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Yearly Archives: 2015

MSc health psych graduate moves on to Professional Doctorate

Congratulations to Anjulie Dhillon, who took her MSc Health Psychology at Coventry in 2014/15 and has gone on to do stage two training in health psychology, via a professional doctorate.


“Since graduating with an MSc in Health Psychology at Coventry University, I have recently joined Staffordshire University on the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. I am working as a Trainee Health Psychologist, based primarily on a Paediatric Burns Unit. I support young burn victims and their families through recovery and I will also be undertaking clinical work with adults with diabetes and chronic pain. This opportunity has provided me with the chance to apply my knowledge of Health Psychology models and theories in a clinical area, allowing me to grow and develop as a Trainee Health Psychologist. During the next two years I will be working on a number of projects including psychological interventions, research and teaching. I have also been very fortunate to have continued my work with Coventry University and I look forward to carrying out some research with Liz Sparkes in the new year, as well as delivering some teaching sessions to current MSc students later this academic year.”

We wish Anjulie enjoyment and success in her stage two training and we’re looking forward to her visiting us on the programme at Coventry.

MSc graduate moves on to PhD

Congratulations to recent graduate Prabneet Gill who took her MSc Health Psychology at Coventry in 2014/15.  Prabneet has gone on to take up a place on a PhD in Health and Population Sciences at the University of Birmingham.


“My project is on multi-morbidity, which is the co-occurrence of two or more chronic medical conditions in one person.  This can present many problems for the NHS and if not managed appropriately, can exacerbate symptoms and cause complications to occur.  I will be working in collaboration with local University hospitals and be focusing specifically on  the self-management aspect of multi-morbidity.  I will mainly be conducting research on patients to gain an insight into what barriers they face when managing their conditions (whether this is in primary care itself or other issues) and what can be done to remove these barriers.  Finally, I will be creating an intervention to help empower patients and to encourage greater independence and self-management of their conditions.  Hopefully the project will give an up-to-date insight into a growing area of healthcare in the UK, and may inform how clinicians across disciplines can administer more consistent care.”

We wish Prabneet success in her research and we hope she’ll be back to visit us some time to inspire current and future students.

How Can We Change the Experience of Pain?

Reblogged from Huffington Post with permission of the author – our Course Director Dr Elizabeth Sparkes

Run, keep going, don’t look back! A tried and tested method and it doesn’t seem to work. Pain is a phenomena which is still yet to be completely understood by science. Both mental and physical pain generally bite you on the bum at some later stage if you try to ignore them. What we resist often persists.

I will never understand how your pain feels, I only know my own. Pain is often hidden, unlike a broken leg and therefore this complicates our relationship with it. The need to feel believed and understood can be so strong. Physical pain can be like two daggers, the first being the pain itself, the sensation, and the second dagger represents the turmoil that we experience through catastrophic and disruptive thoughts about having pain. Therefore pain is made up of primary suffering, and then secondary suffering. We can’t always remove the primary suffering but we do have ways of reducing and changing the secondary suffering, the tyranny of thoughts that accompany the pain and drive our mood.

Researchers studying neuroscience have shown that just a weeks worth of sitting with awareness of pain and engaging with meditation (following the breath), changes the brains response to pain. Being curious about the sensations themselves rather than getting caught up in thought about the impact of pain can make a difference. The flurry of activity in areas in the brain associated with relaying the sensory experience reduces while activity in areas that moderate pain increases. These moderating areas include those that inhibit and reduce negative and destructive thoughts and emotional responses. The pain doesn’t necessarily go but it becomes less attached to a whole host of mental torture, which is what increases our sensory experience.

To change the experience of pain, to reduce some of the secondary suffering we need to turn towards the pain. Understandably there are varying levels of pain and chronic pain, and therefore facing pain is sometimes easier said than done. If it feels ok spend some time with the pain, invite it in to your awareness. What are it’s qualities, where does it reside in the body? Does it have a shape or colour? Just give some attention to the raw sensation of the pain, be curious. Try not to judge what you are attending to, notice any judging thoughts and come back to the sensations alone. Don’t try to get rid of the pain, and notice the emotion you feel towards it. You are now becoming familiar, without all of the mental analysis, which is what makes the pain worse.

I am interested in the impact of women experiencing pelvic pain/endometriosis and how to best support these women. One of the MSc students at Coventry university that I supervise recently conducted a pilot study, looking into the impact of a mindfulness course on pelvic pain. Clair Dempsey identified some trends, women who completed the online course showed improvements in their quality of life and also reduced catastrophic thought. We hope to look at this on a wider scale soon.

Mindfulness won’t take the pain away necessarily, but it will change the experience of it. If we can change the experience of it then daily life will improve, our relationship to the pain will change and the impact it has on us will also change. We are not trying to change our thoughts, but separating our thoughts from the sensations.

Follow Dr Elizabeth Sparkes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizzeduarte

Welcome new intake!


The course team would like to say a very big welcome to the new students who started on MSc Health Psychology this week, and to thank you for your attention and effort throughout induction day.

We asked you (and the new MSc Forensic Psych students) to draw us a quick sketch of your ideal MSc student. We were delighted with the results. Here is a themed flavour of what you said (as indicated, some things were mentioned repeatedly and there are some humorous suggestions):


Always being professional



Building cv – work experience, voluntary work – in the topic you are studying

Career focused

Develop further analytical and critical skills


Health psychologist and research oriented

More practical knowledge/information


100% effort






Hard work

Hard working






Sets & achieves goals


Attention to detail


Good attendance

Keeping to deadlines and exams

Manages time well






Organised schedule

Plan well in advance of deadlines

Planning ahead to even out workload for each module – don’t leave it last minute

Plans ahead


Time management

Time management

Time management

Time management


Always on time to lessons and meetings with tutors





IT savvy

Doh – don’t forget to back up your work!

Email alert




Outlook – regularly checking emails daily

USB  – save work




Building connections



Friendly face

Good communication skills









Books n stuff

Carry books and work

Further reading on topics



Lots and lots and lots of reading

Psychology articles


Lives in library!

The library is very well equipped but we wouldn't recommend aiming to live there.

Research active



Research & statistics



Attempt to do work if it’s not possible refer to handbook, module guide

Being independent

Big step up from undergrad



Independent study/critique

Leadership development


Own ideas

Use own initiative

Just a quick observation on the notion of the independent postgraduate.  Being independent doesn't mean you have to work entirely alone.  Using your initiative can also include asking for more information or help when you need it.  This might be asking each other but it can also mean approaching a member of staff.  Being co-operative as a group and looking after yourself are important things to remember too. 



Team work

Team-work promotion


Adequate relaxation


Emotionally intelligent

Healthy diet

Life balance


Social life

Social support



No sleeping!

Sleeping is not encouraged in class but make sure you get enough at other (appropriate) times.


This last was only mentioned once, but I think it is safe to say that your drawings are evidence of creativity at work.

Looking forward to seeing you in classes next week.

Invitation to Seminar: Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research

Students (and staff) on the MSc Health Psychology are invited to a Seminar at the Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research on Tuesday September 29th,  11:00 am  to 12:00 noon in Seminar Room ‘CTEHR, Mile Lane’.

There will be two speakers, one of whom is a former student on our MSc.

Beth Grunfeld, Professor of Health Psychology will present her research on:

Employment transitions among cancer survivors: a longitudinal qualitative exploration of the meaning and performance of work following cancer treatment.

Kubra Anwar*, PhD Student Behaviour and Interventions Research CTEHR will present her work on:

Developing an intervention within a Social Marketing and acculturation framework to meet the needs of Pakistani women living in the UK regarding their breastfeeding intentions and practices.

*Kubra completed her MSc Health Psychology at Coventry before going on to do doctoral research.

Mile Lane is off Puma Way in the University’s Technology Park.  The postcode CV1 2JH will take you to the right area.

MSc Health Psychology Times of classes for 2015/16 Academic Year


Full-time students on MSc Health Psychology have classes Tuesdays 1-6 pm and Thursdays 1-5 pm this academic year.

Full-time students attend classes Tuesdays and Thursdays for two 11 week semesters.

Part-time students attend Tuesdays only in the first year and Thursdays only in the second year.

Full-time students use semester three to complete their dissertations. Part-time students may be working then or perhaps doing work experience towards their placement.

Details of individual classes and rooms will be available to you at induction day on 22nd September.

Looking forward to meeting you all.

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Mindfulness

Dr Elizabeth Sparkes 

Mindfulness teacher, Health Psychologist, Lecturer, Mother (and course director for the MSc Health Psych at Coventry)

Reblogged with Liz’s permission from Huffington Post

  1. It’s available to everyone.
    Plain and simple, anyone can develop a mindful life. Who is in the shower with you? Just think about it, how much shower time do you spend focusing on the refreshing feel of the water and the scent of the soap? Or are you thinking about your boss, neighbour, mother in-law?
  2. It’s not about getting rid of difficult thoughts and feelings.
    People come to sessions hoping to be free from suffering, and yes mindfulness will eliminate suffering to a degree, but it’s not about changing our thoughts or suppressing our feelings.
  3. It’s about cultivating an ability to ‘be’ with difficult thoughts and feelings.
    What does a small child do if you ignore them when they cry? They just get louder and likewise regarding difficult emotions, they just become stronger. Mindfulness enables us to allow difficult thoughts and feelings to pass through, to not become stuck and repetitive.
  4. It’s all about the practice.
    You don’t develop muscles overnight, it takes work. Mindfulness and meditation abilities improve quickly with regular practice, and that only needs to be 10 minutes a day to begin with.
  5. It’s about getting in touch with sensations in the body.
    During meditation, being curious about ‘unsound’ tensions and pains often helps them to subside. Giving some attention to something that wants to be felt can make all the difference.
  6. It’s not about analysing our thoughts.
    Every day we get tied up in knots trying to understand and get to the bottom of our experiences and feelings. Just sitting with your breath, focusing on sensations in the body and paying attention to an emotion can do so much more for our mental and physical health than hours of analysis.
  7. It’s excellent in terms of increasing awareness.
    With gentle regular practice an awareness develops. An awareness and ‘wisdom’ if you like, that gives us insight, so that we react less, miss less opportunities and understand a whole lot more.
  8. It’s not about clearing the mind during meditation.
    Honestly it isn’t! What happens if you try not to think about anything? A whole rampage of thoughts flood in. It’s like training a puppy, each time the puppy wanders off you gently bring him back. So with mindfulness, when the mind wanders kindly invite it back to the breath, to the moment.
  9. It’s all about calming the chattering mind.
    Bringing more focus to the present moment and practicing mindfulness meditation – following the breath, just generates a calmer mind. You are retraining your mind to a natural state, from chaos to calm.
  10. It’s simple and effective if taught with compassion.
    Mindfulness isn’t complicated and one of the most important elements when being taught mindfulness is compassion. We can do anything mindfully but with compassion we do it better.

Follow Dr Elizabeth Sparkes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizzeduarte

Defining mindfulness


‘Mindfulness’ seems to be everywhere at the moment, though ironically this doesn’t necessarily mean it is widely practised, even by those of us who’d like to embrace it.

Our colleague Liz Sparks recently shared ten things she feels everyone should know about mindfulness at The Huffington Post Lifestyle Blog.

Students on our MSc Health Psychology course have the opportunity to learn about the theory behind mindfulness-based interventions in healthcare, as well as practical techniques.  They also have a chance to critically evaluate mindfulness-based interventions and explore the evidence for their efficacy.

Health Psychology Masters Induction – Tuesday 22nd September


Induction for new students on the Health Psychology masters will take place on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 in the Charles Ward Building.

 Time Description Content to be covered Room
09:45 – 10:00 Generic Course Info Arrival and Registration CW217
10:00 – 10:15 Generic Course Info Formal welcome by Jane Coad CW217
10:15 – 10:30 Generic Course Info An Introduction to the Student Rep System CW217
10.30 – 11:15 Generic Course Info Studying at Coventry University (Emma Sleath, MSc Forensic Psychology Course Director) CW217
11.15-11.30 Coffee Break
11:30 – 12:15 Generic Course Info Studying at Postgraduate Level (Liz Sparkes, MSc Health Psychology Course Director) CW217
12.15 – 12:45 Generic Course Info Moodle Briefing (Valentina Mosconi, Learning Technician) CW217
12.45-2.00 Lunch

NB: This extended time can also be used to collect student cards from the Student Centre

2.00 – 2.30 Generic Course Info Library Induction Session (Sally Patalong, Subject Librarian) CW217
2.30 – 4:00 Course Specific Info Introduction to the Health Psychology Masters

Liz Sparkes, MSc Health Psychology Course Director and Carol Percy, Senior lecturer in psychology

4:00 – 4:30 Course Specific Info Queries/Students to Collect Student Cards CW215

Students’ experience of Sri Lanka trip summer 2015

Now that they are back with us in Coventry, some of our MSc health psychology students have reported on their recent visit to Sri Lanka.  As their pictures and personal reflections demonstrate, this was a unique opportunity to do some serious work, supported by our academic partners at the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, experience the distinctive culture of Sri Lanka, and enjoy some encounters with wildlife.

Meeting with staff and students at CIRP for learning and networking

Meeting with staff and students at CIRP for learning and networking

“Visiting Sri Lanka as part of the MSc Health Psychology course was an amazing experience. Six of us travelled to Colombo to take part in a 10 day experience consisting of academic visits as well as cultural trips. We were welcomed by the staff at Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, who ensured we were looked after during our visit. We were involved in a number of academic sessions, discussing mental health issues with a panel of professionals, which provided insight into the Sri Lankan culture and its relevance to mental health in the country. We also partnered up and took undergraduate classes where we were each able to deliver a lecture.

The lecture I delivered was on Pain and Pain Management; I outlined the history of our understanding of pain, introduced some key theories and then went on to discuss pain management programmes. I also asked the students to get involved in a seminar activity whereby they got into groups and developed an intervention. I feel this was a key experience for me as I really enjoyed it and felt my confidence in presenting and delivering a lecture has increased significantly. The students were very welcoming.

An eye opening experience for me was a visit to the Colombo mental health hospital and also the private day care facility for individuals with psycho-social problems. Services are still developing and I gained an insight into the need for psychology to become more of a focus in Sri Lanka. Taking part in therapeutic sessions such as expression therapy was also very engaging as this is something I had not been involved in before. From an academic perspective, it was really positive to see that Sri Lanka’s focus on psychology is progressively increasing and to hear that concepts such as mindfulness are also developing is fantastic.

Tourist visits included a trip to a beautiful Elephant Orphanage where we got to ride and bathe the elephants. We also visited a Buddhist Temple, Gangaramaya, which allowed us to experience an important aspect of Sri Lankan culture.  The country as a whole was amazing – the contrast between the traffic and run down areas and the well developed areas was really interesting to see. I would highly recommend this trip, as it was well worth it and one I will always look back on.” [Anjulie]

Experiencing Sri Lankan culture

Experiencing Sri Lankan culture

“Our trip to Sri Lanka was one I will never forget, not only was the trip educational and revealing but it was fun and inspiring. Giving my first lecture on addictions and rehabilitation was an exciting experience if slightly nerve racking. The students attending the lecture were engaging and questioning. The difference between the institution and our university were few, students were passionate about psychology and about promoting psychology within Sri Lanka.  As well as these elements of the trip we enjoyed trips to the beautiful hill country of Kandy where we spent the day with elephants and visiting the famous Temple of the Tooth. A day by the beach, at the old Governor’s house rounded off the trip of a life time.”  [Holly]


Learning about elephants

“My lecture was about stress management; both from an internal perspective (e.g. mindfulness) and an external perspective (e.g. outside agencies delivering stress inoculation training or CBT). I think for me this really pushed me out of my comfort zone and was something I was terrified of doing. But when I got up to talk, I really enjoyed it and I think the students liked and responded positively to my lecturing style. It was a really good opportunity to enhance my public speaking and it also taught me a lot about myself. The place that impacted me the most was the Mental Hospital. I saw big cultural differences in diagnosis and treatment, and saw just how cultural taboos can impact these factors. These cultural inequalities tie in with my specific research interests so this trip provided me with an invaluable insight into this area. I found that speaking to professionals at the University and the psychiatrist at the private day care centre to also be very interesting. Overall, the trip was fascinating and I’d highly recommend going. It was a great opportunity to see how life differs, and also a great international experience to put on my CV!”  [Prabneet]