Mental imagery for stress self-management

Project summary

Mental imagery for stress self-management: A series of N-of-1 trials examining the interrelationships between mental imagery and stress reactivity.

The PhD programme builds on our existing research, which seeks to understand and treat physical and psychological reactions to stress in order to improve cardiovascular health, in collaboration with Glenfield Hospital Hypertension Services, and NHS University Hospitals Leicester.

This research builds on our previous studies which explored individual variation in stress appraisals and thus formed the basis of our treatment model intervention for this study. Our research utilises a novel N-of-1 design, which involves repeatedly measuring specific variables within an individual over time to inform the development of individualised treatments. N-of-1 designs have been identified as an important tool for theory testing by the Medical Research Council (MRC) Complex Interventions Guidance (Craig et al., 2008).

Our recent research has sought to investigate the role of cardiovascular reactivity in health behaviour change (Cross, Naughton & Sheffield, 2020), which highlighted that high and low levels of psychophysiological stress reactivity are associated with poorer health outcomes, poor health behaviours and less successful health behaviour change.

A second strand of our research explores the role of mental imagery in health behaviour change and stress appraisals. The PhD programme will broadly seek to examine the interrelationships between mental imagery and stress reactivity within a group of individuals using an observational N-of-1 single-case design. The research programme will also build and test a novel digital intervention to change health behaviour and reduce stress reactivity.

Entry requirements

Applicants will need either a first-class or upper-second-class honours degree accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) in Psychology or a related subject area. Candidates holding a BPS accredited MSc Health Psychology may have an additional self-funded opportunity to register for the BPS Qualification in Health Psychology (stage two) to become a HCPC registered Health Psychologist.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students

Project specific requirements must align with the University’s standard requirements.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Ainslea Cross ( in the first instance for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required. 


Self-funded by student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.