Project Title

Exploring the role of self-compassion in the mental health of performing artists

Project Type



Research interests of the research team offering the project

The Mental Health in Elite Sports unit conducts world-leading research and consultancy with elite and professional sports and other performance settings to support athlete and staff mental health.

Our work is focused on understanding:

  1. The prevalence and nature of mental health and wellbeing issues among individuals in high performance environments.
  2. Key risk and protective factors associated with mental health and wellbeing in performance environments.
  3. Optimal strategies to improve and maximise mental health and wellbeing in high performance environments.

Details of the project

This PhD project will look at improving mental health among performers. Performance artists are exposed to a range of stressors which may negatively affect wellbeing. These include regular competition and comparison, job instability, financial insecurity, performance pressure and exposure to injury. The few studies conducted in these populations point to elevated levels of mental ill-health. More work is needed however to a) better understand psychological factors which may contribute to, or protect against, mental ill-health in performers; and b) develop evidence-informed and scalable interventions for performer’s wellbeing.

Self-compassion – the awareness of suffering in self and a commitment to try to alleviate it – has been associated with positive mental health and well-being outcomes. These have been demonstrated in elite sports people, a population whose environmental and psychological stressors overlap considerably with performance artists. Self-compassion is not a static trait but a skill that can be improved, and interventions focused on enhancing self-compassion have been successful among athletes.

We foresee a PhD project aimed at examining the role of self-compassion in protecting against mental health in performers. While it is hoped that this project will include the development of an intervention, the exact nature of the project is dependent on funding and students will need to be flexible with the direction of the project.

Project references

  1. Walton CC, Osborne MS, Gilbert P, Kirby J. Nurturing self-compassionate performers. Australian Psychologist. 2022;57(2):77-85.
  2. Willis S, Neil R, Mellick MC, Wasley D. The relationship between occupational demands and well-being of performing artists: a systematic review. Front Psychol. 2019;10(393):393.

Scholarships and fees

A stipend is not available for this PhD project.

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne – find out more here. Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive, so please speak to the contact person below for further details.

Information on fees for domestic and international students is available here.

How to apply

  1. Read information for future students here and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s). 
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, follow the steps outlined by the University of Melbourne here. You can go straight to Step 3. 

You are strongly encouraged to submit your application as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.


Dr Courtney Walton
[email protected]