PhD Studentship: Enhancing Engagement in Mindfulness-Based Interventions

University of Sussex - School of Psychology

PhD studentship available for September 2018

Project title: Enhancing engagement in mindfulness-based interventions

Supervisors:  Dr Kate Cavanagh (University of Sussex) and Dr Clara Strauss (University of Sussex and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust)

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) support the cultivation of mindfulness through practice and reflection on learning. Traditionally MBIs have been delivered through group-based courses (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Segal et al., 2002), but self-help mindfulness resources are becoming increasingly popular, with a growing evidence-base for effectiveness in improving mental health outcomes (Cavanagh et al., 2014). Whether learnt in groups or by self-guidance, mindfulness practice involves paying careful, non-judgmental attention to present-moment experiences, typically for 10-30 minutes at a time. This can present a number of challenges (Banerjee et al., 2017ab). We suggest that greater levels of engagement with MBIs will lead to better outcomes, the challenge lies in how to support people to engage more fully.

This PhD will explore factors associated with engagement/disengagement in MBIs, including self-help MBIs, with a view to developing and experimentally testing strategies to enhance engagement. The PhD will start with a systematic review of engagement in psychological interventions, followed by an archival study using data from our research lab to examine potential predictors of engagement and outcome in self-help MBIs. This will lead to developing strategies designed to enhance engagement and experimental testing of their effects on engagement and outcomes of MBIs. We encourage PhD by publication and will support the PhD student to have a number of published papers by the time they complete their thesis.

Applications should be made by Sunday 21st January 2018

  • Studentship awards will be based on a competitive process, including interview. There are two types of awards available: +3 studentships, which fund a three-year full-time PhD, and 1+3 studentships, which fund a one-year Master’s degree followed by a three-year full-time PhD. Full-time studentship covering tuition fee, and a maintenance allowance (currently £14,553 per annum).
  • The competitive awards are funded by the School of Psychology (+3, eligibility: Home or EU residency); the ESRC (1+3 or +3, eligibility at South-East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS); or the Chancellor’s International Research Scholarship (+3, eligibility at Chancellor's International Research Scholarship (2018).
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent qualification, and/or a Master's degree in Psychology or a related discipline.

Guidance for applicants:

  • Application procedures can be found here.
  • Please submit your application online for the ‘PhD in Psychology’ programme for September 2018 through this link
  • In the ‘Supervisor suggested by applicant’ section of your application form, please put name of supervisor
  • In the ‘Proposed source of funding’ as School of Psychology and/or SeNSS, or CIRS).

Candidates should provide:

  • A research proposal that outlines your knowledge of the research area, hypotheses that could be addressed in your PhD, and an outline of potential methods. Your answer should not exceed 2 pages including references, be set at minimum 10-font type with margins a minimum of 1cm.
  • An up-to-date CV.
  • Current degree transcript(s) with full details of performance on all completed courses.
  • Two academic references.

For queries with respect to the application process please send an email to 'Postgraduate Coordinator' :

To discuss the details of this PhD project further, please contact Dr Kate Cavanagh:

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South East England