Post-doctoral project: School culture and mental health
All children and young people experience emotional difficulties when growing up. However, for some these difficulties can lead to more serious mental health issues, and research suggests that the number of young people developing problems such as anxiety and self-harm is increasing. As most young people spend a lot of time in schools, it is important to understand what schools can do to support their mental health. Our review of existing research has found that a supportive school culture and students having a say in what happens in their school can promote and protect good mental health.
In this study we will explore, in partnership with a mental health charity called ‘Off the Record’ (OTR), whether school culture can be improved, using a method known as Participatory Action Research (PAR). PAR is an approach in which people collaboratively research their own experience or environment. In this study, a group of students and staff in three secondary schools will work together, supported by a facilitator from OTR, to introduce activities or changes to their school culture. They will then collect information to help them evaluate the impact of these changes on student mental health in their schools, and will make plans for further changes if required. They will follow this cycle a number of times. At the same time, the research team will also assess how well the PAR approach works to improve school culture. To do this, they will observe some PAR group meetings, collect reports from the OTR facilitators, and conduct interviews with staff and focus group discussions with students in the three schools.
If the PAR approach is successful, the research team will use the learning from the three schools to develop a toolkit that other schools will be able to use. This will include a definition of school culture and resources to support staff and student-led initiatives to improve school culture. The first draft of the toolkit will be shared and discussed with school leaders, young people’s advisory groups and other stakeholders, before the final version being made widely available as an online tool.
Tricia Jessiman (University of Bristol), Dr Judi Kidger (University of Bristol), Dr Mark Limmer (University of Lancaster), Dr Anne-Marie Burn (University of Cambridge), Prof Tamsin Ford (University of Cambridge), Emma Geijer-Simpson (Newcastle University), Liam Spencer (Newcastle University), Naomi Leonard (University of Bristol). The institutions involved include University of Bristol, LiLaC, University of Cambridge, UCL & Fuse.
Published research from this project:
Jessiman, P., Kidger, J., Spencer, L., Geijer-Simpson, E., Kaluzeviciute, G., Burn. A., Leonard, N., Limmer, M. (2022). School culture and student mental health; A qualitative study in UK secondary schools. BMC Public Health, 22, 619. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13034-x
Kaluzeviciute, G., Jessiman, T., Burn, A., Ford, T., Kidger, J., Leonard, N., Limmer, M., Spencer, L. (2022). Studying Mental Health in Schools: A Participatory Action Research (PAR) Approach in Public Mental Health. Journal of Concurrent Disorders. https://concurrentdisorders.ca/download/4335/
Kaluzeviciute, G., Jessiman, T., Burn, A., Ford, T., Geijer-Simpson, E., Kidger, J., Limmer, M., Ramsay, S. E., Spencer, L. (2021). Participatory action research (PAR) on school culture and student mental health: a study protocol. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 20, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1177/16094069211047753
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), School for Public Health Research (SPHR), Grant number: RG88936.
Doctoral project: Knowledge generation processes and the role of the case study method in the field of psychotherapy
Currently, evidence-based practice (EBP) in psychotherapy prioritises quantitative methods (e.g., systematic reviews and meta-analytic reports, which summarise the findings of randomised controlled trials (RCTs). However, recent studies exploring psychotherapists’ decision-making processes in clinical practice suggest that there are significant difficulties in applying randomised and decontextualized statistical findings onto individual patients and their specific mental health experiences. Some of the concerns about large-scale quantitative findings include overlooking complex individual differences in treatment processes and outcomes. This contributed to an ongoing issue of research-practice gap: a lack of integration between the findings disseminated by researchers and practical decisions made in the consulting room by therapists.
To aid with these issues, Greta’s doctoral research considered the role of the case study method in psychotherapy research. From its inception, psychoanalysis used case studies to produce complex, longitudinally sensitive and detailed narratives to discuss clinical decision-making processes and theoretical advancements. However, criticisms about researchers subjective bias, unclear research focus, and lack of generalisability continue for both classic psychoanalytic and contemporary psychotherapy case studies. Whilst there have been several historical misconceptions about case studies, there are also persisting methodological issues, such as lack of epistemic guidance for hypothesis generation and generalisability of case study findings. Crucially, there are currently no research appraisal tools for psychotherapy case studies. This project therefore seeks to i) address the long-standing criticisms directed at the case study method as a whole, ii) develop epistemic knowledge generation strategies for case study researchers, iii) address the philosophical underpinnings of thinking in cases as a scientific style, and iv) introduce a novel Case Study Evaluation-tool (CaSE), which will improve the evidential status of systematic psychotherapy case studies.
The project was based at University of Essex, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, and was supervised by Prof Jochem Willemsen and Prof Wayne Martin. Some of the research outputs were authored with Prof Jochem Willemsen (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium). Research boards were chaired by Dr Julie Walsh and Prof Matt ffytche.
The project was funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council, Grant Number: AH/L50 3861/1.
Published research from this project:
Kaluzeviciute, G. (2021). Appraising Psychotherapy Case Studies in Practice-Based Evidence: Introducing Case Study Evaluation-tool (CaSE) for Systematic Case Studies. Psychology: Research and Review/Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 34, 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41155-021-00175-y
Kaluzeviciute, G. (2021). Letter to the Editor: Response about Scientific Thinking Styles. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 102(1), 191-193. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207578.2021.1880715
Kaluzeviciute, G., & Willemsen, J. (2020). Scientific thinking styles: The different ways of thinking in psychoanalytic case studies. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 101(5), 900-922. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207578.2020.17964916