Written by Emily Thornton Psychology Schools and Colleges Champion.
I am very excited to be starting my new job role as the Psychology Department Schools and Colleges Champion.
I first joined Staffordshire University in 2020 to complete my MSc in the Foundations of Clinical psychology, where I completed my dissertation on Womens Lived Experiences of Autism, I am aiming to get this research published. It was during my master’s when I realised how welcoming everyone was. After successfully completing my master’s I found the job role and it felt like the right time to join the University.
I first fell in love with psychology when I completed an access course in social sciences (equivalent to A levels) which had a psychology module. I then went on to complete my BSc in psychology with the University of Chester. Throughout my undergraduate degree I had worked as a support worker with young people and adults in a range of settings.
Some fun facts about me:
I have dissected a human brain in my Undergrad.
I play wheelchair basketball.
I have flown a plane (under supervision!)
Are you a school or college and would like to arrange a talk, workshop, visit? Please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Professor David Clark-Carter, Professor of Health Psychology.
Imagine you have energy-sapping fatigue or a long-lasting pain which affects your life. You have sought medical advice but, even if tests have been conducted, you are left with no diagnosis.
Psychologists have long recognised that this situation can be linked to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. However, while psychologists can see that such psychological problems are a perfectly understandable consequence of chronic (i.e. long term) debilitating health conditions, there is a danger of seeing the causal link as going in the other direction. Accordingly, the chronic condition can be seen as being the consequence of an underlying psychological state rather than the other way around.
The situation isn’t helped when people around the sufferer, be they family, friends or members of the medical profession, deny that there is a real physical condition. This, in turn, can lead to an understandable suspicion when psychological interventions are offered as a way to deal with the physical symptoms and lessen the psychological ones. This may be seen as supporting the notion that the condition is a consequence of a psychological state. However, that is far from the truth. Even when a diagnosis of a condition is made, if no medical cure is available psychological interventions could help the sufferer to deal with the physical symptoms.
By acquiring techniques to deal with physical symptoms, sufferers can feel more in control of their own lives and get away from a feeling of helplessness. Even when a medical intervention can be prescribed to alleviate the physical symptoms, such as pain killers, these are unlikely to be a long term solution and can have their own problematic side effects. The pandemic has led to conditions such as long-covid for some people. Greater awareness of this condition could lead to greater understanding of those with other chronic conditions.
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
By James Vernon, Lecturer in Psychology and Counselling, Staffordshire University
Well, what can I say other than I am over the moon, elated and struggling to find the superlatives to convey how I feel in joining the Psychology and Counselling department at Staffordshire University. I have received such a warm and friendly welcome from everybody within the department and cannot wait to begin working within the team. I have been asked to provide a bit of background about me so here goes (If you fall asleep, I understand).
After many years of working in unfulfilling roles, I decided to return to University in 2015 as a mature student at the tender age of 35 to complete my undergraduate degree in Psychology & Counselling here at Staffordshire University. Returning to the world of academia after 15 years away felt daunting but the warm welcome and unwavering support I received from the staff within the department was incredible and I was soon made to feel at home. The course content, the opportunities and the support I received whilst at Staffs inspired me to achieve my goal to which I graduate in 2018.
Yet, my Staffordshire University student journey didn’t stop there. In the autumn of 2018, I enrolled on the three-year Masters degree in Psychotherapeutic Counselling. As well as furthering my knowledge in theoretical concepts and ethical considerations relating to the field of counselling, engagement in the course provided me with the opportunity to hone my skills and develop my identity as a therapist whilst on placement. After completion of my professional training and finally obtaining my qualified counsellor status, I moved to focus my on MSc research project into the impact of COVID-19 on bereavement counselling and in particular both the impact of isolation on being in a grief like state and adjusted ways of working professionally.
With the unprecedented and ever evolving world we find ourselves in I feel that this is exciting and fertile time for the world of Psychology and in particular the profession of Counselling. COVID-19 has provided us the ideal time to assess and evaluate what we think we know and consider how we provide support for our clients. My research interests rest here in developing new ways of working by combining traditional methods of counselling with digital technology, telephone delivery and eco therapy and also assessing the impact of COVID-19 from both a psychological, societal and ethical level.
Previously I have managed several mental health services across Staffordshire and South Cheshire and also have developed my own private counselling practice. Away from the world of Psychology & Counselling I am a keen sportsman and can be often found on the golf course, walking my Goldendoodle pup Chloe or cycling exploring the amazing networks across the city.
I am honestly overjoyed to be at Staffordshire University and working as part of an amazing team. I am really looking forward to meeting the students and hopefully offering the same inspiration that was afforded to me. Please stop me if you see me across campus and say “Hi” or even better you can let me bore you even more with photos of my dog by following me on twitter @JamesVernon9318.
The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Dr Megan Birney who joined the University as a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences in June 2021. Megan introduces herself below:
I am so excited to be joining the vibrant and friendly
Psychology Department at Staffordshire University as a Senior Lecturer in
Social Psychology and Individual Differences.
I am a social psychologist at heart! My research centres
around identity processes, intergroup contact, communication, social stigma,
obedience, and social exclusion; I love teaching about how these theories can
be applied to real-world problems in society and passing some of my passion for
these topics on to my students.
I completed my undergraduate
degree in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies (specialising in
International Studies and Business Leadership) from Virginia Tech (USA). I went
on to receive an MSc (with distinction) in Social and Organisational Psychology
in 2010 and a PhD in Psychology in 2015, both from the University of Exeter. My
research during this time focused on understanding how perceptions of
non-native accents influence the relationship between immigrants and host
country natives. After my PhD, I worked as a Research Fellow at the University
of St. Andrews investigating the role that
identity processes play within variants of the Milgram paradigm. I am
still involved in these projects today.
Prior to coming to Staffordshire, I spent 6 years at the University of Chester helping develop the psychology provision at undergraduate and postgraduate level at their campus in Shrewsbury. I both taught and led modules there in areas related to Social Psychology, Organisational Psychology, and Quantitative Research Methods, and in 2016, I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Throughout this time, I remained an active researcher. Some highlights include co-editing a special issue in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology and starting as an Associate Editor at the open-access journal, Psychology of Language and Communication.
Currently, I have several ongoing projects with various collaborators and with the community organisation Climbing Out. I’m always keen to get students involved in these projects where I can so if you’re interested do get in touch via email (email@example.com) or my Twitter account: @meganebirney
My first couple of weeks at Staffordshire have been really
exciting; I’ve loved meeting the colleagues I’ll be working with and am looking
forward to getting ‘stuck in’ to the modules I’ll be teaching on. Staffordshire
University has such an excellent balance between producing innovative research
and their value on high-quality teaching. I am truly honoured to be a part of
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.
Written by Psychology and Child Development graduate Chrissie Fitch BSc (Hons) MSc MBPsS
During secondary school, I had the opportunity of attending a conference where Elizabeth Loftus discussed her work in eyewitness testimony, and Christine Sizemore shared her experiences with multiple personality disorder. At this time, I also became aware of neurodevelopmental and neurogenerative disorders as I babysat for a disabled infant and cared for my grandmother who had dementia. This piqued my interest in psychology as a young teen and caused me to take the subject at A Level. However, it was during my gap year, almost twelve years ago, whilst teaching English to 5-12-year-olds at a charity school in Sri Lanka and studying online courses in child psychology and counselling that I realised my passion of pursuing it as a career – I now do distance learning course authoring and tutoring myself!
During my degree, I volunteered at a local children’s centre and gained experience of working with children of varying needs and abilities; every child I have met has taught me a lot about life. Obtaining an unconditional place on the BSc (Hons) Psychology and Child Development degree with foundation year at Staffordshire University was a dream come true.
Whilst I majored in child psychology, I really enjoyed the other optional modules because it widened my knowledge and revealed links to my chosen specialism. I would say that the most difficult module was research methods; I tended to get quite frustrated with SPSS and couldn’t get my head around certain qualitative methods. Saying that, I ended up managing to take advanced research methods in final year, which wouldn’t have happened without the help and encouragement of the lecturers and tutors as they made classes interactive and were always on hand to help if we were struggling in any way. My project supervisor helped me with my master’s application, and I am still in contact with her; they really do go above and beyond at Staffs!
Whilst I have worked as an honourary research assistant for a school interventions project, I struggled with finding paid assistant psychologist posts after my master’s. Despite this, I have learnt that determination, hard work and perseverance will pay off when the time is right. I’m currently self-employed and work remotely as a distance learning assessor and internal verifier for the psychology and counselling courses. As a graduate member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), I have attended and volunteered at conferences, edited articles for various magazines and have also written reviews for various divisions as well as BPS The Psychologist magazine. I have also been able to get friends and colleagues featured on the website.
Highlights of my learning are researching about adult intuitive eating habits and body image satisfaction for my undergraduate project and predicting that factors like parenting and self-compassion affect these for my master’s dissertation. With the encouragement of my supervisors and alongside some invaluable friends and colleagues, I got a research article based on both studies published by the BPS Division of Health Psychology and also a literature review by the BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology. As Visiting Research Associate of the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit at the University of Bristol, I am investigating the parental feeding practices and problems of primary school-aged children with and without a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. More recently, I was appointed as associate editor of the Culture section of BPS The Psychologist magazine.
I have done things differently to many of my peers, most of whom worked part-time alongside the degree and are now in assistant psychologist roles or on doctoral programmes, but I wouldn’t change anything. Everyone is different and has their own set of beliefs, goals and dreams; I am content in the knowledge that I am able to help people in the way that I have been helped. I believe I am continuing to hone my skills in order to work with the sensitivity and dedication that is needed for a psychologist. I can’t wait to someday qualify as a chartered psychologist and be able to make contributions to the improvement of educational and socioemotional outcomes of children, young people and their families when they need it most. It all started at Staffs!
If you have any questions about my journey please email or follow me on twitter!
Research carried out at Staffordshire University has looked at the impact in young people of a reduction in physical activity and an increase in sedentary behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was carried out by Staffordshire University Health Psychology lecturer, Dr Alison Owen, alongside Dr Kathryn Bould, a lecturer in Psychology at Liverpool John Moores university.
The research involved looking at the results
of studies published since the start of the pandemic, to bring together the
findings of the pieces of research looking at physical activity and sedentary
behaviour in young people during the pandemic. Stockwell et al. (2021) define
physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle that
results in energy expenditure, and can include exercising, walking, gardening
and doing household chores. Sedentary behaviours can be defined as any waking
behaviour with an energy expenditure of ≤1.5 metabolic equivalents while in a
sitting or reclining posture, including watching TV, video gaming and computer
use (Stockwell et al., 2021).
The studies showed that children’s physical
activity behaviours have lessened significantly during these times, while their
sedentary behaviours have risen significantly. For example one study (Moore et
al., 2020), found that only 4.8% (2.8% girls, 6.5% boys) of children and 0.6%
(0.8% girls, 0.5% boys) of youth were meeting combined movement behaviour
guidelines during COVID-19 restrictions. They found that children had lower
physical activity levels, less outside time, higher sedentary behaviours
(including leisure screen time), and more sleep during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In their report, Dr Owen and Dr Bould made
some suggestions for ways to encourage and foster physical activity in both
children and their families, for example by showing people different ways of
staying active and offering other opportunities for physical activity, as well
as ensuring the feeling of staying safe and being protected.
The work has
been published in the British Journal
of Child Health. If you are interested in reading the full article, or have any
questions about the study then please contact Dr Alison Owen –
Moore, S., Faulkner, G., & Rhodes R
(2020). Impact of the COVID-19 virus outbreak on movement and play behaviours
of Canadian children and youth: a national survey. International Journal of
Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17(1), 85.
Stockwell, S., Trott, M. & Tully, M. (2021).
Changes in physical activity and sedentary behaviours from before to during the
COVID-19 pandemic lockdown: a systematic review. BMJ Open Sport &
Exercise Medicine. 7:e000960.
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
I am Bee Swann-Thomas and I am currently in my second year of studying for a PhD in Psychology. My research interest is exploring whether having a memorial tattoo has an impact upon the grieving process.
I have previously researched this topic for my MSc in Psychotherapeutic Counselling at Staffordshire University. What sparked my interest was the death of my Dad and having a memorial tattoo in his memory. Memorial tattoos have a very personal meaning to me, and I am pleased to have recently had my paper published in Mortality Journal.
The findings from this research showed that memorial tattoos can be a valuable therapeutic aid in the grieving process. They can serve as a permanent physical reminder of a loved one, help with continuing bonds, allow the deceased a virtual afterlife, help in the adjustment to loss, serve as a tool of communication, and be an embodied representation of change. Memorial tattoos empower the bereaved to emerge from the loss of a loved one with a ‘beautiful scar’.
Conducting my MSc research
was really fascinating, and it was an honour to hear peoples’ stories of love
and loss. As a result, I have decided to continue my research for my PhD.
I would like to invite you to participate in my research that is being conducted in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University. I am interested in the experience of individuals (aged 18 years or over) who have experienced the loss of a loved one and have had a memorial tattoo in their memory. I will be researching five different categories of bereavement: Perinatal loss, Loss through suicide, Military Loss, Cremation ashes tattoos and Loss through Covid-19.
The research will involve a one-to-one interview conducted remotely via the Microsoft Teams platform. The interview will last approximately 1 hour, where you will be asked questions relating to your loved one and your memorial tattoo. You will also be asked to provide a photograph of your memorial tattoo which will be included within the research.
Written by Olivia Osborne, level 4 BSc Psychology student
Hello Everyone, I am Olivia Osborne and I am currently in my first year of studying with Staffordshire University on the BSc Psychology degree course.
This march I will be running on behalf of my university, 27 miles in 27 days in solidarity of the 27% of students who report a mental health problem whilst at University.
More students are experiencing mental health than ever before. The number of students reporting a mental health problem is five times greater today than it was 10 years ago.
Any student taking part in the 27 27 challenge wants to send a clear message; It’s time to take our mental health seriously, and won’t give up until everyone with a mental health problem gets the support and respect they deserve.
Any Donation given will be gratefully appreciated! My target began at £100.00 however, with the support I have already received I have now (01.02.21) reached £534.00. So, with high hopes, I aim to reach £1000.00!
Please join this journey with me by donating via the QR code or by visiting my fundraising page (https://givepenny.com/oliviaosborne_27_27)
Dr Amy Burton has contributed to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment. The book, entitled Movement and Visual Impairment: Research across Disciplines has been edited by Dr Justin Haegele and is an in-depth review of research spanning a range of disciplines including biomechanics, physical education and Paralympic sport.
Dr Burton’s chapter reviews the research evidence regarding physical activity interventions for older adults with vision impairment. The chapter includes an over view of her own work highlighting how engaging in physical activity in later-life can be particularly challenging for those with vision loss (Burton et al, 2016) with a number of psychological, social and societal factors contributing to low levels of engagement (Burton et al, 2018).
provides a detailed overview and critique of interventions designed to promote
physical activity for older adults with sight loss. The majority of these have
been dedicated to reducing falls risk and have shown limited success. In the
chapter Dr Burton highlights how a focus on functional limitations in research
has been at the expense of acknowledging other psychological, cultural, and
societal barriers to engagement. The chapter ends with a call for researchers
to further engage with the social motivators for exercise in older adults with
sight loss and to pay greater attention to the potential for the psychological,
in addition to physical, benefits of being more active.
Our Dr Alison Owen writes about her research exploring body image in female athletes.
Research carried out at Staffordshire University has looked into body image in a group of British female athletes, to look into how they feel about their appearance, and whether they feel that appearance pressures have impacted on their athletic careers in any way. The research was carried out by Staffordshire University graduate Tess Allen, alongside Staffordshire University Health Psychology lecturer, Dr Alison Owen.
British female athletes were interviewed individually, and asked to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their body. All of the athletes reported feeling the need to maintain a particular appearance. The women also all reported feeling pressure from outside influences, including the media, as well as from the uniforms they had to wear for their sports.
A number of suggestions and recommendations have arisen from the research findings, including a need for interventions to maintain a positive body image in female athletes, as well as considerations for factors such as uniform choice.
work has been published in the Journal
of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies. If you are interested in reading the
full article, or have any questions about the study then please contact Dr
Alison Owen – firstname.lastname@example.org