Health Psychology: The Promotion and Maintenance of Health, and How We Experience and Manage Illness
Health psychology is an emerging subfield concerned with the promotion and maintenance of health, the experience and management of illness and the organisation and policies of healthcare provision. Health psychology builds upon the history and expertise of biological, clinical, cognitive, cross-cultural, developmental, political and social psychology as well as medicine and allied health professions.
Living with Chronic Illness
My research interests mainly centre around the influence of psychosocial factors for people living with chronic illness (especially rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis). This research focuses on how outcomes of chronic illness such as levels of pain, fatigue and depressed mood might be linked to beliefs about the illness (such as what the illness is perceived to be caused by and how controllable it is perceived to be), dispositional traits (such as generalised pessimism and self-consciousness) and social circumstance (especially socioeconomic situation and personal support network). This research generally takes the form of questionnaire surveys following cohorts of patients over time and/or in-depth interviews about experiences of living with illness (and treatments).
Communication Processes Involved in Treatment Decisions
I am also carrying out research into the communication processes involved in treatment decisions, which involves complex circumstances relating to how the person with the health condition interacts with their family, friends and colleagues as well as medical doctors, pharmacists and other allied health professionals, including psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and specialist nurses, all within localised healthcare services. Further complexity arises from distinctions between treatments that are desired versus treatments that are perceived as harmful or overused, and treatments that become routine and those that require sustained effort (i.e., more than remembering a medication). Exercise on prescription epitomises some of these complexities and I am researching the challenges of helping people enhance their physical activity levels with a critical take on neoliberalist implications of choice rhetoric and enforced autonomy.
Qualitative Research and the Media
I also have expertise in qualitative methods and critical approaches to the social construction of health. These approaches include one-on-one interviews and focus groups using semi-structured questioning schedules and carefully managed ethical protocols. Interview methods also tie-in with representations of groups, concepts and epistemologies in popular mass media (e.g. television, films, magazines and novels) and local and international policy documents, which participants can draw upon spontaneously or be introduced to. These media sources can also be the subject of primary analysis of the social constructions they mediate. Social constructionism (and resistance to hegemony) relates to experiences of chronic illnesses that are seen as more medically legitimate (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis) as well as functional somatic syndromes (e.g. fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome), mental health, sexual health, childbirth and obesity as medicalized conditions.
I am the Vice-Chair of the International Society for Critical Health Psychology, which holds a conference every 2 years in locations around the world, the next being in the UK in 2017. ISCHP's aims are to contribute to the advancement of critical research on health and illness and foster the skills of new researchers, and we particularly encourage students to attend and present their research.
I am available to supervise or advise on postgraduates' projects that relate to my interests and expertise, and I encourage self-direction and the development of independent research ability amongst my students.
Mason, A., Schimanski, I., Treharne, G. J., Rapsey, C., & Scarf, D. (2023). A test of the Three Step Theory for suicide in Aotearoa New Zealand university students. Proceedings of the New Zealand Biostatistics Conference. Retrieved from https://events.otago.ac.nz/2023-biostatistics-conference
Garcia, C., Grant, E., Treharne, G. J., Arahanga-Doyle, H., Lucassen, M. F. G., Scarf, D., … Rapsey, C. (2023). ‘We’ll be okay together’: Navigating challenges as queer university students in Aotearoa New Zealand. Kōtuitui. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/03036758.2023.2235297
Withey-Rila, C., Morgaine, K. C., & Treharne, G. J. (2023). Understanding the context of positive experiences of primary care for transgender and gender diverse adults: An email interview study in Aotearoa New Zealand. International Journal of Transgender Health. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/26895269.2023.2234899
Grey, G. E., Treharne, G. J., Riggs, D. W., Fuller, K. A., Taylor, N., & Fraser, H. (2023). The ‘pet effect’ and trans people: Associations between living with animal companions and wellbeing, social support, and trans-related marginalization in three international studies. International Journal of Transgender Health. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/26895269.2023.2234383
Garcia, C., Grant, E., Treharne, G. J., Arahanga-Doyle, H., Lucassen, M. F. G., Scarf, D., … Rapsey, C. (2023). ‘Is it worth potentially dealing with someone who won't get it?’: LGBTQA+ university students’ perspectives on mental health care. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/03036758.2023.2235297