Our researchers tell us all about COMPASS, and how you can join

03 February 2021

After a challenging year, we are aware that some people living with Crohn’s or Colitis, now more than ever, are experiencing low mood or anxiety.

We are therefore very excited and committed to be supporting researchers with the COMPASS project. COMPASS is an online talking therapy programme for people with long-term conditions which they believe could be a game-changer for people with Crohn’s and Colitis looking to improve their mental health.

Meet the team

Professor Rona Moss-Morris Dr Katrin Hulme

Programme Development
Lead and Principal Investigator

Therapy and Programme
Development Lead
Natasha Seaton Federica Picareillo
Trial Co-ordinator and
Qualitative Analysis Lead
Chief Investigator and
Statistical Analysis Lead


Testing drugs is not the only way to get involved in research. Professor Rona Moss-Morris and her team from King’s College London tell us about a new trial investigating the benefits of COMPASS.

What problem is the research hoping to solve?

Professor Rona Moss-Morris: You may have heard of CBT, short for cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s a type of talking therapy commonly used to help people who have anxiety or low mood feel better. CBT explores thoughts, feelings and behaviours which may make low mood and/or anxiety worse. It uses this knowledge to develop new personalised ways of managing low mood and/or anxiety. Unlike standard CBT, COMPASS is tailored to people with long-term conditions (LTCs). It puts the condition at the centre of trying to understand why you may feel anxious and low, as well as focusing on aspects of managing a LTC, like taking medications or living with uncertainty.

Currently, if you have Crohn’s or Colitis or another long-term physical health condition, it’s very hard to access CBT that considers the specific challenges of living with that condition. People often find they’re ‘ping ponged’ between different services. Your hospital may not ask about your mental health, and the CBT provider may not have any experience with Crohn’s or Colitis. We want COMPASS to fill that gap. Our vision is that if COMPASS reduces low mood and anxiety, you won’t have to go to a GP or consultant for mental health support. Instead, you can get signposted to COMPASS directly through charities like Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

So, what is COMPASS?

Professor Rona Moss-Morris: COMPASS is an online programme made up of 11 online modules. There are interactive tasks, stories from people sharing their own experiences, information pages with practical advice, all sorts. And every couple of weeks you get a call from a therapist trained in applying CBT to Crohn’s and Colitis, so you can talk through anything that’s come up during the programme. Your therapist can also see your progress through COMPASS and you can both communicate using in-programme messaging. 

COMPASS helps people explore the power of their thoughts. Lots of evidence shows that our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and even physical symptoms all interact. If we can better recognise this interaction, we’re more likely to put strategies in place to help us manage difficult thoughts and emotions. This can be immensely beneficial in the long run, particularly when going through stressful times, such as during a flare up.

Tell us a bit about the project so far?

Professor Rona Moss-Morris: I am also working on a similar project - IBD BOOST, which we worked on in partnership with Crohn’s & Colitis UK. For BOOST we developed a web-based CBT programme to manage key symptoms of Crohn’s and Colitis and improve quality of life. But with COMPASS, we are incorporating multiple long-term conditions into one place, whilst still ensuring that there is information for specific disease areas, such as Crohn’s and Colitis. This way we will have something that is easier to put into practice in the future.

Ensuring that patients have been involved from the very early stages of the project, to shape our work, has been key for us. We have focussed on what is important to people with long-term conditions throughout and have been very fortunate to work with a great group of patient representatives, including three people with Crohn’s or Colitis.   

Studies that explore mental health challenges are so vital in helping patients to manage their daily lives with Crohn's or Colitis. Being involved in the development of COMPASS, by reading through early drafts of the online modules and providing feedback, has helped me to think about the wider ways in which we might help improve patients' low mood and anxiety through using an online self-help tool

COMPASS patient representative, living with Crohn's

My experience with testing and providing feedback on COMPASS was easy and interesting - the researchers were supportive throughout and it gave me a valuable opportunity to think about the role that CBT could play in disease management

COMPASS patient representative, living with Colitis

And what will taking part in the research involve?

Professor Rona Moss-Morris: We want to see if COMPASS reduces low mood and anxiety and can help you manage your Crohn’s or Colitis. We will compare COMPASS to the standard support you can access. Just like a drug trial, people will be randomly allocated to one of these two groups.

If you’re not allocated to the COMPASS programme, you’ll still receive a summary and wellbeing guide, which goes through the key tools and strategies covered in COMPASS, designed for people with Crohn’s and Colitis.

Who can take part?

Professor Rona Moss-Morris: The trial is open to people who are experiencing low mood or anxiety related to their Crohn’s or Colitis.

Even if you think coronavirus is responsible for a lot of your anxiety right now, that’s fine. And you don’t have to have a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, but we will go through a short screening questionnaire with you, so you can tell us how you’re feeling.

Find out more and take part