Head of Division Psychology & Sociology

Psychology and Sociology

Division: Psychology and Sociology

Tel: 0131 474 0000

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

She took up her post as Head of Division of Psychology and Sociology 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

Sagan, O. (2017). Narratives of loneliness and mental ill health in a time of neoliberalism.

Chapter 8 in Sagan, O. and Miller, E. (Eds) (Forthcoming 2017). Narratives of Loneliness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives of the 21st Century, London: Routledge.

Sagan, O. (2017). The loneliness of personality disorder: a phenomenological study. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 21 (4) pp. 213-221.

Pascal, J and Sagan, O. (Forthcoming 2017). The sociological imagination of cancer survival: Heideggerian perspectives. In: N, Thompson and G, Cox (Eds). The handbook of the sociology of death, grief and bereavement. London & New York: Routledge.

Sagan, O. (Forthcoming 2017). Thou Art, I am: Discovery and Recovery in the Art Making Process, Chapter in: Reason, M. and Rowe, N. (Eds.) Elusive Evidence - Applied Practice: Evidence and Impact in Theatre, Music and Art. London: Bloomsbury Methuen.

Sagan, O. (Forthcoming 2017). Art works: small calibrations in realising and restoring the self, Chapter in: Arts, Culture and Health. Edited by Anita Jensen & Morten Tinning Sørensen.

Sagan, O. & Pascal. J. (2016). Co-creation or collusion: The dark side of consumer narrative in qualitative health research. Illness, Crisis, Loss. Published online before print August 11, 2016.

Sagan, O. and Sochos, A. (2016). Group attachment through Art Practice: A phenomenological analysis of being seen and showing. The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, 37 (2) 45-56.

Sagan, O. (2016). The intersubjectivity of spiritual experience in the art practice of people with histories of mental distress: a phenomenological study, Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 19 (2) 138-149.

Sagan, O. (2015). "Hope crept in": a phenomenological study of mentally ill artists' biographic narrative". Journal of Mental Health, 24 (2) 73-77.