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)
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 the Wellcome 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 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.
Eleanor Longden (Co-Director)
I am a lived experience researcher, NIHR Postdoctoral Fellow, and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, currently working as Service-User Research Manager at the Psychosis Research Unit in Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (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. My current research agenda focuses on the role of trauma-related mechanisms in symptoms of psychosis, with particular emphasis on improving the efficacy and accessibility of evidence-based psychosocial interventions for supporting distressed voice-hearers. Along with Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland, I am the co-author of Relating to Voices using Compassion Focused Therapy: A Self-Help Companion.
Kate Allsopp (Research Fellow)
I am a Research Fellow within C-TRU, and I support the day-to-day running of the unit, including contributing to coordination of our Lived Experience Advisory Panel. My research interests include non-diagnostic ways of understanding mental distress, trauma-informed care, psychological interventions for trauma-related difficulties, and supporting the psychological wellbeing of health and social care staff.
I was project manager and qualitative researcher for the recently completed Resilience Hubs Evaluation, an NIHR-funded study led by Filippo Varese. The study evaluated Resilience Hub services providing psychosocial support to health and social care staff who had been affected by their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently working to share our study findings with the wider health and social care system to inform ways of better supporting staff.
I also work on secondment with the Lancashire and South Cumbria Resilience Hub, leading research and evaluation activities within the service, and using our findings to contribute to service development.
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, and at C-TRU I worked as a member of the i-Minds project team (an intervention for young people who have experienced online sexual abuse).
Amanda Larkin (Research Associate)
I am a research clinical psychologist. I support the day to day running of specific projects, as well as providing clinical support.
I currently work on i-Minds, an NIHR funded feasibility clinical trial of an app based intervention to support young people who have had distressing sexual experiences online; and RESTART, a project looking at the feasibility and acceptability of trauma focussed interventions for people at high risk of developing psychosis.
My previous clinical work focussed on working on delivering new therapies for people experiencing psychosis, or at risk of developing psychosis or bipolar disorder as part of clinical trials. I have also worked in hospital-based settings with people experiencing complex and enduring mental health difficulties.
Claire Hilton (Research Associate)
I am a post-doctoral Research Associate at C-TRU. I am currently assisting with the planning and writing of a NIHR Grant application for a randomised controlled trial looking at EMDR for psychosis and trauma. I also support the day to day running of the research centre.
My research interests relate to psychosis and the effect this has not only on the person experiencing symptoms but also their family members who often become informal carers for their loved ones. I have an interest in the recovery approach which relates to how service users and their families can find meaning, hope and purpose despite the continued presence of symptoms. My PhD focused on the development of a new outcome measure to assess personal recovery, adaptation and resilience in carers of those with psychosis and schizophrenia. My other research interests include child and adolescent mental health, and perinatal psychosis.
I have also worked as both a qualitative and quantitative researcher on several mental health research studies looking at the efficacy of psychological interventions for those with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, psychosis and trauma, and their carers. I have also taught on several undergraduate courses at Lancaster University, including the Psychology BSc, and Biomedical Science BSc.
Elliot Brewer (Research Intern)
I am a University of Manchester BSc Psychology student working at C-TRU as a Research Intern. This is my first post in mental health, and an important step towards my goal of becoming a qualified Clinical Psychologist.
During my time so far at C-TRU, I have assisted with the dissemination of findings for the Resilience Hub project and provided administrative support to the STAR trial. In the coming months I will continue to provide support to various projects and assist with day-to-day activities at the research unit.
Alice Newton (Research Assistant with Lived Experience)
I am a Research Assistant with Lived Experience at 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 on i-Minds, the RESTART project and the STAR trial, with a range of things including, patient and public involvement, data collection and data analysis.
Through a combination of my life experiences, my own mental health difficulties and my working experience, I have become extremely passionate about getting voices heard. I want to ensure that those who have felt unheard in academic spaces are listened to and feel included.
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.
- Our unit includes several ‘researchers with lived experience’ who enrich the work and research we are conducting not only with their professional skills, but personal insights into trauma and mental health
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.
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.
Events and News
Our unit director Filippo Varese has won the May Davidson Award - September 2022
The May Davidson Award is given by the British Psychological Society for clinical psychologists who have made an outstanding contribution to the development of clinical psychology within the first 10 years of their work as a qualified clinical psychologist. The award is given in honour of the late May Davidson.
You can read more about this here:
The Sexual Violence Priority Setting Partnership has identified the 10 priority areas for sexual violence/abuse research
In June 2022, we completed the Sexual Violence Priority Setting Partnership in collaboration with the James Lind Alliance and St Mary’s SARC. Researchers, professionals and survivors linked to the project organised a national webinar to disseminate the ‘top 10 priorities’ in this neglected area of research and clinical work, which can be accessed in the project page on the James Lind Alliance website
'EMDR for Psychosis Conference' - 13 July 2022
In July 2022, in collaboration with Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and colleagues at the Lancashire Traumatic Stress Service, we organised a conference in Manchester to disseminate the findings of the recently completed EASE trial, the first clinical trial of EMDR in trauma survivors with early psychosis.
'Implementing Trauma Informed Care' - 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
We 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.