Prof Sonia Johnson

Prof Sonia Johnson

Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry

Epidemiology & Applied Clinical Research

Division of Psychiatry

Joined UCL
1st Apr 1997

Research summary

My main interests are in the clinical and social needs and the treatment outcomes of people with significant mental health problems such as psychosis and bipolar disorder. The areas in which I've worked most have been acute care and early psychosis. I have had a major role in several studies of crisis services, including evaluations of crisis resolution teams and of alternatives to standard inpatient care. My clinical work is as consultant psychiatrist in the Camden and Islington Early Intervention Service for psychosis.

Currently I am Director of the NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit (PRU) for England, which provides evidence to the Department of Health and Social Care and its arms length bodies to support policy. The PRU has recently completed a series of studies to support the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act. Current focuses for PRU work include acute care systems and the care needs of people with complex emotional difficulties who may have had a personality disorder diagnosis. I am also very interested in loneliness and social connections in mental health, and am leading the UKRI cross-disciplinary network on Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health and have been involved in several studies in this area. 

 I led the recently completed CORE study, an NIHR programme grant  aimed at optimising the care delivered by crisis resolution teams (www.core-study.ucl.ac.uk), and the CIRCLE trial funded by the NIHR HTA programme to investigate the effectiveness of a contingency management intervention for cannabis use in early psychosis (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/circle). I am also a co-applicant on several NIHR grants, including investigations of decision units in mental health, digital technology to support carers in psychosis, perinatal mental health care and cognitive remediation therapy in psychosis.

On twitter: @soniajohnson, @UCL-loneliness @UCL_crisiscare, @CircleStudyUCL, @AriesStudyUCL.@MentalHealthPRU 

Teaching summary

I really enjoy teaching and course development, and am particularly interested in training future academics in mental health. My main  educational role is as course director for two MScs in the Division of Psychiatry, the MSc in Mental Health Sciences Research, aimed at aspiring clinical academics and researchers in the field of mental health, and the MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences, providing a broad range of options for in-depth post-graduate study of mental health practice and its underlying evidence base. We welcomed our first students in October 2014. In 2016 I was awarded a Provost's Education Award for Leadership for my role in developing this course. I am also Director of Education in the Division of Psychiatry. 

Previously I was director for 10 years of the MSc in Psychiatric Research, a two year part-time masters that has aimed to provide a high quality training in research methods relevant to mental health research for trainee psychiatrists. This has now been replaced this by the broader MSc in Mental Health Sciences Research. 


To be updated
Doctorate, Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists |
London School of Economics and Political Science
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 1990
University of Oxford
Doctorate, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery | 1988
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1985


I trained in medicine at the Universities of Cambridge (pre-clinical) and Oxford (clinical). I also obtained a BA in Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge and an MSc in Social Psychology at LSE - my social sciences background has stood me in very good stead in developing my research career. 

I trained in psychiatry at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals and obtained my early research posts, including a post as Clinical Lecturer in Community Psychiatry, at the Institute of Psychiatry. In 1997 I moved to UCL as a senior lecturer, subsequently becoming a Reader (2007) and then Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry (2008).  My initial clinical consultant post was in the Drayton Community Mental Health Team. Since 2003 I have worked in the Camden and Islington Early Intervention Service, which I co-founded and have helped develop. My main focus in clinical work is now on people experiencing the early stages of bipolar disorder.