Counselling and Health Psychology

Counselling and Health Psychology Research Group

Overview of research activity

The Counselling and Health Psychology Research Group generally conduct research with an applied focus.

Members of counselling team are particularly interested in methodological issues and provide support and input to one another regarding the research process as well as dissemination. They have an extensive range of research expertise in counselling as evidenced by the below subject areas:


  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  • Facial disfigurement following trauma
  • Young women's experiences with negative body image
  • The other woman's experience of extra-dyadic relationship
  • & also eating disorders noted below.


  • Existing as a transsexual
  • Gay/bisexual men's use of club drugs
  • Construction of BDSM among trainees
  • & also CSA noted below.


  • Adult relationships following CSA
  • Sense of self following CSA
  • Help-seeking in adult male survivors of CSA
  • Self-harm in You-Tube images
  • Hope within self-harm
  • Therapists' experiences of working with people who self-harm
  • & also Ireland abuse noted below.

Psychological concerns within families

  • Parents' experiences of having a child in therapy
  • Mothers' experiences of adult daughter in therapy
  • Fathers' experiences of raising a son with challenging behaviours
  • Rumination after bereavement
  • & also couples issue, families re. diabetes noted below & CSA noted above.

Psychological impact of health-related concerns

  • Couples' experiences when one suffers from an eating disorder
  • Diabetes - family social support and self care
  • Mothers' experiences of being told child is overweight
  • Adult cancer patients in therapy
  • Altruistic kidney donors
  • Trauma symptoms following childbirth
  • Persistent primary nocturnal enuresis
  • Older male carers for partners with dementia
  • Young adults with Developmental Coordination Disorder
  • Growing older with HIV.

Social and Cultural Issues

  • Institutional abuse of children in Ireland
  • Resilience of survivors of Irish institutional abuse
  • South-Asian therapists' experiences of matching services
  • Ghanaian psychologists working with clients with traditional belief systems
  • Indigenous people from Mexico who have been wrongly imprisoned
  • Engaging military veterans in therapy
  • Workplace bullying
  • Male prisoners' constructions of help-seeking research
  • Therapists' experiences working with prisoners
  • Experiences of counsellors working with Iraqi refugees in Jordan
  • Craving in pathological gamblers.

Practitioner identity and development

  • Wounded healer
  • Burnout
  • Mindfulness for CBT practitioners
  • Therapist attire in psychotherapy
  • Therapist disclosure to eating-disordered clients
  • Humour - with psychotic clients
  • Impact of domestic violence on therapists' intimate relationships
  • Therapists' experiences of sexual harassment from clients
  • Therapists' experiences of self within different approaches
  • Therapists' experiences of self within sessions
  • Impact of therapists' life experiences on clinical practice
  • Choice of psychological professional with older adults
  • Therapists' emotional experiences in working with anorexia.

The health psychology team focus their research on health service evaluation and improvement, the understanding the effectiveness of health psychology interventions and the experience of illness and well-being. The team has a strength and applied expertise in evaluating innovative approaches and policies designed to improve health and well-being in community, work and hospital settings.

Together the health psychology team has combined experience of using a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods including action research, interpretative phenomenological analysis, grounded theory, discourse analysis, randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews.

The Counselling and Health Psychology Research Group is particularly focused on making sure that its research has impact. For example, in the case of Pires-Yfantoudas's work on how to support patients with musculoskeletal conditions through motivational interviewing techniques, her results were disseminated through blogs to widen access to the research findings. Sykes's research on pregnancy sickness (experienced in approximately 80% of singleton pregnancies) has led her to become a trustee of the Pregnancy Sickness Support Charity, with remits in deciding the charity's research strategy and managing the data that the charity collects. Willig contributed to the prestigious American Psychological Association (APA) Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology which represents the latest authoritative guide to research methods in counseling psychology.

Achievements and news

The health psychology team has presented at two important health psychology conferences this year. The Annual Division of Health Psychology Conference and the 8th International Society of Critical Health Psychology Conference. Amongst the presentations, were findings from a qualitative study exploring healthcare professionals' experiences of patient reported stress a study looking at paramedics' discourse in pain management to people with dementia and the results of a brief mindfulness- based intervention to help resist chocolate.

The Biopsychosocial Understandings of Hyperemesis Gravidarum Conference was hosted by the health psychology team this year. The conference was a great success with speakers from around the world attending to present the latest research and developments in the care and management of women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. MSc and undergraduate health psychology students formed part of the conference committee contributing to its success and gaining valuable work experience.

The health psychology team values its collaborations with external organisations working at the front line of healthcare service delivery. For example, the team is working in collaboration with the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital to explore the beliefs and attitudes to work return amongst patients suffering with chronic pain. This multi-phase project will inform future service development for patients with chronic pain, building on expertise from multidisciplinary teams, consisting of experienced health psychologists and specialist healthcare providers.

The counselling team's purpose is to showcase its activities, to encourage collaboration and facilitate joint publications involving both members of staff and graduates. In addition, the counselling team aims to establish links with researchers in other institutions in order to create a platform for collaboration and integration.

The counselling team holds monthly meetings at which researchers present their work-in-progress. As a result of meetings held during 2012-13 two journal articles and one conference presentation have been produced by alumni.

The counselling team welcomes presentations by researchers external to City University London and has benefited from the input of the following visitors during 2012-13:

Dr Catherine Nelson, Counselling PsychologistMaggie's London Charing Cross Hospital

Elizabeth Hughes, PhD student in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck (under the supervision of Stephen Frosh)

Ryan Kemp

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Addictions Lead Psychologist

Central & North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust

Chair: Faculty of Addictions (British Psychological Society)

Andrea Calsamiglia, Research student in Social Psychology PhD Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Open University


The health psychology team run two courses in health psychology.

The Health Psychology at City, University of London is designed for those looking to start, or progress in, a career in the rapidly-changing healthcare space.

The MSc is professionally-focused and innovative, and you will complete the course with both the practical and critical skills you need to stand out. Our goal is to equip you for employment with a range of skills that you can put into practice to further advance your career.

The Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology Training Course is the stage two component of health psychology training to be completed by aspiring health psychologists with the view of pursuing a career in health psychology, offering services to the public.

The Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology provides the trainee with all of the competencies of the health psychologist as well as a development of individual skills and experience.

The ultimate aim of the course is for the trainees to be able to both competently and confidently practice in health psychology and produce an original piece of research that contributes to the knowledge of applied health psychology.

The course aims to provide professional and academic training that will enable trainees to work as health psychologists in a broad range of settings, including the NHS, charities, industry, government, private practice and academic and research settings, among others.

Membership of the group

The health psychology team is made up of Dr Paula Corcoran, Dr Renata Pires-Yfantouda Dr Catherine Sykes, Dr Katy Tapper and Professor Carla Willig. The team works closely with external supervisors who are experienced health psychologist practitioners such as Dr Vanessa Bogle (see below). The team supports a group of doctoral students who contribute to the team's profile in conducting applied health psychology research.

Dr Sykes started her research career working on projects funded by the European Commission in the field of health promotion and dementia. Her current research focuses on patient empowerment and involvement, health service improvement and health psychology intervention evaluation. Empowering the users of healthcare service users is the central motivation of Dr Sykes' research. She has been involved in several research projects that look to understand the patient's experience. She has developed a measure to assess patient involvement in healthcare decision-making.

Dr Sykes has been involved in several research projects that assess the effectiveness of interventions based on health psychology theory. She has also developed cognitive behavioural therapy manuals for the treatment of patients with chronic diseases. More recently she has become interested in interventions that incorporate social media and technology.

Her current research projects are:

  • An investigation into the experience of pregnant women suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum
  • The experience of seeking help for Hyperemesis Gravidarum
  • The usefulness of online coping information for women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

Dr Tapper's main research interests are health behaviour and behaviour change, with a particular emphasis on healthy eating, weight loss and physical activity. She has a background in psychology but has worked in multidisciplinary teams, developing and evaluating a wide range of health interventions for both adults and children. Recently she has been exploring the use of digital technologies to influence lifestyles and habits. These applied projects are informed by her more experimental work aimed at identifying and understanding variables that influence health-related behaviours.

Dr Corcoran completed her PhD at City University London entitled 'An exploratory study of the social representations of heroin and heroin users'.

Dr Corcoran has also held several management positions in services working with street homeless drug users, Phoenix House rehabilitation centre and a third stage housing project for clients in recovery from substance misuse. She specialises in working with hard-to-reach clients and substance misuse and addiction issues.

Dr Corcoran is currently exploring issues of loss and bereavement around addiction, and working on a book on communication issues with hard to engage clients.

Dr Pires-Yfantouda's research interests include behaviour change, particularly in relation to addictions (smoking cessation, drugs and alcohol), and acquired brain injury and chronic disease management (diabetes, chronic pain, chronic fatigue).

She is interested in the use of motivational interviewing and other types of therapy (including cognitive behaviour therapy) in relation to health behaviours and addictions.

She has a particular interest in adjustment to physical health difficulties across the lifespan.

Professor Carla Willig is a health psychologist as well as a counselling psychologist. She has a long-standing interest in qualitative research methodology and has established an international reputation in this field. Her early empirical work was concerned with the relationship between discursive positionings and health-related practices. Her research explored this relationship in relation to safer sex practices in particular. More recently she has used phenomenological research methods to explore the quality, texture and meaning of health-related practices such as extreme sport. A linking theme in Professor Willig's empirical work has been an interest in trying to understand what motivates risky behavioural practices. In a departure from this, however, Professor Willig's current research is concerned with the experience of confronting mortality. In collaboration with Dr Catherine Nelson (Maggie's Cancer Charity) and Dr Jacqui Farrants (City, University of London) she is conducting and analysing semi-structured interviews with individuals who are living with secondary cancer. The research project employs a phenomenological methodology and seeks to generate insights into participants' experience and meaning-making which will be of use in developing novel ways of supporting those diagnosed with incurable illnesses.

DPSYCH Health Psychology Students









































Dr Vanessa Bogle is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and is a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS). She is also a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). She sits on MacMillan's Physical Activity Expert Advisory Group for Cancer Survivorship.

She has over 13 years of NHS experience and has held senior positions in health promotion/public health roles. Within these roles Dr Bogle has developed strategies, policies, care/referral pathways and has designed, implemented and evaluated numerous health interventions. As a result she has developed specialism in a range of areas including cardiovascular disease, cardiac rehabilitation, obesity, physical activity, cancer prevention/early detection and men's health. In addition, she has worked in clinical roles to assist patients with long-term conditions to make lifestyle changes in areas such as stopping smoking and increasing physical activity and to improve their self-management skills.

In a consultant capacity, Dr Bogle has provided expert advice to a range of NHS and private organisations. She was instrumental in shaping national policy in the approach adopted within the Department of Health's Let's Get Moving (LGM) physical activity initiative, namely Motivational Interviewing, during the period 2007-2009. She raised awareness of the complexities of behaviour change and the pitfalls of using less effective traditional approaches to behaviour change.

Dr Bogle is an experienced trainer and lecturer. She regularly designs and delivers training for a range of health care professionals, including consultants, general practitioners, specialist nurses and dieticians the area of health behaviour change. She has also worked as a visiting lecturer at a number of London-based universities on post-graduate Health Psychology Masters degree courses. Dr Bogle has a proven track record of success in the healthcare space.