As a diver
Ever since my first dive in 2006, I have been intrigued by the psychology of scuba diving. I am interested in exploring our existing understanding and talking to divers and professionals about their experiences. I help divers to understand what drives our behaviour so that we can make our own choices about what we do, be aware of our contexts and stay in control of our actions.
I trained as a Divemaster 2012-13, in Scottish seas and lochs, and continued to assist and guide most weekends. I qualified as a PADI Open Water Instructor / Specialty Instructor in April 2015, gaining Master Scuba Diver Trainer by early 2016 and since then taught over 150 certifications. I trained as a PADI IDC Staff Instructor in May 2016, and have assisted on Instructor Development Courses. I currently teach at Fifth Point Diving Centre in Blyth, North-East England.
In 2015-2017, I worked as part of a co-operative running Deep Blue Scuba, and was responsible for organising the centre’s training schedule to ensure delivery of PADI courses all year round. Currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, I have experience of teaching and guiding in cold water, low-visibility conditions.
I am a Clinical Psychologist, providing online psychological consultation and therapy. I studied Psychology at the University of Newcastle, then Research Methods at the University of Stirling, and completed a doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Edinburgh in 2010.
I am regulated by the Health and Care Professionals Council, in the UK. Previously I worked for more than 10 years in the National Health Service. I am trained and experienced in a range of psychological approaches including anxiety, panic and trauma reactions.
Throughout both careers, I noticed that psychology is highly relevant in diving. It has seemed obvious to me that we can learn about psychology through diving, and that our diving can be enhanced by psychological theory and practice. Yet, there was not really such a thing as “dive psychology”.
There are researchers who are addressing this in useful studies of anxiety, panic, narcosis and other aspects of diver behaviour. However, its a small area and not easy to demonstrate the need for such research. This is a helpful review.
As a Clinical Psychologist, I am interested in how we can apply psychology to help individual divers and communities. For example, anxiety and trauma are well-understood in psychology and methods exist to help people. I have met a handful of Clinical Psychologists who occasionally help divers with such issues. Changes in technology and advances in online therapy techniques mean that it is now possible to provide such support online.
But it is not just about anxiety or mental health. Sometimes scuba divers just get stuck. Perhaps after a bad experience, or due to psychological barriers to accessing further training. When this happens, it can feel like you are trying everything and going nowhere, frustrated because you can’t do the sort of diving you want to do. I can draw on psychology and my experience as a diver/instructor to work out what is going on and start getting you unstuck.
Psychology can also help us to understand all sorts of things like learning, managing stress, building skills and compensating for how the brain works underwater. I spoke to PADI about using psychology in diving, and you can read the interview here .
Scuba Divers are interested in the psychological aspects of the activity. In 2015 I wrote PADI Psychological Diver, a distinctive specialty to help divers understand behaviour and become more aware divers. In connection I created an online course that offers a wide-ranging overview of the psychological aspects of scuba diving.