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Vicky Carlisle

PhD student

Public mental health programme, Changing behaviour at population level theme, Health inequalities theme, efficient and equitable health systems theme

University of Bristol

Vicky's PhD reflections

I have gained a broad skillset during my PhD including qualitative & quantitative evidence synthesis, qualitative interviewing and analysis, and epidemiological techniques. I have also gained strong skills in intervention development.

I worked closely with Drug and Alcohol services and NHS partners in Bristol throughout my PhD, as well as a public contributor. I have also established relationships with academics outside of the University of Bristol working to develop future collaborations.

Vicky's Q&A

  • What has been your career journey so far?

    I came to academia later in life after graduating with a BSc in Experimental Psychology, aged 38. Prior to this I had worked in children’s social care as a Team Administrator and spent some time as a volunteer with Addaction. I am passionate about my topic so jumped at the opportunity to stay on at Bristol and carry out meaningful research with inspiring supervisors.

  • Why did you choose to do a PhD in public health research?

    Whilst my background is in psychology, I see opioid dependency as a complex issue that can only be understood through a multidisciplinary approach. Being able to broaden my knowledge and skillset by combining psychology with public health research was a welcome opportunity for me.

  • What is your research focused on?

    I am tying to understand the things that make it challenging for people to stay engaged with opioid substitution treatment and to eventually ‘recover’ from opioid dependency. Longer term I want to use this knowledge to develop a complex intervention to improve outcomes in this population, so also understanding ‘what works’ for people in treatment is very important to me. Some of the major influences on recovery in OST are complex trauma (which is extremely common in this population), social support and stigma.

  • Why is it important?

    Helping people to recover from opioid dependency not only helps individuals to live healthier, more fulfilling lives, it has some really important knock-on effects for the rest of society. For instance, a reduction in the transmission of blood-borne viruses, improvements in inter-personal relationships and a reduction in crime. Addressing trauma in service users has important inter-generational implications and tackling stigma would enable people to reintegrate into their communities more effectively, access employment opportunities and improve help-seeking for complex health issues.

  • What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research?

    I find the school an incredibly encouraging and supportive place to be. It’s a really warm and active community with plenty of opportunity for discussion and the training opportunities have been fantastic.

  • What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?

    I’ve gained a really broad skillset during my PhD, from learning epidemiological techniques such as survival analysis, to applying qualitative methodologies to analyse interview data. I have also been involved in both qualitative and quantitative systematic reviews, which I have particularly enjoyed.

  • What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?

    I am very keen to develop the intervention suggested by my PhD work to address stigma in OST/ people who inject drugs and am now seeking funding to progress that. I am also very open to gaining further research experience in other areas of psychology and public health and would like to develop my teaching skills a bit more.


Carlisle, V.; Maynard, M.; Padmanathan, P.; Thomas, K.; Hickman, M.; Kesten, J. (2020). Factors influencing recovery in opioid substitution treatment: a systematic review and thematic synthesis, Manuscript submitted for publication.

Padmanathan, P., Hall, K., Moran, P., Jones, H. E., Gunnell, D., Carlisle, V.; Lingford-Hughes,A & Hickman, M. (2020). Prevention of suicide and reduction of self-harm among people with substance use disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Comprehensive psychiatry, 96, 152135.

Additional funding and grants

University of Bristol Alumni Foundation Travel Grant.

Psychological Sciences – Research Fund – DECIPHer training.

Bristol Health Partners – PPI funding.

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute and Wellcome Trust grants.

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