About us

Psychosocial Studies is a field of academic research that has existed at UEL since 1985. It is committed to the notion that psychological phenomena and subjective experience are shaped by social, cultural and historical contexts. Psychosocial Studies research also examines the social and cultural dimensions of psychological experience, and the ways in which the psychological realm of fantasy, emotion and desire shape those social and cultural worlds. The Psychosocial Studies research group places a strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity, drawing inspiration from both social sciences and the humanities, including psychoanalysis, sociology, psychology, cultural and media studies, critical theory and feminism.  Psychosocial studies also has important links to practice, whether in the areas of psychotherapy, education and social work or in the field of media and culture, where the theories and methods of psychosocial studies research are also applied. 

Psychosocial Studies in practice

Psychosocial Studies research is often linked to different spheres of practice and the experiences of those working in different professional settings, including the fields of mental health, prisons, schools, cultural institutions and the media:

  • Lurraine Jones' work on diversity is linked to her work as a trustee on the Black Police Association Charity Trust (BPACT) and Heather Price has been working closely with the 'Trinity Project', which focuses on vulnerable and marginalised children in the London Borough of Newham.
  • Some Psychosocial Studies researchers at UEL are also qualified counsellors and psychotherapists and their professional practice also influences and shapes their research. For example, Nicola Diamond is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who also works with victims of torture at the Helen Bamber Foundation. She also keeps up a private practice, focusing on the body symptomology, rooted in emotional and relational difficulties, and she continues to work and develop a psychosocially informed understanding of body symptom formation in the psychoanalytic context.
  • David Jones works closely with the Millfields Unit, which is a medium secure forensic unit in East London. This initiative is funded as part of the 'Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder Programme' in order to develop a programme called 'Psychosocial Perspectives on Working with Personality Disorder'.  The work of the unit was built on previous collaborations with the Henderson Hospital and Cassel Hospital. 
  • The Psychosocial Studies field at UEL provides the collaborative academic links to both the Centre for Psychotherapy in Belfast, which runs an innovative programme in Art Psychotherapy, and the Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education, in Islington, London.
  • Angie Voela has made a Leverhulme bid to fund an artist in residence to work with psychosocial studies researchers on the themes of memory, fantasy, culture and identity.
  • Candida Yates has collaborated with the University of Roehampton and the Freud Museum to hold short courses for psychotherapists, media practitioners and the general public on the theme of psychoanalysis and popular culture.

People

Directors

  •  
  • Dr  David Jones 
  • Dr Candida Yates (Reader in Psychosocial Studies, UEL) C.yates@uel.ac.uk
  •  

Research activities

In the past six years, the discipline of Psychosocial Studies has received national and international recognition and UEL staff members have been at the forefront of such developments:

  • There has been a National Psychosocial Network for more than six years, with representation from many universities, including UEL. This network organizes annual conferences, workshops and meetings, under the guidance of a national steering group, which include representatives from UEL.
  • In 2010, UEL held the third, three-day, annual Psychosocial Studies conference with national and international speakers and delegates. In January 2013, the Academy of Social Sciences formally recognised the 'Association of Psychosocial Studies' as a Learned Society, and UEL staff members are represented on its board.
  • The Psychosocial Studies field is also represented by a study-group within the British Sociological Association, an initiative, created in part, by UEL Professor of Sociology, Michael Rustin.

Links

The activities of the UEL Psychosocial Studies research group reflect the theoretical and practice-based aspects of the field, including psychosocial research in the areas of education, political culture, cinema and popular culture, crime, sexuality and the body, emotion and the experience of surveillance. The members of the research group publish widely, supervise PhD students, work as consultants and regularly hold research seminars. They have links with a number of social, cultural and therapeutic institutions and their research events, including:

Past events

Past events

Complex Needs to Disordered Personalities: Political Discourses and Practice Responses

Tuesday January 17  2017, 9.30am - 5pm, The Foundry, London SE11 5RR 

Political and practice-based discourses have increasingly recognised groups of people said to have 'complex needs' and who face 'multiple exclusions' or 'multiple disadvantages'. Their difficulties are often characterised by long term unemployment, drug problems, and a range of mental health problems that include personality disorder and histories of trauma.

The appearance of such ideas has emerged alongside, and arguably coalesced with, alternative discourses around 'responsibilisation', criminalisation, and the immorality of worklessness. These strands of political discourse have suggested that there are individuals who are not 'strivers', nor are they are part of 'hard working families'. Instead, their homelessness, their lack of employment and their dependence on welfare has led to labels as 'shirkers', or even 'scroungers'.

Such punitive language has perhaps, for example, encouraged the use of 'Public Space Protection Orders' to fine people who sleep rough or who 'beg' for money – a move criticised by homeless charities for punishing the poor while ignoring the ‘complex needs’ faced by this group of people.

Meanwhile, the UK government's intention to encourage the availability of psychological treatment services within job centres (announced, for example, in the 2015 budget) was heavily criticised as an inappropriate attempt to reconstruct the social problems of unemployment and exclusion as issues of  'disordered minds' that were in need of treatment. The 'troubled families'  initiative faced criticism that it was simply demonising struggling families and has not found it easy to evidence its impact.

The seminar will explore the psychosocial dynamics that surround policies and practices that are directed at those facing 'complex needs'. It will address the appropriateness, or otherwise, of such (re)constructions and the types of intervention that the different discourses surrounding these issues have engendered. What type of intervention might be appropriate and what are the dilemmas involved in addressing treatment towards such psychosocial problems?

Confirmed Speakers: 

  • Rachael Dobson (Kingston University)
  • Pippa Hockton (Street Talk)
  • Sarah Johnsen (Heriot-Watt University)
  • Alan Kilmister (Forum Member, 'Revolving Doors')
  • Sarah Anderson (University of Glasgow)
  • Christopher Parker (Northumbria University)
  • Chris Scanlon (Community Housing Trust)
  • Paul Anders (Revolving Doors)
  • Alastair Roy (UCLAN)

 

Borderline States of Mind and destructive Feelings: A diagnosis for our times?

Friday May 5 2017, The Institute of Group Analysis, London NW3 5BY

The diagnosis of  'Borderline Personality Disorder' is used to describe a set of problems experienced by individuals who often feel overwhelmed by their feelings and experience little sense of control of their lives. This might manifest in considerable unhappiness, volatile relationships and destructive (including self-destructive) behaviour. The diagnosis appears to be common amongst users of mental health services and even amongst offending populations. There are claims that the diagnosis, and related labels such as 'emotional dysregulation', are being used more frequently.  It would certainly seem that some of the difficulties (such as self-harm) associated with the diagnosis are becoming more common. 

And yet, this is a controversial diagnosis. As the diagnosis becomes prominent, more questions are asked about its meaning. Is it simply just another demeaning label that is applied to people whose life experiences may have given them every reason to feel marginalised - at the borders of the mainstream? 

Or perhaps, however clumsy the terms might be, does the phenomenology of the diagnosis point us towards something important about ourselves and our sources of discontent in the 21st century?  

We are seeking to understand more about what might be meant by borderline mental states. What can we learn about the times and culture that is producing these particular forms of distress? Can a focus on the psychology of such states of mind help us or we need a more thorough cultural analysis to understand what might be happening? 

We are keen to hear from people who are interested in exploring current ideas about borderline states of mind. If you are interested in contributing, please send an abstract (not more than 300 words) to David W Jones (d.jones@uel.ac.uk), by 12 December 2016.

We will be able to pay travel and accommodation costs for contributors.

 

***

Gender, Violence and Antisocial Personalities

Thursday 20 October, 10am -5pm, University of Manchester; Renold Building, Altrincham Street, Manchester M1 7JA 

One of the most established fixtures on the criminological landscape is the dominance of men in data on violence. Men commit far more acts of violence - particularly more serious acts of violence.

The diagnoses of  'antisocial personality disorder' and 'psychopathy' are also far more commonly applied to men. Do the constructs of personality disorder or psychopathy offer any help in understanding the relationship between gender and violence?  Do men happen to suffer from these 'disorders' more than women, or is it simply that violent behaviour, so much more likely to be carried out by men, leads to the diagnosis? Perhaps a better understanding of gender can tell us more about violence and its relationship to individual experience? Is it helpful to wonder about the psychosocial dynamics of gender and their relation to violence?

We are holding a one day seminar to explore this relationship. This seminar is organised as part of the ESRC Seminar series 'Cross Disciplinary Perspectives on 'antisocial personality disorder'' - organised by Dr David W Jones; Professor David Gadd and Dr Christopher Scanlon

Confirmed Speakers:

Anna Motz – "Explorations of Gender in Intimate Partner Violence"

Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, author of The Psychology of Female Violence; Crimes Against the Body (Routledge, 2008) and Toxic Couples: The Psychology of Domestic Violence (Routledge, 2014)

Anthony Ellis – "'Headcases', 'Nutters' and 'Handy' Lads: For a Critical Psycho Social Understanding of Male to Male Violence"

Lecturer University of Salford, author of 'Men, Masculinities and Violence: An ethnographic study.' (Routledge 2015)

Shadd Maruna,  'Masculinity, Masks and the Social Construction of Psychopathy'

Professor of Criminology, University of Manchester, author of - Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives (APA 2001); After Crime and Punishment: Pathways to Offender Reintegration  with Russ Immarigeon (Routledge 2013)

Peter Harris, 'Down with the kids'? 'On-road' youth worker identities and pathways to desistance.

Senior Lecturer, in Youth and Community Studies, Newman College

David Gadd, 'Beyond Typologies: Foregrounding Meaning and Motive in Domestic Violence Perpetration'

Professor of Criminology, University of Manchester, author of Psychosocial Criminology: An Introduction with Tony Jefferson and Losing the Race: Thinking Psychosocially about Racially Motivated Crime with Bill Dixon. 

Publications

Psychosocial Studies is well represented in academic publication and UEL staff have contributed to this activity both as editors and as authors through publications in monographs, edited anthologies and international peer-reviewed journals.