Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Emma Culley (BSc Psychology and Counselling)

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!

Emma Culley

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 Third joint Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate conference held in May 2022.

Matthew Kimberly (Psychology PhD student) blogs about the third annual Keele-Staffs psychology postgraduate conference, with postscript from Dr Richard Jolley (PhD psychology course leader)

Following from the success of the first two joint conferences and a forced hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the third joint Keele-Staffs psychology conference was hosted at Keele University in May 2022. The conference was organised by Dr Richard Jolley (Staffordshire University), Dr Sue Sherman (Keele University) with the help of a conference committee. The event offered an ideal opportunity for postgraduate researchers at both universities to network and share their research with an audience. It was also a great opportunity to practice their presentation skills in a supportive environment!

Tanya Schrader presenting their research

The conference commenced with an introduction from Professor Abigail Locke (Head of School of Psychology, Keele University) and Dr Richard Jolley. The first presenter in the morning session was Krystian Ciesielski from Keele University, who gave an informative overview of his research on whether visual information is used differently in functional and taxonomic scene categorisation. The second presenter was Tanya Schrader from Staffordshire University, who gave a dynamic talk about the dark side of conspiracy theory belief and how this may influence violence towards groups of people. Tanya was followed by Keele University’s Sebastian Nikolas Tustanowski, who discussed a study he was planning on the role of perceptual and cognitive factors (such as salience and consistency) on long-term memory of objects within a scene. Next, Darel Cookson from Staffordshire University discussed how social norm interventions may be used to reduce anti-vaccine conspiracy theory beliefs.

Following the morning presentations there was a short break before the Keynote speaker – Professor Lindsay O’Dell who is the director of the graduate school at the Open University.  Lindsay reflected upon her own PhD journey – giving some wise tips for the PhD students – and then discussed some of the challenges she had experienced in a research project on disabled children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic and how these were addressed.

Following the Keynote speaker, there was time for lunch, poster presentations and a group photo! Posters were presented by Sian Calvert (Staffordshire University), Iwan Dinnick (Keele University), Chloe Fahey (Keele University) and Chloe Pritchard (Keele University). Sian’s poster examined how social norms can be used to reduce unhealthy snacking in secondary school students. Iwan’s poster examined how characteristics of ingroup identity can reduce forgiveness of outgroup members. Chloe Fahey’s poster focused on the experiences of female sexual health services amongst individuals with autism. Chloe Pritchard’s poster examined public perceptions of child witnesses.

The afternoon session started with a presentation by myself discussing a recent study which examined the influence of relationship characteristics on the disclosure of sexual fantasies. The next talk was by Sonia Begum from Staffordshire University, who discussed some of the factors highlighted within her research to affect uptake and completion of Diabetes prevention programmes in the UK. Next Jamie Holmes from Keele University discussed a planned study examining the role of cognitive porousness in identity construction within players and characters within games such as Dungeons and Dragons.

Matt Kimberley presenting their research

In the final session Shwetha Davis from Keele University examined the experiences of teachers using trauma informed practices within educational settings. Next, Angela Bonner from Staffordshire University discussed how type 2 diabetes risk influences cognition. The final talk of the conference was by Stuart Moore from Keele University, who discussed how dimension switching can impair visual short-term memory resource allocation.

After Stuart’s talk, Professor Abigail Locke presented the prizes to the winners. Warm congratulations to Shwetha Davis for winning best talk presentation, Sian Calvert for winning best poster presentation and Stuart Moore and Iwan Dinnick for winning best open science research!

And finally a trip to the Keele Postgraduate Association (KPA) for a much deserved refreshment (or two!)

Matt Kimberley, PhD researcher


After the covid-enforced break from this joint postgraduate conference with the School of Psychology at Keele University I was delighted to offer this opportunity to our PhD students to present their research and network with fellow PhD students from our neighbouring institution.  Furthermore, the talk from our external keynote speaker provided a very useful personal reflection on conducting research.

In the psychology the Staffordshire University we have around 10 PhD students. As a body of research scholars they provide a significant contribution to the Psychology Department’s research output, and more generally to our research culture. If you are reading this blog and are interested in studying for a PhD in the psychology department at Staffordshire University please get in touch with me for further information. We very much welcome applications.

Dr Richard Jolley

Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology and PhD Psychology Course Leader

Email: r.jolley@staffs.ac.uk


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.

Meet StaffsPsych PhD researcher Matthew Kimberley

Written by Matthew Kimberley, Psychology PhD Researcher

I am currently in the second year of my PhD at Staffordshire University. Every PhD at Staffs is completely different and is tailored to the researcher. You choose your own research area and much of the design and the direction of the PhD is directed by the research, with support offered by your supervisors.

The wide range of research being conducted within the department at Staffordshire University allows you to interact with researchers with different research interests and methodologies. Through interactions with your fellow researchers, you are able to share your experiences and learn from one another. This may include sharing methodology/analysis experiences or methods of recruitment.

During a PhD at Staffordshire University, you work closely with your supervision team at all stages of research and receive a great deal of feedback. My supervision team consists of Doctor Jade Elliott, Doctor Samuel Jones and Doctor Zachary Parker. During your PhD, you gain a great deal of support and mentorship from your supervisors. Having more than supervisor allows you to gain insight from several viewpoints which is useful when shaping your research.

Completing a PhD allows you to dedicate a large proportion of your time to your research and to focus your attention to answering your research question. My research examines the factors which influence whether an individual shares their sexual fantasies with their partner. To accomplish this, I am primarily using quantitative research methods, such as quantitative content analysis and multiple regression analysis.

Alongside my PhD, I also teach part-time in the Psychology department. This has allowed me to gain valuable teaching experience and provided me with a number of training opportunities. I am particularly interested in gaining HEA associate fellowship in the near future.

My research:

Working alongside my supervisors, my research currently focuses on the disclosure of sexual fantasies. In particular, I am interested in examining which factors may influence how likely individuals are to share their fantasies with an intimate partner.

During the initial year of my PhD at Staffordshire University, I conducted a systematic review which aimed to examine which factors influenced self-disclosure within sexual and/or romantic relationships (Kimberley et al., in preparation). This review highlighted that very little research has examined which factors influence the disclosure of sexual fantasies.

Given that a large proportion of individuals regularly experience sexual fantasies (97%- Lehmiller, 2018) and that sexual fantasies and sexual self-disclosure act as relationship maintenance and enhancement tools, it is important to conduct research to examine which factors may inhibit or promote the disclosure of sexual fantasies.  

Drawing upon methodologies commonly used by HIV research, my first study aimed to identify the reasons participants provided for disclosing (or not disclosing) their sexual fantasies. This study also asked participants how their partner responded (or how they believed their partner would respond) to these disclosures. Recruitment has recently ended for this study, and I am now beginning to start analysis of the data using content analysis. Understanding the reasons people hold for hiding their sexual fantasies from a partner is crucial for developing an understanding of why some people disclose and others do not.

I have also recently received ethical approval for a second study, which examines how relationship characteristics (e.g. trust, love or perceptions of one’s partner) may influence an individual’s likelihood of disclosing their sexual fantasies. Recruitment for this study has started recently. Within this study, participants are asked to reflect on their relationship with a regular partner and to respond to hypothetical scenarios involving the disclosure of various sexual fantasies. To participate, you must be aged over 18 and currently in a sexual and/or romantic relationship. You do not need to have previously disclosed (or had) a sexual fantasy to take part.

If you would be interested in taking part, you can do so by accessing the following link (http://staffordshire.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2gK6xCjjZVTMvJA)

If you are a Staffordshire University student, you may also take part in the study through sona, where you can earn 2 sona credits. If you have any questions, please contact me (matthew.kimberley@research.staffs.ac.uk).


Exterior Science Centre

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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

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.

Emily Thornton joins as our new Schools and Colleges Champion!

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. 

Emily Thornton, Psychology 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:  

  1. I have dissected a human brain in my Undergrad.  
  2. I play wheelchair basketball. 
  3. 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: psyschoolevents@staffs.ac.uk


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

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.

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates: Reflections of an Alumni by Chrissie Fitch

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!


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

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.

Ambassadors Open Day Staffs Uni

Etched in the skin: Grief on a living canvas, memorial tattoos as expressions of grief

Written by PhD researcher Bee Swann-Thomas.

Bee Swann-Thomas

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.

If you are interested in taking part in the research or would like to request further information please contact the me at bee.swann-thomas@research.staffs.ac.uk


If you are affected by any of the bereavements outlined and would like to access a grief support service please contact one of the following:

  • Sands – Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity, Helpline: 0808 164 332, Email: helpline@sands.org.uk
  • Suviviors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), Helpline: 0300 111 5065, Email: support@uksobs.org
  • Supporting the Military Family, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk
  • The Lullaby Trust, Helpline: 0808 802 6868, Email: support@lullabytrust.org.uk
  • Covid-19 Bereavement Support, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk

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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

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.

Research exploring body image in Female Athletes

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.

The 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 – alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

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.

My experience completing the Staffs Psychology research internship and how it helped me!

Written by Matt Kimberley, BSc Psychology 2020 Graduate and Psychology PhD student

My name is Matt and I have just finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a first and I started my PhD in psychology in September (also at Staffs). During my time at Staffs I have fallen in love with the research side of psychology and this helped me set my sights on completing a PhD in psychology. To do this I knew research experience would be extremely helpful!  Thanks to the experience gained from completing the research internships (and one terrifying interview!) I have been accepted onto the Psychology PhD course at Staffordshire University and am due to start my research into the barriers people face in the disclosure of their sexual fantasies.

My experience completing two research internship during my undergraduate studies:

The first of these was during the summer of 2019 where I assisted Dr. Jade Elliott and Dr. Erica Lucas with their project which examined the influence of glucose on reasoning. This involved assisting with the transcription and coding of audio recordings of participants. Scores were then inputted into a spreadsheet. This internship really helped me to improve my skills in the management and organisation of data. This was incredibly useful during the data analysis stage of my third-year project which produced a very large database.

This year I applied for a research internship with Dr Sam Jones. This project looks at Digital Literacy. Through this summer, I have been helping Sam to find research into digital literacy and summarise and present this in a clear manner. I have found tables especially helpful for this as a means of presenting all the studies and the key information associated. As this is a new area of research for both myself and Sam, I have particularly enjoyed learning more about the area alongside Sam and sharing our findings through weekly teams meetings. Through this internship and my meetings with Sam, I feel my literature searching skills and the way that I organise research has improved massively. This will be very helpful next year when I am conducting a literature review for my own research! Through my work on this internship, I am being made a named author on the upcoming first journal article.

Through completing both research internships, my skills in literature searching and the management of research and data have improved. This has proved incredibly useful during my studies and will be useful when conducting my own research next year. If anyone is considering doing a research internship next year, I highly recommend it! Especially if you will be completing your third-year project the following year or are considering a career in research. The skills you will gain working alongside the lecturers will be incredibly helpful!


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

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.

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates: Victoria Baker (MSc Health Psychology & BSc Psychology)

Written by Victoria Baker MSc Health Psychology Graduate 2020.

Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:

I completed my BSc Psychology undergraduate degree in 2007, and finally returned to complete my MSc in Health Psychology on a part-time basis in 2018 as a mature student. I have been lucky enough to have worked alongside different Psychologists in several different fields in the world of work. Including Forensic Psychologists when I was a Tutor in a Young Offenders Institute, Clinical Addiction Psychiatrists when I was a Drug and Alcohol Practitioner, and Child Psychologists when I worked in family mediation. This varied experience allowed me to ascertain where my interests truly lay, which are predominantly in health promotion and harm reduction work.

In 2017, I decided to move into teaching A Level Psychology. However, I began to feel that my degree was outdated, given that Psychology is an ever changing field and new research is being published all the time. I felt the urge to return to study and update my skillset.

What attracted you to studying your course at Staffordshire University?

When I saw that Staffs offered a part time option for the MSc Health Psychology, I felt that it was the perfect opportunity for me to continue with academia whilst remaining at work and parenting my 2 small children. I went to an open evening and was impressed with their £30 million Science Centre and all the facilities and services it had to offer. As a Staffs Alumni this university always held a special place in my heart, and when I returned as a prospective postgraduate student, I was pleased that I still felt this same sense of belonging.

What are the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

The best part of my experience at Staffs was the lecturers on my course. They are very knowledgeable, friendly and have a varied wealth of expertise that they are willing to share with you. I enjoyed the sessions and being able to talk in great depth and length on the topics that we covered on the course. The lecturers treated me as an equal professional, which was nice as a mature student and fostered a relationship of mutual respect. I certainly had a lot I needed to learn and initially it was a very steep learning curve, but I also had a lot of experience to share. They were always supportive, and when I had a wobble and felt as though I couldn’t do it, they were always there to encourage me.

Why did you choose to study your subject?

I chose to study Health Psychology because my true passion lies with helping people to make positive changes in their life to improve overall quality of life. As a Drug and Alcohol Practitioner, I had to develop collaborative care plans to help people manage stress better, support people to lead a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise and educate young people to make informed choices around alcohol and substance misuse. Therefore, Health Psychology was a “good fit” for me.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to continue teaching A Level Psychology and to use the knowledge and skills I have gained from the MSc as CPD to support me in the delivery of related content. I think that by obtaining the MSc, it sends an important message out to my students; that it is never too late to set yourself a goal and it also demonstrates my commitment to education. I am in the process of setting up my own company with my husband who carries out adaptations to properties to improve people’s quality of life, for example people with long term conditions, elderly and disabled people. I can apply the knowledge gained from the MSc to allow a more responsive and sensitive approach to be taken when undertaking such work.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study your course at Staffordshire University?

My best advice to anyone wishing to study an MSc is that you need to have a mature attitude to your studies, organise your study and assignment time wisely and do not leave assignments til the last minute! – You may not achieve your true potential by completing work in this way. Forward planning will ensure that you are able to access support from lecturers should they not be available for last minute questions. Expect ups and downs, highs and lows. Sometimes you’ll feel like you really understand a module and other modules you may find you are not so taken with. This is human nature, its what makes the world go round, we are not all destined to like or be good at the same things!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at Staffs?

When I started the course in 2018, no one could have predicted that 2020 would have unfolded the way it did with the Covid pandemic. There were times that I doubted my ability to complete the course. When the schools were closed in March and I found myself at home with two small children to home educate, a teaching job to contend with and I was halfway through my dissertation, there were some overwhelming moments! I can’t thank my supervisor Dr Gemma Hurst enough whose support is what carried me through to the end and for this I will be forever grateful.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in 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 Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

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

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

Using photographs to explore what quality of life means to assisted living residents.

Dr Amy Burton


Dr Amy Burton has recently published a paper detailing a project conducted by one of our graduates as part of their MSc Health Psychology.

Riana Mansfield’s project was supervised by Dr Amy Burton and explored assisted living residents’ experiences of quality of life.


Assisted living is a popular form of housing care for older adults. Residents benefit from their own living spaces within a supportive environment including a range of services such as domiciliary care, health care and social activities.

Understanding quality of life for these older adults is important for ensuring assisted living residences provide the best possible service. However, little work had been conducted to uncover what quality of life means to older adults or how it is experienced on a day to day basis.

Riana’s project used a unique approach of collecting photographs taken by seven assisted living residents to better understand their lives. The residents collected images that captured their own personal meanings and experiences of quality of life. Riana then discussed these pictures with the residents through research interviews.

Stock photo from Pixabay of a woman holding a camera to take a photo.

A form of qualitative analysis called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was then used to identify common themes and experiences in the residents’ accounts. Riana’s work highlighted three themes that helped to explain and understand quality of life in assisted living.

  1. Firstly, the residents believed it was important to have continuity in their lives and found new ways to continue with activities that they enjoyed or were important to them prior to assisted living.
  2. Secondly, they discussed how social events and opportunities to make new friends within assisted living were essential for ensuing good quality of life. Several enjoyed supporting other less confident residents to be part of the community.
  3. Finally, the residents spoke about the supportive environment provided by the assisted living facility. This helped them to feel safe and provided access to services and support that would aid them as they became older.

Riana and Amy’s paper concludes by making recommendations to enable assisted living facilities to help their residents maintain good quality of life. These included: supporting residents to continue with valued and meaningful activities following a move to assisted living; setting up peer support buddy systems to assist new residents with becoming part of the community and to engage them in social activities; and discussing quality of life with residents and tailoring care and support to reflect the needs and wants of individual residents.

The research paper has been published in Geriatric Nursing and can be accessed here if you would like to read about the research in more detail (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gerinurse.2020.03.021).


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