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J. Mark G. Williams

DPhil, DSc, FMedSci, FBA

Professor of Clinical Psychology

Note: Prof Williams has retired and will be taking on no new students for supervision.

My research focuses on psychological models and the treatment of depression and suicidal behaviour, particularly the application of experimental cognitive psychology to understanding the processes that increase risk of suicidal behaviour in depression.  The research is important because relapse and recurrence in major depression is a major problem for sufferers, their family and society, in both high income as well as low and middle income countries throughout the world.

With my colleagues John Teasdale (Cambridge) and Zindel Segal (Toronto) I co-developed Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for prevention of relapse in depression. Studies show that MBCT reduces the recurrence rate in those who have suffered three or more previous episodes of major depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. In Great Britain,
the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), working on behalf the National Health Service, has recommended MBCT as a primary treatment for prevention relapse in depression.

My current research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, focuses on whether a similar approach can help prevent suicidal ideation and behaviour during an episode of depression, particularly examining the way that autobiographical memory deficits may contribute to current and future
vulnerability.  We have found that over-general memory predicts the persistence of major depression, and that it determines how much impact short term mood disturbance has on reducing problem solving in those who have a history of suicidality. We have also conducted research, funded by the Lupina Foundation of Canada, showing that MBCT is effective for those with severe health anxiety (called ‘hypochondriasis’ in the US). Further research is also building on our finding that mindfulness can be a useful adjunctive approach for those with bipolar disorders.

My books include

The Psychological Treatment of Depression: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (Routledge, 1984, 1992),

Cognitive Psychology and Emotional Disorders (Wiley, 1988, 1997; with F. Watts, C. MacLeod & A. Mathews),

Cry of Pain: understanding suicide and self harm (Penguin, 1997, 2002) and with Z. Segal and J.D. Teasdale

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (Guilford, 2002, Second Edition Nov, 2012). 

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Guilford,
2007; co-authored with John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn) is
written for a lay-readership, and

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World (co-authored with Danny Penman) is written
for anyone who feels that mindfulness might be a way to get their life back
under control.