John R. Weisz, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology in the Harvard University Department of Psychology

John Weisz was born and reared in Mississippi and received a BA from Mississippi College, in his home town of Clinton. He later served with his wife Jenny in the U.S. Peace Corps, in Kenya, where both worked as teachers. Then Weisz studied at Yale, where he received a Ph.D. in clinical and developmental psychology. He held subsequent faculty positions at Cornell, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and then UCLA, where he built numerous partnerships with southern California community mental health clinics, focused on studying youth mental health care in the real-world contexts where that care is most often provided. Those partnerships produced 14 years of research on psychotherapy process and outcome in everyday clinical practice, and multiple randomized trials of cognitive behavioral therapy for youth depression and anxiety. Efforts to build research partnerships broadened with a move to Massachusetts in 2004, where Weisz served for eight years as President and CEO of the Judge Baker Children’s Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. The research begun in Los Angeles expanded, encompassing a network of community mental health clinics and schools in the greater Boston area, and then other parts of New England. Weisz’s position at Judge Baker was blended with academic appointments, and he now works full-time as a Professor in the Harvard Psychology Department, expanding his body of research on strategies for improving youth mental health care.

John Weisz’s research involves development and testing of interventions for youth mental health problems, as well as meta-analyses and systematic reviews characterizing and critiquing the science of youth mental health care. His most recent work involves development and testing of transdiagnostic approaches to youth psychotherapy, including treatment that uses modular design and treatment guided by a small number of broad principles of psychological change. He is especially interested in integrating evidence-based practices with strategies for personalizing treatment to fit individual youth and family characteristics. Weisz’s meta-analyses provide a broad picture of the state of youth psychotherapy research and address specific questions about moderators of psychotherapy benefit. His books include Psychotherapy for children and adolescents: Evidence-based treatments and case examples (Cambridge University Press) and Evidence-based psychotherapies for children and adolescents (Co-edited with Alan Kazdin; Guilford Press).

“Some 20% of children and adolescents suffer from disabling mental health disorders at any one time, and nearly half of all lifetime disorders emerge by age 14. By age 16, at least one in three youths will have experienced a disorder, with often-serious impact on family life, peer connections, school functioning, and longer-term relationship and employment outcomes. A report in the journal The Lancet ranked neuropsychiatric disorders as the most prominent cause of the global burden of disease in young people, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated U.S. costs at $247 billion per year. Effective interventions for young people are clearly needed. The innovative work of AIM for Mental Health is leading the way toward such interventions, empowering clinical research teams to advance our understanding of what children and adolescents need in order to realize their full potential.”

John R. Weisz, Ph.D.