Universiteit Leiden

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LUBEC treatment centre: bridge between support and research

From anxiety disorders to an extremely unhealthy lifestyle. In the Leiden University Treatment and Expertise Centre (LUBEC) children and adults receive treatment that is in line with the newest scientific insights. The centre is also a training and research institution, so students and researchers are able to observe the therapies being provided.

The university has had an academic treatment centre for over thirty years - the Ambulatorium, or Outpatient Centre - that was located in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. This centre has now been given a new name - LUBEC - and it has moved to the adjacent multi-user building where Riverduinen Regional Mental Health Centre is also located. ‘The busy faculty building was not the ideal place for the at times highly emotional parents and children who come here. This location offers more privacy and is at the same time better equipped for teaching and research,' Professor of Development Psychology Michiel Westenberg explains. The new facility at Sandifortdreef 17 in Leiden will be opened officially on 13 June 2018 by Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker. 

Professor of Development Psychology Michiel Westenberg

Observation rooms

Children and adolescents are currently the largest group. Big cuddly bears, boxes of tissues and a 'rhino room', overflowing with a mass of animal figures, playmobil, toy cars and much more. So far, LUBEC  seems like any other treatment centre dealing with children. But the difference is that this centre also offers the opportunity for teaching and research. There are two small cameras in the treatment rooms, and each room has a mirror wall with an observation room behind it, where students and researchers with headphones can listen and observe. The faculty building had fewer observation rooms and those they did have were also smaller. 

One of the observation rooms for students and researchers.


Of course, we make it clear to everyone right at the start that the treament sessions may be observed, Westenberg emphasises. All those involved have to give their agreement before the treatment starts. 'To be able to train psychologists and teachers to become competent practitioners, it is important that they gain a lot of practical experience in a responsible environment. We also conduct scientific research on a range of disorders and treatment methods.' 

Limited capacity

LUBEC meets all the requirements of a regular treatment centre, but has a more limited capacity, head of clinic Katrien van de Vijfeijken explained. ‘We see on average 150 patients a year, but only on referral and if their situation fits within the range of our research projects.’  This could be research on such issues as autism, itching or an unhealthy lifestyle. Thanks to this new set up, LUBEC can now offer care and diagnostics for adults who stuggle with physical and psychological complaints. 

Newest scientific insights

How do patients benefit from this academic treatment centre?  Westenberg: ‘Regular healthcare is struggling with waiting lists and there is less opportunity to experiment. Psychologists and child and family specialists work here using the newest interventions. And there's often a bit more time for patients because some of the treatment is financed by research funding.' 

Group therapy for social anxiety

As an example, Westenberg mentions a new pilot that is about to start - a group therapy - for young people with a social anxiety disorder who are no longer attending school. ‘We believe they can overcome their anxiety by learning relevant skills.'  As this is part of a scientific project, there are no costs for taking part. For many other treatment processes, the costs are the same as for a regular care provider and it depends on the insurance whether or not the therapy is reimbursed.  

Therapy within and outside sessions

Do patients behave differently when they know they are being observed? 'Of course, it does take some getting used to, but in practice many people, and especially children, soon revert to their normal behaviour,' Westenberg explains. ‘The therapist is very vigilant in observing patient behaviour and making sure they are not behaving any differently. In extreme cases, students taking part in the observation may be asked to leave the room.' 


LUBEC works closely with partners like the LUMC, Curium (the Academic Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) and many other partners within and outside the region. Westenberg: ‘Observations are also often made at home or at school, for example. Treatments have a greater chance of success if they are integrated into everyday life.' 

A further new aspect of LUBEC is the revised collaboration between Child and Family Studies and Psychology, which makes it possible to also treat adults at the centre. The collaboration gives an extra impetus to the exchange of scientific knowledge and the setting up of interdiciplinary projects.'  

Text: Linda van Putten
Photos: Monique Shaw
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