Doctorate in Clinical Psychology: Main Research Portfolio

  • Amanda Laffan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)


Main Research Project: Investigating perceptions of disgust in older adult residential home residentsAs able-bodied people often become increasingly physically-dependent as they make the transition into older age, they may lose the ability to contain bodily fluids as they once had. Contact with bodily fluids is linked with feelings of disgust and, given the necessity of receiving assistance with intimate care activities, it has been suggested that self-focused disgust, and concerns over the disgust of others, may be important preoccupations in older people. This mixed-methods study therefore investigated feelings of disgust in fifty four physically-dependent older adults living in residential homes. Participants completed measures of disgust sensitivity, mood, and two new scales pertaining to feelings of self-disgust and perceived other-disgust when being assisted with intimate care activities. Results indicated that disgust was uncommon, although where present, self-disgust was related to perceptions of others’ feelings of disgust and disgust sensitivity. These results were benchmarked against twenty one community-dwelling older adults, who reported believing they would feel significantly more disgusting if they were to start receiving assistance than those receiving assistance already did. Six of the residents who reported high levels of self-disgust also participated in semi-structured interviews. The thematic analysis was consistent with the quantitative results, with participants reporting that underlying protective factors, the use of strategies and carer characteristics reduced any feelings of disgust. The overall results are discussed with reference to the disgust literature, with recommendations being made for ways in which self-disgust can be minimised in residential homes. Service Improvement Project: Profiling the psychological training and support needs of oncology staff, and evaluating the effectiveness of clinical psychology provision, in a general hospital departmentThe importance of training non-psychology healthcare professionals to offer psychological support to people with cancer is becoming increasingly recognised. Semi-structured interviews with five members of multidisciplinary oncology staff identified that training needs were primarily around communication skills, recognising and dealing with emotions, offering support and empathy, and self-care. Pre and post-training questionnaires developed with these themes in mind revealed that the Level 2 Training Programme workshops run in this network of hospitals are effective in increasing participants’ levels of perceived knowledge and confidence across each of these domains. Recommendations are made for further enhancing this effectiveness.Critical Literature Review: An evaluative review of the relationship between empathy and posttraumatic stress disorderThere is a small but growing body of evidence suggesting that PTSD may affect, and be affected by, an individual’s level of empathy. This review identified and examined 20 papers investigating these relationships, exploring them with reference to the cognitive model of PTSD outlined by Ehlers and Clark (2000). The first finding suggested that level of empathy may either increase or decrease following traumatic experiences, depending upon the way in which an individual responds to their trauma. The second finding suggested that higher levels of empathy may either predispose or protect an individual from developing PTSD, depending upon their ability to use protective coping mechanisms. Finally, a third finding suggested that higher levels of empathy facilitate recovery from PTSD. It is recommended that empathy-enhancing work be included in PTSD treatment protocols, and that effective coping skills are taught to those likely to experience traumatic events.
Date of Award1 Sep 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJames Gregory (Supervisor)

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