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Dr Laura McGrath

Lecturer, School of Psychology

Psychology and Social Change

Laura researches experiences of mental distress and service use. She has a particular interest in the role of the material environment in experiences of distress and recovery.

    Dr Laura McGrath is a Senior Lecturer and the Programme Leader for the BSc Clinical and Community Psychology. Laura also supervises research for both Masters and Professional Doctoral students. Laura’s first degree was in English Literature, completed at Newcastle University. She later converted to Psychology at London South Bank University, where she also completed her PhD. 

    Laura’s research focuses on the role of material context in experiences of mental distress. Laura's research focusses on understanding the complexity of lived experience, and the role that the settings we live in and move through play in our psychological experiences. Her work hence draws on a variety of perspectives, including experts by experience, community psychology, human geography, and social psychiatry. Her research is qualitative, with a particular expertise in using visual and creative methodologies. Laura is also actively involved in campaigning activities, aimed at promoting progressive approaches to mental distress and community living.

    Fellow of the HEA
    Editorial board: The Psychiatrist


    Laura researches experiences of mental distress and service use. She is interested in the role that social and material contexts play in the development, expression and experience of distress. Her theoretical influences therefore include community psychology, human geography, social psychiatry and process philosophy. She is particularly interested in the role of the material environment (spaces, places, objects) in experiences of distress and recovery. This has included work across a number of settings, including psychiatric and forensic wards, community spaces (homes, workplaces), and community mental health services. Understanding fully the role of context in experiences of distress and recovery is central to developing effective interventions and services. At present, Laura is conducting two projects in this area:

    “Spaces and Scenes of Hospital Life: Staff and psychiatric inpatients’ experiences of care and distress”, which is focused on investigating the relationships between mental distress and space in a variety of inpatient wards in a medium secure forensic unit. The project is in collaboration with Prof Reavey (LSBU), Prof Brown (Leicester), Dr Tucker (UEL) and Dr Kanyeredzi (UEL).

    “Spaces of homelessness”. This focuses on the use of space by people with existing experiences of mental distress on being made newly homeless in London. This is in collaboration with Prof Reavey (LSBU), Prof Brown (Leicester), and Ms Weaver (LSBU).

    Laura is a member of the Psychology and Social Change research group. She is also a member of the QUAFE network, the London Community Psychology Network. She is on the editorial board for The Psychiatrist, specialising in qualitative methodology. Laura also reviews papers for several journals, including Health & Place, Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, and BioSocieties.


    • UEL
    • External
    • Reader
      Dr. Ian Tucker
    • Lecturer
      Dr. Ava Kanyeredzi
    • Professor
      Prof. Paula Reavey
    • Professor 
      Prof. Steven D. Brown


    Peer reviewed journal articles

    McGrath, L., Reavey, P. (2016). “Zip me up, and cool me down”: Molar narratives and molecular intensities in ‘helicopter’ mental health services, Health and Place, 38, 61-69.

    McGrath, L., Walker, C., Jones, C. (in press). Psychologists against austerity: Mobilising psychology for social change, Journal of Critical and Radical Social Work, Psychopolitics Special Issue. 

    Shipman, J., McGrath, L. (2016). Transportations of space, time and self: The role of therapeutic reading groups in managing mental distress in the community, Journal of Mental Health.

    McGrath, L., Griffin, V., Mundy, E. (2016). The psychological impact of austerity: A briefing paper. Mental Health Nursing, 12-17. 

    McGrath, L., & Reavey, P. (2015). Seeking fluid possibility and solid ground: space and movement in mental health service users’ experiences of crisis. Social Science and Medicine, 128, 115–125. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.01.017

    Anderson, K., & McGrath, L. (2014). Exploring embodied and located experience: memory work as a method for drug research. The International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(6), 1135–1138. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.08.008

    Batty, R., McGrath, L., & Reavey, P. (2014). Embodying limb absence and the search for sexual intimacy. Sexualities, 1(5–6), 686–706. doi:/10.1177/1363460714532935

    McGrath, L., Reavey, P. (2013). Heterotopias of control: Placing the material in service users' experiences of mental health service use and community living, Health & Place, 22, 123-131. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2013.03.010

    McGrath, L., Reavey, P., & Brown, S.D. (2008). The spaces and scenes of anxiety: embodied expressions of distress in public and private fora. Emotion, Space and Society, 1(1), 56–64. doi:10.1016/j.emospa.2008.08.003

    Conference Presentations

    Brown, S.D., Kanyeredzi, A., McGrath, L., Reavey, P. (2016, May). Beyond the Walls: Service users' experiences of secure forensic psychiatric care. Paper presented at the Design in Mental Health Conference. 

    McGrath, L. (2015, April). Seeking fluid possibility and solid ground. Paper presented at the British Sociological Association Conference.

    McGrath, L. (2010, June). Service user spaces: considering a role for material space in service user experiences of community mental health care. Paper presented at the Self in Mental Health Care Conference, organised by the International Network For Philosophy and Psychiatry.

    McGrath, L. (2009, October). Spaces of recovery? Mapping community mental health care. Paper presented at the European Congress for Community Psychology.

    McGrath, L. (2009, July). The role of space in service users’ experiences of community mental health care. Paper presented at the PsyPAG conference.


    Invited Talks

    McGrath, L. (2015, October). Molar narratives and molecular intensities, External speaker series at the University of Lincoln.

    McGrath, L. (2015, May). Affording narratives of distress: space-time in mental health services, Paper presented at the Qualitative Approaches to Emotions and Feelings (QUAFE) Conference.



    BSc Psychology

    BSc Clinical and Community Psychology

    MSc Psychology


    PY6313: Psychology of Emotion

    PY4108: Clinical and Community Psychology 1 

    PY5210: Clinical and Community Psychology 3

    PY5201: Researching Psychological Worlds 2

    PY6101/PYM155: Project supervision