Welcome to our new PSRG Members!

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Dr Amelia Baldwin

I am a Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology and a BPS Chartered and HCPC registered counselling psychologist.  I have worked in various capacities including the voluntary sector, advocacy, NHS services, academia and private practice.

My first degree was in Computer Science and I completed a second BSc Honours degree in Psychology whilst working as a computer software developer.  I began my psychotherapy training in 2003 at the University of Bristol on a Certificate in Counselling qualifying as a therapist in 2007 on completion of a MSc in Counselling Psychology at UWE. 

I am the module leader for the Systemic Thinking and Practice in Counselling Psychology and co-module leader for the Principles in Counselling Psychology.

I have lectured, led training and developed policy and support on issues of working relationally with difference, anti-racism and EDI.  This includes lecturing at UWE since 2012 on undergraduate and doctoral psychology programmes in the areas of ‘race’, privilege, transcultural counselling and feminist approaches to therapy.

My master’s research was an investigation of the experience of helping relationships in Asian cultures.  My doctoral research was a qualitative exploration of British Women’s Experiences of Racist Hate Crime.  I have a special interest in spirituality, intersectionality, social justice, the therapeutic relationship, discrimination, hate crime and feminist psychology.

I am a member of Promoting Psychological Health (PPH) theme of the Psychological Sciences Research Group (PSRG). And I supervise counselling psychology doctorate trainees  and undergraduate dissertation students.

Dr Bruna Da Silva Nascimento

I’ve recently joined UWE as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and will co-lead the Identities in Psychology Module. My main research interests lie in the areas of human sexuality and interpersonal relationships, and I often combine evolutionary and cross-cultural approaches in my research. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how individuals protect their romantic relationships against the threat of infidelity as well as factors that contribute to relationship satisfaction and conflict between romantic partners, with a particular focus on intimate partner violence (IPV).

I hold a BSc in Psychology (2012, Federal University of Piaui, Brazil), and an MSc in Social Psychology (2015, Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil). In 2015, I moved to the UK to start my PhD, funded by Capes Foundation, supervised by Dr Anthony Little at the University of Bath. My thesis explored individual and cultural predictors of relationship maintenance strategies by combining experimental and correlational designs. Alongside my PhD, I also worked as a Teaching Assistant (TA) at the University of Bath and supported teaching and learning in the Undergraduate (UG) and Postgraduate (PG) psychology programmes.

After I received my PhD in 2019, I worked as a Research Fellow at Kingston University London on several projects exploring predictors of antisocial behaviour among children and adolescents in the UK and Qatar, as well as contributed to their UG and PG psychology programmes as a TA. In July 2020, I joined the Centre for Culture and Evolution at Brunel University London as a Lecturer in Psychology, where I could develop my cross-cultural research programme on sexuality and relationships. At Brunel, I taught on both UG and PG psychology programmes, and led the individual differences module of the Psychological Sciences (conversion) MSc.

At UWE, I’d like to expand my current research programme into interpersonal relationships and I look forward to establishing new collaborations with the PSRG members.

Dr Kayleigh Easey

I have recently joined UWE as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, and am an Epidemiologist and Psychologist. At UWE I will be leading the Psychopharmacology module within the BSc Psychology programme.

Prior to this, I worked as a Genetic Epidemiologist at the University of Bristol working in the Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU), where my research focused on potentially modifiable health behaviours (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, physical activity) during pregnancy and their potential intergenerational impact on offspring outcomes. This research had a particular focus on causal effects and the role of paternal as well as maternal health behaviours in and around pregnancy. Prior to this, I completed my PhD at the University of Bristol, where I investigated offspring mental health outcomes associated with maternal prenatal alcohol use.

Before my PhD, my background mainly focused on mental health research. After completing my undergraduate degree in Psychology, I gained experience within the NHS as an Assistant Clinical Psychologist. This allowed me initially to conduct clinical research within mental health departments across Devon, and eventually led me to train as a mental health therapist. I became further interested in the causal nature of mental health problems and how we may be able to improve outcomes, which ultimately led me back into research. I then completed a MSc in Health Psychology at the University of Bath, and afterwards began working as a Research Associate within the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG) at the University of Bristol.

I have a particular interest in substance use, mental health, women’s health and perinatal health, and I am keen to conduct further interdisciplinary research to investigate these topics. I currently also supervise doctoral students at the University of Bristol, focusing on pharmacoepidemiology in pregnancy, as well as alcohol use in autistic people.

I’m looking forward to being a part of PSRG as a multidisciplinary research team.

Dr Charlotte Flothmann

I’m excited to have recently joined the UWE profdoc team in Counselling Psychology! This year I’m teaching the first year students Principles of Counselling Psychology and Personal and Professional Development, as well as a few other bits and pieces! I’m really passionate about promoting inclusive and culturally-sensitive practice, and have especially focused on learning from refugees and asylum seekers about their experiences before, during and after migration. This crosses over into my clinical work of course, and currently I am working for a complex trauma service in Bath which supports victims of abuse and trafficking. 

Prior to coming to UWE, I taught at Bristol University for several years and worked in clinical practice throughout this time for a number of local charities as well as an international NGO. My work is widely inter-disciplinary and I have given trainings and consultancy especially on migration related trauma to professionals in many fields and across the world. I really enjoy teaching and learning from students, and have found this to be hugely beneficial to my clinical work (which of course in turn enriches my teaching)! Before deciding to become a psychologist (I trained at the City in London), I was a language teacher in Central America, where I started to gain some insight into the impact of forced migration.

My research interests centre around informing therapeutic and education practice to best engage and support people who are most marginalised in our society, and in particular thinking about the experience of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. At the moment I am working with local schools to understand the needs of recently arrived young people from Ukraine and hope to develop training materials for staff and families to share best practice. 

Rob Hutton

I joined UWE summer 2022 as a Lecturer in Occupational and Business Psychology. My area of interest is in all things ‘cognitive work’. I have spent my career trying to understand skilled performance in the mental activities of decision making, sensemaking, and planning by individuals and teams in their work contexts. I have been involved in the development of cognitive field research methods which allow analysts to understand the challenges of complex work and the application of knowledge and experience to the assessments, judgments and decisions required to perform effectively and safely. 

I spent the early part of my career (1991-2008) in the U.S. doing work primarily for the Department of Defence, initially as a grad student at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (Dayton, OH) looking at pilot-cockpit interaction (visual and haptic), followed by applied research for a small applied cognitive research company working all over the U.S. from the big cities (New York, Seattle, San Diego) to the smaller military outposts like Killeen, TX and Dothan, AL (you have to add the State letters after those small towns otherwise… where?). When I moved back to the UK, I still did a lot of work in defence and security, but have also been involved recently in leadership development for World Health Organisation (WHO) and incident investigations and analysis for Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB).

From the perspective of ‘the psychology’, I have utilised ideas of ecological explanations of visual perception to inform the design of digital displays and visualisations, to models of recognition-primed decision making to support the training of situation assessment skills and developing mental models to support rapid decision making. I have also been involved in the development of knowledge elicitation and cognitive task analysis methods to support designers’ understanding of the complex cognitive requirements for cognitive skills training, decision support technologies, knowledge management systems, and ways of working.

I am often driven by applied needs that require an understanding of cognitive work, applying cognitive ergonomics or cognitive engineering approaches. Current interests include the underlying psychology of cognitive agility in decision making, the ‘design of time’ in time and event driven work contexts, and the requirements for the human-machine interface between operators (e.g. drivers) and autonomous or remote robotic systems (e.g. ‘driverless’ cars).

Please get in touch if you want to discuss anything ‘cognitive work’, whether it’s looking for examples of cognitive challenges in complex work environments or discussing models of macrocognition! 

Dr Jemma Sedgmond

I have recently joined UWE as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology. I will be co-leading the Psychology Project module and teaching across several undergraduate modules including research design and analysis, biological psychology, and cognitive neuropsychology. 

I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Chester, before moving to Bangor University to complete an MSc in Clinical Neuropsychology. I then joined the School of Psychology at Cardiff University as a Brain Stimulation Lab Manager. During this time I was involved in research projects exploring the concurrent use of TMS and MRI, TMS methods, Open Science, and food addiction.

I completed my PhD at Cardiff University’s Brain Research and Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), where I investigated the use of non-invasive brain stimulation and cognitive control training in modifying automatic response to food cues. Throughout my PhD I was a champion for Open Science; pre-registering, and sharing data and study materials for all of my projects.

After my PhD I spent two years at Bath Spa University as a Lecturer in Psychology where I was module lead for Advanced Cognitive and Biological Psychology, and taught on modules including Research Methods and Health Psychology.

My research focuses on the determinants of food choice and consumption. I am interested in the social, biological, and cognitive determinants of eating behaviour. I am also particularly interested in the risk factors for under-fueling and disordered eating in endurance athletes; particularly triathletes. 

Dr Kayleigh Sheen

I have recently joined UWE as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, where I will lead the Clinical Aspects of Mental Health module and co-lead People and Social Sciences (Foundation). My research intercepts clinical and health psychology, with a broad focus on psychology in the context of childbirth and reproductive health. I use both quantitative and qualitative approaches in my research, often combining both. 

Prior to this, I was a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) where I developed teaching from foundation level through to MSc. I was also responsible for the supervision of research at undergraduate, MSc and doctoral level. I am currently supervising/ co-supervising several doctoral projects including investigations into the psychological predictors of fear of childbirth, and the mental health of student midwives and nurses.  

I completed both my undergraduate (2010) and PhD (2014) degrees at the University of Sheffield, before moving to the University of Liverpool (2013-2018). Much of my time at the University of Liverpool was spent continuing research into the impact of work-related trauma on maternity staff (a programme of work initiated by my PhD). I was also involved in research investigating fear of childbirth, which included developing a new measurement tool to measure fear in maternity care. As I move to UWE, I am about to lead an NIHR funded bid to continue this work, where we will validate this tool and examine feasibility of routine use as part of antenatal care.  

On a broader level, I am a committee member for the Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology (SRIP) where I oversee the allocation of research development funding and lead Society communications. 

I’m really pleased to join PSRG, UWE, and to be exploring new collaborations in the South West! 

Dr Joe Walsh

I have recently joined UWE from Bath Spa University as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology. At UWE, I will be co-leading the Research Design and Analysis 1 module and teaching across a number of undergraduate and postgraduate modules in Psychology at UWE.

I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Hull, before moving to the University of Bath to complete an MSc in Health Psychology, and then transitioning to a PhD in the Centre for Pain Research. My PhD was funded by a Graduate School Scholarship, and focused on investigating how we communicate pain nonverbally, with a particular focus on body posture, as well as sex and gender differences in this communication process. 

After my PhD, I held a post-doctoral position in the Bath Centre for Pain Research, working on the Bath-TAP project funded by Reckitt Benckizer, investigating the effect of pain on attentional processing. Following this, I took up a position as a lecturer in Psychology at Bath Spa University. 

My research focuses on the pain experience and social pain perception, with a particular interest in pain communication, sex and gender-based variation in the pain expereince, and mechanisms through which pain influences cognitive processes, in particular attention. My work is primarily experimental, and I use a range of pain induction procedures in the research that I do. I already have some collaborations with members of the team at UWE, and I am looking forward to building more within PSRG.

Dr Lindsay Woodford explores Strategies for Coping With Stress in Athletes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Dr Lindsay Woodford published her doctoral thesis with her supervisor Dr Lauren Bussey from Teesside University. Their research explored the perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures on athlete wellbeing. 

Fourteen elite athletes who were unable to train or compete due to government-imposed lockdown measures in April 2020 were recruited to participate in this qualitative study. Utilizing the photo elicitation method, participants were asked to take a series of photographs that represented their experiences as athletes living in lockdown. These photographs were used to guide discussions in follow up unstructured interviews.

Three main themes captured the athletes’ experience of the lockdown measures and the implications for their wellbeing:

(1) threats to wellbeing

(2) adapting routines and maintaining motivation

(3) reflecting on participation in competitive elite sport.

The initial sudden loss of sport in the athlete’s lives posed a threat to their wellbeing, but over the duration of the lockdown period the athletes developed numerous strategies to protect their wellbeing. Furthermore, their time away from sport encouraged them to reflect on their athletic identity and to make life changes that would protect their wellbeing during the rest of the lockdown period and when they returned to sport.

A number of immediate practical recommendations were offered for athlete support personnel working with athletes during the crisis, these included developing self-care strategies and social networks, adapting routines, setting new goals and encouraging the pursuit of dual-careers. Future research is encouraged to investigate how practitioners can deliver effective psychological support through tele-consulting, and to consider whether their support is best focused on therapeutic counselling or mental skills training if further lockdowns are enforced.

The article can be accessed here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.624949/full

Welcome to our new PSRG members!

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This past autumn, we were fortunate to welcome five new lecturers to our Department who have joined PSRG. We are excited to have these phenomenal researchers join our team. All of our new members are early-career researchers who are looking to expand their research profiles, so please do reach out to them if you see potential for collaboration!

Trang Mai Trần

My name is Trang, and I recently joined the UWE Department of Health and Social Sciences as a Lecturer in Psychology in Individual Differences.

I originally came from Hồ Chí Minh city, Vietnam. I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Aberystwyth University in 2012. After completing my MEd in Psychology in Education (University of Bristol) and MSc in Psychoanalytic Theories (UCL), I started my PhD research in 2014 (University of Bristol), which focused on the psychological well-being and socio-cultural adjustments of EU/international PhD students in the UK. I collected longitudinal questionnaire and interview data over 15 months to understand some significant factors and changes over time using mixed effects modelling, thematic analysis, and narrative analysis. As a mixed methodologist, my primary research interests include mental health and well-being in HE,staff and student well-being, and intercultural practices in education.

My academic work and experience centres around individual differences in well-being and socio-cultural adaptation, and how they can be studied within multicultural social contexts. My research projects between 2014 – 2020 have been around HE student well-being and transitions, with various foci on aspects such as extenuating circumstances, BAME student experience and attainment gap, assessment and feedback, and currently I am collaborating on a project looking at UG students’ psycho-social wellbeing and their sense of community during COVID-19 and online learning.

I also work as a research volunteer for a mental health foundation for student mental health, and previously as a mental health champion for staff mental health at universities (as part of the Mental Healthy Universities initiative with Mind). I love teaching and learning about teaching, and while I am aware of the stress of moving to blended/online teaching on everyone in our sector, I also found the experience very useful in rethinking my approach to teaching and research in general, and in particular how we can address issues with equality and diversity through the new platforms.

Ben Steeden

I recently joined the UWE Department of Health and Social Sciences as a Lecturer in Occupational Psychology. 

I completed my MSc in Social and Applied Psychology at the University of Kent in 2016, and stayed on at Kent to complete my PhD. My PhD focuses on perceived leadership potential, exploring a preference for leadership potential over leadership performance in leadership evaluations and the extent to which it is influenced by a pro-youth bias. My thesis took a mixed methods approach, employing thematic analysis, correlational research, and experimental studies. My research interests also include representations of age and ageing, age and gender stereotypes in leadership, and the impact of wellbeing at work initiatives on employee attitudes. 

Previously, I worked as a Business Consultant for Bailey & French. In this role I worked with organisations to develop and implement workplace solutions founded on positive psychology research, covering areas such as leadership, wellbeing, and performance. Before that, I worked in learning and development in the Financial Services industry, specialising in leadership development. 

Publications:

Endorsing and Reinforcing Gender and Age Stereotypes: The Negative Effect on Self-Rated Leadership Potential for Women and Older Workers

Exploring representations of old age and ageing

Adam Charles Harvey 

I am an ‘applied’ social psychologist, with an expertise in verbal lie-detection using psychologically-based, ‘proactive’ interviewing protocols.

I studied BSc Forensic Psychology at the University of Portsmouth (UoP), obtaining a 1st class classification in 2013 and winning the Departments John Denis Award for best undergraduate dissertation. This project applied metacognitive theory to verbal lie-detection.

My PhD examined the effects of sub-optimal recall settings (i.e. reporting events after delays or in contexts when events were incidentally – rather than intentionally – encoded) upon the popular verbal veracity cue ‘richness of detail’. My PhD discovered evidence of a ‘stability bias’ (like) effect impacting liar’s statements after delays, a finding that has been independently replicated since.

In 2015 I became a full-time Research Associate at the UoP, working on two core projects: a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) funded memory-based lie-detection project, and a Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) funded project developing the Verifiability Approach (VA). The outputs from these projects have been published in academic peer-reviewed journals including: Law and Human Behavor; the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (JARMAC); and Acta Psychologica. I have presented our findings international and won the first-place (student) prize at Cambridge during the first Decepticon international conference for our research applying the VA to insurance fraud settings.

In 2019 I became a PTHP Lecturer (and tutor) in the School of Education and Sociology (UoP), before being appointed to Lecturer of Social Psychology in early 2020. In September 2020 I became Lecturer in Social Psychology at UWE Bristol.

Andy Eastwood

I recently joined the UWE Department of Health and Social Sciences as a Lecturer in Psychology.

I previously studied at Coventry University (CU) for my BSc and MScR in Psychology. I was then awarded a teaching and research scholarship at the University of Bristol (UoB). I moved to Bristol in 2016 and joined the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG). My PhD explored the effects of acute and chronic alcohol consumption on emotional face processing. I completed work that aimed to extend our understanding of how alcohol impairs our ability to process key social information that has the potential to influence behaviour (especially important given the social context in which alcohol is typically consumed).

My research interests include psychopharmacology, social drugs, alcohol-related aggression, alcohol policy, health outcomes, and emotional face processing. I am a big advocate of open science and reproducibility and believe strongly in the accurate dissemination of research findings. Because of this, I actively involve myself in public engagement events. Examples include the yearly Bristol Neuroscience festival, Women in STEMM (Ada Lovelace), and an Alcohol Labelling event hosted by TARG.

I am delighted to join UWE Bristol, and the excellent researchers at PSGR.

Twitter

Recent Publication:

Effects of acute alcohol consumption on emotion recognition in high and low trait aggressive drinkers

Danny Holmes

I recently joined the UWE Department of Health and Social Sciences as a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology. Prior to joining UWE, I was a lecturer at Middlesex University for 3 years, where I was the curriculum lead for sport and exercise psychology, lead a football science degree programme and also developed an MSc in Sport and Ex Psychology. Prior to this role in academia I worked in elite sport, with Fulham FC across their senior and junior teams and then with Sunderland AFC, supporting their senior team. I studied for a BSc ‘Sport and Exercise Science’ and an MSc ‘Sport and Exercise Science (Psychology)’ at Brunel University (London) between 2006 and 2011. 

Currently, my primary research interest is in mental health and wellbeing in elite sport. My PhD project is investigating perceptions and engagement with mental health support services in English elite football. I therefore have taken interest in areas around mental health stigma, literacy and support systems, which I imagine would map on to other research being carried out in the department.

I am also currently engaged with The Royal Marines, looking into the development and measurement of psychology programmes within the force. This is in its early stages, however is covering a breadth of occupational and performance psychology themes.

As an applied practitioner I am accredited by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) and am currently on an accelerated pathway to obtain HCPC status with them. 

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PSRG Videos: About us

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Thanks to Matt at Housecat Productions, we have videos about PSRG and each of our themes (footage recorded pre-pandemic). Check out each of the videos and the work that we do. Feel free to get in touch in the comments below or by email (psrg@uwe.ac.uk).

An overview of our whole research group:

About our Ageing Well theme:

About our Applied Cognition and Neuroscience theme:

About our Optimising Performance and Engagement theme:

About our Promoting Psychological Health theme:

Thanks for watching. And thanks Matt.

A dormouse, a t-shirt made from bin liners and a jar of Nutella: Applying creative methodologies to understand athletes’ experiences of overtraining syndrome

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By Lindsay Woodford

Exceptional physical features, together with high commitment and motivation, are important attributes of high-performance athletes. However, when faced with frustrating setbacks, the same qualities of commitment and motivation that have elevated athletes above the pressures of competition can be their own worst enemies. It is not uncommon for elite athletes, especially young athletes to push themselves too far, to overreach and experience extreme tiredness on a regular basis and never reach their full potential because of excessive training load and insufficient recovery.

Unexplained underperformance and persistent fatigue – Exploring overtraining syndrome

Overtraining syndrome has been described as persistent fatigue and underperformance, which occurs following hard training and competition. The symptoms do not improve following two weeks rest and there is no other identifiable cause. It can be a devastating condition, as highly motivated athletes have to cope with the frustration of reduced performance and taking extended periods off training and competition to recover. Monitoring and treating a persistently fatigued athlete can be challenging, as the root cause of the fatigue is often not recognised until months of poor performance have passed. Accurate diagnosis is difficult as there are often numerous other medical and psychological conditions that present with similar symptoms. 

There is much debate in the sport science literature regarding the aetiology of overtraining syndrome. Various physiological mechanisms have been proposed to influence an athlete’s vulnerability to the overtraining state. These include low muscle glycogen, decreased glutamine, central fatigue, oxidative stress, an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, hypothalamic dysfunction and elevated cytokine levels. However, no single marker can be taken as an indicator of impending overtraining syndrome. Until a definitive diagnostic tool for overtraining syndrome is developed, regular monitoring of a combination of performance, physiological, biochemical, immunological and psychological variables seem to be the best strategy to help identify athletes who are failing to recover properly.

Making the familiar unfamiliar – Using visual methods in applied psychological research

My passion for conducting research in the area of overtraining syndrome was inspired by my personal experience of the condition when I was competing as a national level lightweight rower. I understood first-hand what a debilitating condition it can be and the devastating impact it can have on an athletes’ career. I desperately wanted to help further our understanding of the condition so that sport science and medical practitioners could better support athletes like myself. There is a wealth of research that has examined the pathology of the overtraining syndrome, but no comprehensive understanding of the subjective experiences.

When I started my research, I was excited to conduct my first interview with a triathlete who had suffered with the condition for the last five years. I thought long and hard about the questions I was going to ask, and I was eager to hear his responses. But at the end of the interview I felt bitterly disappointed that the answers I received told me nothing I didn’t already know. I could not understand why. Perhaps he had difficulty accessing and communicating his experiences, maybe he was offering a rehearsed narrative, or was it that I was asking the wrong questions? 

I attended a seminar organised by my colleagues Victoria Clarke, Nicola Holt and Elizabeth Jenkinson from the psychology department at the University of the West of England, in collaboration with Cathy Randle Phillips and Catherine Butler. The seminar focused on exploring the potential for creative and arts-based methods for applied psychological research. Whilst feeling demotivated and dejected about my research it was following this seminar that I experienced what can only be described as an epiphany. I realised that the problem was that I was asking questions I already knew the answers to; overtraining syndrome had become too familiar – I needed to make it unfamiliar.

It has been suggested that by introducing a visual element to the process of data collection we can potentially provide different ways of knowing and understanding. Art can address atomization by forcing us to slow down our perception, to encourage us to linger for a while and to notice new things. Perhaps if I utilised visual methods in my research I could disrupt the athletes’ narratives and allow the unsayable to reveal itself? If I asked my participants to play with Lego, paint and take photographs would it provide a platform for exploring their world in more reflexive depth? 

The Dormouse – Recollections of a lightweight rower with overtraining syndrome

In my role as a practitioner I have been humbled and privileged to hear the stories of athletes I work with. I have shared in their joy and their sorrow, I have played a part in their journey of self-exploration – my role has been so much more than enhancing athletic performance. Yet in my research, to date, I have not allowed my participants to tell their stories. So, like all mad scientists I conducted a little experiment on myself! I got my camera out and started taking photographs of what overtraining syndrome meant to me. These are the images that represented my experience of living with the condition and some extracts from the story they inspired, told as part of The British Journal of Sports Medicine’s Patient Voices series this month.

Making weight was a challenge for me and my crew, the extreme and frankly ridiculous weight loss strategies we employed in the days leading up to the National Championships in 2000 seem incomprehensible now. I was not at race weight the night before the finals, so I severely restricted my food and drink intake, to the point of dehydration. I remember feeling so thirsty it was uncomfortable to swallow. The blissful sensation of sucking the moisture out of my toothbrush – I savoured that moment when the cool, minty water slid down my throat, it could have been champagne! It was July and I had set the central heating in the house to full blast, I had put on as many layers of clothing as I could, and I slept motionless, restrained from the weight of the blankets pinning me down. Despite subjecting my housemates to a night in a sauna, the next morning I was still 500g over race weight. In a last ditch attempt to be able to compete, I fashioned a t-shirt out of a bin liner, layered all my cold weather kit on top and ran a few laps round the housing estate. I remember darting behind a dustbin when I saw my coach drive past, I did not want him to know the shameful extent of my weight loss strategies. But to me it was normal, it was just part of being a lightweight rower, we all did it, I think our coach did know but he chose to ignore it. 

These strategies proved effective as I won a bronze medal at the Nationals, and later a coveted place on the England lightweight women’s rowing squad for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.Everything was going to plan, when one morning at 5.30am as I reached over to turn my alarm off, I felt my head begin to spin, my heart was pounding, and I felt violently sick. I threw up to ease the nausea, sipped some water, put on my kit and drove to the rowing club. I managed to complete the training session, but my legs felt like lead and my heart was racing. This was the start of a progressive decline in performance.

One of the most debilitating symptoms I experienced was the need to sleep. I became affectionally known as “The Dormouse” because I slept over 10 hours a night and during the day. When I stood up my heart rate would go through the roof and my blood pressure would drop, I felt constantly dizzy and sick. I caught cold after cold and I felt like I had a pair of golf balls permanently lodged in my throat. Despite these debilitating physiological symptoms, I was more motivated than ever to represent my country. 

It took me two years until I was well enough to do a full training session on the water with the rest of the squad. I had various relapses along the way, but none as severe as the first one. By the time I was fit enough to trial for the national team again I was completely burnt out. The sport that I loved more than anything else in the world, became something I despised and not long afterwards I quit (Woodford, 2019).

My current research has embraced some of the methods offered by the creative arts and has empowered my participants to shape its direction. I am excited about how this new approach can further our understanding of this debilitating condition and help us develop strategies to support those athletes with overtraining syndrome. 

Who is sport psychology for?

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By James Byron-Daniel and Manuela Teti (UWE MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology graduate)

What is sport psychology? 

Sport psychology is a broad subject, covering such things as the enhancement of athlete performance, dealing with pressure, enhancing focus, working with addiction and an infinite number of other issues. In terms of these services there has traditionally been a focus on athletes at the professional end of the sporting continuum, and there is a wealth of research which has shown very convincingly the efficacy and worth of these services for this group of athletes. All sport psychologists who work in practice have a smorgasbord of techniques they can bring to any given athlete or team, from psychological skills training (goal setting, visualization, relaxation techniques and self-talk) to more intensive therapeutic techniques (mindfulness, cognitive restructuring, REBT), all of which can be adapted and used collectively to address the issue or issues we face in applied sport psychology work.  

We can also say from our own experience, both from an applied sport psychology perspective and as a professional coach, that athletes and teams almost all believe in the importance of the mental side of their sport, regardless of what that sport is, and that despite an emphasis on the importance of this side of their training and performance in competition situations they do very little, and often feel they don’t have the opportunity, to enhance the psychological side of their game. 

Sport psychology, in an applied sense, therefore fills this gap. Indeed the discipline as a whole has been developed and continues to evolve in order to provide a way to enhance and support athletes to be the best they can be. So, taking both the focus of sport psychology and the need and enthusiasm for it in sports in general then it seems rationale to assume sport psychology is widely available to all and that sport psychology services are integrated across all levels of all sports. This unfortunately isn’t necessarily the case. 

Who uses sport psychology? 

Sport psychology services (SPS) have traditionally been directed at professional athletes, perhaps not exclusively, however when one looks at any number of sport psych textbooks there tends to be a skew to this group, or at the very least when describing and discussing applied techniques the assumption often is that who you are working with has significant access to sport psychology and other resources. This may well be the case for professional or semi-pro athletes however this is almost universally not the case for the hundreds of thousands of us that play and compete outside this professional group. If one were to look at a current issue of a popular sport psychology academic journal (for example Journal of Applied sport psychology; The Sport Psychologist; Psychology of Sport and Exercise), there is a trend toward elite and professional levels of sport in academic research as well (not exclusive but certainly the focus tends to be on semi professional and professional sports women and men). There are undoubtedly many reasons for this focus however this shouldn’t lead us to conclude that sport psychology services have no place in amateur sport, be that competitive or non-competitive amateur sport. It is in the authors experience that far from not having a place there is in fact just as much demand for sport psychology support and that sport psychology interventions and support at this level can be just as effective. There is however a sub group of this already unrepresented group that have even less access to sport psychology services and are further under researched, and that is young (non-adult) non-elite athletes.

Sport psychology support for young amateur athletes 

Even less research and applied work has been dedicated to youth non-elite athletes, with a lack of guidance for Sport Psychologists working with young athletes which in recent years has sparked streams of research aimed at generating developmental frameworks and attempts at understanding young athletes’ progression in sport, from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood.  

Authors of the ‘International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Youth Athletic Development’, reported an “urgency to address the culture of specific sports and youth sport in general, which have become disproportionately both adult and media centered”. The IOC recommendations advise on the need for widening the definition of success in youth sport, focusing on the development of young athletes in their whole and as “persons”, and committing to their psychological growth. The historical paucity of literature on developmental sport psychology is even more surprising when considering that young athletes are placed at the “ideal window of opportunity” for developing mental qualities and competencies. 

Many researchers agree on the need for developing comprehensive and holistic models and programs to support young athletes at a vital transitional period of physical and psychological development.  This is of course challenging for all sorts of reasons, perhaps one of the most important being the already existing challenges for young people, be they pre-adolescent or be they 12-18 years of age.  

Due to the high demands of competitive sport and more general life demands, young athletes are faced with the need to take ownership of their psychological growth: this often leads them to intuitively (through experience) and/or informally (taught by significant others) acquire a repertoire of mental skills necessary to cope with the pressures their sport places upon them. Consequently, young athletes may gain an implicit understanding of a range of psychological skills, albeit at various levels of awareness

Furthermore, the lack of easy-to-access sport psychology services to young athletes might drive them to spontaneously seek information, gain understanding and share experiences. In this context, in addition to relying on members of their support network, they might explore the internet and access online communication tools, such as social media platforms etc. However, a lot of this is assumed as so little work is done at this group, and it is in this context that we have conducted an initial investigation into sport psychology in youth amateur sport.  

Our research into sport psychology and young athletes 

The main purpose of our research was to investigate non-elite young athletes experiences by giving young athletes voice and an opportunity to express feelings and communicate thoughts in relation to their sporting engagement. The study revolved around three main research questions:  

  • What are young athletes’ perceptions of psychological needs and experiences of challenges?  
  • What is their understanding of the psychological dimensions of sport?  
  • What spontaneous ways do they resort to when seeking psychological support? 

An online survey, including quantitative and qualitative data collection and qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted in a sample of 13-19 year old girls and boys who regularly engaged in extracurricular sporting activities (outside of school and within clubs, associations, organisations), involved in a number of sports (including multi-sport engagements), at any level of training and competition, but not included in any talent development programs or professional level sport structures.  

Through these interviews what the participants said clearly showed the discrepancies between young athletes’ needs and their sporting realities. The young athletes’ all desired sport psychology support, specifically access to independent sport psychology professionals and availability of ‘in-house’ and ‘easy-to-access’ services consistently integrated in their ‘ideal sporting world’. Participants sometimes resorted to Screen-Based Media (SBM) as a spontaneous way to seek psychological support: however, the young athletes were favourable to online communication technology to get that support as well as face to face support with a sport psychology specialist. (This work is currently being prepared for publication, as well as a follow-on study to this initial work.) 

So what does this mean and where do we go from here? 

In summary, it certainly seems that there is a need for a greater understanding of how sport psychology services could be used to benefit young athletes, and that irrespective of level of athlete this support is desired and sought out. Our work with these young athletes clearly shows that demand and perhaps points to a way we can get sport psychology into amateur club and team settings (through screen-based media and social media being one possibility). The lack of research into this group also needs to be addressed, specifically deepening our understanding of how sport psychology can be integrated within a young athletes life, and what the subsequent benefit for future engagement and performance might be. We believe that integrating sport psychology into youth sport has the potential to reap huge benefits for youth sport and the sport psychology profession in general, and we hope in the years to come a greater focus on this group of athletes will lead to not only to the next generation of elite levels sports women and men but perhaps more importantly a much greater engagement with all sports across all age groups at all levels. 

Introducing our new lecturer, Dr Gamze Arman!

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By Gamze Arman

My name is Gamze Arman, and I have recently joined the UWE Department of Health and Social Sciences as a Lecturer in Occupational Psychology.

I received my undergraduate and master’s degrees from the most prestigious universities of Turkey (Bogazici University and Koc University, respectively) and my Ph.D. degree in Industrial/Organisational Psychology from DePaul University in Chicago – IL, USA. Prior to joining UWE, I worked as an assistant professor at MEF University (Turkey) for two years, with a joint appointment in the psychology and business administration departments.

At UWE, I will be primarily teaching at the masters’ program specialized in Occupational Psychology, and I will be involved in the modules such as training and development, and psychological assessment, in addition to the undergraduate module on research design and analysis.

My research is relevant to the “Optimising Performance and Engagement” theme of PSRG and focuses on two key areas: 1) diversity and interpersonal relationships in organizations as determinants of the task and 2) contextual performance in the work context. Within the broad scope of diversity, I am interested in gender and culture as the critical bases, and in my research so far, I have specifically focused on the following topics:

  • Career development of female employees (What is the role of senior female managers on career development of junior women? How does involvement in Women in Business student clubs impact the career perceptions of female university students?)
  • Expatriates and high skilled immigrants (How do host country nationals perceive and treat expatriates from different cultural backgrounds? What are the factors facilitating or hindering female expatriates’ career development in a given cultural context?)
  • Functioning of multinational teams (How does subgroup formation take place in teams consisting of members from several national backgrounds? How does it impact team functioning?)

Within the area of interpersonal relationships in organizations, I am primarily interested in:

  • Abusive supervision and the dark side of leadership (What is the role of third-party observers in abusive supervision cases? Which factors impact their perceptions and willingness to help the victims?)
  • Relational energy among employees (How do people in a work context impact each other’s mood and motivation?)

Although my priority is research, I am a proponent of the scientist-practitioner model of occupational psychology. In my experience as a practitioner, I worked for human resources departments of multinational companies such as Accenture, and I engaged in consulting projects in the USA and Turkey. I look for opportunities for collaboration with practitioners since I believe consulting and delivering training programs to professionals provide valuable inspiration for my research via the interaction with people working at different organizations.

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