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A history of the School of Psychology blog

  • Jill Wilkinson, together with Elizabeth Campbell, was a major mover in the development of the Doctorate in Psychotherapeutic and Counselling Psychology at Surrey.

    Jill was one of the founder members of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Division of Counselling Psychology and both Jill and Elizabeth sat on the Board of Examiners responsible for developing the new qualifications and training routes to Division membership and BPS chartering and they were very much involved in the decision by the BPS to set the standard for the professional qualification in counselling psychology at doctorate level (as it was for Clinical Psychology). Although there were several masters level courses in Counselling Psychology, the Surrey programme, which Jill led many years, was not only the first Practitioner Doctorate in Counselling Psychology in the UK but the first course to be accredited by the BPS as leading to membership of the Division of Counselling Psychology and Chartered Psychologist status.

    The Surrey course structure was inspired by the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a similar strong emphasis on academic standards and professional and ethical practice and a distinct emphasis on the development of a counselling psychology identity. Trainees spend two full days per week training on campus, two days on placement and, crucially, one day on their doctoral research. From the start, the course, without the constraints of workforce planning, welcomed trainees from many different backgrounds and from a wide range of ages with trainees often bringing to the course a wealth of experience and diversity. This made for an exciting, stimulating and rich environment in which to teach and to learn. From the beginning, the emphasis was on a relational understanding of human distress that focused on understanding subjective experience and a non pathologising attitude. Trainees immersed themselves in gaining clinical experience characterised by in depth work with clients, spending at least a year, sometimes longer on a particular clinical placement that was in line with the psychotherapeutic modality they were being taught at the university. This match of theory and practice provided trainees the opportunity to gain an in depth and critical understanding of theory and its relation to clinical practice under supervision. Trainees have also always been encouraged, through their placements and research, to pursue particular interests in relation to client populations, topics or contexts of practice.

    Crucial to the course’s success was the original strong course team with Ruth Jordan joining the Department as Placement Tutor, Adrian Coyle as Research Tutor, and Kaye Hambledon and Marion Steed working on the administration side.  Adrian Coyle had gained his PhD in the department, supervised by Glynis Breakwell.

    While the curriculum, its teaching and the training and assessment procedures have changed over the years with new requirements from professional bodies and market forces, the original foundations and basic structure have proved enduring and successful. The percentage of trainees publishing is the highest amongst courses in counselling psychology in the country, thanks to the expertise and mentoring by Adrian Coyle and then Dora Brown, as well as the many psychology staff that have supervised counselling psychology trainees’ research.

    Jill is still a Visiting Professor in the School of Psychology, and now works mainly in independent practice.  She also sits on a number of professional committees and has the distinction of being a Trustee of the BPS, winning an award in 2013 from the Association of Psychological Therapies for her contribution to European Counselling Psychology. In 2000 Martin Milton took on the role of co-director of the course jointly with Adrian Coyle and then was sole director until 2006 and subsequently went on to become Professor in Counselling Psychology and Programme Director for the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at Regents University, London.  Mention should also be made of the fact that Martin is a talented wildlife photographer, who contributed to a photographic exhibition held in the Department in 2009.  Riccardo Draghi-Lorenz took over from him as Programme Director and led the training until 2014 when Elena Manafi, a graduate from the course, who had previously been the director of the Doctoral course in Counselling Psychology at Regent’s University and the chair of the counselling psychology training committee (TCCP, BPS) for the past 5 years, took over the role of programme Director. In 2015 and building on the original foundations and basic structure of the training, she implemented the new standards of the Division of Counselling Psychology and continued to strengthen the philosophical foundations of the course and its pluralistic attitude to theory, research, and practice. Together with a team comprised of counselling psychologists and psychotherapists, she has further enhanced the training’s dedication to a holistic attitude that integrates theory, practice, research, and personal and professional development and to the development of professionals who are passionate for the philosophical and epistemological foundations of the Reflective Scientist Practitioner and who believe in the importance of making a significant contribution to the field of applied psychology. In line with recent developments, the programme embraces an outward looking attitude that espouses an interdisciplinary perspective to theory and practice and emphasises the importance of diversity, social justice, and an overall appreciation of the historical, socio-political, economic, and cultural contexts within which experience is shaped and lived.

    There are now 13 doctoral courses in the country but the Surrey programme is still considered amongst the best, with many of its graduates occupying leading positions in other universities, the NHS and BPS. Its significant contributions to practice based research is reflected on trainees’ research that promotes well-being and emphasises the importance of subjective and intersubjective experience as well as promotions of dialogical and collaborative clinical practice that respects the Otherness of the Other.

  • Glynis BreakwellGlynis Breakwell, who had been a Prize Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, was another of Terence Lee’s appointments and arrived in 1981 as a Lecturer in Social Psychology.

    By 1990 Glynis had become Head of the Department and gained her chair in 1991.  During her time as Head of Department, the student numbers in psychology tripled and the postgraduate community was reshaped and the number of MSc courses expanded significantly – leaving the department one of the largest psychology departments in the UK.

    Glynis held the posts of both Head of the School of Human Sciences from 1997-2001 (the School comprised Psychology, Economics and Sociology, when Surrey had Schools rather than Faculties) and also co-terminously Pro Vice-Chancellor from 1995-2001.  In this latter role, she was responsible for organising the University’s response to both the 1996 REF and 2001 RAE exercises.

    Social psychology at Surrey was built around Glynis’ research teams.  Many of those who went on to hold social psychology posts in the department were either Glynis’ PhD students, or those she appointed either as research officers or lecturer.  These included Jasem Al-Khawaj, Julie Barnett, Judit Pont-Boix, Xenia Chryssochoou, Adrian Coyle, Moira Dean, Hannah Devine-Wright, Chris Fife-Schaw, Evanthia Lyons, Lynne Millward, Lada Timotijevic, and Viv Vignoles.

    Glynis was responsible for attracting some significant research projects into the Department including the ESRC funded 16-19 Initiative looking at the political and economic aspects of identity formation and social integration in young people; an ESRC funded project on AIDS/HIV which involved a large scale study of the sexual behaviours of young people, and a Royal Society project on  young people’s responses to scientific and technological change which followed a Leverhulme Trust funded study on young people and new technologies.  Other projects were interdisciplinary examining environmental regulation (with Roland Clift from Chemical Engineering and Nigel Gilbert from Sociology).  Glynis was an advocate of multidisciplinary approaches to research on societal problems.

    She was, and continues to be, convinced that social psychologists should seek to shape policy development and support practitioners in finding solutions to important challenges facing the international community.  It is not surprising then that she conducted research for many UK government departments, including the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Food Standards Agency, DEFRA, the Health and Safety Commission and the Ministry of Defence, and studies for the EU Commission.  These studies spanned examinations of women in sexually-atypical jobs, food-related risks (after the identification of ‘Mad Cow Disease’), enterprise in higher education, human mobility, social representations of innovation, stakeholder participation in decision-making, military culture and leadership, the social amplification of risk, and risk-communication methods.

    To some degree, all of these projects drew on Identity Process Theory (first formulated in Glynis’ book ‘Coping with Threatened Identities, published in 1982 and republished in 2015 in the Psychology Classics series by the Psychology Press).  This theory has been used, in conjunction with Social Representations Theory, to explain how individuals and communities behave when facing risk or engaged in conflicts (Jaspal & Breakwell, 2014).

    Glynis established Surrey’s reputation as one of the centres for social psychological research, a reputation enhanced further by the establishment of the Social Psychology European Research Institute (SPERI), which was administered on a day-to-day basis by Evanthia Lyons.  SPERI attracted scholars from around the world to come to work at Surrey – sometimes staying for a few days, others for a few months.  This allowed important cross-fertilisation of theoretical and methodological ideas.

    While much research in the Department on risk was undertaken within the area and framework of environmental psychology especially in the 1980s, risk research became an increasing important area of activity within social psychology in the latter half of the 1980s through to the 1990s. For example, risk communication has been a significant element of this research ranging from Breakwell and Barnett’s work in the 1990s and 2000s on the social amplification of risk.  Glynis’ book ‘The Psychology of Risk’ (2014) is an international bestseller.  The work on risk communication continues in the department with a large programme of research led by Monique Raats and the Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre on food and risk communication.

    Glynis also raised the national profile of the department by editing with Chris Fife Schaw and Sean Hammond a book to which many of the academics in the department contributed.  The book was entitled ‘Research Methods in Psychology’ (published first by Sage in 1995, by 2012 it was in its 4th edition).  This was a comprehensive introduction to the qualitative and quantitative methods used in psychology.  It showcased the department and has been a standard text for undergraduate psychology courses for over twenty years.  Alongside this, Breakwell, Lyons and Coyle regularly ran advanced training workshops in social psychological research methods for postgraduates from all over the UK sponsored by the ESRC.  The book and the workshops were designed to encourage the adoption of multi-method approaches to exploration in psychology and stood robustly against methodological monotheisms that sometimes emerge in psychology. It is notable that Julie Barnett, who in 2017 is a professor at the University of Bath, had gone on to develop highly innovative data capture techniques using social media.

    Glynis left Surrey in 2001 to take up the post of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath, and in 2012 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year Honours for services to higher education.  Despite the demands of being the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath, Glynis is still an active public policy adviser and researcher specialising in leadership, identity processes and risk management, building upon the work she undertook at Surrey.  Her book on Identity Process Theory (Jaspal & Breakwell, eds, 2014), contains contributions from present or former PhD students, research officers and staff from Surrey including Adrian Coyle, Niamh Murtagh, Vivian L.  Vignoles, Xenia Chryssochoou, Marco Cinnirella, Dario Spini, Birgitta Gatersleben, David Uzzell, Julie Barnett and Konstantina Vasileiou.

    In 2002, the social psychology team comprising Richard Shephard, Julie Barnett, Chris Fyfe-Schaw and members of staff from the Sociology Department were awarded a large ESRC grant on public responses to genomics (2002-2005).  This in turn led to a Wellcome grant to the same psychology team (2008) that generated the software that ultimately became a product and a university spinout company (   It is a tool for evaluating message contents (videos, text etc.) that allows participants to engage with the researchers by asking questions of the content and the team in the hope of refining the message better.

    After Glynis’ departure to Bath and later, Evanthia Lyons’ departure to Queen’s University Belfast, the focus of social psychology at Surrey shifted away from concerns with identity but nonetheless built on the interests of the early ‘team’ members like Adrian Coyle and Celia Kitzinger who in 1991 were joint appointments between Surrey and the College of Health Care in Guildford.  Their meeting set a ball in motion for a long-time collaboration and interest in Lesbian and Gay Psychology.  Following previously failed attempts at developing a Lesbian Psychology section of the BPS, Celia joined forces with Adrian and together they began the almost decade long campaign to create a Lesbian and Gay section.  In 1998 the section was finally voted in by BPS members, it was the closest vote for establishing a section in the history of the BPS at the time.  Others at Surrey were also involved in this endeavour, Martin Milton and Sue Wilkinson were also on the first board of the Section.  Sue Wilkinson was originally a PhD student in the Department in the late 1970s, and supervised by Peter Stringer.  In 1999 the first issue of the journal now called the Psychology of Sexualities Review was published.  Surrey’s involvement in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) psychology has continued with the appointment of Peter Hegarty in 2002, who became Head of School 2012-2015, which has been further strengthened by a number of PhD students supervised by Peter.

    Adrian CoyleAdrian Coyle was a lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in the Department between 1991 and 2014, when he left to take up the Chair in Psychology in the School of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Kingston University.  In so doing , he joined Professor Evanthia Lyons who had since moved from Queens University, Belfast to Kingston where she is Head of School of Psychology, Criminology and Sociology.

    Social psychology at Surrey was strengthened in 2002 when Professor Nick Emler arrived at Surrey having been appointed Dean of the School of Human Sciences and was then made the first Dean of the new Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences.  Nick came to Surrey with a significant reputation in British social psychology having previously held chairs at the Universities of Dundee, Oxford, LSE, and Université Rene Descartes Paris. His work focussed on various facets of moral psychology, including reputational processes, including social information exchange (gossip); childhood development of representations of social structure; political engagement; leadership; justice in the household; self-esteem. Nick retired in 2010.

    In recent years the School has continued to appoint enthusiastic young social psychologists including Rob Nash, Ilka Gleibs, Sophie Russell, Erica Hepper, and Michéle Birtel.

    Breakwell, G. M. (1982). Coping with threatened identities. London: Psychology Press.

    Jaspal, R., & Breakwell, G. M. (Eds.). (2014). Identity process theory: identity, social action and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • The MSc in Health Psychology has its origins in the third Masters course established in the Department, the MSc in Medical Psychology which was initially set up by Lionel Hayward.

    The early interest in health psychology was not surprising given the strong clinical presence in the Department, research in both social and environmental psychology which was situated in health settings, and perhaps most significantly, the existence of the MSc in Medical Psychology which had been established in the early 1980s which drew on the knowledge and experience of existing staff in the Department such as Jim Stevenson.  Jim Stevenson was the first Course Director of this MSc, a course which continued under that name until the modularisation of the MSc programmes in 1994.  Jim Stevenson was most noted for his research which demonstrated that the familial nature of reading disability could be attributed to genetic factors.  Much of this work was undertaken with twins and further genetic studies were extended to include twin studies on asthma, anxiety and dissociation.  Jim subsequently left to become Professor of Psychology at the University of Southampton.

    The research and teaching on Health Psychology was further enhanced in the 1990s and 2000s by the appointment of Professor Sarah Hampson, whose particular research interests were on personality and health, particularly diabetes over the lifespan.  Sarah came to Surrey as Professor of Psychology and Health in 1995, and after holding a part-time appointment with the Oregon Research Institute in the USA for several years, finally moved permanently to Eugene in 2009.  During this time, she supervised the PhD of Marie Clark who then became a Lecturer in Health Psychology and established the Stage 2 programme for health psychology.   Mark Cropley joined the department in 2002 and took over as Course Director of the MSc in Health Psychology.   Marie’s research interests were very closely aligned with Sarah’s focusing on self-management in diabetes whilst Mark brought a strong interest in psychophysiology with a particular emphasis on stress and heart disease.   When Sarah initially returned to the US in 2005 she retained a part-time post at Surrey to continue her collaborations here.

    At this time Jane Ogden started as the new Professor in Health Psychology.  Jane is particularly known for her textbook on Health Psychology and books and research papers on eating behaviour and obesity management.    Together, Jane, Mark and Marie ran the MSc for several years and then when Marie Clark left to go to UCL Vicky Senior moved across from the clinical course to join them with a particular interest in chronic conditions and risk perception.   Vicky then took over running the Stage 2 course whilst Jane ran the PhD programme.   Their work continued to focus on a number of health issues for the next 10 years and the Stage 2 programme and Masters course thrived.    Throughout this time many other people in the department carried out work in the area of health psychology. Chris Fife-Schaw who had been at the school since 1984, when he was appointed by Glynis Breakwell as her research assistant, began researching exercise and its health benefits, Laura Simonds who joined the clinical team in 2005 worked with Mark on rumination as this closely aligned with her own work on OCD and magical thinking and links were made between the health psychology team and those in environmental, social, organisational and clinical psychology.  Vicky then left the department in 2014 to work at BPP in London and in 2016 the Health Psychology team were joined by Kim Smith who has taken over managing the MSc and Bridget Dibb who now runs the Stage 2 programme (now a PhD in Health Psychology) and Cecile Muller (who also runs the MSc Conversion degree).

    Over the years the health psychology team have supervised hundreds of Masters and PhD students and gained a solid reputation in health psychology both nationally and internationally.  Jane Ogden’s work continues to focus eating behaviour and obesity management, particularly after bariatric surgery.  Her textbook in health psychology (Ogden, 2012) has sold over 100,000 copies, is now in its 5th edition and has been translated into 7 different languages.  She has also published six other books including a parenting book on food and has initiated several more critical debates within the discipline.    She has also been involved with many TV and radio programmes including ‘Secret eaters’  and ‘The Truth about Fat’ and is a frequent contributor to articles in newspapers and magazines.  Mark Cropley has developed a strong reputation for his work on recovery from work and the moderators of rumination.  His book ‘The Off Switch’ (2015) gained much press interest and appealed to both an academic and lay audience.

    Cropley, M. (2015). The off-switch: leave on time, relax your mind but still get more done.
    Ogden, J. (2012). Health psychology: a textbook (5th edition). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Research highlights

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Labels on the front of food packaging can enable healthier choices, new research finds

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