Behavioural Therapeutics Lab

Harnessing behavioural science to optimise the mental health of people and populations

A message from BTxLab Director

Professor Simon Gilbody DSc FMedSci

Welcome to the Behavioural Therapeutics Lab [BTxLab], based at the University of York, where we are part of the York Institute of Mental Health Research Over the past 20 years we have assembled some of the world's best scientists to establish ‘what works’ and ‘what is cost effective’ in tackling depression and anxiety.  

We are part of a global consortium of leading scientists interested in preventing as well as treating depression.  Our research informs evidence-based guidelines [such as those from the WHO and NICE].  

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about scalable behavioural solutions to optimise the mental health of people and populations.

The York Behavioural Therapeutics Lab

Our challenge

Depression and anxiety are among the leading causes of global disability.  Their cost to the UK economy is £300billion per year.  Despite this, very few people are able to access effective psychological care, and prevention is an afterthought.  

What we believe:

At BTxLab we believe that effective and efficient psychological treatments should be available to all.  We believe that solutions need to be scalable if we are to address the epidemic of mental ill health.  We use behavioural science to improve the lives of people and enhance the mental health of populations.  We believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  

What we do:

In the BTxLab we develop and evaluate effective and efficient behavioural approaches to treat and prevent problems such as depression and anxiety.  We work across the lifespan.  We work with children and young people, working age adults and older people. 

We also target problems that are strongly associated with depression and anxiety, such as loneliness.  We address mental ill health where it co-exists with long-term health problems [multimorbidity]. We used behavioural science to tackle loneliness during the global COVID pandemic and recovery.  

We also adapt our interventions to ensure they work for sections of the population who do not conventionally access psychological therapy.  We have a world-leading programme of research to support men’s mental health and the mental health of older people. 

Using behavioural approaches and world leading science we have, over 25 years, shown that this is an effective and scalable way to both treat and prevent depression and anxiety.

A bit about our science in the BTx Laboratory:

Behavioural science has been utilised for decades to design effective strategies for depression and anxiety.  The work of BTxLab is underpinned by robust psychological learning theory.  We translate behavioural treatments from the laboratory into the clinical settings in the UK and across the globe.  We do this by combining psychological science with clinical epidemiology, data science and health economics.  We do this by working across the translational arc and by collaborating across disciplines.  

The effectiveness of our BTxLab interventions is tested in rigorous scientific experiments in the form of randomised controlled trials and economic evaluations.  We also synthesise the evidence from our trials [and the trials of others] in meta-analyses.  Lastly, we also optimise the delivery of our behavioural technologies using advanced analytic approaches, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.  This helps us to target interventions to ensure psychological therapy is personalised and maximally effective.


Who funds our work? 

Our work is funded from the public purse and charitable sector.  Our main funder is the National Institute for Health Research.  Recently we have formed a partnership with the charity Movember, who support BTxLab to develop scalable and accessible treatment approaches to improve men’s health.  Our loneliness research programme is in partnership with AgeUK.  We have secured over £30M to support our work over the past 20 years. 

Find out more about our research programmes and the impact of our work

Behavioural interventions for depression

Depression is a leading cause of global disability.  Find out more about our evidence syntheses and how we have undertaken some of the largest clinical trials to enable us to treat depression at scale using behavioural approaches.

The World Health Organisation has declared loneliness as one of the major threats to population health.  Learn how we have harnessed behavioural approaches to tackle loneliness and to mitigate social isolation.

Depression is common among men, and is strongly associated with problems such as substance misuse, workplace absence, relationship breakdown and suicide.  Men are sometimes less inclined to engage with effective psychological interventions.  Read about how we have partnered with MOVEMBER to tackle the epidemic of mental ill health in men.

Depression often goes hand in hand with long term health problems, and leads to poorer outcomes and increased mortality.  Find out how we can utilise behavioural approaches to improve both physical and mental health.

It is said that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure', but there are few trials undertaken of preventative strategies.  In the NIHR CASPER trials we have demonstrated that behavioural approaches can prevent depression in at risk groups of older adults.

Depression is a leading cause of disability in low and middle income countries [LAMICs].  Access to care is limited and there is great potential for scalable solutions [often delivered by lay healthcare workers].  Read about how we have done this with partners in South Asia to address depression among people with diabetes.  

Self-help interventions are a feasible preventive approach, since they are scalable and low cost.  Find out how we have harnessed behavioural approaches to optimise the effectiveness of self help using regular telephone support

Contact us

Telephone: +44 1904 430000


Address: BTxLab, Department of Health Sciences, University of York YO10 5DD

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