The Giants Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The BPS in Northern Ireland

Our Northern Ireland Branch supports society members throughout the whole of Ireland.

About

The Northern Ireland Branch (NIBPS) was formed in 1956.

A virtual regional office supports our local networks.

Our activities include:

  • Liaising with the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to promote psychology
  • Providing quality continuing professional development to members
  • Running an annual programme of events, often in partnership with other professional bodies, many of which are open to the public
Origins of Psychology in NI

Origins of Psychology NI

The evolution and impact of the science and practice of psychology in Northern Ireland.

You are automatically allocated membership to the Northern Ireland Branch if you are a BPS member based in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Branch exists to promote and advance psychology as a whole, but with particular relevance to policy and practice in Northern Ireland.

An image of Psyche, part of the BPS logo, on a purple background.

Public policy priorities for Northern Ireland

The BPS believes there are a number of priorities for Northern Ireland which parties and individual candidates may share.

Our Northern Ireland branch e-newsletter informs members of activities and initiatives that are relevant to our members in Northern Ireland, as well as requests for engagement on topical issues.

Please note: members must be opted into receiving emails (information on this can be found under the Join tab).

The BPS Divisions (specialisms) with dedicated Northern Ireland committees are:

For further information, or to join a Northern Ireland BPS committee, contact [email protected].

Northern Ireland Branch

News

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Northern Ireland Branch

Events

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Guidance for students - psychological advice on exam preparation

As exam season approaches, students across Northern Ireland will soon start to prepare for GCSEs, A-level and university examinations.

However, many students either do not know how to study or engage in ineffective strategies which hinder them from reaching their potential.

Research has shown that some promoted study techniques, such as focusing on a single subject for long periods of time or studying in the same place, does not help with long-term memory retrieval.

Using psychological research, the DECP NI recommends the following strategies for students to prepare for their exams.

A positive frame of mind

Preparing for exams will take time, be prepared for this and plan accordingly.

Know that there will be occasions when your revision will not go to plan due to not being in the right 'mood' or things occurring in life out of your control.

Mentally preparing for these instances will help you cope and 'bounce back' after this occurs.

By being in the right frame of mind before studying will help you actively engage with the learning material, and to not just go through the motions of studying.

Individuals using social media tend to promote a desired self-image.

Reading updates on social media as to how well or not well someone is studying can have a negative impact on your thinking/feelings.

It may make you more prone to engage in negative thought cycles e.g. "I'm not studying enough" or "I am doing just as bad as them".

Take a social media break or really restrict your usage on the lead up to and the day of the exams.

Take breaks

A large proportion of the body's resources are directed to the brain, consuming over 25% of the body's glucose despite being only 2% of the body's mass.

Therefore, it is important to take a break every hour so that the brain can rest.

This break allows the brain to continue processing the new learning material without being overloaded with multitasking between storing and processing simultaneously.

Learn it, not just read it

Some students simply re-read the learning material in the hope that it might 'stick'.

However, in we are teaching our brains to recognise the answer, rather than recall the answer, which two different processes.

For example, when you listen to a song you may sing along and appear to know all the words.

However, when you only have the backing track you may find yourself struggling to sing along.

This is because you have trained your brain to recognise the lyrics and not to recall them.

Evidence has shown that a more effective way to learn is to repeatedly self-test and what you are learning, this is known as the 'testing effect'.

Retrieval practice can boost memory, therefore, instead of recognising the answer, your brain is recalling the answer.

Put learning material into your own words, test it, retrieve it, rehearse it.

Managing stress

When we feel stressed and anxious, we tend to breathe more quickly.

Slowing down our breathing can help the body change its physiological responses and 'reset' the body back to a calmer state.

Self-care is important to managing stress anxiety.

Try to eat healthily, drink lots of water, take part in activities you enjoy, socialise, go out into nature, and/or exercise.

Being kind to yourself will help the body to decrease those stress hormones, which helps reduce your feelings of anxiety and stress, and increase your ability to actively engage with the learning material.

Mistakes are good!

Psychological research has shown that making near-miss guesses, mistakes or errors can actually help with memory retrieval, acting like a prompt to the correct answer.

However, if these guesses, mistakes or errors are not close to the right answer, they can hinder learning.

Therefore, do not be disheartened when you are self-testing and you don't get the right answer.

If you are 'close' to it but just need to fine tune, making these guesses/mistakes will still help you retrieve the correct information in the exam.

And if you were not 'close' to the right answer, don't panic, just put in some more time into the 'testing effect' for that area, as you have learnt by recognising information not recalling.

Notice the signs

Stress is a natural human response which evolved as a survival and is often referred to as the 'flight/fight/freeze' response.

Stress responses at the right levels can enhance a person's performance, yet, we are not built to sustain long periods or overloading levels of stress.

Research shows that if we do not keep stress levels in check, it may have a negative impact on our physical and mental health and on our ability to learn new material.

Stress signs will vary from person to person - get to know yours.

Some people may behave differently than usual.

This may include not being able to concentrate on activities you usually enjoy, feeling restless, avoiding people, becoming hypersensitive to touch or noise, loss of appetite, overeating, difficulties sleeping, over-sleeping, or eating unhealthy foods.

Some people may have physical reactions to feeling stressed.

They may feel their heart beating faster, changes in their body temperature, headaches, increased muscle tension, feeling tearful, and/or feeling sick.

Others may find themselves thinking more negatively about themselves e.g. "I'm not good enough".

Get to know your stress signs and take action when they appear.

Sleep

Every organ in the human body produces waste which needs to be cleared.

The brain is no exception.

Research has shown that this 'cleaning' process appears to only occur when we are asleep.

This is why we find it hard to think when we have not had enough sleep; our brain has not been 'cleaned' properly.

Not enough sleep can result in poor attention/concentration, poor processing and retrieval of learning material, and poor skills.

Put to bed those all night cramming sessions and make sure you schedule in between 8-10 hours of sleep for teenagers and 7-9 hours for young adults.

Spacing it out and mix it up!

Research has repeatedly shown that cramming before an exam does not help you remember what you are learning.

Spacing out studying can allow you to 'forget', which a good thing!

When you go back to revise the learning material, you are strengthening the distant memory of what you had learned, making it easier for you to recall each time.

Mixing up the order you learn helps you engage more with the information and you process it in a different way compared to when you learn in the same order.

Both spacing and mixing up the learning material helps you to recall the information rather than recognising it.

Studying starts in the classroom!

Actively engaging with the learning material within the classroom can help you learn and understand what is being taught.

Asking the 5W questions (who/what/when/where/why) moves you from being the recipient of information (a passive learner) to engaging with the material (an active learner).

Actively learning and linking the material to previously learnt information, life experience, or a visual (as we are visual beings), can increase your ability to recall the information under stressful situations - exams!

Use multiple methods

Research shows that the more regions of the brain that are used to process and store information learned about a specific topic/concept results in higher interconnectivity.

This leads to deeper processing of the information being learned and increases the chances of the information being recalled.

Use colour when writing out notes, chunk information into 'themes', link information to something you already know, use acrostics (e.g. Mathematical operations: Multiply and Divide before you Add and Subtract), use acronyms (e.g. NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.), and make use of different media (especially for those who have difficulties with reading)

Also, remember we are social beings, therefore, studying with friends or family (in person or through video calls) can also help us to learn and process information more deeply than on our own, especially if you are explaining a topic or concept unknown to the other person.

We believe psychology has an important role to play in government policy and improving lives of the public.

Drawing on our members' extensive professional practice and research expertise, we provide valuable insight from the psychology profession on a range of policy areas – including health, education and justice.

Members make essential contributions to our work in Northern Ireland, covering existing and forthcoming policy developments of relevance to BPS members and identifying emerging issues impacting members and those they support.

More information on our policy and public affairs work in Northern Ireland can be found by contacting Laura Kane, Senior Public Affairs Adviser, Northern Ireland, at [email protected].

Consultation responses:

Northern Ireland Public Affairs Updates:

Committee

Geraldine O'Hare

Chair

Geraldine is a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist and an Associate Fellow with the British Psychological Society.

Geraldine has been involved in the NI Branch and the national BPS for many years and has held a number of roles on both local and national BPS Committees.

Geraldine started up the Division of Forensic Psychology for both the NIBPS and the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) and was Chair of both Divisions for many years. She is the Chief Assessor for the BPS Qualification in Forensic Psychology and is the Assessment Lead for the BPS Science Council.

Geraldine has worked for most of her career within the Criminal Justice System as Head of Psychological Services and then the Director of Rehabilitation for the Probation Board for N. Ireland. She was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to the USA to research alternatives to imprisonment for mentally disordered offenders and those with substance misuse,  and returned to develop and lead on the first Problem Solving Justice Treatment Courts in N. Ireland. She received the Innovation in Practice Award from the BPS for her pioneering work, and from time, has assisted the Ministry of Justice, England and Wales, in introducing their first Problem Solving Courts across the UK Court System.

Geraldine holds a number of positions and roles across the Health and Justice sectors both nationally and internationally and is delighted to be leading the NI Branch of the BPS.

Dr Karen Hagan

Past Chair & OU Rep

Dr Karen Hagan is a Senior Lecturer and Staff Tutor in the School of Psychology and Counselling at The Open University.

Within the University her main focus is on delivering courses and qualifications in Ireland and the UK, working on module teams and with the Student Support Team.

She is a qualitative researcher, applying mainly critical discursive psychology to topics around autism assessment processes and practices of bullying, manipulation, coercion and abuse.  

She is Past Chair of the Northern Ireland Branch of the British Psychological Society and represents Northern Ireland on the Committee for the BPS Division of Academics, Researchers and Teachers in Psychology (DARTP).

Sarah Ruston

Honorary Secretary / Treasurer & DFP Rep

Sarah is a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist whose career spans over 24 years.

She is the current Chair of the Division of Forensic Psychology Northern Ireland along with Dr Siobhan Keating and holds the position of Treasurer and Secretary of the Northern Ireland British Psychological Society.

Sarah is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and co-led the Inaugural Devolved Nations Forensic Psychology Conference in February 2022 which focused on key innovations and developments within the field of forensic psychology.

This annual conference has continued to grow in popularity across the forensic arena with the next virtual conference scheduled for 1st March 2024.

Sarah commenced her career working with young people placed within the Lakewood Regional Secure Care Centre in Bangor.

Following this, Sarah employed for 12 years within the Northern Ireland Prison Service where she was Head of Psychology in HMP Magilligan.

Sarah is currently working as a Specialist Practitioner Psychologist within the newly established Staff Psychological Wellbeing Service in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust which provides psychological support to help enhance staff well-being.

She has also worked within the Regional Forensic CAMHS Service and SET Connects Therapeutic Support and Consultation Service for Looked After Children providing support for Foster Carers and their families, Social Care Staff and Supported Living Care Staff.

Sarah has designed and delivered a range of Webinars on how to manage stress and uncertainty and is passionate about using compassion- informed approaches to support and promote well-being. 

Dr Aideen McParland

Elected Committee Member

Dr Aideen McParland is a Lecturer (Education) in the School of Psychology at Queen's University, Belfast

Aideen is a Registered Behaviour Technician (RBT), Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol) and Associate Fellow (AFBPsS) with the British Psychological Society

Aideen teaches Research Methods and Statistics on the undergraduate programme and Developmental Psychology on the MSc in Applied Developmental Psychology programme. Aideen also supervises student research projects at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level.

Aideen is the Deputy Director of Undergraduate Education and Level 1 Year-Lead on the BSc Psychology degree programme and engages with key aspects of student experience enhancement in these roles.

Aideen is heavily involved with pedagogical research aimed at understanding transitional experiences of students in Higher Education and promoting research-led teaching practices in the School.

She was appointed as a committee member of the Northern Ireland British Psychological Society in April 2023 and is committed to ensuring strong connections between the professional body and psychology students studying in Northern Ireland.

Rachel Lindsay

Elected Committee Member - DOPNI Rep & NIBPS Policy Lead

Rachel is the Past Chair of the NI Division of Occupational Psychology (DOPNI) and continues to represent DOPNI on the NIBPS Committee.

She is the policy lead for NIBPS.

Rachel is an experienced HCPC registered Occupational Psychologist and Chartered Psychologist, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Chartered Member of the CIPD.

Rachel worked previously in the field of assessment and selection and more recently organisational inspection and organisational development.

Rachel has been involved with the DOPNI Committee since its inception, serving various roles including Chair, during which time she was also on the national DOP Committee.

Dr Sinead Eccles

Elected Committee Member

Dr Sinéad Eccles is a Chartered Psychologist and Staff Tutor, School of Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University.

Sinead has worked with in academia for over 20 years and has a background in Neuropsychology with a focus on the Biological Basis of eating disorders.

As a neuropsychologist she is passionate about overall brain health and with a background in eating disorders she now focuses on the concept and practice of 'Intuitive Eating'.

She is a current committee member on NIBPS and her role is to support the Northern Ireland student ambassadors and work with the committee on other areas such as communication with members and social media presence. 

Dr Lee-Ann Sharp

Elected Committee Member

Dr. Lee-Ann Sharp is a lecturer in sport and exercise psychology in the School of Sport at Ulster University, Northern Ireland, and a member of the Sports and Exercise Sciences Research Institute (SESRI).

Since completing her PhD examining the sport psychology consultant - athlete relationship at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and her Post-Doctoral work at the University of Birmingham, U.K. Lee-Ann has continued to research within the broad area of social-psychological aspects of sport participation.

In collaboration with national and international colleagues, Lee-Ann has explored sport psychology consultant effectiveness, the consulting relationship in sport psychology, applied sport psychology practice with athletes and coaches, youth athletes' development and support, and the psychology of sports coaching.

Lee-Ann is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, and a British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences accredited Sport Scientist.

With over 15 years applied sport psychology consulting experience in a variety of high-performance sports, Lee-Ann currently supports elite athletes within the Sports Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland Institutes, alongside her role as lead psychologist with Golf Ireland and Cricket Ireland

Divisional Chairs

Dr Sarah Meekin

DCP-NI Chair

Dr Sarah Meekin is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and has been Head of Psychological Services in Belfast Health & Social Care Trust for 10 years.

Sarah has an interest in developing psychologically informed systems and psychologically evidenced interventions, and champions the need for both a psychologically informed workforce and for specialist psychological therapists to deliver care and support, at varying levels of intervention.

Sarah sits on the NIBPS Committee as Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology NI.

Dr Seán Harmon

DCoP-NI Co-Chair

Dr Seán Harmon is co-chair of the Division of Counselling Psychology NI (DCoP NI.

Seán is an Consultant Counselling Psychologist working in the NHS with adults with complex mental healh presentations, and in prvate practice

He is an EMDR accredited practitioner and Schema Therapist (Advanced Accreditation).

Joanne Heavern

DCoP-NI Co-Chair

Joanne Heavern, Highly Specialist Counselling Psychologist based within Inpatients & Crisis Services in the WHSCT.

Currently Co-Chair for NIDCoP representing Counselling Psychology within NI and on the wider BPS EC panel

Interests sit within adult mental health both within community and inpatient settings.

I enjoy working within an MDT framework ensuring the psychological needs of patients are at the forefront of the care we provide.

My current role involves 1-1 direct client input, delivering group programmes, attending meetings with family/carers, providing staff support, reflective practice, training and supervision.

Alongside developing psychology within the inpatient sector, contributing to strategic development processes and participating in my SIGs, I'm kept pretty busy!

Callum Urquhart

DECP-NI Chair

Dr Marian McLaughlin

DHP-NI Co-Chair

Dr Marian McLaughlin is a Senior Lecturer within the School of Psychology at Ulster University.

She is a Charted Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She is a member of the Division of Health Psychology (DHP) and newly elected Co-Chair of the Northern Ireland Branch of the Division of Health Psychology (DHP-NI).

Marian's main research interests are in the area of health and well-being, in particular, theoretical applications for the design and evaluation of behavioural change interventions.

Current projects and collaborations include: testing the feasibility of including young people experiencing intellectual disability in health and wellbeing research; theoretical investigations into the factors influencing oral health, e-cigarette use and decision making among women in menopausal transition; and the design and evaluation of an HPV educational resource.

Dr Tracy McCrossan

DHP-NI Co-Chair

Dr Tracy McCrossan is a HCPC registered Health Psychologist, with over 15 years NHS experience working in a health psychology environment as assistant psychologist, associate psychologist and in the last year (2021) Health Psychologist.

She is a member of the Division of Health Psychology (DHP) and newly elected Co-Chair of the Northern Ireland Branch of the Division of Health Psychology (DHP-NI).

Her work in an acute hospital setting is with adults on a one to one or group basis, in medical specialities such as Pain Management, Respiratory, Diabetes, Oncology, Renal and Long Term Conditions

Internal Reps

Rodrigo de Almeida

Postgraduate student Rep/PsyPAG Rep

Rodrigo De Almeida, (PhD Researcher) at Ulster University is our PsyPag Rep, forming liaison with all of the postgraduate students in NI.

Siobhan Keating

Postgraduate Rep

Siobhan Keating is a Chartered and Registered Forensic and Clinical Psychologist.  She is employed as a Consultant Psychologist in Belfast Trust and works in the Community Forensic Mental Health team.

Previously she worked in the regional low secure forensic unit for people with Intellectual Disability (ID). She has a particular interest in specialist risk assessment and interventions for this client group including treatment of emotional dysregulation and sexual offending.

Siobhan is the co-author of the New Beginnings  adapted programme for people with ID who sexually offend. She worked for the NI prison service for eleven years  and was Head of Psychological Services in HMP Maghaberry. She is the co-author of the Keating / Robinson review " The Review of support Services for NI Prison Service Operational Staff , December 2020 that was commissioned by the Minister of Justice NI. 

Previously she worked as an Occupational Psychologist with the Dept. of Employment rehabilitation services in the North West of England and continues to be a registered Occupational Psychologist. Siobhan has been a Parole Commissioner for the Parole Commission of NI (PCNI) since 2014.

Ivor Crothers

Practice Board Rep

Jodie Buchanan

Student Representative

Jodie Buchanan is a second year BSc (Hons) Psychology student studying at Ulster University Coleraine, and one of the BPS student ambassadors this year representing NIBPS.

Jezliah Geogy

Student Ambassador

Jezliah Geogy is one of the BPS Student Ambassadors based in Northern Ireland.

Jezliah studies at Ulster University and is also the Chair of the UU Psychology Society.

She is currently in the 2nd year of her BSc Psychology degree and hopes to go onto placement next year. 

Carol McGuinness

Policy Representative

Professor Carol McGuinness is Professor Emerita at Queen's University Belfast. She is a Chartered Psychologist, member of the Division of Academics, Researchers and Teachers in Psychology, the Cognitive Section, and the Northern Ireland Branch. 

Carol has been an active member of the BPS since she was a postgraduate and has worked with many different membership networks and working groups. For example, she was Chair of the Special Group for the Teaching of Psychology in the 1990s and Vice Chair of the Division of Teachers and Researchers in Psychology (now DARTP). She chaired the BPS Working Party on A-level Psychology (2003), edited Psychology Teaching Review (1999-2004), and was an elected ordinary member of the Psychology Education and Public Engagement Board for two years in 2012.

More recently she has been Chair of the Northern Ireland Branch of the BPS (2010-2016) where she worked closely with the leads of local BPS divisions to influence public policy. She continues to act as policy co-ordinator on the NIBPS committee. 

Carol first became a Trustee for the Society in 2017 when she was appointed as Chair of the Education and Public Engagement Board.  She stepped down when that Board was discontinued.

In 2020 she was appointed as Chair of the newly created Member Board and began her second term in this role in 2023.

External Reps

Gillian O’Hagan

A-Level Teacher

James Houston

Ulster University

Dr James Houston is a Senior Lecturer and Associate Head of the School of Psychology at Ulster University.

James has published widely in leading journals in the area of psychological trauma and mental health, mainly employing advanced statistical techniques to examine relationships within large-scale epidemiological studies.

He is currently an expert reviewer for NIHR, and has been involved in peer review with a number of leading journals in mathematical/statistical psychology and mental health.

James is the representative for Ulster University Psychology on the NI Branch Committee.

Observers

Alison Clarke

Division of Coaching Psychology

Alison is celebrating the creation of the latest accredited training pathway for psychologists and members of the society, the domain of Coaching Psychology.

Since completing her undergraduate degree at Queens she has deployed and added to her learning in the worlds of education, training and management consulting until she found her tribe of fellow coaching psychologists at the BPS and became part of the group that managed to achieve both the standards of accreditation for universities and individuals and the support of the whole society in the formation of the Division of Coaching Psychology.

Alison is motivated by facilitating people in all walks of life in becoming more of themselves. She says that being an active volunteer at the BPS has certainly helped her become more of herself. She wants more and more psychologists and people interested in how psychology enriches their lives to benefit from the work of BPS volunteers in the NI branch across all domains of psychological learning and practice

Laura Kane

Senior Public Affairs Adviser NI

Join

When you join the BPS you are automatically made a member of your local branch.

Therefore if you are located in Northern Ireland you will become a member of the Northern Ireland Branch as soon as you become a member of the British Psychological Society.

Member e-newsletter

The Northern Ireland Branch uses its e-newsletter to inform members of activities and initiatives that are relevant to their interests and to make requests for engagement on topical issues.

To receive this you will need to:

  1. become a member of the Northern Ireland Branch
  2. check your email preferences that you have opted into receiving emails
  3. ensure that your email address is correct

You can check your preferences by logging into your member portal.

If you have any queries, please contact Member Network support - Northern Ireland Branch.

Getting involved with the Northern Ireland Branch Committee

The Northern Ireland Branch relies on a wide range of people getting involved, and the work of the Branch is largely achieved through the dedication of unpaid volunteers.

Our volunteers come from a wide range of different backgrounds, whether they be practitioners or academics, or graduate members or student members, and together form an open and inclusive community.