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Investigating mechanisms of mindfulness-based prevention for eating disorders

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, January 29, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Eating disorders are debilitating conditions that confer many significant consequences for health and well-being. Treatment is intensive and associated with modest recovery rates, underscoring the need for effective prevention and early intervention. The success of these efforts is predicated on targeting known risk factors in the development of eating disorders, including body image concerns and negative affect. Mindfulness-based interventions have demonstrated some success in reducing these risk factors across group, school, and online settings (Atkinson & Wade, 2015, 2016). However, little is known regarding the underlying mechanisms of change in this context. Such investigation will enable better understanding of mindfulness and what sets it apart from other psychological interventions, as well as inform the refinement and optimisation of existing and future mindfulness-based interventions to better target change processes.

This PhD project will therefore explore potential mechanisms underlying intervention benefits of mindfulness-based intervention in the specific context of eating disorder prevention. Broadly, the project will aim to ascertain whether mindfulness is operating as we would expect according to theory (e.g., Atkinson & Wade, 2017; Bishop et al., 2004), whether it is doing anything different from alternative existing interventions (e.g., cognitive-behavioural approaches), and in particular, to identify areas for guiding optimisation of existing and future mindfulness-based eating disorder prevention efforts.

Initial objectives will relate to mediation analysis of existing datasets from previous intervention trials with respect to various self-reported constructs (e.g., mindfulness components, self-compassion, body image inflexibility). The candidate will then design additional studies to test proposed mechanisms, based on the literature and drawing on experimental, cognitive, and positive psychology approaches (e.g., attention and self-regulation; cognitive biases and flexibility; metacognitive awareness and non-reactivity; body awareness and functionality; values clarification). This may include lab-based experimental studies using analogue (non-clinical) samples to develop and pilot suitable measures and protocols, but ideally also within the context of a longitudinal randomised controlled trial investigating a mindfulness-based intervention versus alternative interventions, with respect to the identified mechanisms of interest. Delivery of the intervention could be either face-to-face or internet-based, depending on the candidate’s interests.

This project will primarily utilise quantitative experimental research methods, however there is scope for a mixed-methods approach depending on the candidate’s interests. Supervision will be provided by a trained clinical psychologist, and would provide a strong foundation for pursuing a career in clinical psychology (including applying to DClinPsych programmes). The outcomes of the project will hopefully lead to recommendations for mindfulness-based interventions in the context of eating disorder prevention, and clinical psychology more broadly.

Anticipated start date: September 2019

Funding Notes

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK) in a relevant subject. Applicants applying for a +3 award should hold, or expect to receive, a relevant Master’s level qualification.

Application Deadline is 29th January 2019, 12 Noon GMT

Full details on how to apply can be found here: View Website

Related Subjects

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.20

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