Understanding the experiences of positive life changes during postgraduate study on a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology programme: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis


  • Christian Jun van Nieuwerburgh University of East London
  • Agnieszka M. Lech Queen Mary, University of London


MAPP, positive life changes, postgraduate, interpretative phenomenological analysis


There is a global increase in the teaching of positive psychology at postgraduate level. Anecdotally, it has been suggested that university-based positive psychology programmes can be “life changing”. This exploratory qualitative study aimed to enhance our understanding of the positive life experiences of students registered on a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) programme. The researcher interviewed five postgraduate students undertaking a MAPP at the University of East London. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to identify emerging themes before these were analysed and clustered into a number of overarching themes. Participants reported experiencing a number of positive life changes as a result of the MAPP programme. Key themes that emerged were the sense that there were “myriad different thoughts and potential opportunities”; that studying positive psychology was “like coming home”; that participants enjoyed having time for reflection; and the sense that “it’s all about the people”.  This study raised the question of whether the MAPP programme could, in itself, be considered a positive psychological intervention.



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Author Biographies

Christian Jun van Nieuwerburgh, University of East London

Christian is a Senior Lecturer on the Coaching Psychology programme in the School of Psychology at the University of East London.

Agnieszka M. Lech, Queen Mary, University of London

Agnes is an Education Advisory for the Centre for Academic and Professional Development at Queen Mary, University of London.