes involved in the development and maintenance of psychotic experiences. Along with Professor Katherine Berry, I am Editor of the British Psychological Society journal Psychology and Psychotherapy, Theory, Research and Practice.
I conduct teaching on psychological interventions for psychosis and deliver training and supervision for NHS clinicians working in secondary care services.
Katherine Berry (Co-Director)
I am a Professor in Clinical Psychology at The University of Manchester. My research interests include the role of insecure attachment (a common consequence of adverse life experiences) in those with complex mental health difficulties.
I have carried out extensive research into the psychological and social causes of psychosis and have published a large body of work on attachment theory and therapeutic relationships.
This includes editing two books on attachment theory (Danquah, A. & Berry, K. 2013. Attachment theory and adult mental health: A clinical guide and Berry, K, Bucci, S., & Danquah, A. 2019. Attachment theory in psychosis. Current perspectives and future directions).
My research also focuses on the development, evaluation and delivery of psychological interventions to improve the wellbeing of people with psychosis and severe mental health needs.
Along with Professor Sandra Bucci, I am Editor of the British Psychological Society journal Psychology and Psychotherapy, Theory, Research and Practice.
Richard Brown (Co-Director)
I am a Clinical Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for the Clinical Psychology Doctorate at The University of Manchester.
I am also an Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist with GMMH, where I run the Functional Neurological Disorders (FuND) service, a specialist psychological assessment and treatment service offering evidence-based approaches for functional neurological symptoms.
I conduct teaching and research on the psychological causes and treatment of functional (‘medically unexplained’) symptoms, dissociation and chronic pain, which are common in individuals with complex trauma histories.
I have written numerous theoretical, empirical and clinical papers on these and associated topics. I have a particular interest in Psychodynamic Interpersonal Therapy (PIT) and am a founding member of the PIT Special Interest Group UK.
Eleanor Longden (Co-Director)
I am a lived experience researcher and mental health activist and an NIHR Postdoctoral Research Fellow. I currently work as a Service-User Research Manager at the Psychosis Research Unit in GMMH.
I draw on my own experiences of recovery from trauma and psychosis to promote person-centred approaches to complex mental health problems that emphasise the lived experience and expertise of individuals more fully. I have been commended for this work with a Deputy Prime Minister’s Mental Health Hero Award.
My research interests are the relationships between voice hearing, trauma, and dissociation. I have published and lectured internationally on these issues, including events for the World Health Organisation, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the American Psychological Association, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the British Psychological Society.
My TED talk on voice hearing was named by the Guardian newspaper as one of the ‘20 Online Talks That Could Change Your Life’ and has since been viewed over 4 million times and translated into 37 languages. I am the author of Learning from the Voices in my Head (TED Books, New York: 2013).
Kate Allsopp (Research Associate)
I am a post-doctoral researcher with C-TRU. I support the day-to-day running of the research unit, including the coordination of our lived experience advisory panel.
My research interests include non-diagnostic ways of understanding mental distress, trauma-informed care, and psychological interventions for trauma-related difficulties. As well as C-TRU, I have also been involved with research to evaluate the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub, which was set up to support children, young people and adults who were affected by the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.
The resilience hub model has now been adapted to provide psychosocial support to health and social care staff who have been affected by their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and several new resilience hubs are being set up across the country to provide similar support.
My current work includes management of the Resilience Hubs Evaluation project, and I am working with the Lancashire and South Cumbria Psychological Resilience Hub to support the setup and project manage its research and evaluation activities.
Kim Cartwright (Research Associate)
I am a post-doctoral researcher with C-TRU. I support the day-to-day running of the research unit, including the coordination of our Lived Experience Advisory Panel.
My research interests include the development, evaluation and delivery of psychological interventions to help improve the wellbeing of children and young people, and their families, in particular those affected by trauma.
Previously, I worked on developing and evaluating parenting support interventions aimed at reducing post-traumatic stress and emotional and behavioural difficulties in children affected by displacement and war. My current work focuses on managing the i-Minds project.
This project aims to develop and evaluate a digital intervention to improve the mental health of young people who have experienced online sexual abuse and help them stay safe on the internet.
Within this project, I am also the patient and public involvement lead which includes setting up and running the young person lived experience advisory panel with whom the intervention will be co-produced.
Alice Newton-Braithwaite (Research Assistant with Lived Experience)
I am a Research Assistant with Lived Experience with C-TRU. I assist with the day-to-day running of the research unit and the coordination of our Lived Experience Advisory Panel and other patient and public involvement activities relevant to the unit.
I also assist with the coordination of patient and public involvement activities for the i-Minds project.
Prior to this post, I worked within a substance use treatment facility. My time in that role as a complex case worker was both enlightening and inspiring. Through a combination of my life experiences, my own mental health difficulties and my working experience, I am passionate about getting voices heard and empowering people.
I want to ensure that those who have felt unheard in academic spaces are listened to and feel included. I have a particular interest in stigmatised behaviour and mental health difficulties, such as, personality disorders and self-harm.
Lewis Fry (Assistant Clinical Research Practitioner)
In my role as Assistant Clinical Research Practitioner I work across a number of studies within the CTRU.
I primarily aim to maximise recruitment of participants to the unit’s research projects by liaising with clinical teams and potential participants.
I previously worked as a support worker on a psychiatric intensive care unit and I am passionate about increasing the availability of trauma-informed psychological interventions in inpatient settings.
I am also particularly interested in the psychological mechanisms that mediate the association between adverse life experiences and psychosis.
What we do
We use a wide range of research methods to understand more about the kinds of difficulties that people who experience trauma face, what their needs are and how these could be met.
We use this information to develop new or adapt existing approaches to recognise and treat difficulties resulting from distressing life events, and make sure these approaches are acceptable, usable, safe and sustainable within NHS services.
Distressing and potentially traumatic life events are common among people who experience mental health difficulties. For this reason, a growing number of mental health services are aiming to become more ‘trauma-informed’.
This is an approach to care where health services are designed to better recognise, understand, and respond to the effects of distressing life events.
We want people who experience trauma and mental health difficulties to have better access to and choice over support that meets their needs in a way that is meaningful to them.
We use our research to help improve care planning and provision within NHS services so that people have greater choice over and access to the care they need to pursue their goals and maintain good long-term mental health.
Working with and learning from lived experience
Patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) is central to our work. We actively involve people with lived experience of distressing life events and mental health difficulties brought about by these experiences in our research.
- Eleanor Longden, a lived experience researcher, is a Co-Director of our Unit.
- Our activities are guided by consultations with a Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP), comprising people with personal experience of distressing life experiences and mental health difficulties and other PPIE groups we have set up for specific research projects.
- We recently welcomed our Lived Experience Research Assistant to the team to support the Unit in preparing research funding applications, delivering and publicising our projects and assisting with the day-to-day running of the Unit.
Lived experience in research is essential because it acts as a bridge between the academic world and the ‘real world’, provides opportunities for people to shared lived experiences with each other in a safe place, and empowers people with lived experience to influence decision-making in healthcare.
The following sections explain the role of our lived experience advisory panel in their own words.
Introducing the LEAP
We are a group of people with personal experience of distressing life events and mental health difficulties.
Our ultimate aim is to directly influence research aimed at helping to improve NHS services offered to people affected by distressing life experiences and mental health difficulties.
This is to ensure the needs of people experiencing these difficulties are adequately met and their wellbeing and recovery are enhanced. In addition to bringing the voices of lived experience to the day-to-day tasks required, our fundamental role is to work together with the researchers to ensure the Unit’s research is relevant, worthwhile, and rooted in the needs of the community.
We meet bi-monthly to offer essential feedback and advice from a lived experience perspective on research projects at an early stage (such as when the Unit is applying for funding for new projects) to end stage (when the results of research projects are publicised).
Through appropriate training, we are involved as co-applicants and/or researchers on research projects and in data analysis and interpretation of project findings to ensure our views have a genuine and continuing impact throughout the entire research process.
We also guide further lived experience engagement and priority setting activities to identify valued targets for future research conducted by the Unit.
What it means to be a LEAP member
We wanted to get involved and have remained involved because:
- We want to help research that can ultimately improve services and the wellbeing of people who use services.
- We believe in the research the Unit is conducting.
- What we say makes a difference and we can see changes made based on our feedback.
- The work gives us hope.
How the LEAP influences C-TRU’s research
We contribute significantly to a number of activities including:
- The preparation of research project funding applications to make projects more meaningful, valuable and of potential benefit to those they are intended for.
- The delivery of research projects, such as supporting the training of new research assistants, facilitating recruitment and meaningful engagement of research participants and helping C-TRU staff to resolve ethical and other sensitive issues.
- The development of guidelines for researchers on how they should sensitively ask research project participants about distressing life events as part of research project assessments and how they should respond to disclosures compassionately and safely.
- The promotion of PPIE in mental health services in the NHS by presenting at the research unit’s conferences.
- The recruitment of new staff to the research unit.
If you are interested in becoming a member of LEAP, please contact Alice Newton-Braithwaite.
Alice will arrange for you to meet with a member of C-TRU staff and a member of the LEAP to find out more and have any questions you might have answered. We are keen to hear from underrepresented groups.
Our LEAP roles, responsibilities and expectations document has been co-produced with the LEAP and researchers, outline the role and responsibilities of members and the practicalities and expectations of being involved.
Other ways to be involved
There may be times when we need to consult additional people with specific experience on particular issues and we would welcome your help and input.
If you are interested in becoming involved in this capacity, without becoming a member of the LEAP, please get in touch.
We have hosted two conferences with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Psychological Forum.
Implementing Trauma Informed Care in Our Mental Health Services – 21 February 2020
Presented a series of expert clinician and lived experience talks and discussion on how to implement and sustain trauma informed ways of working in mental health services.
- Download a PDF summary: Implementing Trauma Informed Care in Our Mental Health Services
Towards Trauma Informed Care – 30 July 2018
Launched our research unit and presented the latest research on how best to support people who have concerns about their mental health following distressing life events.
- Download a PDF summary: Towards Trauma Responsive Mental Health Care
If you would like to be added to our mailing list to find out about future events, please email CTRU@gmmh.nhs.uk
If you would like further information, please get in touch.