Psychological health well-being and resilience

What factors contribute to the development and maintenance of psychological problems in mental and physical health conditions and disabilities? How are these factors and problems best measured? What kinds of interventions prevent these problems or facilitate recovery from them? For what types of problems are cognitive-behavioural, mindfulness-based, and integrative systemic interventions effective? What are the ‘active ingredients’ of effective psychological interventions? Under what conditions are computer-based interventions interventions that involve families and social systems, group-based, and individual interventions particularly effective?

These are just some of the questions pursued by researchers in the Psychological health well-being and resilience research group. We use a range of innovative quantitative and qualitative methodologies to address these questions. Our objectives are twofold: (a) understand how psychological problems develop, and (b) to identify effective ways to assess, prevent and treat them. Ultimately, we aim to alleviate distress arising from psychological difficulties,  enhance health and wellbeing, and promote resilience and flourishing.

Our team of faculty, research staff, postgraduate students, and colleagues in our large practice research network in the Irish Health Service work closely together to advance our shared aims. Within UCD, we engage in interdisciplinary collaborations across the University in service of UCD’s strategic research priority Building a Healthy World. We collaborate with our School colleagues in the Affective, Behavioural & Cognitive Neuroscience and Group Processes and Social Inclusion themes. We also collaborate with colleagues in our international research network.

We welcome PhD and DPsychSc applications from those interested in conducting research in our thematic area. If you are interested in discussing the possibility of PhD supervision, please identify the faculty member who best suits your topic of interest and complete the Enquiry Form here. If you are interested in conducting research as part of professional training in clinical psychology, you may apply to the DPsychSc programme at https://www.ucd.ie/psychology/research/researchdegreesandresearchers/doctoralprogrammeinclinicalpsychology/.

Core Faculty

Jessica Bramham

Alan Carr

Paul D’Alton

Sonya Deschênes

Barbara Dooley

Amanda Fitzgerald

Maximilian Friehs

Keith Gaynor

Suzanne Guerin

Kathy Looney

Louise McHugh

Niki Nearchou

Gary O’Reilly

Joan Tiernan

 

Spotlight on Research

Below are some selected research projects that represent the diversity of work in our theme. For more information on the specific projects, feel free to contact the relevant researcher. 

Understanding and Managing Adult ADHD Programme (UMAAP) 

The project involves the development and evaluation of an App and online psychoeducation and self-help programme for adults with ADHD in conjunction with the HSE National Clinical Programme for ADHD in Adults Model of Care for Ireland.

Principal Investigator: Prof Jessica Bramham
Funders: HSE National Clinical Programmes and ADHD-Ireland

Key references:

HSE National Clinical Programme for ADHD in Adults Model of Care for Ireland (2020) https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/cspd/ncps/mental-health/adhd/adhd-in-adults-ncp-model-of-care/adhd-in-adults-ncp-model-of-care.pdf

Seery, C., Wrigley, M., O'Riordan, F., Kilbridge, K., & Bramham, J.  (2021).  What adults with ADHD want to know: A Delphi consensus study on the psychoeducational needs of experts by experience.  American Professional Society for ADHD and Associated Disorders, 15 Jan 2021.

Outcomes for adult survivors of institutional abuse

Our recent research on trauma has focused on risk and protective factors associated with positive and negative outcomes in adulthood of survivors of childhood institutional abuse.

Principal investigators:  Prof Alan Carr, UCD; Dr Grace Sheridan, HSE; and Dr Shauna McGee, Zurich University
Funders: Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, HSE Clinical Psychology Sponsorship programme, Swiss Government Excellence, the Swiss National Science Foundation, National Research Program

Key References:

Carr, A., Nearchou, F., Duff, H., Ní Mhaoileoin, D., Cullen, K., O’Dowd, A., & Battigelli, L.  (2019). Survivors of institutional abuse in long-term child care in Scotland. Child Abuse and Neglect, 93, 38-54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.04.018

Carr, A., Duff, H., & Craddock, F. (2020). A systematic review of the outcome of child abuse in long-term care. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 21(4), 660-677.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838018789154

McGee, S.L., Maercker, A., Carr, A., Thoma, M.V. (2020) “Some call it resilience”: A profile of dynamic resilience-related factors in older adult survivors of childhood institutional adversity and maltreatment, Child Abuse and Neglect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104565

Sheridan, G., & Carr, A. (2020). Survivors' lived experiences of posttraumatic growth after institutional childhood abuse: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Child Abuse and Neglect. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104430

Mindfulness Based Interventions in Healthcare

This research area is investigating mindfulness based interventions (MBI) in acute care.  We are interested in the efficacy and acceptability of MBIs in acute care settings with a range of medical conditions.  

Principal Investigator: Dr Paul D’Alton 
Funders: HRB, St Vincent’s Foundation, AbbVie.   

Key references:  

D’Alton, P., Kinsella, L., Walsh, O., Sweeney, C., Timoney, I., Lynch, M., & Kirby, B. (2019). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Psoriasis: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness, 10(2), 288-300. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0973-5

Maddock, A., Hevey, D., D’Alton, P. & Kirby, B. (2021) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a clinical intervention with psoriasis patients through the lens of the clinically modified Buddhist psychological model: a qualitative study.  Mental Health, Religion & Culture, https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2020.1823950

Maddock, A., Hevey, D., D’Alton, P. et al. (2019). A Randomized Trial of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy with Psoriasis Patients. Mindfulness 10, 2606–2619. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01242-3

Mental health and the transition from normal glucose levels, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes

The project aims to investigate the role of depression and anxiety in the progression of glucose dysregulation over time among adults of all ages. We are also examining potential biopsychosocial and behavioural mechanisms for these associations.

Principal Investigator: Dr Sonya Deschênes
Funders: Enterprise Ireland & UCD internal funding

Key references:

Deschênes, S. S., Graham, E., Kivimäki, M., & Schmitz, N. (2018). Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of diabetes: examining the roles of depressive symptoms and cardiometabolic dysregulations in the Whitehall II Cohort Study. Diabetes care, 41(10), 2120-2126.

Deschênes, S. S., Burns, R. J., & Schmitz, N. (2018). Comorbid depressive and anxiety symptoms and the risk of type 2 diabetes: Findings from the Lifelines Cohort Study. Journal of affective disorders, 238, 24-31.

We are recruiting for a new project on digital phenotyping and the mental health of Irish adults with and without diabetes. Check out our study webpage for more detail!

 Mood Movement: Exploring existing and emerging technologies to facilitate help-seeking, stigma reduction and support of young people's mental health

This project seeks to establish an interdisciplinary network, which will focus on the use of technology in supporting young people (YP) who are experiencing psychological distress; in particular as it relates to help seeking, stigma reduction and interventions/treatments. The project therefore aims to address two key challenges:

1. Identify existing and emerging digital technologies that promote mental health (MH) help-seeking and stigma reduction in YP at risk of MH problems and

2.Understand how existing and newly developed technologies can influence adolescent MH concerns and what aspects of these technologies can support those with mental ill health in addition to what aspects can promote resilience.

Principal investigators: Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald and Prof. Cherie Armour, Queen’s University Belfast
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council- Irish Research Council UK/Ireland Networking Grants 2020

Follow us on Twitter: @Mood_Movement

My World Survey 2 The National Study of Youth Mental Health in Ireland.

The My World Survey is a comprehensive study investigating the risk and protective factors associated with mental health in young people aged 12-25 years. This research enables us to see how different elements and experiences in the life of a young person may be related to their mental health.

Research team: Prof. Barbara Dooley (PI), Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald (Co-I), Dr. Aileen O Reilly (Co-I), Jigsaw-The National Centre for Youth Mental Health, Cliodhna O Connor (PD), Ciara Mahon (PD)
Funders: Jigsaw-The National Centre for Youth Mental Health & ESB’s Energy for Generation Fund

Key reference:

Dooley, B., O’ Connor, C., Fitzgerald, A., & O’Reilly, A. (2019). My World Survey 2 The National Study of Youth Mental Health in Ireland. UCD School of Psychology and Jigsaw- The National Centre for Youth Mental Health, Dublin, Ireland. http://www.myworldsurvey.ie/

Gamification as a tool to increase measurement validity and enhance positive change

Gamification is the process of applying game design elements (e.g., scoring systems, graphical interface, narrative) to nongame environments (e.g., cognitive tasks, work context) to increase task performance and engagement. I explore the influence of game design choices on motivation in and adherence to games. This has direct application for the design of health-based applications encouraging a positive change in behaviour (e.g. educational or exercise games). Further, I use non-invasive brain stimulation techniques (e.g. tDCS, TMS) to probe the neurophysiological underpinnings of action control and executive functioning.

Principal investigator: Dr. rer. nat. Maximilian A. Friehs

Key references:

Friehs, M. A., Dechant, M., Vedress, S., Frings, C., & Mandryk, R. L. (2020). Effective gamification of the stop-signal task: two controlled laboratory experiments. JMIR serious games, 8(3), e17810.  https://preprints.jmir.org/preprint/17810

Alexandrovsky, D., Friehs, M. A., Birk, M. V., Yates, R. K., & Mandryk, R. L. (2019). Game dynamics that support snacking, not feasting. In Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (pp. 573-588). https://doi.org/10.1145/3311350.3347151

Friehs, M. A., Klaus, J., Singh, T., Frings, C., & Hartwigsen, G. (2020). Perturbation of the right prefrontal cortex disrupts interference control. NeuroImage, 222, 117279. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117279

Psychological models of emotional dysregulation

This project investigates transdiagnostic and continuum models of emotional dysregulation in clinical and general populations. In particular, it explores the interaction between adult attachment, cognition and emotional dysregulation as expressed throughout the whole population.

Principal Investigator: Dr Keith Gaynor    

Key references:  

Koş-Yalvaç E., Gaynor, K. (2021). Emotional dysregulation in adults: The influence of rumination and negative secondary appraisals of emotion, Journal of Affective Disorders, 282, 656-661. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.12.194

Gaynor K, Gordon O. (2019). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Mild-to-Moderate Transdiagnostic Emotional Dysregulation. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 49(2):71-77. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-018-9393-z

Understanding the mechanisms of change in Imagery Rescripting (ImRs) for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This project aims to develop an understanding of the mechanisms of change involved in ImRs for PTSD and how ImRs facilitates therapeutic change. By understanding the mechanisms of change, this research also aims to further our knowledge about how best to conduct ImRs in clinical settings.

Principal Investigator: Dr Kathy Looney
Funders: None
Collaborators: Dr Gary Brown (Royal Holloway University London), Dr Sharif El-Leithy

Key references:

Looney, K., El-Leithy, S. & Brown, G. (2020) The role of simulation in imagery rescripting for post-traumatic stress disorder: a single case series. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 6 Nov 2020. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1352465820000806

Innovations in Understanding and Targeting Shame and Well-Being in People Experiencing Homelessness

The reality of experiencing homelessness and the circumstances leading to it render this population at risk of a multitude of mental, physical, and behavioural health problems. In addition to the structural and material barriers, the stigma associated with homelessness can further exacerbate the experience of these barriers leading to high levels of unmet need in the population. This may result in individuals self-stigmatising and feeling intense shame which further results in negative health consequences. The therapeutic approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), have the scope to intervene for a range of topographically dissimilar but functionally similar outcomes which have the potential to address the various comorbidities experienced by homeless populations. This programme of research focuses on developing innovations in understanding and targeting shame and well-being in adults experiencing homelessness from an evidence based perspective.

Principal investigators: Prof. Louise McHugh, Dr. Varsha Ewara Murthy
Funders: Irish Research Council, UCD Seed Funding

Follow us on Twitter: @UCDCBSlab 

Key reference:

Murthy, V., E., Hussey, I. & McHugh, L. (2020). A single-session Acceptance and Commitment Therapy intervention targeting shame in people experiencing homelessness: A randomized multiple baseline design. https://psyarxiv.com/3hpuq/

Developing a Resilience Framework for youth exposed to adversities

Exploring resilience in children exposed to emotional abuse in school

This project aimed to identify and understand mechanisms underpinning resilience in young children aged 9-12 years old who have been exposed to emotional abuse by teachers.


Principal Investigator: Dr Niki Nearchou
Funder: European Union and Greek National Funds.

Key reference:

Nearchou, F. (2018). Resilience following emotional abuse by teachers: Insights from a cross-sectional study with Greek students. Child Abuse & Neglect78, 96-106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.10.012 

Project: Your Youth Health Project: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 in youth health and well-being.

 This projects aims to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on the mental and physical well-being of young people aged 12-25 years. It also aims to identify protective factors associated with resilience that help young people cope during this pandemic

Principal Investigator: Dr Niki Nearchou
Collaborators: Prof Eilis Hennessy, Dr Christine Linehan, Lorna Kerin (Children & Young People’s Services Committee).
Funder: Healthy Ireland

Key reference:

Nearchou, F., Flinn, C., Niland, R., Subramaniam, S. S., & Hennessy, E. (2020). Exploring the impact of CoViD-19 on mental health outcomes in children and adolescents: a systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health17(22),  8479, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17228479

Pesky gNATs

Our clinical and research work combines technology, evidenced-based models in clinical psychology intervention, and what works in face-to-face therapy.  A guiding principal of Pesky gNATs is to use technology to increase the availability of psychological knowledge to people. 

Principal Investigators: Gary O’Reilly, David Coyle, Catherine Jackman, Conal Twomey
Funders: Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). Health Service Executive (HSE). European Union Horizon 2020.  

Here are some open access papers on the versions of Pesky gNATs for children, and for adults with an intellectual disability.

O'Reilly G. (2018). Pesky Gnats! Using computer games and smartphone apps to teach complex cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness concepts to children with mental health difficulties. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/useoftech

McCashin, D., Coyle, D., O'Reilly,G. (2020). A qualitative evaluation of Pesky gNATs in primary care – The experiences of assistant psychologists providing computer-assisted CBT to children experiencing low mood and anxiety.  Internet Interventions, 22, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.invent.2020.100348 

Van Der Meulen, H., McCashin, D., O'Reilly, G., & Coyle, D. (2019). Using computer games to support mental health interventions: Naturalistic deployment study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(5). https://doi.org/10.2196/12430

Cooney, P., Jackman, C., Coyle, D., & O'Reilly, G. (2017). Computerised cognitive-behavioural therapy for adults with intellectual disability: Randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry, 211(2), 95-102. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.117.198630

DEEPdown is a new project.  It gives people access to tools for understanding their personality from a “normal personality perspective” rather than a “psychopathology of personality perspective”.  DEEPdown invites people in regular and clinical settings to explore the question “who are you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?” We’re also playing around with making everything open access from the beginning rather than an open access research paper at the end.  You can find (and use) everything we’ve developed so far here https://osf.io/9eysm/

Twomey, C., O’Reilly, G. (2020). Early appraisal of the first iteration of a self-development and personality exploration programme (DEEPdown). Current Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-01216-y

Follow us on Twitter: @Peskygnats or visit our website www.PeskyGnats.com