Thomas Berger, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Bern, is a pioneer in the design, testing and rollout of digital therapeutic interventions (via apps and websites) to prevent and treat mental health issues and disorders. As a world-renowned expert in the area of psychotherapy research, he has explored and empirically confirmed the effectiveness of online treatment methods compared to purely conventional forms of psychotherapy.
‘I am incredibly honoured to receive the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize. This is a tremendous endorsement of the work and research undertaken with the support of my amazing research team and cooperation partners. At the same time, it is acknowledgement of our joint efforts to make effective psychological interventions accessible to a large number of people,’ states Berger enthusiastically.
Among other things, the web-based self-help programmes developed by Berger can be used to treat depression and anxiety, the two most common mental disorders in Switzerland. Other online tools offer help with sleep disorders or with psychological distress after illnesses and separations. Berger has also successfully developed ‘blended treatments’, which combine online treatments with live therapy sessions.
Readily available digital services can greatly improve access to treatment for certain groups of patients, such as those who are absolutely unable or unwilling to see a therapist. Since the start of government measures to tackle the coronavirus situation, however, Internet-based forms of therapy have also become crucial for society as a whole. And demand is on the rise. Thomas Berger and his team are currently working on projects to further improve the effectiveness of self-help and blended approaches to treat depression and anxiety disorders. They are also working with cooperation partners to develop an app for suicide prevention as well as online interventions for vulnerable groups in society, such as refugees, who are particularly difficult to reach through conventional services.
Thomas Berger (1971) grew up in Konolfingen and studied psychology at the University of Bern. He earned his PhD at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau and also worked as a psychotherapist, including at the Kilchberg Psychiatric Clinic. After working as a senior research assistant at both the University of Geneva and the University of Bern, he was selected for an SNSF scholarship to conduct research at Linköping University in Sweden. He then returned to the University of Bern to complete his PhD under an SNSF Ambizione grant. In 2013, he was employed by the University of Bern to teach and conduct research as part of an SNSF-funded professorship. In 2018, he was given full tenure at the University of Bern’s Institute of Psychology and appointed as head of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. Thomas Berger has been involved in two major European research programmes and has received several awards for his research, including the Outstanding Early Research Award from the Society for Psychotherapy Research.
The joint award ceremony for both the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize and the Latsis Swiss Science Prize will take place at Bern City Hall on 4 November.