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Narrative therapy, a potential intervention for student-athlete hazardous drinking (ref: SF20/SER/PARTINGTON)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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Dr E Partington Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Hazardous alcohol consumption is the most prevalent public health concern on university campuses in the UK and Ireland. Student-athletes have been identified as being particularly at risk for hazardous drinking and, importantly, also highly resistant to current alcohol interventions. The proposed PhD will critically consider the utility of an alternative intervention approach, narrative therapy, to addressing this issue. Narrative therapy is a psychotherapeutic intervention that connects peoples’ identities and behaviours to the stories that they tell about their lives. The focus is not only on exposing ‘problem’ stories that influence people to think, feel and act in detrimental ways, but it is also on helping individuals re-tell their life stories in ways that promote positive identities, emotions, and behaviours. While narrative therapy has had some limited application with athlete populations (e.g., to promote positive body image in elite female athletes and to give a voice to athletes experiencing serious mental illness), its application remains rare and its potential untapped.
This project aligns with the University’s Multi-disciplinary research theme on integrated health. The research programme will be informed by the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) framework for the development and evaluation of complex interventions. This will be done by developing a theoretical understanding of likely processes of change, modelling processes and outcomes, and assessing the feasibility of the intervention. Qualitative approaches (interviews and focus groups) will be used to gain insight into the role of storytelling in student-athlete drinking culture, and to identify the dominant narratives circulating within that culture. This information will inform a workshop with stakeholders to develop credible alternative stories and to determine potential delivery mechanisms for the intervention (e.g. on line, face-to-face etc). In the final stage of the project, the acceptability of the intervention will be tested via a feasibility study carried out with service end users.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g., SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: Open
Start Date: October 2020 or March 2021
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Dr Elizabeth Partington ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


Recent publications by supervisors relevant to this project (optional)
Longstaff, F., Heather, N., Allsop, S., Partington, E., Jankowski, M., Wareham, H., St Clair Gibson, A., & Partington, S. (2015). Drinking outcome expectancies and normative perceptions of students and student-athletes. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 9, 59-75.

Longstaff, F; Heather, N; Jankowski, M; Allsop, S; Wareham, H; Partington, S; Partington, E & St Clair Gibson, A. (2014). Readiness to change drinking behaviour among heavy drinking university students in England. Education and Health, 32(2), 40-45.
Partington, S., Partington, E., Heather, N., Longstaff, F., Allsop, S., Jankowski, M., Wareham, H., Stephens, R., & St Clair Gibson, A. (2013). The relationship between membership of a university sports group and drinking behaviour among students at English universities. Addiction Research and Theory, 21, 4, 339-347.

Heather, N., Partington, S., Partington, E, Longstaff, F., Allsop, S., Jankowski, M., Wareham, H., & St. Clair Gibson, A. (2011). Alcohol use disorders and hazardous drinking in undergraduates at English Universities. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 46(3), 270-277.

Sparkes, A., Brown, D., & Partington, E. (2010). The “Jock Body” and the social construction of space: The performance and positioning of cultural identity. Space and Culture, 13, 333-347.

Partington, E., Partington, S., Fishwick, L., & Allin, L. (2005). Mid-life nuances and negotiations: narrative maps and the social construction of mid-life in sport and physical activity. Sport, Education and Society, 10(1), 85-99.

Sparkes, A.C., Partington, E., & Brown, D.H.K. (2007). Bodies as bearers of value: The transmission of jock culture via the ‘twelve commandments.’ Sport, Education and Society, 12 (3), 295-316.

Sparkes, A.C., and Partington S., (2003) Narrative Practice and its Potential Contribution to Sport Psychology: The Example of Flow. The Sport Psychologist, 17 (3), 292-317.

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