Applied Health Psychology Research Group

The group consists of health, clinical and social psychologists who make use of a wide variety of methodological approaches to address questions concerned with understanding how biological, psychological, behavioural and social factors influence aspects of physical and mental health and illness.

We also have a Health Psychology Lab which sits within this research group. It focuses on active collaborative projects and takes a biopsychosocial approach to understanding health and illness. We are keen to have Research Assistants, MSc and/or PhD students working with us in this lab so if you're interested in this opportunity, please get in touch.

Contact

Staff Profile: Professor Olga B.A van den Akker
Email: o.vandenakker@mdx.ac.uk
Phone: 020 8411 6953

Research students

Examples of projects

Reproductive Health Psychology

Staff: Professor Olga B.A van den Akker and Dr Nicky Payne

Research students: Maria Jalmbrant and Isabella Uruttia

An RCT of the effectiveness of persuasive communication strategies in elective Single Embryo Transfers

  • Surrogate motherhood practices in the UK and abroad
  • Attitudes to and experiences of Gamete donation
  • Professionals' practice of surrogacy and adjustment to parenthood
  • Post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder following reproductive loss
  • A meta analysis of behavioural and psychological factors affecting infertility outcome
  • Psychological impacts of fertility treatments

Diabetes

Staff: Professor Arie Nouwen

Research students: Kristina van Dam

  • Prevalence and incidence of depression in diabetes
  • The role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and inflammatory markers
  • Structural brain changes, emotional processing and cognitive functioning in depression
  • The role of spousal/parental behaviours in dietary self-care
  • Cortical processing of food-related stimuli
  • Health Behaviours

    Staff: Dr Camille Alexis-GarseeDr Nicky Payne and Professor Olga B.A van den Akker

    Research students: Christina Constantinou

    • The evaluation of theory-based behaviour change interventions using qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including the design, conduct and evaluation of these in RCTs
    • Applied research on public health issues such as tobacco  use, diet, exercise, chronic illness and access to healthcare
    • eHealth: use of 'new' technologies such as e-cigarettes, computer tailored interventions and apps for behaviour change
    • Cross-national research to tackle issues of global health
    • Quality of Life and health behaviours in paediatric sickle cell disease
  • Occupational Health Psychology

    Staff: Dr Nicky PayneProfessor Olga B.A van den Akker and Dr Camille Alexis-Garsee

    Research students: Neelam Ghuman

    • The impact of work-life balance and work stress on well-being and health behaviours
    • The impact of austerity on work-life balance policies, practices and discourses
    • Work-life in balance in employees with different family structures
    • Combining employment and fertility treatments

Mental Health, Counselling, Psychotherapy and Clinical Psychology

Staff: Dr Fiona StarrDr Pnina ShinebourneDr Mark Coulson, and Karen Ciclitira
Research students: Frauke Elichaoff

  • Therapists' experiences of supervision & therapy
  • Women's therapy centre service evaluation
  • Experiences of Psychologists working in independent practice
  • Therapists' attitudes to clients with problems of addiction
  • Factors in long-term recovery from addiction
  • Systematic review of literature on addiction and identity
  • Meta analyses of the efficacy of therapeutic interventions in older people, including cognitive therapy for depression and anxiety, and reduction of benzodiazepines
  • Behavioural and physiological effects of mindfulness based stress reduction

Example project details

Methods

  • Questionnaires and structural equation modelling
  • Daily diaries and multi-level modelling
  • Interviews and thematic or interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • Q-methodology
  • MRI, fMRI, EEG
  • Probabilistic reversal learning and implicit association tasks
  • Cognitive functioning experimental tasks
  • Systematic reviews and Meta analyses
  • RCTs

Examples of funding sources

  • European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes
  • British Academy
  • Human Fertilization and Embryo Authority
  • UK Respiratory Research Foundation
  • Higher Education Academy
  • Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology
  • King's Fund
  • ESRC
  • Diabetes-UK
  • Infertility Network UK

Examples of impact

  • Support for dissemination by key advocacy organizations such as Working Families, Infertility Network UK, Diabetes-UK

  • Contribution to policy documents and advisory committees e.g. Human Fertilisation And Embryology Authority Ethics & Law Advisory Committee (2009) Intergenerational family donation of gametes and embryos; The Centre for Social Justice (2008) Fathers not Included A response to the HFEA Bill; Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2013). Donor conception: ethical aspects of information sharing.

  • Research reported on television (e.g. Prof van den Akker was interviewed about the psychological profile of surrogates on BBC South East Today), in magazines (e.g. Dr Starr was interviewed about managing child feeding problems for Right Start Magazine), and national newspapers (e.g. Guardian, Telegraph, Observer, Independent) etc.

Get involved

Research student applications and placements

Students wishing to undertake a PhD or those wanting to gain research assistant experience within any of our research teams should contact the staff directly (contact details available on individual staff webpages) or via Prof van den Akker

Participating in research

If you would like to participate in any of our ongoing studies, please contact the research teams directly (contact details available on individual staff profiles) or via Professor Olga B.A van den Akker.

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