Successful BPS Accreditation Visit for Health Psychology at Staffordshire University

By Dr Rachel Povey, Associate Professor in Health Psychology.

Staffordshire University’s Health Psychology team are delighted to announce that their postgraduate Health Psychology programmes have been accredited for a further five years by the British Psychological Society (BPS), and were awarded nine commendations with no conditions. The British Psychological Society visited the University for two days in March, where they interviewed students, staff, placement providers, service users, and the senior management team.

“We had the first accredited Health Psychology programmes at both Stage 1 and 2, and so it is fantastic to have confirmation from the BPS that we continue to provide first class training in this area”.

Dr Emily Buckley, Head of the Department of Psychology

In particular, the Health Psychology programmes were commended for having a positive and strong ethos of developing reflective practice in students and for providing exemplary support to help foster positive and professional relationships with students.  The senior management team was also commended for their commitment and understanding of health psychology.

Health Psychology has a long and successful history at Staffordshire University with both programmes being the first to be accredited by the BPS in the UK, and being consistently commended for good practice. The MSc in Health Psychology (directed by Dr Gemma Hurst and Dr Sarah Dean) was also commended for embedding employability, developing applied skills and using real world assessments.

Some of our Health Psychology team celebrating after the recent BPS accreditation visit

The Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology (directed by Professor Karen Rodham and Dr Rachel Povey) provides applied training for students wanting to become Health Psychologists. All students gain professional skills in health-related placements, varying from NHS pain management services, to public health settings, to pupil referral units. The Professional Doctorate was commended for its widening access agenda (including providing training bursaries), the constructive engagement with placement providers, and the positive relationship with service users and carers.

Dr Nigel Thomas, Dean of School of Life Sciences and Education commended both teams for their hard work and commitment and stated:

“I’m delighted to see the health psychology programmes at Staffordshire University receiving such high praise from the BPS, this is a result of the level of dedication and commitment of the team”


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Student Blog: Presenting Summer Research Assistantship work at the BPS Annual Conference

Last summer, two of our Undergraduate Psychology students were awarded British Psychological Society Undergraduate Research Assistantships. This award enabled them to attend the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference in Nottingham to present the research that they had carried out as part of their summer assistantship. One of the successful students, Ruth, reflects on her experience of the conference.

I had the pleasure of accompanying my course leader, Dr Sarah Rose to the BPS Annual Conference at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham recently to present our work on “Divergent thinking and pretend play in pre-schoolers. This day summed up what a fantastic experience the BPS Research Assistantship has been for me. It was a proud moment to see my name on the poster representing Staffordshire University amongst many other interesting displays of research that have been conducted all over the world in the last year.

Ruth with Dr Sarah Rose at the BPS Annual Conference

The conference was held at a fantastic venue and there were plenty of oral presentations to attend which were based on many different areas of psychology. I particularly enjoyed the Award presentation on “Puberty and the developing adolescent brain” and having just studied this topic as part of the Typical and Atypical module in level 6, this excellent presentation provided a brilliant consolidation to my knowledge and understanding of the subject. Other fascinating talks were given by the joint Spearman Medal award winners on “Observational to dynamic genetics” and “facial expression communication across cultures”, which were incredibly impressive, using ground-breaking technology within the research.

I had a very enjoyable day and came away feeling inspired and looking forward to Post Graduate study at Staffs in September, where I am hoping to complete the Masters degree in Applied Research.

Ruth Pettitt, Level 6 student, BSc Hons Psychology & Child Development.


Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology) supervised Ruth’s research and attended the conference with her. She writes:

Attending the BPS Annul Conference with Ruth was a real opportunity to feel proud of what our Students at Staffordshire University can achieve. Ruth completed the Foundation Year in Psychology before starting the BSc Psychology and Child Development. Throughout both courses Ruth has grown in confidence and has made the most of the opportunities available to her. This has included applying for, and being successfully awarded, a BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship last summer. This enabled her to undertake the research which we presented at the conference.

Ruth, Dr Sarah Rose, and our other successful BPS Summer Research Assistantship recipient Tanya

Ruth has also successfully carried out an ambitious and innovative Final Year Project investigating the use of drawing to enhance young children’s memory. She is continuing to gain valuable research experience as over the summer she is working for the Behavioural Insights Team collecting data for a large-scale project aiming to assess an intervention to improve the language skills of children.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Dr Rob Dempsey comments on ‘smart drug’ use by university students for the i newspaper

Dr Robert Dempsey (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured in The i newspaper commenting on recent media coverage of the use of ‘smart drugs’ by university students. The story highlights reports of increasing rates of the non-prescribed use of substances like Ritalin by university students to improve their memory and performance in examinations.

Dr Dempsey conducts research into the role of perceived social norms in determining health-related behaviours, and has previously published research with EU colleagues on the role of perceived norms on students’ use of substance like alcohol, cannabis and other forms of illicit substances. Dr Dempsey’s research has highlighted the existence of misperceptions of the use of these substances amongst students, and the association between these misperceptions with personal use and attitudes towards using such substances (click here for a blog about Dr Dempsey’s collaborative research into the use of Ritalin and similar substances by students). Dr Dempsey teaches on Staffordshire University’s MSc in Health Psychology and a new MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology course starting in September 2018.

The full story can be read on The i website below:

The i: Exclusive: University students turn to dark web for performance enhancing ‘smart drugs’


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Dr Rachel Povey comments on childhood obesity for The Sentinel

Dr Rachel Povey (Associate Professor in Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured in The Sentinel newspaper commenting on recent statistics from the National Child Measurement Programme showing concerning rates of childhood obesity in the Staffordshire county. The Sentinel story highlights high rates of children who are classed as obese or overweight in parts of Stoke-on-Trent and the wider county.

Dr Povey, who conducts research into the psychology of children’s eating behaviours and ways to promote healthy eating (click here for a blog about this work), provides expert commentary in the story about why rates of childhood obesity appear to be increasing. The full story can be read on The Sentinel website below:

The Sentinel: This area has Stoke-on-Trent’s fattest kids – find out how overweight your neighbourhood is


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Toddler’s language development via ‘In the Night Garden’ – Dr Sarah Rose writes for The Conversation UK

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Psychology & Course Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development course at Staffordshire University, has recently written a piece for The Conversation UK about how the popular ‘In the Night Garden’ TV programme reflects the language development of the target toddler audience.

You can read Dr Rose’s piece for The Conversation by clicking here.

Watch out for more articles in The Conversation written by the members of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Student Success! MSc Health Psychology Student Publishes her Dissertation Research

By Dr Sarah Dean, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University.

Lucy Field

Lucy Field completed the MSc in Health Psychology at  Staffordshire University in 2017 and has recently had her dissertation research, which was supervised by Dr Sarah Dean, published as an open access article in the Global Journal of Health Science.

It has been recognised that stress can have a very negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing and it is therefore important that interventions are designed to help people deal with stressors effectively. One way of doing this is to use interventions that help people to become more aware of their bodies, their response to stress and how to regulate this. Lucy’s work explored the effectiveness of a biofeedback intervention, using the HeartMath training programme, to reduce a person’s physiological response to stressors. It was found that the intervention had positive effects for participants. Participants reported feeling less stressed and more relaxed after taking part in the intervention and Lucy’s physiological data supported this. Future research is needed to explore the use of HeartMath further.

This is what Lucy had to say about her time on the MSc:

“I really enjoyed my MSc in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University. Health promotion and stress have become areas of specialty for me. I completed my research on stress using a  biofeedback technique with support from my tutor and other researchers in the field. This has been published! I would not have believed this to be something I could have accomplished at the beginning of the course. I am now looking forward to starting the Prof Doc in Health Psychology!”

Please click here to read Lucy’s published article.

Field, L. H., Edwards, S. D., Edwards, D. J., & Dean, S. E. (2018). Influence of HeartMath Training Programme on Physiological and Psychological Variables. Global Journal of Health Science, 10(2), 126-133.


Thinking about postgraduate study in Health Psychology?

If you are interested in studying our BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology why not sign up to our next Open Afternoon on Tuesday 3rd July?

For more information about the Open Afternoon, please email the MSc Health Psychology  Course Directors Dr Sarah Dean s.dean@staffs.ac.uk or Dr Gemma Hurst G.L.Hurst@staffs.ac.uk.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Psychology & The Brain 2018… on tour!

By Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University.

A ‘brain hat’ coloured in by one of our guests at the Potteries Museum

Brain Awareness week is a worldwide celebration of the brain, encouraging people of all ages to appreciate the importance of what our brains do for us. As well as a very successful Psychology and the Brain event held at the University, a smaller event was also held at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. This was led by myself and five of our Psychology and Child Development Students. The aim of the event was to provide some interactive activities for families to take part in, to learn together about the marvels of the brain.

The students found the experience of running the event and engaging with the public to be rewarding and had fun making their own ‘brain hats’ (see above for a picture).

“It was great to incorporate the information learned from my Psychology and  Child Development course into various activities. Also, being able to teach children about what the brain does and how it works was a truly worthwhile experience.” (Ingrid, Level 5 student)

“Demonstrating to local children at the Psychology and the Brain event what is involved in psychology using child friendly engaging activities was so much fun! As a Psychology and Child Development student, being given the volunteering opportunity has enabled me to demonstrate skills learnt on the course and helped towards building the perfect foundation for working with young people in my future psychology career.” (Rebecca, Level 6 student)

 “I found it very helpful how we were able to use the knowledge we already had but adapt this to suit children. For example, changing the “normal” Stroop task for one that children would find engaging and easier to comprehend. I think applying AND adapting knowledge enhances learning even more, as you really get to grips with the theory underpinning it.’ (Zoe, Level 6 student)

In addition to the students enjoying the event, I also had a great time! It was great to work with this group of students outside of the classroom. Seeing them share the knowledge that they have developed during their degree with families was very rewarding. They worked really well together and demonstrated that they could put what they were learning into practice as they explained the marvels of the brain to young children and their families.

Dr Sarah Rose is planning to organise similar events in the future if you are interested in finding out more about these please do get in touch (click here for Sarah’s contact details).


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Psychology and the Brain 2018

By Dr Daniel Jolley, Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University.

During this year’s Brain Awareness Week, the Department of Psychology organised an event called Psychology and the Brain.

Psychology and the Brain was an interactive evening where guests first enjoyed short talks from experts in the Department, such as how we measure brain activity and how Virtual Reality can trick our minds. Next, guests were invited to get hands-on with some of the latest technology in the Department – as such our Virtual Reality headsets, eye-tracking, EEG, driving simulator, and many other interactive demonstrations. We also had colleagues from Biology who joined us to run a demonstration for the guests. To end the evening, guests who had visited 3 or more demonstrations were invited to enter a prize draw to win some Love2Shop vouchers.

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At the end of the evening, guests were invited to give feedback on their experiences… some of the comments are included below:

“A mix of information and interaction. Very enjoyable and well planned”

“Thanks for setting up so many different tasks to have a go at – very interesting”

“MINT”

“I’ve loved this, I learnt how the brain works and I played on a game and beat a 30 year old (Henry, age 9)”

“Fantastic evening. Great technology and amazing demonstrations”

“It was an amazing experience and will love to come back next year!”

Psychology and the Brain was only possible with the support of many staff and students throughout the University. Dr Emily Buckley, Head of the Psychology Department, who led the thanks on the evening has said:

“We love hosting these kinds of events as it’s great for us to be able meet members of the local (and not so local) community and introduce them to psychology, as well as specifically what we do here at Staffs.  We welcomed a wide variety of guests from young children to those of the older generations, and from all different walks of life. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with people really enjoying the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ with our kit as well as the free cake and chance to win prizes.” 

Highlights from the Psychology and the Brain event, including photos and videos of the evening’s activities, can be viewed by our ‘Psychology and the Brain‘ twitter moment (click here).

We are excited for our next public engagement event – keep your eyes out for advertisements!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Do appearance-focused interventions help promote sun protection behaviours?

By Dr. Alison Owen, Lecturer in Psychology.

Over the last decade, melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have increased by almost a half (45%) in the UK, and there are around 15,400 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year, that’s 42 every day (Cancer Research UK). A massive 86% of melanoma skin cancer in the UK is preventable (Cancer Research UK), for example by protecting your skin from the sun by using sun tan lotion or using clothes to cover up, so it is really important to find ways to encourage people to protect their skin from the sun.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University (Sofia Perrson, Yael Benn and Sarah Grogan) and Leeds Beckett University (Katie Dhingra), along with researchers here at The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research (Alison Owen and David Clark-Carter), have carried out a review of literature investigating how effective appearance-focussed interventions are at encouraging people to have safer and healthier UV exposure and sun protection behaviours. The study was modeled on a previous review carried out here at Staffordshire University in 2013 by Dr Owen, Prof Grogan, Prof Clark-Carter and Dr Buckley, which focused on how well appearance-based interventions work to reduce UV exposure, for example by discouraging people from using sunbeds in the future, or encouraging them to wear more sun protection (read this paper here).

In the present study, in press in the British Journal of Health Psychology, 33 studies were reviewed, each of which having used an appearance-focused intervention aiming to encourage healthier UV exposure and sun protection behaviours. For example, some of the reviewed interventions worked by showing individuals the impact that exposing their skin to the sun without using protection could have, in terms of wrinkling or age spots. We found very encouraging results, in that appearance-based interventions appear to have positive effects on UV exposure and sun protection immediately after the intervention, as well as up to 12 months afterwards. This supported the findings of the original review, which also found that appearance-based interventions have a positive effect on UV exposure and sun protection intentions and behaviour.

Dr Owen is continuing to carry out research looking at the effectiveness of appearance-focussed interventions on changing peoples’ health behaviours, and is currently carrying out research investigating whether showing people the negative impact that binge drinking can have on their skin, can impact on their alcohol consumption in the future.

The new systematic review can be read via the British Journal of Health Psychology‘s website:


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Using photo-elicitation to understand experiences of quality of life, paraplegia & chronic pain

By Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

Together, working with one of our MSc in Health Psychology students and a fellow member of staff (Dr Amy Burton), we have just published a paper using a photo-elicitation approach to understand the lived experience of quality of life amongst a group of individuals experiencing paraplegia and chronic pain.

Our paper, currently in press in the Journal of Health Psychology, details a novel study where we were interested in better understanding the factors which give and take away from the quality of life experienced by people living with paraplegia (who experience paralysis to their lower limbs due to a spinal cord injury) and chronic ongoing pain. Many people who are paraplegic also experience chronic pain but studies to date have tended to focus on self-report measures of pain experiences. Using self-report measures of pain experiences might not allow researchers to really understand the nature and quality of pain, as the experience of pain can be difficult to objectively measure, and may not help understand how individuals ‘make sense’ of these experiences.

It is well known that managing chronic pain when living with paraplegia, and being reliant on a wheelchair for mobility, can be a challenging experience for many people. We were particularly interested in understanding how people in this situation manage their pain and maintain a good quality of life, whilst maintaining a focus on their experiences as individuals. A lot of qualitative research into people’s experiences of physical health conditions uses researcher-led interview schedules focused on topics that the researchers are interested in – this can be problematic as it may not allow the participants to direct the interview discussions towards topics and issues they feel are important when making sense of their own experiences.

To help us ensure our study was focused on our participants’ experiences we used a form of interview technique referred to as photoelicitation, sometimes known as photovoice. Rather than just asking our sample of participants a series of questions about their experiences, we asked them to spend a week taking photos of things they felt took away from their quality of life or improved their quality of life. Six photographs from each participant were then chosen for discussion in the interviews, during which we only asked the participants some general questions about their photograph (such as: ‘what does this photograph represent in terms of your quality of life?‘). Our discussions based on these photographs produced some incredibly rich and complex data, showing some of the complexities of living with paraplegia, chronic pain and also using a wheelchair for mobility (which we wouldn’t have found if we just asked a series of set questions).

For example, one of our participants discussed a photo she took of a toy dinosaur, similar the one shown on the right. The participant explained that this toy dinosaur represented her experiences with healthcare staff, particularly doctors, who she saw as being old-fashioned, not understanding of her pain experiences and frustrating to deal with. These communication problems contributed to this participant’s worsening pain as she was often prescribed ineffective medications attributed to her pain experiences not being understood by healthcare staff. Discussions like this demonstrated the complexity of our participants’ experiences living with pain and paraplegia whilst attempting to maintain a good quality of life – often related to a sense of frustration that factors like medical professionals should help improve, not worsen, their quality of life.

Interestingly, using a wheelchair was viewed as a factor that both improved and worsened our participants’ quality of life. Some participants were grateful for the wheelchair giving them independence, to be mobile and not be over-reliant on others to get around. However, this sometimes came at the cost of the wheelchair preventing our participants from being fully mobile (e.g. by not being able to access parts of their own home or having difficulty using public transport) and even caused further pain and discomfort due to sitting in the chair.

Using photo-elicitation, and allowing our participants to be much more involved in directing the interview discussions, produced some rich data participant-focused data which demonstrated the complexity of living with both paraplegia and chronic pain. Had we just used a standard set of written questions we would not have uncovered such complexity in our participants’ experiences. The use of photographs to guide the interviews could be incorporated into healthcare communication practices as it may help healthcare professionals to better understand their patients’ experiences, particularly of chronic pain which can be difficult to communicate verbally.

It was a pleasure to work with one of our MSc in Health Psychology students (Melanie Hughes), who led the data collection, and one of our Health Psychologist colleagues (Dr Amy Burton) on this analysis. This project represents one of a number of published studies and papers produced with students as part of our BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology course here at Staffordshire University.

We have published two papers based on this research, including a commentary paper reflecting on the use of photo-elicitation as an interview tool and our recent paper detailing our analysis of the interviews (click here). Links to the papers can be found below:


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages: