Universiteit Leiden

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Michiel Westenberg

Professor Development Psychology

Prof.dr. P.M. Westenberg
+31 71 527 3628

P. Michiel Westenberg is Full Professor in the unit Developmental and Educational Psychology at Leiden University.

More information about Michiel Westenberg

P. Michiel Westenberg is Full Professor in the unit Developmental and Educational Psychology at Leiden University.

Academic Training and Career

  • BSc Psychology & MSc Clinical Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD Developmental Psychology, Washington University, St Louis USA
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley USA
  • Assistant Professor Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Curium-Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC)
  • Associate Professor Developmental Psychology, Institute of Psychology, Leiden University
  • Full Professor Developmental Psychology, Institute of Psychology, Leiden University

Lab Director and PI: Social Anxiety and Specific Phobia Research Group (SASP)

“From basic science to real world intervention” is the slogan of our research group. We aim to combine both types of research as they inform and inspire one another.

With a team of academic colleagues, postdocs and PhD students I am studying (a) the developmental origins and correlates of anxiety problems in youth, and (b) ways to improve early detection and intervention of anxiety in youth. My own specialty concerns social anxiety in adolescence: what is its developmental course, how can we  distinguish typical from atypical development, and how can we use this information to improve early intervention in order to prevent the well-known risks of social anxiety later in life.

I have studied social anxiety, with a focus on adolescence, for more than 20 years. The SAND project (Social Anxiety and Normal Development) played a crucial role in the development of this research programme. Together with colleagues and PhD students I studied social anxiety in a sample of over 300 youths at the age of 9 to 21 years. The central research question concerns the similarities and differences between typical and atypical social anxiety. To study this question from a subjective, behavioral and biological perspective we built a new research lab: the Leiden Public Speaking Task. This is a standardised but naturalistic setting for observing youths while they are giving a speech, and allowing for the assessment of feelings, thoughts, skills, and physiology (heart rate, skin conductance, stress hormones). This project produced novel insights about the development of social anxiety, and it received considerable attention in two comprehensive review articles from leading international experts in the field: Spence & Rapee (2016), Leigh & Clark (2018).

The SAND-project laid the foundation for new research into two directions:

  1. Laboratory research of specific behavioral and neurobiological underpinnings of social anxiety in youth. Ongoing studies:
    1. Eye gaze behavior of socially anxious youth is investigated by means of the latest mobile eye gaze technology. This research has led us in the direction of more specific circumstances in which socially anxious youth tend to avoid eye contact, rather than the generally accepted notion of an overall avoidance tendency.
    2. Neurocognitive determinants. We conduct several EEG and fMRI studies with targeted families and with large aggregated samples to determine specific neurocognitive correlates of social anxiety and to estimate the extent to which these aspects are genetically determined (i.e., endophenotypic).
    3. A developmental network approach is applied to neurocognitive bias modification in order to determine adolescents at risk of developing social anxiety disorder later in life.
  2. Research in daily practice to improve procedures for early detection and treatment of social anxiety in different social contexts. Ongoing studies:
    1. Recognition by general practitioners: Research has shown that (social) anxiety problems are not readily recognised by general practitioners. In our research we are looking at specific determinants of this difficulty and how GP’s can be supported to differentiate youth with and without anxiety problems.
    2. ‘Blended’ mental health care: We are investigating a blended care group treatment for adolescents with social anxiety. This unique form of treatment is particularly suitable for an early intervention of social anxiety complaints.  The blended approach is also applied in an RCT one-session protocol for treating specific phobia.
    3. Stress in the schools: We have designed, and are investigating the effectivity of an early detection and intervention procedure, named StressLess, to be used in early secondary education (12-14 yrs). This method comprises (1) a psychoeducation phase for all pupils and (2) a subsequent intervention phase for a selected group.

This research is supported by a variety of funding agencies from inside and outside the university (see overview below).

For more detailed information on each of the above projects, see below and go to Social anxiety and Specific Phobia Research GroupA complete history of my research projects is also included below.

Department head: Knowledge Center Anxiety and Stress in Youth (Kenniscentrum Angst en Stress bij Jeugd; KAS)

While growing up most children and adolescents experience some anxiety and stress. It is useful for them, as well as for their caretakers and teachers, to know what it means and how they can effectively deal with it. Some youths experience stronger anxiety and fear levels to the extent that it may become unmanageable and leading to all kinds of difficulties at home, at school, and in peer relationships.

To support youths with various levels and types of stress and anxiety complaints, as well as providing support for parents and teachers, three members of the SASP team – Anke Klein, Anika Bexkens, Michiel Westenberg – have created the Knowledge Center Anxiety and Stress in Youth (KAS). Our primary aim is to help youth and their caretakers to quickly identify problematic levels of anxiety and stress and to provide ‘close to home’ assistance.

The KAS website presents basic information on anxiety and stress, provides a planned series of activities throughout the school year (e.g., lectures and workshops), and provides low-threshold treatment programmes for youths who suffer from anxiety complaints.

By bringing together academicians, professionals, parents, and youths we hope to create a collaborative context in which we can learn from one another about how to provide the best possible support for youths with anxiety and stress complaints. This may also lead to a general atmosphere in which everyone feels more comfortable to discuss these matters.  

For more information about KAS activities go to Leiden Knowledge Centre for Anxiety and Stress in Youth (in Dutch).

PhD Supervision (‘promotor’)

  1. Hagen, A. (2019-2024). Early intervention and treatment prediction in childhood specific phobias: Combining one-session-treatment with app-based technology. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr. Klein.
  1. Komrij, N. (2020-2024). Cool little kids: Effectiveness of an early intervention programme for anxiety-prone toddlers in the Netherlands. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr. Vreeke.
  1. Kortink, E. (2018-2022). Changing minds in social anxiety: A developmental network approach to neurocognitive bias modification. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor dr. van der Molen.
  1. Vogelaar, S. (2018-2022). Stress reduction and psychopathology in lower secondary education: An RTI model for primary prevention. Promotors: prof. Westenberg & prof. Asscher (UU); co-promotors: dr Saab (ICLON) & dr. Miers.
  1. Van Loon, A. (2018-2022). Stress reduction and psychopathology in lower secondary education: An RTI model for secondary prevention. Promotors: prof. Asscher (UU) & prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr Creemers (UvA).
  1. Chen, J. (2017-2022). Eye gaze behavior in socially anxious adolescents. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr. van den Bos.
  1. Aydin, S. (2017-2022). Towards the timely Identification of anxiety disorders: In search of a complaint pattern specific to social anxiety disorder in electronic medical records. Promotors: prof. Westenberg, prof. Numans (LUMC), prof. Vermeiren (Curium); co-promotor dr. M. Crone (LUMC).
  1. Jakobsson-Mansson, S. (2017-2022). Trial of Clinical Group-Based Intervention in Treating Adolescents with Social Anxiety Disorder: A Blended-Care Approach. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotors: dr. Van den Bos & dr. Miers.
  1. Bas-Hoogendam, J. M. (January 2020). Extremely shy & genetically close: Investigating neurobiological endophenotypes of Social Anxiety Disorder. Promotors: prof. Westenberg & prof. van der Wee (LUMC); co-promotor: dr. van Steenbergen.
  1. Day, I. N. Z. (June 2018). Intermediate assessment in higher education: Characteristics, perceptions, and effects. Promotors: prof. Admiraal (ICLON) & prof Westenberg; co-promotor: dr. van Blankenstein (ICLON).
  1. Wijsman, L.A. (May 2018). Enhancing performance and motivation in lower secondary education. Promotors: prof Westenberg & prof. van Driel (ICLON; co-promotor: dr. Saab (ICLON).
  1. Stollman, S. (May 2018). Differentiated instruction in practice: A teacher perspective. Promotors: prof. van Driel (ICLON) & prof Westenberg; co-promotor: dr. Meirink (ICLON).
  1. Harrewijn, A. (January 2018). Shy parent, shy child? Delineating psychophysiological endophenotypes of social anxiety disorder. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr. van der Molen.
  1. Van der Stel, M. (October 2012). Development of metacognitive skills in young adolescents: A bumpy ride to the high road.  Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr Veenman.
  1. Van den Bos W. (April 2011). The neurocognitive development of social decision making. Promotors: prof. Crone, prof. van Dijk, prof. Westenberg
  1. Van Leijenhorst, L. (January 2010). Why teens take risks. A neurocognitive analysis of developmental changes and individual differences in decision-making under risk. Promotors: prof. Crone & prof. Westenberg.
  1. Maric, M. (December 2010). Challenged by Cognition: Toward Optimal Measurement and Greater Understanding of Youth Cognition in School Refusal and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy Outcome. Promotors: prof Westenberg, co-promotors: dr. Heyne & dr. van Widenfelt (Curium-LUMC).
  1. Sauter, F.M. (June 2010). Developmental considerations in the designdelivery of cognitive behavioural therapy for adolescent school refusal. Promotors: prof. Westenberg & Prof. Vermeiren (Curium-LUMC); co-promotor: dr. Heyne.

    6. Miers, A.C. (March 2010). Bias or reality? Negative perceptions of ambiguous social cues, social performance and physical arousal in socially anxious youth. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr Blöte-Aanhane.

    5.  Sumter, S.R. (March 2010). Growing up to be fearful? Social evaluative fears during adolescence. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr Bokhorst.

    4.  Ezinga, M.A.J. (November 2008). Psychosocial development and the development of problem behaviour during adolescence. Promotors: prof. Westenberg & prof. Bijleveld (NSCR); co-promotor: dr Weerman (NSCR).

    3.  Jellesma, F.C. (October 2008). Somatic complaints in childhood: How they are related to children's emotional and social functioning. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotors: dr Rieffe & prof Meerum Terwogt (VU).

    2.  Hosenfeld, B. (June 2003). The development of analogical reasoning in  middle childhood. Investigations into a transition. Promotors: prof. Westenberg, prof. van der Maas (UvA) & prof. Resing.

    1.  Prins, F.J. (November 2002). Search & see. The roles of metacognitive skillfulness and intellectual ability during novice inductive learning in a complex computer-simulated environment. Promotor: prof. Westenberg; co-promotor: dr. Veenman.

Research Projects & Funding

2020-present: Co-PI SPIL project: Early recognition and intervention of stress and anxiety in the classroom

  • Post doc researcher: dr. Leone de Voogd; Supervisors: dr. Klein, prof. Westenberg
  • Collaboration with the Municipality of Leiden, several schools in Leiden (primary and secondary education), and LUBEC (Leiden University Treatment and Expertise Center)
  • Supported by an Education Innovation start up grant from the Leiden Municipality awarded to dr. Klein, dr. Bexkens, prof. Westenberg (k€50)

2020-present: collaborator Cool Little Kids project: Effectiveness of an early intervention programme for anxiety-prone toddlers in the Netherlands

  • Promotor Nina Komrij (co-promotor dr. Vreeke)
  • Collaboration with Public Health Service Amsterdam (GGD), YOUZ Parnassia The Hague, and LUBEC (Leiden University Treatment and Expertise Center)
  • Supported by a ZonMw grant awarded to dr. Vreeke (k€400)

2019-present: collaborator Kids Beat Anxiety (KiBA) project: Early intervention and treatment prediction in childhood specific phobias: Combining one-session-treatment with app-based technology (a multi-center trial)

  • Promotor Annelieke Hagen (co-promotor dr. Klein)
  • Collaboration with Prof. Schneider - Ruhr-Universität Bochum, prof. Ollendick - Virginia Tech University, prof. Nauta - University of Groningen & Accare treatment center, Dr. de Bruin - UvA minds academic treatment center, prof. Rapee - Macquarie University, prof. Dr. Mike Rinck - Radboud University, Nijmegen, prof. Bögels, prof.  Wiers, drs. Vonk - University of Amsterdam, Mrs. Hamersveld – Angst Dwang en Fobie stichting, and prof. Swaab - LUBEC (Leiden University Treatment and Expertise Center)
  • Supported by a ZonMw grant awarded to dr. Klein (k€300)

2018-present: Principal Investigator StressLess project: How to improve the connection between secondary education and youth mental health care?

  • Promotor Simone Vogelaar and Amanda van Loon (co-promotors prof Asscher, dr Creemers, dr. Saab, dr. Miers)
  • Collaboration with Universiteit Utrecht (prof. Asscher), University of Amsterdam (dr. Creemers), Hogeschool Den Haag (dr. Diekstra), ICLON (dr. Saab), and nine High Schools in The Hague
  • Supported by NWO as part of the ‘Startimpuls Nederlandse Wetenschapsagenda’ awarded to NWA route 7, Youth: Development, Child Rearing, and Education (Chairs: prof. Mesman, Leiden University & prof. Volman, University of Amsterdam; total grant k€2.500; amount awarded to this subproject: k€450)
  • Additional support provided by The Hague Municipality to fund stress training programmes at the schools (k€126)

2018-present: co-applicant and collaborator Changing minds project: A developmental network approach to neurocognitive bias modification (PI: dr. van der Molen)

  • Promotor Elise Kortink (co-promotor van der Molen)
  • Supported by NWO research talent grant (‘onderzoekstalent’) awarded to Kortink (k€250)

2017-present: Principal Investigator In je SAS! project: Trial of Clinical Group-Based Intervention in Treating Adolescents with Social Anxiety Disorder: A Blended-Care Approach.

  • Promotor Sara Jakobsson-Mansson (co-promotors dr. Miers, dr. van den Bos)
  • Collaboration with LUBEC/Ambulatorium, and Service Heroes, Voorburg (Dijksman, MSc)
  • Supported by Faculty & Institute start-up funding for LUBEC, the Leiden University Treatment and Expertise Center (Leids Universitair Behandel en Expertise Centrum) (k€180)

2017-present: Principal investigator Eye Tracking project: Eye gaze behavior in socially anxious adolescents.

  • Promotor Jiemiao Chen (co-promotor dr. van den Bos)
  • Supported by a China Study Council PhD fellowship awarded to Chen (duration 4 years)

2017-present: Principal investigator Close the Gap project: Towards the timely Identification of anxiety disorders: In search of a complaint pattern specific to social anxiety disorder in electronic medical records.

  • Promotor Semiha Aydin (co-promotors prof. Numans, prof. Vermeiren, dr. M. Crone)
  • Collaboration with LUMC Public Health (prof. Numans, dr. M. Crone) and Child Psychiatry (prof. Vermeiren, drs. Siebelink).
  • Supported by University Research Profile Health, Prevention, and the Human Life Cycle (chairs: prof. Numans & prof. Evers) (k€180)

2016-2020: co-applicant and collaborator research project Social Skills Consortium: How to Reduce the Number of Interventions for Social Skills and Resiliency (PI: dr. Pannebakker, TNO Leiden)

  • My colleague dr Miers was directly involved in the supervision of a doctoral student (promotors: prof Overbeek & prof. Scholte; co-promotor dr. Fekkes)
  • Collaboration of Leiden University (dr. Miers, prof Westenberg) with University of Amsterdam (prof. Overbeek), Radboud University Nijmegen (prof. Scholte), and TNO Leiden (dr. Fekkes)
  • Supported by ZonMw (k€725; entire project consists of several subprojects)

2013-2018: Principal Investigator GUTS project: Differentiated Talent Development in Dutch Highschool Education (GUTS - Gedifferentieerd Uitdagen van Talent op School) (co-PI: prof van Driel)

  • Promotor Lindy Wijsman and Saskia Stollman (co-promotors prof. van Driel, dr Saab, dr Meirink)
  • Collaboration: ICLON (prof. van Driel) and two High Schools in the South of Holland (Wolfert, Rotterdam; Penta College, Spijkenisse)
  • Supported by Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW; k€300)

2013-2018: Co-PI research project Effects of Intermediate Assessment on Study behavior, Time on task and Achievement (PI: prof Admiraal, ICLON)

  • promotor Indira Day (co-promotors: prof. Admiraal and dr. Blankenstein)
  • Collaboration: ICLON (prof. Admiraal); Education Programme Leiden University Institute of Psychology (Director of Studies: dr. Wit); Education Programme Faculty of Law (Dean: prof. Lawson)
  • Supported by Leiden University Collegial Council for Research of University Education (CROHO - Collegiale Raad voor Onderzoek Hoger Onderwijs (k€200)

2011-2020: Principal Investigator LFLSAD project: Leiden Family Lab study of Social Anxiety Disorder: Profiling Endophenotypes with a Full Family Design

  • Promotor Janna Marie Bas-Hoogendam and Anita Harrewijn (co-promotors Prof. van der Wee, dr. van Steenbergen en dr. van der Molen)
  • Collaboration with (Child) Psychiatry, LUMC (prof. van Hemert, dr. van Vliet, dr. vd Wee, dr. Reichart) and Medical Statistics (Prof. Houwing, LUMC; she is currently at Leeds University)
  • Supported by University Research Profile Health, Prevention, and the Human Life Cycle (current chairs: prof. Numans & prof. Evers; k€180); Institute funding (k€120); LUF pilot study for genetic analyses (k€10.5)
  • KNAW-colloquium and Master Class (2011) received funding from the KNAW (k€23) and the Research Profile Health (k€23).

2004-present: Principal Investigator SAND-study: Social Anxiety and Normal Development

  • Promotor Anne Miers and Sindy Sumter (co-promotors: dr Blöte and dr Bokhorst, LU); post-docs: dr Miers, dr. van den Bos
  • Supported by NWO-FES grant (HCMI; k€87.5); LUF Gratama grant (k€22); Institute funding for two PhD-projects (k€360); Faculty Bèta-funding for new lab facilities (approx. k€200)
  • New laboratory designed and built: the Leiden Public Speaking Task (Biological Psychology, 2009) It allows for strictly controlled and ecologically valid assessments of biological, behavioral, and subjective parameters of social evaluation fear.

2005–2011: Collaborator research project Adolescent brain development: Risks and opportunities (PI: prof. Crone).

  • 2nd promotor Linda van Leijenhorst and 3rd promotor Wouter van den Bos (1st promotor: prof. Crone)
  • Collaboration: Social Psychology (prof. van Dijk), Leiden University Department of Radiology (LUMC; prof van Buchem), and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC; prof Rombouts, director)
  • Supported by NWO Veni grant awarded to prof. Crone and Institute funding for two PhD-projects (k€360)

2004-2008:  Collaborator research project Emotional development in typical and atypical populations (PI: prof. Rieffe).

  • Promotor Francine Jellesma (co-promotors: dr. Rieffe & prof. Meerum Terwogt, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
  • Supported by Institute funding for PhD-project (k€180)

2003-2012: Collaborator @School project: Treatment of School Refusal in Adolescence (PI: dr. Heyne).

  • Promotor Maria Maric and Floor Sauter (co-promotoren: dr. Heyne, LU, prof. Vermeiren & dr. van Widenfelt, Curium-LUMC)
  • Collaboration: Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Curium-LUMC (prof. Vermeiren, dr. van Widenfelt)
  • Supported by NWO (k€180 – Mozaiek award Maric), Institute funding for PhD-project Sauter (k€180), plus matching ‘in kind’ by Curium-LUMC (2 fte clinical therapists)

2003–2008: Co-PI research project Problem behavior, delinquency, and psychosocial development in adolescence (PI: prof Bijleveld, NSCR)

  • Promotor Menno Ezinga (co-promotoren: prof Bijleveld and dr. Weerman, NSCR)
  • Collaboration: Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR; PI: prof. Bijleveld)
  • Supported by NWO (k€220 awarded to NSCR) and Faculty funding for PhD-project Ezinga (k€180)

1991–2002:  Co-PI research project Social-emotional development and psychopathology in children and adolescents (PI: prof. Treffers, Curium-LUMC)

  • Promotor Martine Drewes (co-promotors: prof Treffers, LUMC, and dr. Bokhorst, UL); dissertation not completed
  • Supported by National Fund Mental Health (k€150), Frijling Prins Fund (k€70), and Institute funding for PhD-project (k€180)

1988–1990:  Post-doc at research project Longitudinal Study of Ego and Cognitive Development. Department of Psychology, University of Cailfornia at Berkeley (PIs: prof. Block and prof. Gjerde)

  • Supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH grant awarded to prof. Block)

1985–1988:  Doctoral student at research project Human Values and Moral Development. Department of Psychology, Washington University, USA (PI: prof. Loevinger)

  • Supported by a three-year Stuckenberg Fellowship from Washington University


Professor Development Psychology

  • Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen
  • Instituut Psychologie
  • Ontwikkelings- & Onderwijspsychologie

Work address

Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room number 3B45




  • No relevant ancillary activities
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