Health, Welfare & Clinical Psychology
This theme has 3 main research areas, Trauma, Clinical Health Psychology and Animal Welfare and Behaviour.
Trauma research focuses on understanding precursors to PTSD, psychometric assessment as well as evidenced-based treatments. Clinical Health Psychology focuses on the development and evaluation of interventions to reduce the psychological sequelae of physical health conditions (cancer, chronic pain, asthma, IBD) as well as disease prevention through encouraging lifestyle change (e.g. diet/oral hygiene).
The School has a long history of research in psychological well-being / quality of life among people with physical health conditions, and their formal and informal carers. This research includes modelling work exploring the factors that are related to quality of life, and the development and evaluation of interventions designed to enhance quality of life. There is also a related methodological strand that explores our approaches to assessing quality of life and the meaning of this concept in different populations. The Centre for Improving Health Related Quality of Life (CIHRQoL) examines treatments for health conditions including chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, and alcohol, opioid and other drug use; explores the impact of these conditions on quality of life and mental health; and studies preventative health behaviour change strategies. The Centre for Stress, Trauma and Related Conditions (STARC) focuses on the impact of stressful and traumatic life events on psychological wellbeing and mental health.
The Animal Behaviour and Welfare group has been actively involved in studies aimed at improving the psychological well-being of animals for nearly 3 decades. The efficacy of a host of innovative enrichments for captive animals has been empirically examined, ranging from toys, social contact and feeding devices to more adventurous forms of sensory stimulation.
Psychological Change Interventions - Prof Pauline Adair
My research interests are in the area of the development and evaluation of psychological (e.g. cognitive behaviour therapy)/behaviour change interventions to reduce the psychological sequelae of physical health conditions (cancer, chronic pain, asthma, IBD) as well as disease prevention through encouraging lifestyle change (e.g. diet/oral hygiene). I am Programme Director for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
Trauma & Mental Health - Prof Cherie Armour
Cherie Armour is a Professor of Psychological Trauma and Mental Health in the School of Psychology at Queen's University Belfast, and is the Director of the Centre for Stress Trauma and Related Conditions (STARC). Cherie is particularly interested in occupational groups that are at increased risk of experiencing trauma and traumatic stress outcomes due to their occupational roles (military, police, emergency service workers). She has also published on the nosology, comorbidity, and longitudinal course of disorders such as PTSD, dissociation, anxiety, and depression.
Health Psychology - Dr Emma Berry
I am a Lecturer in Health Psychology with a strong interest in research which strives to support the physical and mental well-being of others. To date, I have undertaken research in areas such as Diabetes, Neurodegenerative disorders and Stroke. My PhD focused on the development and evaluation of a psychological intervention to reduce distress in individuals with Type 2 diabetes and their partners. To date, I have worked on projects surrounding the design of interventions to support individuals with complex functional and emotional needs due to illness. In my forthcoming career, I hope to develop new and more creative ways of helping individuals to adjust to and thrive in the face of challenging health issues.
Animal Behaviour & Welfare - Dr Grace Carroll
To date, Grace's research has focused on farm animals and how we can improve their welfare. Grace has previously examined the effect of housing type on the welfare of sows and piglets. In addition, Grace has assessed the feasibility of collecting welfare-related information in an abbatoir environment. Grace also has an interest in feline welfare, evolutionary psychology, and the effect of 'infant features' in companion animals on human behaviour.
Trauma - Dr David Curran
My interests include: The Mediating Role of Trauma Appraisals between Traumatic Experiences and Trauma-Related Distress; Examining the role of compassion in predicting both resilience and psychological difficulty among a sample with a history of childhood adversity; Investigating strengths and weaknesses of trauma history measures; Impact of experimental manipulation of attentional bias to alcohol-related stimuli on initial orienting and maintained attention in adolescent drinkers using eye-tracking methodology.
Quality of Life - Prof Martin Dempster
Martin Dempster is a Health Psychologist who conducts psychological research to develop ways of improving quality of life of people with long term physical illness (such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases); their families; and health professionals. This involves developing new interventions and evaluating their effect in real life situations. He also conducts research to examine the psychological and psychosocial determinants of health-related behaviours and behaviour change. Martin is also a Chartered Statistician and so has an interest in methods of analysing data collected in these types of psychological research.
Clinical Psychology - Dr Christopher Graham
I am a clinical psychologist and my research and clinical work involves using psychological therapies to help people find ways to live well with chronic diseases or illnesses like cancer and neurological conditions. Lots of this work includes large trials of psychotherapies for improving mood and wellbeing in NHS patients, and even staff. Ultimately, all the work I do is about improving the effectiveness and quality of care that clinical psychologists offer to NHS service users.
Health Psychology - Dr Lisa Graham-Wisener
I am a Lecturer in Health Psychology, and my research focuses on helping individuals with chronic illness to maintain a good quality of life. In particular I am interested in how we can best help individuals and their families to adjust psychologically to a cancer diagnosis, and how we can support individuals who have been diagnosed with an advanced illness. This research involves evaluating tools to assess patient need, and developing and evaluating psychosocial interventions.
Mental Health & Trauma - Dr Donncha Hanna
I am the Research Coordinator on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Queens University Belfast working in the applied and theoretical research field of mental health. My primary research interest is mental health including the measurement and modelling of psychological trauma, psychosis and related constructs. I am a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (AFBPsS) and Fellow of the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen's University. I have expertise in research design, methodology and analysis of mental health with over 50 peer-reviewed publications and presentations. I have published a bestselling statistics text book and a more recent research methods text book.
Healthcare Communication - Dr Mary Lavelle
My research focuses on communication and social interaction in healthcare contexts. This includes communication in mental health conditions (e.g. psychosis) and in clinical contexts, where communication is critical to patient safety. I currently lead a programme of research aimed at understanding the communication strategies that are effective in the management of aggressive behaviour in mental health inpatient wards. The ultimate aim of this research is to provide evidence that can inform clinical training and improve patient care.
Clinical Psychology - Dr David McCormack
I am a practising Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer (Education) in Clinical Psychology / Clinical Tutor on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme at Queen’s University Belfast. I am particularly interested in better understanding the lived experience of people with persistent physical symptoms; behavioural and cognitive approaches which enable people to better manage and cope with chronic health problems and have an improved quality of life; psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress symptoms experienced by children and parents.
Addictive Behaviours & Mental Health - Dr Paul Toner
My work uses cutting edge methods in real world settings to test innovative ways of preventing, assessing and treating addiction and mental health difficulties.
Chronic Pain - Prof Kevin Vowles
Kevin Vowles has been working in the field of chronic pain for the majority of his career. He has published over 80 articles in this area since 2001, with recent work concentrating on identifying distinctive characteristics of effective pain rehabilitation and differentiating problematic from non-problematic opioid use.
Animal Behaviour & Welfare - Dr Deborah Wells
My research concentrates on animal behaviour and welfare, with a particular focus on the domestic dog. Much of my work has been concerned with exploring the welfare of animals housed in captivity (e.g. zoos, rescue kennels) and finding ways of improving psychological wellbeing through the implementation of novel and scientifically tested enrichment strategies. Other research areas include pets and human health, behaviour problems in companion animals and, more recently, laterality in animals.
Mental Health - Prof Ross White
I am a Professor of Clinical Psychology at QUB. I have expertise in Global Mental Health, and I have collaborated with the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in developing and evaluating psychosocial interventions for refugees. I also have a keen research interest in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of adults working in high-performance environments including elite level athletes. I am an Association of Contextual Behavioural Science peer-reviewed trainer of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
In 2019 EFIC commissioned a task force to provide guidelines on the clinical use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.
Guidelines were drafted and underwent extensive review by experts in the field and were posted for community comment. Following resultant revisions, the guidelines were submitted to EFICs flagship journal, the European Journal of Pain (2019 Impact Factor: 3.5) where they underwent peer review. The guidelines were published in two parts in 2021 and were posted as open access.
Press release, video interviews, infographics, and other information can be found at: https://europeanpainfederation.eu/press-area/
Up to 41% of stroke survivors have some form of cognitive impairment following a stroke, putting them at greater risk of poor psychological wellbeing. These impairments, such as memory and concentration problems, and aphasia result in many stroke survivors being absent from psychosocial research.
Trials of psychological interventions generally exclude people with significant cognitive impairment because of the cognitive demands associated with the intervention techniques and the collection of patient-reported outcome data. Our research team has identified, following the MRC Framework, a psychological approach - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) - which shows promise for stroke survivors with significant cognitive impairment. We have also identified a range of modifications and supports which can be incorporated into the ACT protocol to tailor it for the needs of people with cognitive impairments. It is important that this intervention is optimised and shown to be feasible for use in practice prior to investment in a large scale controlled trial.
This project is optimising the intervention via an iterative process involving:
- stakeholder workshops to gather feedback on the intervention and materials, using simulated patient cases to define patient eligibility criteria, and refinement of a logic model describing the implementation of the intervention in practice, and
- a survey and interviews to collect data from patients and carers who will provide feedback on the acceptability and feasibility of the proposed intervention.
Since March 2020, researchers within the Health, Welfare & Clinical Psychology research theme have been bringing their expertise to different aspects of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please read an outline of the work our researchers have been involved in at our COVID-19 Response Page.
Scientists at Queen’s Animal Behaviour Centre have spent the last 20 years developing new ways of improving the psychological welfare of animals housed in captivity.
Their research has shown that classical music and scents such as lavender in dog shelters calms the animals, and that shielding zoo-housed gorillas from visitors with camouflage netting over the viewing windows, prevents great apes from becoming agitated. The impact of this research extends to guidelines and regulations set by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council.
Commercial impact includes CDs of music composed specifically for dogs, now widely available to buy on the open market, and being utilised in 1700+ rescue shelters and by over 150,000 pet owners around the globe.
- The Guardian: Animal welfare: Classical music soothes the wanderlust of zoo elephants
- ABC Australia Environment and Nature - Zoo visitors stress gorillas
- New Scientist: Dogs prefer Bach to Britney
- Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines on the Care of Dogs Used for Scientific Procedures (2009)
- CIHRQoL advises external organisations, including Alcohol and Families Alliance, WHO, NEBRIA, and Quality of Life Research, and offer CPD courses to training health professionals in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It also develops and evaluates interventions to improve quality of life in chronic pain, to tackle alcohol and opioid use, and to improve palliative care in hospices.
- ABC has developed interventions that have improved stress in zoo animals and in animal shelters. This work has culminated in widely downloaded peer-reviewed papers and has had impact beyond academia, resulting in the widespread use of enrichment tools in kennels, zoos and laboratory settings, including the production of ‘designer’ music CDs for companion animals. An example of this is ‘Through a Dog’s Ear’, by Joshua Leeds, see: https://icalmpet.com/about/music/research), and the development of guidelines for the housing of captive dogs in countries including America and Australia.
- STARC, in collaboration with the HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland, has developed and is testing interventions for trauma and psychological distress as a result of chronic and serious health conditions.
The School of Psychology is pleased to work with the following collaborators in our research
- Professor Ad de Jongh, ACTA, The Netherlands
- Professor Blair Smith, Dundee University, Scotland
- Professor Lesley Colvin, Dundee University, Scotland
- Professor Martin Dorahy, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
- Professor John Cunningham, Kings College London, England
- Dr Marcus Bendtsen, Linköping University, Sweden
- Dr Jan R. Böhnke, University of Dundee, Scotland
- Dr Antonina Mikocka-Walus, Deakin University, Australia
- Birte L. Nielsen
- Tadeusz Jezierski
- J. Elizabeth Bolhuis
- Luisa Amo
- Frank Rosell
- Marije Oostindjer
- Janne W. Christensen
- Dorothy McKeegan
- Glenn Levine
- Karen Allen
- Lynne Braun
- Hayley Christian
- Erika Friedmann
- Katherine Taubert
- Sue Thomas
- Richard Lange