Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Willem Kuyken

PhD, DClinPsy

Sir John Ritblat Family Foundation Professor of Mindfulness and Psychological Science

  • Principal Investigator, University of Oxford Mindfulness Research Centre
  • Director, University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre

A world without the devastating effects of depression, where people enjoy mental health and well-being across the lifespan and are resourced to meet the challenges of the next 50 years.

My 2019 book with Christina Feldman

There has been an explosion of interest in mindfulness and its applications in the last twenty years. This book provides a much-needed map and route plan for anyone learning mindfulness and is an invaluable tool for those teaching or training to teach mindfulness. It brings together psychological science and early Buddhist teachings to help us better understand the nature of distress so that we can bring suffering to an end. More than this, it considers how people can flourish in the midst of the challenges of the contemporary world. When ancient and modern ideas of mindfulness come together they are no longer a set of ideas or practices but an illumination that guides us to be more present in our lives, with ourselves and with others, with clarity, kindness and ease. Order direct from the publisher, Guilford Press (print and e-book), or at your favourite online bookseller, including Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, and Google Play Books.


Research focus

Over more than 25 years my work has focused on depression and evidence-based psychological approaches to depression. In particular, my research examines how mindfulness and mindfulness-based programs can prevent depression and enhance human potential across the lifespan. Several studies have arisen out of this work that suggest Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy as an alternative to maintenance antidepressants (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2008; Lancet, 2015; JAMA Psychiatry, 2016), as well as a universal approach to preventing depression in adolescence (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2013). I am also interested in the interface of ancient wisdom traditions and contemporary science. I co-authored Compassion in the Landscape of Suffering, with Christina Feldman. Our book Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology is published by Guilford Press. It was described by Jon Kabat-Zinn as "a tour de force ... that elaborates in exquisite detail yet with utter accessibility and clarity what mindfulness is, where it comes from, its profound ethical foundation, its clinical applications, its growing evidence base, and its potential for healing."

Another research focus is cognitive-behavioural therapy, with a particular emphasis on collaborative case conceptualization, the crucible where “science and art/practice” come together. My work explores how therapists develop and share conceptualizations to enhance the effectiveness of therapy. I co-authored Collaborative Case Conceptualization: Working Effectively with Clients in Cognitive-behavioral Therapy, with Christine Padesky and Rob Dudley (2009). This book was described by Aaron T. Beck as “setting a gold standard for how to develop individualized case conceptualizations with our clients.”

My work is moving towards exploring public health approaches to preventing depression and promoting mental health and well-being. Can we develop psychological approaches that are accessible, effective, scaleable and implementable? The focus is not only on individuals' resilience, but also on how resilience can be at the level of homes, schools, work places and indeed the wider community. This includes two books commissioned by Guilford Press that I hope will be published in 2023 and 2024. 

I have supervised and mentored more than 60 graduate students, many of whom have gone on to productive careers in research, teaching and the health service. My research has been supported by the National Institute for Health Research, Wellcome Trust, Economic and Social Research Council, NHS, Oxford Mindfulness Foundation, the Sir John Ritblat Family Foundation, Medical Research Council and British Academy.


Public engagement

Science is not only about developing new knowledge but also about using that knowledge in ways that are beneficial; taking responsibility for communicating science in balanced and effective ways. I regularly give keynotes and workshops on MBCT and compassion for a range of organisations. These have included national associations (e.g., Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United States), public and third sector organisations (UK National Health Service, schools), as well as policy and governmental groups (e.g. Cumberland Lodge, UK All Party Parliamentary Groups).  My work has been covered in numerous media outlets including New Scientist, Nature, Scientific AmericanTimes Educational SupplementCBS, MaccleansNew Statesman, Le Monde, der Zeit,  the Telegraph, the Guardian, the BBC and many others. I have authored blogs for the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, NIHR Dissemination Centre and the Huffington Post. I am privileged to work with a range of groups who are skilled in public engagement, including the National Mental Elf, Present Moment podcasts,  Voices from Oxford, Catalyst  It Gets Brighter and science programmes such as Trust Me I'm a Doctor. 


Relevant websites

Google Scholar publications 


Brief biography

I am a research clinical psychologist. I earned my PhD from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, and my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Salomon's Clinical Psychology Training Programme. I learned cognitive-behavioural therapy over two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Cognitive Therapy, University of Pennsylvania / Beck Institute, working with Aaron T. Beck. Since the mid-1990s, my training in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has included: participation in MBCT/MBSR workshops and retreats; supervision with John Teasdale, Trish Bartley and others; and support of my mindfulness practice in the insight/vipassana tradition from Christina Feldman and Catherine McGee. 

From 1999 to 2014, I worked at the University of Exeter, where I held a number of roles including heading up the doctoral clinical psychology training programme (2001-2004) and leading the clinical research group (2001-2010). During my time in Exeter, I co-founded the Mood Disorders Centre, directing it through its formative years (2004-2012) and co-founded (with Alison Evans) the Masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapies (2008). Since 2014 I have directed the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. I was awarded the May Davidson award for clinical psychologists who "have made an outstanding contribution to the development of clinical psychology within the first ten years of their work as a qualified clinical psychologist." I was "grand-fathereded" as a Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy.

You can read a profile here.  


Declaration of Interest Statement

I am the Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, a collaboration between the University of Oxford and not-for-profit charity, the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation. I was until 2015 an unpaid Director of the Mindfulness Network Community Interest Company. I receive royalties for several books on mindfulness and CBT published by Guilford Press. Since arriving in Oxford (2014) I have either donated any payments for training workshops and presentations to not-for-profit organisations aligned to my work or used them to fund my research work.I have advised and consulted various groups on an unpaid basis (evidence to the UK Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group).

My research has been funded by NIHR, Wellcome, MRC, ESRC, British Academy and the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation. 

The Ritblat Professor of Mindfulness and Psychological Science is a Chair endowed by the University of Oxford and the Sir John Ritblat Family Foundation.

Recent publications

More publications

My 1999 book with Christine Padesky and Rob Dudley

Presenting an innovative framework for tailoring cognitive-behavioral interventions to each client's needs, this accessible book is packed with practical pointers and sample dialogues. Step by step, the authors show how to collaborate with clients to develop and test conceptualizations that illuminate personal strengths as well as problems, and that deepen in explanatory power as treatment progresses. An extended case illustration demonstrates the three-stage conceptualization process over the entire course of therapy with a multiproblem client. The approach emphasizes building resilience and coping while decreasing psychological distress. Special features include self-assessment checklists and learning exercises to help therapists build their conceptualization skills. Order direct from the publisher, Guilford Press (print and e-book), or at your favorite online bookseller, including Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, and Google Play Books