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Personal profile

Research interests

Helen Johnson is a Principal Lecturer in Psychology specialising in arts-based research methods, creativity, and critical community psychology.

Helen is both a social scientist and a spoken word poet, and combines these interests under the auspices of arts-based research. She is the founder of the collaborative poetics method and network, which use participatory, arts-based research to explore/communicate the lived experiences of communities and individuals, with a view to supporting their critical resilience. Helen heads the Creative Methodologies strand in the Centre of Arts and Well Being.

Her current research includes:

  • Participatory, arts-based research exploring inequalities in access to the arts amongst economically-deprived communities (using the collaborative poetics method).
  • The lived experiences of people with chronic, contested invisible illnesses 
  • The evaluation of an intervention using family and local history records with people who live with or are at risk of dementia (in collaboartion with For The Record and Gloucestershire Archives) 

Scholarly biography

Helen began working for the University of Brighton in 2014.  She teaches a range of subjects, including research methods, the history of psychology and community psychology.  Helen currently leads three modules - Community Engagement: Theory into Practice, a year-long placement module that crosses the whole of the School of Applied Social Science; Critical Community Psychology, a third year undergraduate module; and Social Research Practice, an MA module in which students work with community partners to carry out research that aids the partners' working practice.  Helen is also on the School of Applied Social Science Quality and Standards Committee.

Helen is a member of the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice and works closely with community groups in both her research and teaching.  She also heads the Creative Methodologies strand for the Centre for Arts and Well Being.  In recent years, she has received funding for this work from the Independent Social Research Foundation and the National Centre for Research Methods, as well as undertaking numerous consultancy contracts with community organisations, such as community arts groups, local Government and charities.  She also works closely with the University of Brighton's Community University Partnership Programme (CUPP)

Her work with creative and arts-based research methods has been recognised internationally, and she has set up productive working relations with scholars and artists across Canada (e.g. at McGill and Concordia Universities), the U.S. (eg. at Louisiana State University) and Australia (e.g. with The Write Road).

Supervisory Interests

Helen is interested in supervising doctoral students working on creativity and the arts, with foci including: art therapy; arts interventions for health and well being; social prescribing; creativity and the lived experience of dementia; arts education; spoken word and poetry slam; art worlds/communities; arts inclusivity; everyday creativity; and the artistic process.   She is also interested in supervising students who wish to work with creative, arts-based and/or participatory methods, including: poetic inquiry; autoethnography; photo voice; photo elicitation; collaborative poetics; and participatory action research.  She currently supervises five doctoral candidates, who are researching: medical perceptions and teaching of fragility; the lived experiences of women with borderline personality disorder; music interventions in young people with juvenille dementia; black people's experiences of intimacy and psychosis; and decolonial praxis in museum learning.  She has previously supervised and examined work covering topics that include: the impact of austerity policies on homeless people; spoken word with young offenders in a Macedonian prison; and the performance and perception of authenticiy in contemporary UK spoken word poetry.

Approach to teaching

Helen holds a Postgraduate Certificate of Higher Education in Teaching and Learning (passed with distinction) and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Throughout her career, she has sought to develop her teaching, learning support and assessment practice in line with the U.K. Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning in Higher Education. She is particularly interested in applying active, student-centred learning approaches, which emphasise collaborative and interactive learning experiences. Helen teaches topics across the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum particularly in Social and Applied Sciences, with foci including qualitative and creative research methods, psychology of creativity and the arts, critical community psychology, and the history of psychology. She also supervises student projects at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 

Education/Academic qualification

Master, University of the West of England

1 Sep 20031 Dec 2005

Award Date: 1 Dec 2015

University of Exeter

1 Sep 20051 Jan 2009

Award Date: 1 Jul 2009


  • BF Psychology
  • arts-based research
  • creative methods
  • creativity
  • arts and culture
  • health
  • education


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