Postgraduate Research Opportunity

Listening to the Listeners: An Oral History of Talking Therapists


Title: Listening to the Listeners: An Oral History of Talking Therapists

Funding: The award pays your PhD tuition fees and a full stipend (maintenance grant) at UKRI rates. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for the academic year 2021/22 is £15,609.  Further details about funding are outlined below.

Application deadline: 23 May 2021.

Start date: October 2021

Duration: 45 months (3.75 years)

Location: Colchester Campus

Based in: Department of History, University of Essex, and The British Library.


The successful applicant will research, record, catalogue, and analyse twenty in-depth life story oral history interviews with individuals who trained and worked as talking therapists from the 1960s. They will also draw on interviews already in the British Library Sound Archive. Within this broad structure, the successful applicant will develop their own approach, guided by the collaborative supervisory team.

Applicants may wish to consider some of the following topics that could be pursued in a PhD:

  • the role of practitioners’ own backgrounds in shaping both practitioners’ outlooks and methods, and client access to these therapies
  • shifting attitudes to ‘talking therapies’ since the 1960s
  • shifting types of treatment, roles of professional associations and regulatory bodies and changing relationships between practitioners and service providers
  • how practitioners tell their stories in ways that may reflect their specific training
  • how trainee practitioners’ own experiences as ‘clients’ affect their subsequent practice


The student will be based in the Department of History at the University of Essex, supervised by Professor Tracey Loughran (History) and Professor Michael Roper (Sociology). Essex has a vibrant community of PhD students, as well as longstanding strengths in oral history and psychosocial studies.

The student will be co-supervised by Mary Stewart and Rob Perks (British Library), and will benefit from being embedded in the oral history team, receiving training, mentoring, and ongoing support as they set about their research.  At the British Library, the student will become part of a vibrant cohort of collaborative doctoral researchers and benefit from staff-level access to collections, resources and training opportunities. CDP students also benefit from a dedicated programme of CDP Cohort Development events

This collaborative PhD studentship offers the opportunity to combine academic training with practice-based experience and research behind the scenes of a major cultural institution. This is a unique opportunity to gain a wide range of transferable research skills.



Details of the award

The PhD studentship can be undertaken on a full-time or part-time basis.

  • AHRC CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (3.75 years) or part-time equivalent. Up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities. The studentship can also be extended for 3 additional months up to 4 years to provide further professional development.
  • The award pays your PhD tuition fees and a full stipend (maintenance grant). The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for the academic year 2021/22 is £15,609. This is a tax-free training grant.
  • The successful candidate will receive an additional maintenance payment of £550/year and an allowance of £1000/year. This additional allowance of £1000/year applies where the university is outside London and the non-HEI partner’s main site in London, as is the case for this studentship.

Further details on UKRI funding for doctoral training can be found on the UKRI website. In addition, the successful student will be eligible for an additional research allowance courtesy of the British Library, up to £1,000 per financial year or part-time equivalent, for the duration of the project.

Eligibility and applicant information

This studentship is open to both Home and International applicants. UKRI has changed its residential eligibility rules. Now, regardless of whether you are a "home" applicant or an "international" applicant, you can apply for a studentship.

To be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain in or enter

If you do not meet the criteria above, you are classed as an international student. Further guidance on residential eligibility is provided in Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Guidance.

Essential criteria:

  • candidates should hold an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline
  • hold, or be close to completing, a Masters degree in a relevant discipline or equivalent experience. Equivalent experience might include a strong track record of employment in a library, museum, or heritage institution, or experience as a practitioner in a talking therapy. They should be able to demonstrate an interest in the history of psychology and/or related fields, experience of qualitative research, and ideally some experience in oral history or related methods.  

We are open to applicants from a range of disciplinary and/or professional contexts and are keen to encourage a wide range of applicants from different backgrounds, particularly those currently underrepresented in doctoral student cohorts.

How to apply

Please send the following documents to Lisa Willis,

  • a current CV
  • a covering letter which clearly states how you meet the requirements stated above
  • a 1,000 word overview explaining your interest in this PhD topic, including: previous expertise in relation to this topic area, a summary of some key literature, study aims and possible research methods

You do not have to apply formally for admission to the University of Essex as a part of this process. The successful applicant must apply after selection.

Closing date: the application documentation should be submitted by the deadline of 23 May 2021.

Interview: we will interview shortlisted applicants via Zoom.

Start date: You will be expected to start on or about 1 October 2021, at the start of the 2021/22 academic year.

Application deadlines

Deadline to submit studentship application: Sunday 23 May

Likely interview date (for shortlisted applicants): Week beginning 14 June 2021 

Informal enquiries
Informal enquiries
Professor Tracey Loughran