The University of Southampton
(023) 8059 5452

Dr Sarah Kirby BSc, MSc, PhD

Associate Professor

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Dr Sarah Kirby is a Health Psychologist and an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Southampton


After completing my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Staffordshire University in 1998, I spent two years working with children and becoming a qualified play worker, followed by a brief stint in the civil service. I then decided to return to academia where I completed the MSc in Health Psychology at the University of Southampton in 2002. I then undertook stage 2 training following the university route, completing a part-time PhD in Health Psychology Research and Professional Practice at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2007. During this time I also worked part-time at the University as a teaching and research assistant. I continued working at the University of Southampton in various post-doc roles and became a Lecturer in Psychology in 2012.

My research interests include health issues relating to self-management, acceptance and adjustment to chronic illness (particularly dizziness and vertigo, and asthma). Much of my work in this area focuses on patient beliefs, attitudes and experiences, adherence and barriers to adherence, and predictors of adjustment (including illness perceptions, health anxiety, PTSD, and intolerance of uncertainty).

I am also interested in a patient-centred approach to treatment/illness management, communication style and quality, and the therapeutic relationship between health care professionals and patients.

Other work I have carried out includes work relating to older adults, falls prevention, and spirituality and religion.

In May 2012 I contributed to the International Classification of Functioning, disability and health (ICF; the WHO’s framework for measuring health and disability at both individual and population levels) consensus conference to develop the ICF core sets for vertigo.

I am a HCPC registered Health Psychologist and a Chartered Member of the BPS (CPsychol). I am also a full member of the Division of Health Psychology (DHP)






Research interests

I have been working in the area of self-management of chronic illness (dizziness) since 2002 at the University of Southampton where I worked on a clinical trial of booklet based rehabilitation and completed my PhD and post-doctoral fellowship on how to help people to manage Meniere's disease. These projects encompassed work on patient beliefs, attitudes and experiences, adherence and barriers to adherence, and predictors of adjustment (including post-traumatic stress disorder and health anxiety). Other work includes socioeconomic and ethnic factors relating to falls and fall prevention amongst older people, the effects of spirituality and well-being in frail and non-frail older adults, the effects of spiritual beliefs on wellbeing in recovering alcoholics, and a clinical trial of the cost effectiveness of booklet-based vestibular rehabilitation with expert telephone support. Current projects include the development and trial of rehabilitation for dizziness delivered via the internet, research investigating the role of acceptance in Meniere's disease, and a qualitative and quantitative study of the beliefs and experiences of Asthma patients undertaking a breathing retraining intervention. I am also interested in a patient-centred approach to treatment/illness management, communication style and quality, and the therapeutic relationship between health care professionals and patients.

Research group

Centre for Clinical and Community Applications of Health Psychology (CCCAHP)

Research project(s)

Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of an Online Dizziness Intervention for Older adults

Barriers to effective self-management of asthma: A systematic review

The role of acceptance in adjustment to Meniere's disease

Cost-effectiveness of self-management of dizziness in primary care

An evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of booklet-based self-management of dizziness in primary care, with and without expert telephone support.

BREATHE (Breathing Retraining for Asthma Trial of Home Exercise)

Although effective medicinal treatment exists for asthma, many people continue to have distressing symptoms and impaired quality of life. People with asthma have expressed interest in non-drug asthma treatments, particularly in breathing exercises. Several recent studies have shown benefits from a short course of breathing exercises taught by a respiratory physiotherapist for people with asthma who remained symptomatic despite usual treatment. We believe that many NHS patients could potentially benefit from these exercises, but unfortunately, there is currently not enough access to suitable trained physiotherapists able to provide such a service. We propose to provide the same breathing training programme that we have previously shown to be effective when taught 'face-to-face' by a physiotherapist in the form of a DVD, or internet download. Patients will use this in their own home at times convenient to them, in addition to their standard treatment (e.g. with inhalers). We will find out whether this type of instruction is better than the 'usual care' that is currently provided, and whether it is as good as the 'face to face' physiotherapist instruction (which is more expensive and less convenient for patients).

  • Library Representative for Psychology
  • Psychology Student Enrichment Team (Employability)
  • Co-ordinate CAHP research group seminars and CAHP Newsletter
  • Member of the BPS DHP Training Committee (2014-17).
  • Oversight of Psychology-based research methods RESM modules (RESM6012, RESM6009, RESM6011, RESM6010)




Module co-ordinator and lecturer for:

  • RESM 6011 - Applied Research Methods (ARM): Correlational Methods

I also teach on:

  • RESM 6012 - Applied Research Methods (ARM): Planning and Designing Research
  • PSYC 6001 - Biopsychosocial aspects of health (MSc Health Psychology)
  • PSYC 6002 - Psychology and the delivery of healthcare (MSc Health Psychology)

I currently supervise students in BSc Psychology, MSc Health Psychology, MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology, D. Clin Psychology, and MPhil/PhD Health Psychology Research and Professional Practice.

Dr Sarah Kirby
Building 44 Highfield Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number:44/3015

Facsimile: (023) 8059 4597

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