Our recently published paper reports an international comparison of university students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of 11 alcohol control strategies, such as, increasing the cost of alcohol or teaching people skills to refuse alcohol. University students were recruited from Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Switzerland because these countries reflect a range of different drinking cultures for students. For example, Danish and English students don’t drink that often, but when they do, they can drink a lot, like binge drinking in a pub, bar, or nightclub. In contrast, Italian and Portuguese students often drink every day but in small amounts, like a glass of wine with a meal.
The paper was based on previous research by Dr Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex, which showed UK adolescents and university students rated restrictive strategies, like increasing the cost of alcohol, as less effective than educational strategies, like teaching people skills to refuse alcohol. These results are interesting because they contradict high-quality epidemiological evidence that restrictive strategies are more effective at reducing alcohol-related harm than educational strategies. Our paper sought to extend these results to see if ratings of effectiveness were affected by drinking culture.
Our paper had three key findings:
1. We replicated Richard’s results from 2014 – university students rated restrictive strategies as less effective than educational strategies.
2. We found that ratings of effectiveness were affected by country of residence. For example, Italian and Portuguese students rated restrictive strategies as more effective than students in other countries. Alternatively, Danish students rated educational strategies as less effective than students from other countries.
3. We also found that different psychological factors predicted ratings of effectiveness for different strategy types. Students who reported less positive alcohol outcomes (beliefs about the effects of drinking) reported higher ratings for restrictive strategies, while students who reported higher drinking refusal self-efficacy (finding it easier to refuse the offer of an alcoholic drink) reported higher ratings for educational strategies.
There are three takeaway messages from this paper. First, we confirmed that university students’ view restrictive alcohol control strategies—like increasing the price of alcohol—as less effective than educational strategies at reducing alcohol-related harm. This result is completely in contrast to the epidemiological evidence, which favours restrictive strategies. Implementing unpopular, but effective, strategies that restrict students’ ability to drink alcohol, is going to be challenging. Second, we found country of residence affected ratings of strategy effectiveness. Southern European students gave more favourable ratings of restrictive strategies than students in other European countries, while Danish students gave the least favourable ratings of educational strategies. We need to conduct new research to explore these differences. Finally, we found that two psychological factors, alcohol expectancies and drinking refusal self-efficacy, predicted strategy ratings. It may be possible to target these factors in interventions to increase students’ ratings of the effectiveness of alcohol control strategies. This is one way to increase support for implementation of these strategies.
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
Written by Dr Amy Burton, Senior Lecturer in Qualitative Psychological Research Methods
The World Health Organization and UK Policy recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life, followed by breastfeeding alongside complementary foods for up to two years and beyond. However, levels of exclusive breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks are only around 32% in England and Scotland and breastfeeding initiation is particularly low in Stoke on Trent, falling below the England average.
At Staffordshire University we have a group of researchers who are interested in learning about the experience of breastfeeding and finding new ways to develop and improve breastfeeding support. On the 26th May 2022 we held an event to discuss our breastfeeding research and establish new networks with breastfeeding stakeholders.
We then facilitated a guided discussion with two breastfeeding mothers about their own experiences and thoughts about our research.
World Café discussions
Attendees then took part in a World Café. World Café is a collaborative research approach where group discussions are focussed on a series of questions. For our World Café we asked:
What stood out for you in the research and experiences that have been discussed today, and what do you hope to do with this new knowledge?
What do you feel are the immediate breastfeeding research priorities?
What do you feel are the biggest barriers to breastfeeding research influencing policy and practice, and how might we overcome these?
After each question a few attendees from each group moved to another table where the discussions continued. This resulted in further exchange of knowledge and summaries of previous discussions with the aim of reaching a group-led ‘world view’ of each issue. Discussion points were noted on poster paper and audio-recorded.
After the event the attendees were given opportunity to feedback on the key outcomes of these discussions as part of a follow up evaluation survey.
Our World Café highlighted a number of breastfeeding priorities. Some of these include:
Breastfeeding information and support needs to be introduced earlier in pregnancy than is taking place in current practice.
[Breastfeeding is] touched on at booking to have a look at it further down the line, but then, and then at 34 weeks as well when we sort of go through the birth plan it’s briefly touched on, but like yourself, premature deliveries, you’ve missed that conversation, if you’re before 36 weeks you’ve missed that conversation so you’ve missed all that information, and as well if you’re premature obviously you’re encouraged to breastfeed or express and then it’s like but actually you’ve not had any education about that at all, so you’ve missed a lot. I think it needs to be a lot sooner.
If someone’s on the fence, they’re unsure, they don’t know what they wanna do [breastfeed or use formula], you know there’s not much information about it, you’re almost gonna guarantee they are gonna be buying formula as a back-up.
Pregnant women need to be informed, empowered, and prepared to overcome breastfeeding barriers and challenges.
If more women understand, either antenatally or postnatally, you know typical challenges and tips on how to overcome these or they are aware of myths and that you know? For example just giving them a bottle isn’t going to necessarily make a baby sleep longer, or the myth about mastitis. If women know these things then actually when, if a challenge arises, either they know where to seek support from you know? A peer supporter, peer support group or a healthcare professional, and maybe it’s just gonna help their confidence a little bit more if they think actually this isn’t the right information, and we’re just kind of arming these women a little bit better.
Intervention needs to include family members and social contacts who can support or create barriers for breastfeeding.
My mum, even though she breastfed till eighteen months with me and my sister, I think when my son was a couple of months old, she said “oh we’ve got family coming round, family friends coming round, if you want to come round for tea you can but can you just go into the living room if you’re gonna feed” and I said no, and she said “well we’ll have to go out for a meal with them instead and you won’t be able to come”, and it’s like fine, fine […] My mum isn’t bad in general, but I said to her, she said “I know what you’re gonna say because I know how passionate you are about it”, but I was like “I’m not just going into another room because I’m feeding him”.
Education and training about breastfeeding needs to be improved for healthcare professionals.
I’ve heard some absolute horror stories of terrible advice received from various professionals, health visitors, outdated advice, midwives, doctors, I’ve even received terrible advice myself when I needed some antibiotics, I’m allergic to penicillin, “ooh you need to stop breastfeeding cause if we need to give you antibiotics”, “we won’t have very many to give you”, and it’s like well, I don’t plan on needing antibiotics anytime soon, but you know I’ll manage, thanks. And that’s not true anyway, there’s plenty of antibiotics I could receive-
Speaker 2: Yeah, and it’s always so surprising when you hear stories like that-
Speaker 1: I know, I know.
Speaker 2: You just think I don’t understand how people in the medical profession have got all of these wrong ideas. Like where’s the training for them?
Our event helped to inform the work of attendees who were working in breastfeeding services:
“[the event provided] good links to evidence to use in discussion/promotion”
“I am going to think about encouraging pregnant families to Baby Cafe, to help inform them before their baby arrive as early education can help de-bunk some of those myths [about breastfeeding]”
“[I am going to] incorporate [the research findings] as we plan future volunteer peer support training and groups for families”.
In addition, our event helped to establish useful networks within the city of Stoke on Trent and beyond creating new links for future collaborative work to support breastfeeding:
“(I) definitely hope to use this as a springboard to developing new connections and projects”
For the Breastfeeding Network (BfN) in Stoke on Trent our event highlighted a need to improve healthcare professional awareness of their services to increase referral. Attending our event helped to achieve this and BfN have seen an increase in healthcare professionals making contact including some requests from midwives and health visitors to attend their support groups to see how they work.
Our event was very well received by attendees. We are continuing to analyse the data collected to identify themes and priorities for policy and future research. We want to thank everyone who has been involved and are excited about our new connections and networks. We look forward to working with these networks on future projects to enhance breastfeeding support and ultimately improve breastfeeding rates across the city of Stoke on Trent and beyond.
If you are interested in this work or would like to talk more about breastfeeding research, please get in contact with me at amy.burton@Staffs.ac.uk or over on Twitter @DrAmyBurton
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
The BPS Research Assistantship Scheme is highly competitive, so the Department is proud to be successful in being awarded two summer internships in 2022 to Dr Alison Owen and Dr Sarah Rose.
One of the award holders, Heather Cassidy, who is working with Dr Alison Owen, has written a blog piece about her experiences studying BSc Psychology and Child Development and the focus for the research.
I have completed year 2 of BSc Psychology and Child Development and I am currently in my final year. During the second year I was really excited to have the opportunity to choose the research assistantship module to build experience to suit my future career plans.
I want to get as much research experience during my time at Staffs as I can, unlike some of the other option modules it had a limited number of spaces and I had to achieve a certain grade in research modules in year 1 to get one of the spaces. I had my fingers crossed that I got a place, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was more than I could have imagined it was going to be. To be trusted to work on the research with the health psychology team was an amazing experience and opened doors of opportunity that have really made my journey at staffs both unique and tailored to me. The research I worked on was looking at breastfeeding and body image, I created adverts online to recruit participants, scheduled video appointments, wrote questions to ask and interviewed the participants for the study. I then transcribed the interviews and wrote my thoughts down of the generated themes to pass on to other researchers. As well as being my first experience of qualitative research, which helped with a further qualitative lab report on a core module in semester 2, the assistantship module provides an opportunity for reflection which will come in handy having had experience writing this ready for the year 3 project.
Wednesdays were my favourite day, I would have an occasional research assistantship lecture first thing, followed by a child development module. At the start of year 2 the first child development lecture asked the whole group what we wanted from the module as individuals. We all scribbled on post it notes and thought nothing of it, we studied the core material in semester 1 and then semester 2 arrived and the module had been set out each week to cover the topics the group had asked for in relation to careers. Each week we covered a different topic and various speakers came in to tell us how it related to their jobs, we heard from speakers working in various child psychology careers. We were taught how this connected to the material from semester 1 and how their diary looked in a typical week from clinical psychologists to family support workers. It was eye opening, and I know the group all enjoyed learning from people working in roles that they aspire to achieve after graduating next year. The child development lecturers always go above and beyond, and for me personally it really supported the notion of my experience being about me. I do not feel like I am a number on a register, my course is shaping my knowledge and putting the building blocks in place for my future career.
Year 2 has also demonstrated just how far I have come. I have done various other courses over the years, and I have never felt confident writing an essay before. At the start of year 1 I had used references in previous work, but I was still clueless about it, I just did it and hoped for the best. I remember my feedback from my first essay at staffs, my marker had written where is the intro? I was so confused, I had done a starting paragraph, nobody had ever pulled me up on my introduction style before. This allowed me to question what it was I needed to do, and it all fell in to place. I finally know how to write an essay. That may not be an achievement for others but for me it has been such a huge step and my marks have increased a lot as the course has gone on through all the teaching and feedback I have received at Staffs.
Outside of the planned lessons there is other support available to teach people study skills such as referencing and searching for journals, there is a section on the website where you can book in for any additional help you need. It is through the extra support available that it was finally picked up this year that I have ADHD. With this extra support it has enabled me to not only receive extra support, but it also puts the pieces into place for me of why I have always been capable of doing work, but the reason why I have struggled. This year has been life changing in so many ways academically and Staffs have truly supported and nurtured my development.
The golden egg moment for me this year was being put forward for a BPS award to take on a summer internship. I cried when I found out I had received it, but even if I had not received it, the fact that I was being able to put my own ideas forward for research and have people acknowledge that and have confidence in me to put me forward was an award in itself. The research I am currently working on is on the experiences of parents breastfeeding twins and multiples. During the assistantship module I interviewed around 15 women, only one was breastfeeding twins, based on her experience it opened my eyes to the differences she was experiencing as a mum of twins, and I suggested a twin study on the back of the research I had carried out in year 2. I have had the pleasure of working alongside Dr Alison Owen, Dr Jenny Taylor and Dr Amy Burton, all from Staffs health psychology department with experience in breastfeeding and qualitative research. Even just from writing the proposal to put forward to be considered I was able to learn how proposals are put forward, how to fill in ethics forms and carry out a literature review to use in the study. In August, I finished the literature searches, written the introduction, written questions, recruited participants, used Qualtrics as part of the recruiting process where there are around 170 detailed responses to use for the study as well as 19 video interviews I have carried out. I have been transcribing the videos ready to start the thematic analysis of both the videos and written responses over the next few weeks. I could not have pictured where this year would have gone, but it has been far greater than I could have imagined, and I am so thankful for the support I have received. I do not feel like I am at university to just get a degree and enter the job market, I truly feel like I am being given the skills I need to have a successful career in Psychology.
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.
As part of our series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Emma who completed her BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling degree here at Staffordshire University in 2022. Find out about Emma’s experiences on her course and her plans for the future:
Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:
I decided to study psychology at university on my first day at sixth form! I started studying psychology at sixth form in 2017 and my teacher was a real inspiration to me. As soon as I stepped into the classroom on my first day I knew it was what I wanted to study and I became very dedicated to those studies. This set me on the path to where I am now!
What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?
Staffordshire University was the first place I went to an open day when choosing a university. As soon as I arrived at the university I felt at home and was comfortable walking around. During the talks given by the lecturers on the day I was enthralled by the topics and was very engaged in these talks. I felt that I could gain a lot from the experience that Staffordshire University could give me and what they had to offer and I knew it was the place for me to be for the next 3 years at least!
What were the best parts of your experience at Staffordshire?
During my time at university we went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic so my experience was somewhat interrupted due to this. In spite of this I managed to make the most of the experiences the university had to offer with day trips to Alton Towers to meet people on my course and other extra-curricular activities on offer (the club nights in the LRV and karaoke in the Ember Lounge!). I was also part of the university badminton club for my 3 years of studying and made some wonderful friends there and gained experience in running clubs – highly recommend being part of as many clubs and societies as you can – this is what gives you that full university experience!
What was the biggest challenge(s) that you overcame whilst studying at Staffordshire?
The biggest challenge I faced at university was the change in learning styles from starting with face-to-face lectures in first year to only online lectures in second year and then a mix of everything in my final year. Due to the online learning bought about by the pandemic communication with peers was limited as discussions during lectures were difficult due to often unstable internet connections and difficulty in communicating online. Also arranging meetings with mentors and lecturers meant a stable internet connection which was sometimes hard to find in a student house when everyone was studying online! Due to not being on campus access to resources was limited for a while as not all textbooks/articles were available online, however this was resolved quickly by the university in difficult times! These challenges were overcome through perseverance of online lectures and many emails to and from (very) patient lecturers discussing any questions that students had.
What have you done since leaving Staffordshire?How did you course help you with this?
Since finishing my undergraduate degree in May 2022 I have been busy completing a summer internship with lecturers at the university. This internship has been based within Health Psychology, the area in which I am most interested and has consisted of a systematic review. As part of the review team I have been searching across multiple databases, completing data extraction and quality appraisal of articles. This kind of review is not something I had been able to complete as part of the course and so gaining this experience has been invaluable. This has been a really wonderful experience and has given me many skills that will prove useful in my future career in Health Psychology.
I am starting a master’s in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University in September 2022, during which I will be undertaking a placement module which will give me a great deal of experience working within the industry alongside my studies.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?
Go for it! Studying psychology at Staffordshire University was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The experiences I have been given and the people I have met have allowed me to develop skills and create lifelong bonds with some amazing people, whether this be the lecturers being great mentors or friends that I have made along the way. All these things make me Proud to be Staffs.
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.
The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Professor Richard Cooke who joined the University as a Professor of Health Psychology in January 2022. Richard introduces himself below:
I am delighted to have joined the amazing Staffordshire University as their new Professor of Health Psychology, director of the Centre for Psychological Research (SCPR), and co-director of the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. I am a full member of the Division of Health Psychology and registered as Health Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council. I am also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Registered Applied Psychology Practice Supervisor. I am the current chair of the Division of Health Psychology’s Conference Scientific Committee. I previously acted as Chair of the Local Organising Committee for the 2018 UK Society for Behavioural Medicine annual scientific meeting hosted at Edgbaston Cricket ground.
My primary research interest focuses on people’s motivation
to perform health behaviours, investigating questions such as “Why do people
drink excessively?” and “Why don’t people eat healthily and engage in physical
activity?”. I’m also interested in health guidelines and why people don’t
follow them!, as well as working with colleagues from the Global Drug Survey
team, based in Australia, the UK, and the US, on global comparisons of
My secondary research interest is working with health
professionals to design, develop and evaluate health behaviour change interventions.
My interest in this area began when I led a qualitative evaluation of the NHS
Health Checks programme in Birmingham. Since completing that project I’ve
worked with Optometrists at Aston University, and Nutritionists at the
University of Manchester, to promote dietary behaviour change in patient
populations. I am currently working on a NIHR-funded grant with dentists at the
University of Liverpool to test the impact of a health behaviour change
intervention to promote routine dental attendance.
Many moons ago, I completed my undergraduate degree in
Psychology at the University of Sheffield, before completing my Masters degree in
Research Methods in Psychology at the University of Reading. I then returned to
Sheffield to complete my PhD on moderation of cognition-behaviour relations
using properties of cognition in 2002. Next, I worked at the University of
Leeds on the UNIQoLL project – an attempt to map out the mental health of ALL
students at the University. I then moved to Sheffield Hallam University in 2003
to take on a post as a Lecturer in Health Psychology. One year later, I moved
to Aston University as a Lecturer in Health Psychology, gaining promotion to
Senior Lecturer in 2012. I was part of the team that established the MSc Health
Psychology programme in 2005 and the MSc Health Psychology (online) programme a
decade later. I delivered Quantitative Methods and Advanced Statistics and
Health Behaviours modules for 13 years as well as teaching methods and
statistics, social psychology, and an optional module on the psychology of
alcohol at undergraduate level. Prior to coming to Staffs, I spent four years
as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Liverpool, teaching a
postgraduate module in advanced research methods as part of their MSc Research
Methods in Psychology.
Currently, I have several ongoing projects, including
supervising a PhD student to explore the link between the fear of missing out
(FoMO) and alcohol consumption, secondary analyses of big data sets with
collaborators at UEA and in Bremen, and secondary analyses of longitudinal data
with colleagues in Norway. I continue to write up results of the CALIBRATE
study, a funded study seeking to compare prediction of alcohol consumption
between university students based in six different European countries. If you
are interested in hearing more about these projects feel free to email me via firstname.lastname@example.org or you
can follow me on Twitter @Prof_R_Cooke.
My first few weeks at Staffordshire have been great –
everyone is really friendly, and it’s been a pleasure to meet people and
Dr Meg Linscott, Health Psychologist – Pain Service, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust
Completing the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University was a dream come true for me and from early on, opened so many doors for my career. The bursary scheme in place is commendable. As a trainee, I was able to build excellent relationships with the experienced, professional yet friendly teaching team and this was invaluable to my personal and professional development. I felt that the team got the balance of supporting me and enabling/encouraging me to be autonomous, spot on. The doctorate always felt organised, diverse, innovative, up to date and responsive to me as a student. The mix of theory and applied content was great. The opportunities that were made available to me above and beyond my applied placement, to support me in completing my portfolio of work and to enhance my development, were fantastic. The facilities and technology available throughout the doctorate were always sufficient for me. Overall, the doctorate facilitated me to learn and achieve more than I could have imagined. I am #ProudtobeStaffs and I highly recommend the course. The opportunities that were made available to me above and beyond my applied placement, to support me in completing my portfolio of work and to enhance my development and professional network, were fantastic.
Dr Louise Clancy, Health Psychologist, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust
Undertaking the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology
was a challenging but highly rewarding journey. I found the range of
competencies covered and flexibility for completing these especially helpful
whilst working full time alongside the course. The scope of the course
broadened my appreciation of the range of areas within which a Health
Psychologist might practice and further strengthened my passion to progress my
career along the Applied Health Psychologist route.
I feel very lucky to have met some amazing people whilst undertaking the course both students and staff; and still maintain many of these connections. The range of experiences of both students and staff further enhanced my learning and was a great source of support throughout this journey.
Dr Mike Oliver, Health Psychologist & Chartered Psychologist, Health Psychology Matters Ltd.
I was fortunate enough to do both my MSc in Health Psychology and Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University. Doing both my Stage 1 and Stage 2 qualifications at Staffordshire University really helped me to get a deep understanding of the subjects taught, an appreciation of health psychology as a profession and allowed me to build good working relationships with the staff on the Professional Doctorate. I also thoroughly enjoyed making professional and personal friendships with my fellow students, and these are enduring after completing the Doctorate, and will do for years to come. The highlight of the Doctorate for me was how the different competencies individually and collectively, gave me confidence for, and prepared me professionally, for the role I had in Public Health whilst I studied, and now in my career as an independent Health Psychologist.
Dr Dayyanah Sumodhee, Research Associate at King’s College London and NHS Stop Smoking Practitioner
The doctorate was a fantastic opportunity to learn the core aspects and professional practice of health psychology. I had incredible support from my supervisor and the whole team from the Health Psychology department. The peer-support system set up from the start of the programme was a great opportunity to share, discuss ideas and get further support. The different modules covered in the programme opened up many opportunities for a range of work positions after graduating. The mix between taught sessions, work experience and supervision sessions was ideal to learn new skills and grow in confidence. This programme has given me all the preparation I needed to work as a proficient Health Psychologist.
Have questions about the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology? Please contact Dr Rachel Povey who is one of the course directors.
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
Dr Amy Burton writes about how participants shared feelings of intense pressure regarding the accepted length of time to breastfeed.
The Conversation UK is a free news service featuring articles written by academics on a range of topics and current affairs. Staffordshire University is a member of The Conversation UK and you can read the full article below:
HLecturer in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University, Dr Alison Owen, is working in collaboration with Dr Manpal Bhogal at the University of Wolverhampton, looking at some of the factors that might be related to tanning behaviours and sunbed use.
In 2013, researchers Dr Alison Owen, Professor David Clark-Carter and Dr Emily Buckley at Staffordshire University, with Professor Sarah Grogan of Manchester Metropolitan University, carried out research and found that almost a fifth (18.6%) of women had used a sunbed at least once in the past month, with the majority of participants agreeing that a tan looked good (80%), and that tanned people look healthy (71.4%) (Williams, Grogan, Clark-Carter & Buckley, 2013). The current researchers therefore felt that it would be interesting to explore some of the factors behind people feeling positively about tanning behaviours or choosing to use a sunbed.
Dr Owen and Dr Bhogal are combining two areas of psychology in their present research: Health Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology. Their study involves an online questionnaire that will ask participants about indoor sunbed use, attitudes towards tanning and topics such as self-esteem.
If you are over 18 and are interested in participating please complete the online questionnaire – it is open to all people, both those who use sunbeds as well as those who don’t, and just involves you answering a short survey.
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
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!