Robyn Murphy

Thesis title:

Perfectionism and student mental health: a pilot intervention based on compassion-focussed therapy


Over a quarter (27%) of UK students experience poor mental health (YouGov, 2016), and it is important that research is conducted to understand this so that universities can better ameliorate this distress. Research suggests student distress can be caused by unhealthy perfectionism (e.g. Shafran et al, 2002). This unhealthy ‘clinical’ perfectionism is defined as the strict measurement of self-worth against demanding standards, despite negative consequences (Shafran et al, 2002).In response to gaps in existing literature, Robyn’s project will look at developing and testing a new intervention based on the principles of compassion-focused therapy to tackle self-criticism and perfectionism. This would aim to improve psychological well-being and academic performance in students. First, a quantitative and qualitative study would inform intervention development. This project would pave the way for an intervention that could influence both student well-being and university academic attainment. Drawing on a CBT model of perfectionism (Shafran et al, 2016), the essentials of compassion-focused therapy (Gilbert, 2009), and recommendations from qualitative investigation, the project aims to develop a group psycho-education intervention for academic perfectionism, for university students. This intervention will broaden an intervention that is known to be effective in helping with self-criticism (Rose et al, in press) to perfectionism.

First supervisor:

Katharine Rimes


2 – Life Course, Psychology, & Health