Head of Division Psychology, Sociology and Education

Psychology, Sociology and Education

Tel: 0131 474 0000

Dr Olivia Sagan (PhD, MA,MBACP CPsychol AFBPsS SFHEA) is the Head of Division of Psychology, Sociology and Education.

She took up her post as Head of Division of Psychology, Sociology and Education at Queen Margaret University in 2017. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), an Associate of the Royal Society for Public Health, a member of the Undergraduate Education Committee of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and a member of British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP). Olivia is regularly involved in overseas humanitarian projects.

  • Overview
  • Research Interests
  • Research Publications

Dr Sagan is a chartered psychologist and former psychodynamic counsellor with 20 years’ experience of working with adults with long term mental health difficulties. She has extensive experience working with trauma and distress within specific populations, including refugees, the homeless, women experiencing chronic depression, individuals with eating disorders and people with combined physical and mental illnesses.

Taking a critical perspective of the biomedical model of human distress, Olivia’s phenomenological research is collaborative and user-led, foregrounding the experience of the individual. She is specifically interested in exploring the autonomous strategies that people develop over time through which they confront, negotiate and make meaning of their conditions and experiences.

Fascinated and humbled by the resilience and creativity of the ‘ill’ – in the face of discrimination, stigma, isolation and day to day suffering, her projects to date have included  longitudinal studies of the ways in which adults with severe mental illness and limited verbal ability have employed autobiographic writing and visual art making outside of the clinical domain.

Her 2014 monograph Narratives of Art Practice and Mental Wellbeing: Reparation and Connection encapsulates much of her thinking regarding the creativity and resilience of the human being; the value of and need for robust community-based creative projects; the power of the visual image and the critical importance of maintaining and developing a counter narrative to the prevailing discourses of deficit through which illness and disability are routinely described.

In 2017, Olivia co-edited a volume of letters written by people with long-term depression in which she further explored the role of writing in recovery.  'The Recovery Letters'  has received extensive positive reviews from both professional and user groups within mental health services. Olivia’s most recent work focusses on the lived-experience of chronic loneliness as a component of mental illness, and forms part of her edited anthology 'Narratives of Loneliness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives from the 21st Century'.  As well as books Olivia has published widely in peer-reviewed journals. Recent journal publications and chapters are listed below.

Affiliations/Memberships to Other Organisations:

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • Chartered Psychologist, British Psychological Society (BPS)
  • Associate Fellow (BPS)
  • Associate, Royal Society for Public Health
  • Member of the Undergraduate Education Committee (BPS)
  • Member of British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)
  • Honorary Lecturer, University College London

My area of research expertise is in phenomenological qualitative research, exploring first person narrative of mental illness and its interface with creative expression and strategies for wellbeing. I work with a number of community-based mental health organisations as part of this work, and my research is collaborative and typically user-led.

Research Methods:

  • Qualitative
  • Narrative
  • Phenomenological
  • Psychoanalytic

Please see my research publications in eResearch – Queen Margaret University’s repository