We encourage our students to participate in MHPN events where possible. Here’s what some students had to say about the experience of attending the annual conference:
On arrival with another student on my course, it felt comforting to be greeted by one of the graduates from last year and familiar faces from the ARC-HLI, which put me at ease. I was pleased to hear that many of last year’s MSc cohort have gone to use their degrees and are working within health psychology. Having the opportunity to get a drink and initiate conversations in the relaxed environment of the break out room, gave me the confidence to start some light conversation with those standing next to me.
The fact I was able to initiate and join in conversations with previously unknown peers without experiencing any negative reactions has given me the confidence to repeat this in the future. My tutor has expressed the opinion that I should submit a ‘work in progress’ abstract for my dissertation to the DHP national conference in September, which I was apprehensive to do through fear that my work would not be to the standard required. My experience of the MHPN conference has shown me that generally the health psychology community is accepting and encouraging of postgraduate research, and has persuaded me that having the opportunity to present a poster at the national conference would be great for my development.
Good role models
It has also been extremely encouraging to see how the graduates from last year have progressed and has filled me with hope for my future after graduation. The diversity of the posts that last year’s students have gone on to hold has shown me to keep my mind open to a variety of contexts where a health psychologist could be suited.
Talking to authors of the posters was very motivating for me, as I was pleasantly surprised to learn that most were at the same stage of education(MSc) as me , or just slightly further ahead. This gave me a deal of encouragement as it suggested to me that I do have a valuable skill set and that I had gained a lot more skills from the course thus far than I had perhaps given myself credit for. Furthermore, my attendance at the conference filled me with hope for the future, in terms of employability and scope within research and academia, as it highlighted the wide, wide range of opportunities are available to me as an aspiring Health Psychologist.
Knowing your course is relevant
Conferences like this one are a good opportunity to get a quick introduction to a subject and if you want to know more the person is available to talk to. Another thing I experienced during the conference is a feeling of relevance. With a lot of subjects discussed I kept thinking, ‘this is why I chose to study this, it is important to find out more about this and help people behave in a healthier way’. This was with a variety of subjects: from heart failure to sexual health, to the discourse GPs use when talking to patients about their weight. When I heard of all those different things going on, that are still only the tip of the iceberg, I got really happy and felt the need to be part of this to help spread knowledge and try and get people to change their behaviour. So, to conclude, it made me more motivated and inspired for what I could do in the future. A constant theme I seem to reflect on is my preference for research work or practitioner in health care. The conference changed my mind again and made me see how diverse and applied research work can be as well.
Once at the venue I was happy to see some MSc Health Psychology graduates who I knew from the previous year. Most of these graduates were now working in health psychology-related fields or were starting further studies, one also helped to organise the conference, and we enjoyed reminiscing about the previous year. This social support made me feel positive and encouraged before the first speaker, Dr Tony Cassidy, gave an insightful talk into the role of the Division of Health Psychology in supporting and progressing career opportunities for Health Psychology practitioners.
Health Psychology possibilities
Dr Tony Cassidy, the chair of the division of health psychology, inspired me as he talked about the arising opportunities for health psychologists and how our work adequately contributes and compliments other psychology domains (Cassidy, 2013). For me, the most relevant part of his speech described how research undertaken by health psychologists is very much applicable and required in all areas of evidence based research and clinical practice. I have previously believed that health psychologists are undermined and criticized, perhaps because health psychology is a considerably new area, however Dr Cassidy made me feel self-assured and required.
Attending the conference reassured me that I am training in the right area as I found the entire experience inspiring and felt uplifted being surrounded by people working in the area. The conference helped me to focus on the positives of what health psychology can do, as opposed to the negatives of how difficult it may be to obtain employment within the discipline which I have often found hard to ignore. My confidence has also increased as I understood most of the theories and methodology used in the projects discussed, apart from Q methodology and conversation analysis, which made me realise how much I have already learnt from the course. Acknowledging these skills and being confident will help me when applying for jobs or further research opportunities. I also discovered that I had assumed that those speaking at the conference would be confident and experienced speakers, and was pleasantly surprised that despite this not being obvious there were a few who admitted to being nervous. I have quite low self efficacy in my abilities to present confidently and well as this skill does not come naturally to me, but seeing peers and others presenting, coupled with my experience of carrying out a presentation as part of the MSc course, has made me feel more assured that I may be able to do this in the future, which would be beneficial for Stage 2 training and employment in research.
More men please!
First of all, I couldn’t help but notice how female dominated the field of Health Psychology is, with only a handful of men at the conference. For my dissertation topic, I am interviewing mothers about their perceptions on diet, weight management and childhood obesity. I have found no papers which have paternal views on diet , weight management and obesity, all literature searches return only maternal views. Research by McDonald et al (2012) described how qualitative data collection is particularly challenging with male participants. I reflected that perhaps this trend could be improved by having more male researchers in the field of health psychology.