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The development and evaluation of a ‘walk and talk’ intervention to improve physical and psychological wellbeing.


   Centre for Applied Psychological Science

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  Dr Katherine Swainston  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Elevated levels of psychological distress including anxiety, depression, and health anxiety associated with the Covid-19 pandemic have been recorded globally. The identification of populations most at risk for adverse effects from Covid-19 stressors is a public health recommendation. University students, particularly young adults aged 18-23, have been identified as such a sub-set of the population experiencing heightened distress. Stressors including displacement, anxiety about finances and academic success, fears and future uncertainty have been reported. Evidence-based intervention is needed to support those experiencing long-lasting physical and psychological impacts.

Outdoor talking therapies link traditional approaches with being in nature and physical activity. Being outside and connecting with the natural world is known to elicit a positive impact on wellbeing, creates a sense of belonging, reduces stress responses and improves mood. The BPS recently issued a framework for conducting outdoor talking therapies providing guidelines on working safely and effectively in outdoor spaces. The systematic review which underpinned this document identified few published studies involving an outdoor context for therapy, and the majority were professional practice case studies. This PhD research will begin to address the paucity of empirical research in this field and will involve the following stages:

  1. the design of a combined physical and psychological ‘walk and talk’ intervention based on behaviour change models and theory;
  2. support for intervention delivery and refinement;
  3. a mixed methods evaluation of the intervention.

The work links to international public health recommendations and accordingly the results of this research will have local, national, and international significance in accordance with Teesside 2025. The work is a collaboration with Student Life and Lifestyle Management and falls within the remit of health psychology, behavioural science, and eco-psychology interventions. 

Entry Requirements

Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a good honours degree (2:1 or above) in a relevant discipline. A masters level qualification in a relevant discipline is desirable, but not essential, as well as a demonstrable understanding of the research area. Further details of the expected background may appear in the specific project details. International students will be subject to the standard entry criteria relating to English language ability, ATAS clearance and, when relevant, UK visa requirements and procedures.

How to Apply

Applicants should apply online for this opportunity at: https://e-vision.tees.ac.uk/si_prod/userdocs/web/apply.html?CourseID=1191

Please use the Online Application (Funded PHD) application form. When asked to specify funding select “other” and enter ‘RDS’ and the title of the PhD project that you are applying for. You should ensure that you clearly indicate that you are applying for a Funded Studentship and the title of the topic or project on the proposal that you will need to upload when applying. If you would like to apply for more than one project, you will need to complete a further application form and specify the relevant title for each application to a topic or project.

Applications for studentships that do not clearly indicate that the application is for a Funded Studentship and state the title of the project applied for on the proposal may mean that your application may not be considered for the appropriate funding.

For academic enquiries, please contact [Email Address Removed]

For administrative enquiries before or when making your application, contact [Email Address Removed].  


Funding Notes

The Fees-Paid PhD studentship will cover all tuition fees for the period of a full-time PhD Registration of up to four years. Successful applicants who are eligible will be able to access the UK Doctoral Loan scheme https://www.gov.uk/doctoral-loan to support with living costs. The Fully Funded PhD Studentship covers tuition fees for the period of a full-time PhD Registration of up to four years and provide an annual tax-free stipend of £15,000 for three years, subject to satisfactory progress. Applicants who are employed and their employer is interested in funding a PhD, can apply for a Collaborative Studentship.
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