Federica Picariello


Psychology is a vast discipline that is embedded in every aspect of life. Throughout my BSc, I discovered my interest lay in Applied Research within the realm of health and medicine, mainly revolving around adjustment and coping with chronic conditions. With the increasing life expectancy, a growing number of people live with such conditions, including cancer, diabetes and chronic kidney disease (Christensen, Doblhammer, Rau, & Vaupel, 2009). Therefore, developing support for patients is a clinical priority. Having worked at the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research and Treatment Unit (SLaM), as part of my MSc placement, I developed a strong interest in fatigue as a symptom of many chronic illnesses, and its persistent and debilitating nature, with widespread repercussions on one’s wellbeing, functioning, and even outcomes.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the research arm of the NHS, which provides an interface between research and actual practice, stressing the importance of applied benefits for patients and the public. The main reason that attracted me to apply to the Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) PhD Studentship is the importance placed by the programme on the applied scope of research.

Most of the Health Psychology research I have been involved in consisted of defining a model and factors that influence a specific symptom or adjustment in a specific chronic condition, and developing and testing an integrated intervention. This is in line with the mission of the NIHR Maudsley BRC, falling within the categories of Clinical Disorders and Experimental Medicine and Clinical Trials. The importance placed on translational research is what I was looking for in a PhD. Additionally, the BRC PhD Studentships provide numerous training opportunities, ensuring that alongside research-specific skills, PhD students develop an array of useful skills.


Psychology BSc (First Class Honours), Royal Holloway University of London, UK
Health Psychology MSc (Distinction), Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK

Jan-July 2015 Research Worker, at the IoPPN, King’s College London
Assessing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (ACTIB) Trial, under the supervision of Prof Moss-Morris
Sept-Nov 2014 Research Associate, at the Centre for Behavioural Medicine, School of Pharmacy, UCL
IBD Helper Trial & SUPA Programme (Supporting UPtake and Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy), under the supervision of Prof Horne
Jan–Sept 2014 Research Assistant, at the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Unit (SLaM)
 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, under the supervision of Prof Chalder
Nov 2013–Sept 2014 User Involvement Project Volunteer, at the Hammersmith & Fulham MIND
 Admin tasks and forum facilitation with community and in-patients (Charing Cross Hospital)
June 2013–Oct 2014 Research Assistant, at Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL)
 Problem-Solving Therapy for People with Visual Impairments Trial, under the supervision of Dr Riazi
May-July 2013 Research Administrator, at Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL)
Research on the Self-Administered Interview for Police Officers, under the supervision of Prof Memon
July 2013 Research Assistant, Wellcome Collection Event: Wrong! A Carnival of Human Error
 Experiment on Memory for the Public: The Malleability of Memory
Oct 2012-March 2013 Research Assistant, at Royal Holloway University of London & City University
Research on the Self-Administered Interview for Witnesses with ASD, under the supervision of Dr Maras

Developing and Evaluating an Integrated Model of Fatigue in End-Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD)

The primary aim of my PhD is to develop an integrated model of fatigue in ESKD. The focus is on potentially modifiable cognitive, emotional and behavioural factors that predict the maintenance and variation of fatigue symptoms over time, in order to develop and evaluate an online treatment intervention. The suitability of a biopsychosocial model in fatigue has been previously established in chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and MS.

Fatigue is a persistent and debilitating symptom in ESKD, yet so far, research has concentrated primarily on the contribution of demographic and clinical factors. A recent review of fatigue in ESKD has underlined that there is a gap in research on cognitive and behavioural factors and fatigue within this patient population, and no consistent treatment model exists. The current treatments offered to alleviate fatigue in ESKD rely solely on pharmacology or engaging patients in exercise, yielding modest improvements, limited by lack of theory and methodological limitations. Recently, a study evaluated the effectiveness of CBT for sleep disturbances in dialysis patients, finding promising effects on fatigue. Therefore, developing a theory-driven intervention is warranted in this patient population.

The main reason I applied for this particular project was its applied component, requiring the development of an intervention for fatigue. When considering a PhD, my main desire was to work on a project where I would be able to not only identify factors contributing to a certain symptom, specifically fatigue, but also, using this knowledge, to conceptualise a model, and subsequently to develop and test an intervention.

Another reason that greatly attracted me to this project is the plan to develop an online intervention, rather than a traditional face-to-face delivered intervention. Using the internet to change perceptions and behaviours is likely to be more cost effective than providing traditional face-to-face therapies, and has the added advantage that internet interventions are available at locations and times that are convenient to the user.

Dr Joseph Chilcot and Professor Rona Moss-Morris


Affective disorders

Developing new treatments for depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders.

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