Allison Harvey
3321 Tolman Hall
Ph.D., University of New South Wales, Australia
Research Areas: 
Secondary Research Area: 
Research Interests: 

Adult and child psychopathology, particularly sleep disorders, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. Comorbidity. Transdiagnostic approaches. Treatment development. Behavior change. Cognitive behavior therapy.  Interactions between cognitive, emotional and biological processes. 

  • whatshotResearch Description

    We are interested in transdiagnostic approaches to treatment development, behavior change, sleep and comorbidity across adolescence and into adulthood. 

    1. Treatment Development and Behavior Change

    Although evidence-based treatments for most mental illnesses have been developed, there is substantial room for improvement. The effect sizes of most available treatments are small to moderate, gains may not persist, and there are too many patients who derive little or no benefit. Even under optimal conditions, treatment failure is alarmingly common.

    Traditionally the development of psychological treatments has involved consensus between groups of skilled clinician researchers and many medication treatments have been discovered by serendipity. Hence, there have been calls for 'increased attention to science' as the treatments (Aronson, 2005; Insel, 2009; Salkovskis, 2002).

    We have a 15-year track record in treatment development research. We are currently running NIH-funded treatment research: for teens with depression and insomnia; teens with an anxiety disorder and a sleep problem; teens who are owls (go to bed late and wake late); adults with bipolar disorder and sleep disturbance; adults with severe mental illness and adults with chronic insomnia. Our collaborators include Dan Buysse (Pittsburgh), Greg Clarke (Kaiser, Oregon), Terence Ketter (Stanford), Descartes Li (UCSF), Rachel Loewy (UCSF), Charles Morin (University Laval, Quebec), Tom Neylan (UCSF) and Emily Ozer (UC Berkeley).

    Our approach to treatment development is to use a multi-systems and mechanisms-focused framework in which (a) cognitive, affective, biological, behavioral and developmental contributors are emphasized as the source for deriving novel interventions and (b) intervention research is used to develop hypotheses about and/or confirm mechanisms.

    Most of the treatments we have/are developed/ing focus on teaching skills relating to sleep, diet, excercise and emotion regulation. As such, we have a deep interest in the growing science of behavior change.

    2. Sleep and Comorbidity

    Another focus is the ever fascinating topic of SLEEP. Humans spend one-third of their lives sleeping. Yet there are still so many puzzles that remain to be solved about why humans sleep. It is a very exciting time to be studying sleep because it is a relatively young science; much has been learned but much remains to be discovered. The aims of our current research program are briefly described below.

    Chronic Insomnia

    a) We are interested in uncovering the processes that contribute to the cause and/or maintenance of chronic insomnia. In particular we are interested in the interaction between cognitive processes (e.g., worry/ rumination, attention, memory, reasoning), emotional processes (measured by psychophysiology, FACS coding, subjective ratings) and biological processes (measured by EEG, DLMO, and analysis of DNA).

    b) We have completed an NIMH-funded randomized controlled trial comparing three psychological treatments for chronic insomnia. This is a two-site study conducted in collaboration with Dr. Charles Morin at the University of Laval.

    c) Most prior research on insomnia has focused on nighttime factors. We are pursuing the hypothesis that insomnia is a 24-hour disorder and that the daytime processes are just as important as the nighttime processes.

    d) We collaborate with Matthew Walker's lab on studies that include detailed analyses of the sleep EEG of insomnia patients as well as the impact of insomnia on daytime processing of emotions.

    To read more take a look at:

    Harvey, A.G., Bélanger, L., Talbot, L., Eidelman, P., Beaulieu-Bonneau, S., Fortier-Brochu, E., Ivers, H., Lamy, M., Soehner, A., Hein, K., Mérette, C., & Morin, C.M. (2014).Comparative Efficacy of Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82, 670-683. NIHMSID: NIHMS582488.

    Sleep disturbance across other psychiatric disorders: A transdiagnostic approach

    Our team was an early contributor to discussions on transdiagnostic approaches (Harvey et al., 2004). A transdiagnostic process is defined as a process that is in common across more than one mental illness. Also, we have highlighted sleep and circadian dysfunction as a biologically and theoretically plausible transdiagnostic contributor to severe mental illness and proposed a transdiagnostic treatment for sleep and circadian disturbance. The latter is currently being empirically evaluated in two new studies. The rationale is that prior treatment studies have been disorder-focused—they have treated a specific sleep problem (e.g., insomnia) in a specific diagnostic group (e.g., depression). However, real life sleep and circadian problems are not so neatly categorized, particularly in severe mental illness where features of insomnia overlap with hypersomnia, delayed sleep phase and irregular sleep-wake schedules. One hypothesis we are testing is whether the Transdiagnostic Intervention for Sleep and Circadian Dysfunction (TranS-C) will improve functional impairment, disorder-focused symptoms and sleep and circadian functioning. We will recruit participants across DSM diagnoses and across common sleep and circadian problems. Given the data that the elements of TranS-C are efficacious across diagnoses in research settings with research-based providers, the next step is to test TranS-C in community settings with community-based providers. Accordingly, we are conducting an ‘efficacy in the real world’ RCT within Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services (ACBHCS). In Behavior Research and Therapy we have published our motivation for conducting this research in community settings, including the 15-20 year gap between treatment development and dissemination (Harvey & Gumport, 2015). 

    To read more take a look at:

    Harvey, A.G., Watkins, E., Mansell, W. & Shafran, R. (2004). Cognitive Behavioural Processes across Psychological Disorders: A Transdiagnostic Approach to Research and Treatment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Harvey, A.G. (2008). Insomnia, Psychiatric Disorders, and the Transdiagnostic Perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 299-303.

    Harvey, A. G. (in press). A Transdiagnostic Intervention for Youth Sleep and Circadian Problems. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice.

    Harvey, A.G. & Gumport, N.B. (2015). Evidence-based psychological treatments for mental disorders: Modifiable barriers to access and possible solutions. Behavior Research and Therapy, 68, 1-15.

    3. Memory Support

    This line of research arises from a long-term interest in memory and cognitive science. The specific idea was triggered by our clinical observation that patient memory for treatment can be poor. We were concerned that poor memory for treatment may contribute to poorer outcome. Consistent with these observations, we empirically established that memory for treatment is poor and that better recall for treatment is associated with better outcome. We also developed an intervention designed to improve memory for treatment. Distilled from the cognitive science and education literatures and based on carefully honed criteria, the Memory Support Intervention is comprised of eight powerful memory promoting strategies. Although this new intervention—the Memory Support Intervention—has potential to be added to a broad range of treatment types, such as psychosocial treatments and physician visits for medication management (‘pantreatment’) for a broad range of mental and physical disorders (‘transdiagnostic’), we focus on major depressive disorder (MDD) and cognitive therapy (CT) to create a ‘platform’ for the next step in investigating this approach.

    To read more take a look at:

    Lee, J.Y. & Harvey, A.G. (2015) Memory for Therapy in Bipolar Disorder and Comorbid Insomnia. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83, 92-102. PMCID: PMC4323885.

    Harvey, A.G., Lee, J., Williams, J., Hollon, S., Walker, M.P., Thompson, M. & Smith, R. (2014). Improving Outcome of Psychosocial Treatments by Enhancing Memory and Learning. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 9, 161-179. PMCID: PMC4276345.

    Lee, J., Worrell, F., & Harvey, A.G. (in press). The Development and Validation of the Memory Support Rating Scale (MSRS). Psychological Assessment. NIHMSID: NIMHS715228.

    Gumport, N. B., Williams, J. J., & Harvey, A. G. (2015). Learning Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 48, 164-169. PMCID: PMC4426215.

    4. Sleep in Adolescence

    We completed a comparison of two treatments for sleep problems in depressed youth (n = 48). Half of the sample was collected by our team here at UC Berkeley. The other half was collected at Kaiser, Oregon by Dr. Greg Clarke’s team. The rationale for the study was that psychological and pharmacological treatments for youth depression yield response and remission rates that are modest at best. Improving these outcomes was our primary goal. Toward that end, we developed and tested a youth cognitive behavioral insomnia intervention (CBT), to be employed as an adjunct to depression-focused treatments. Our rationale for this seemingly indirect route to improving youth depression treatment outcomes is based on epidemiology findings regarding the risk of depression imparted by primary insomnia and an initial adult depression randomized controlled trial (RCT) suggesting that joint treatment of insomnia along with more traditional depression-focused treatments may yield significantly better depression outcomes—with the added benefit of improved sleep. However, progress in this line of research has been impeded by the lack of a well-tested, developmentally-appropriate treatment for sleep disordered youth who are also depressed. Therefore, we employed an iterative drafting and revision process, utilizing basic science findings, to develop a youth CBT insomnia intervention. We then conducted a pilot feasibility RCT of the final youth insomnia CBT intervention with depressed youth who also meet criteria for insomnia. Consistent with the hypothesis, the results indicated that treating both sleep and depression in an inter-woven fashion (addressing both in each session) improved sleep and reduced depression, relative to a sleep hygiene control. The paper reporting these results is published in Behavior Research and Therapy.

    Two other studies were seeded by the Teen Depression Study. First, insomnia is only one of the types of sleep disturbances experienced by depressed youth. Also, depression is only one type of health problem experienced during the adolescent years. Accordingly funded by NICHD, we developed a treatment that is ‘transdiagnostic’ in that it targets the broader range of sleep disturbance experienced by teens and it is designed to help a broader range of teens who experience sleep disturbances (not just depressed teens). Second, NIDA funded R34 Co-PIed with Dr. Emily Ozer is exploring whether it is possible to reach more youth in school/classroom settings. This study addresses our frustration that one-to-one 50 minute treatment sessions is unlikely to be cost effective nor scaleable. Classrooms and a primary prevention strategy may make a larger public health impact.

    To read more take a look at:

    Harvey, A. G. (in press). A Transdiagnostic Intervention for Youth Sleep and Circadian Problems. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice.

    Clarke, G., McGlinchey, E., Hein, K., Gullion, C., Dickerson, J., Leo, M.C., & Harvey, A.G. (2015). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Insomnia and Depression in Adolescents: A Pilot Randomized Trial. Behavior Research and Therapy, 69, 111-118.

    About the PI:

    Allison Harvey is a Professor of Clinical Psychology, Clinical Psychologist (License #PSY 22682) and Director of the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley. Her clinical training and PhD were completed in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Harvey then moved to the University of Oxford as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and then became a faculty member in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford. She was also a Fellow of St. Anne’s College. In 2004, she moved to UC Berkeley.

    Dr. Harvey's research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIMH, NICHD, and NIDA). The studies currently in progress are focused on sleep disturbance in teens, in adults with severe mental illness, and in adults with depression. Dr. Harvey serves on national and international committees, such as the Executive Committee of the Academy of Psychological Clincal Science. Dr. Harvey has published over 150 research articles and book chapters and has authored two books. Her research has been acknowledged with various awards, including recognition from the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (1998), The American Association for Behavior Therapy (2003), the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research (2005-2006), and NARSAD (2006-2008). Dr. Harvey received an honorary doctorate from the University of Orebro, Sweden (2011).

  • placeSelected Publications

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