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Development, evaluation, and implementation of a positive psychology intervention to support people affected by dementia

   Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences

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  Dr Charlotte Stoner, Prof P McCrone  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A positive psychology approach to dementia refers to the scientific study of strengths or capabilities that people living with dementia actively use to maintain or enhance their own wellbeing (Stoner et al., 2018a). This novel approach contrasts with the traditional psychology of old age and dementia, which has been characterised by decline and progressive dependency. Currently positive psychology approaches to dementia are largely limited to qualitative data, with the proposed primary supervisor the first researcher in the world to quantitatively document the character strengths that people with dementia use (Stoner et al., 2017; Stoner et al., 2018a, 2018b; Stoner et al., 2019). Positive psychology interventions refer to discrete series of activities designed to cultivate positive emotions, behaviour and cognitions (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009). Existing positive psychology interventions are diverse, and can include gratitude exercises, hope therapy, and group positive psychotherapy, which are all associated with positive outcomes (Bolier et al., 2013). Further, positive psychology interventions have been used across clinical populations including people at high risk of schizophrenia (Grant et al., 2018), and people with Major Depressive Disorder (Chaves et al., 2017), with the latter suggesting equal efficacy between a custom positive psychology intervention and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Despite the dearth of research in this area and evidence of efficacy for improving wellbeing across groups, there are no existing positive psychology interventions to cultivate wellbeing in people affected by dementia. Receiving a diagnosis of dementia has been described as ‘traumatic’ (Bunn et al., 2012, p. 5), and can have a significant effect on identity and relationships (Caddell & Clare, 2010). It has also been associated with feelings of anger, grief and loss (Fisk et al., 2007). Despite evidence suggesting a diagnosis of dementia is a significant life event, the provision of post-diagnostic support in secondary care NHS memory clinics is varied, with some relying on referrals to Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) for co-morbid depression (e.g. Dodd et al., 2014).

Using mixed-methods, and with a focus on implementation methodology, the aim of this PhD programme is to develop, evaluate and implement a positive psychology-based intervention to support people living with dementia and their caregivers.

Duration - 3 years full time study or 6 years part time study

Bursary available (subject to satisfactory performance):  

Year 1: £16,062 (FT) or pro-rata (PT)  Year 2: In line with UKRI rate  Year 3: In line with UKRI rate

In addition, the successful candidate will receive a contribution to tuition fees equivalent to the university’s Home rate, currently £4,596 (FT) or pro-rata (PT), for the duration of their scholarship. International applicants will need to pay the remainder tuition fee for the duration of their scholarship. This fee is subject to an annual increase.

Person Specification:

·        1st Class or 2nd class, First Division (Upper Second Class) honours degree or a taught master’s degree with a minimum average of 60% in all areas of assessment (UK or UK equivalent) in a relevant area to the proposed research project

·        For those whose first language is not English and/or if from a country where English is not the majority spoken language (as recognised by the UKBA), a language proficiency score of at least IELTS 6.5 (in all elements of the test) or an equivalent UK VISA and Immigration secure English Language Test is required, if your programme falls within the faculty of Engineering and Science a language proficiency score of at least IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum of 6.0 in all elements of the test or an equivalent UK VISA and Immigration secure English Language Test is required. Unless the degree above was taught in English and obtained in a majority English speaking country, e.g. UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc, as recognised by the UKBA.

·        Experience of undertaking research with older adults, people living with dementia, mental health or another relevant area of psychology (e.g., undergraduate or taught Master’s dissertation or through work experience)

·        Experience of using quantitative and qualitative research methods

·        Understanding of positive psychology and/ or implementation theory

·        Experience of undertaking research in the National Health Service (NHS)

·        Strong written and verbal communication skills

. Understands the fundamental differences between a taught degree and a research degree in terms of approach and personal discipline/motivation

·        Able to, under guidance, complete independent work successfully

·        This scholarship may require Academic Technology Approval Scheme approval for the successful candidate if from outside of the EU/EEA

  ·        The scholarship must commence before 1st January 2023.

Please read this information before making an application. Information on the application process is available at: Applications need to be made online via this link. No other form of application will be considered. Please ensure that you select ‘MPhil/PhD Human Sciences’ from the list to ensure prompt processing of applications.

All applications must include the following information. Applications not containing these documents will not be considered:

•       VC Scholarship Reference Number (Ref)– included in the personal statement section

•       Personal Statement - outlining your motivation for applying for this PhD, and your previous research experience (e.g., as a research assistant or completing a dissertation).

•       Academic qualification certificates/transcripts*

•       IELTS/English Language certificate if you are an international applicant or if English is not your first language or you are from a country where English is not the majority spoken language as defined by the UK Border Agency *

•       Research Proposal* (ca. 1500 words- please use template available from:

•       Your complete CV*

•       Two reference letters (one ideally from a dissertation supervisor)*

*upload to the qualification section of the application form. Attachments must be in PDF format.  You will need to submit this as 1 single PDF, to be uploaded as attachment

Before submitting your application, you are encouraged to liaise with the Lead Supervisor on the details above.

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