Dr Karen Howells

Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Telephone number: 029 20417153
Email address: KLHowells@cardiffmet.ac.uk

Karen is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology. She is a Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society (BPS), a registered Practitioner Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).  She regularly provides sport and performance psychology support to athletes from a wide range of individual and team sports competing at a variety of levels.  She has also delivered non-technical skills to teams within the Oil and Gas Industry.

Research / Publications

My primary research interests lie in the exploration of issues relating to adversity and psychological growth, mental health, post-Olympic blues, body image, elite swimming, and applied sport psychology consultancy.  

Refereed Publications:

Wadey, R., Roy, K., Evans, L., Howells, K., Salim, J., & Diss, C. (2019). Sport psychology consultants' perspectives on facilitating sport injury-related growth. The Sport Psychologist, 1-38. doi: 10.1123/tsp.2018-0110

Howells, K, & Lucassen, M. (2018). 'Post-Olympic blues' - The diminution of celebrity in Olympic athletes.  Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 37, 67-78. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.04.008

Howells, K., Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2017). Can athletes benefit from difficulty? A systematic review of growth following adversity in competitive sport.  In M. R. Wilson, V. Walsh & B. Parkin (Eds.), Sport and the Brain: The Science of Preparing, Enduring and Winning, Part B, Progress in Brain Research, 234 (pp. 117-159). UK: Academic Press 

Howells, K. (2016). Butterflies, magic carpets, and scary wild animals: An intervention with a young gymnast. Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1(1-4), 26-37. doi: 10.1123/cssep.2016-0006

Howells, K., & Fletcher, D. (2016). Adversarial growth in Olympic swimmers: Constructive reality or illusory self-deception? Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 38(2), 173-186. doi: 10.1123/jsep.2015-0189

Newman, H., Howells, K., & Fletcher, D. (2016). The dark side of elite level sport. An autobiographic study of depressive experience in elite sport performers. Frontiers in Psychology, 7:868. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00868

Howells, K., & Fletcher, D. (2015). Sink or swim: Adversity- and growth-related experiences in Olympic swimming champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 16, 37-48. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2014.08.004

Howells, K. (2014). The dual relationship – the neophyte dilemma. Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, 10(3), 87-90.

Howells, K., & Grogan, S. (2012), Body image and the female swimmer: muscularity but in moderation, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health 4(1), p. 98-116. doi: 10.1080/2159676X.2011.653502.

Howells, K., & Ross, A. (2012). Conference Report: The Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference 2012, Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, 8(2), 74-76.

de Lima, P., & Howells, K. (2004). Tackling them young. Mental Health Today (Brighton, England), 28


Conference Presentations:

Howells, K., & Lucassen, M. (2018, December). The role of celebrity in the post-Olympic blues. Paper presented at the Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference, The Hilton Hotel, Belfast, 3-5 December 2018

Howells, K, & Lucassen, M. (2017, October). Returning from Rio: The post-Olympic blues, a qualitative exploration. Paper presented at the Association of Applied Sport Psychology Annual Conference, The Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, FL, 18-21 October 2017.

Howells, K. (2016, December). Swimming upstream: growth in elite swimming, a PhD challenge.  Paper presented at the Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference, The Mercure Hotel, Cardiff, 12-13 December 2016 (Award Presentation).

Howells, K., & Fletcher, D. (2016, December). Coaches' perceptions of elite swimmers' adversarial growth.  Paper presented at The Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference, The Mercure Hotel, Cardiff, 12-13 December 2016.

Howells, K. (2016, December). Swimming against the aging tide – Reflection on Masters swimming workshops.  Poster presented at The Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference, The Mercure Hotel, Cardiff, 12-13 December 2016.

Howells, K., & Fletcher, D. (2015, December). Adversarial growth in Olympic swimmers: Constructive reality or illusory self–deception? Paper presented at The Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference, The Queen's Hotel, Leeds, 14–15 December 2015.

Howells, K., & Fletcher, D. (2015, August). Recent developments growth research in performance sport. In D. Fletcher (Chair), Recent developments in resilience, growth, and thriving research in performance sport. Symposium conducted at the American Psychological Association Convention, Toronto, ON, 5-10 August 2015.

Howells, K. (2015, February). My story so far: A journey of interlinking roads. Paper presented at The Association for Applied Sport Psychology Student Conference, Loughborough University, Loughborough, 21-22 February 2015.

Howells, K., & Fletcher, D. (2013, December). Sink or swim: Adversity and growth in Olympic champion swimmers. Paper presented at The Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference, The Midland Hotel, Manchester, 16-17 December 2013.

Howells, K., & Grogan, S. (2012, April). Body image and the female swimmer – A qualitative investigation. Paper presented at The British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Grand Connaught Rooms, London, 18-20 April 2012

Non-peer reviewed articles/reports:

Howells, K. (2016, August).'Super-human' athletes are at risk from the post-Olympic blues- here's why. The Conversation, http://theconversation.com/super-human-athletes-are-at-risk-from-the-post-olympic-blues-heres-why-64266

Lingam-Willgoss, C., & Howells, K. (2016, March). Becoming a superhero: what are the limits of human performance? OpenLearn, http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/health/sport-and-fitness/physical-fitness/becoming-superhero-what-are-the-limits-human-performance

Howells, K. (2015, July). The performance story that is pushing Chris Froome to Tour number two. The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/the-performance-story-that-is-pushing-chris-froome-towards-tour-number-two-44998

Howells, K. & Fletcher, D. (2014, January). Sink or swim. Swimming Times, 44-47.

de Lima, P. J., Mackenzie, J., Hutchison, A., & Howells, K. (2005). Mapping Ethnicity in the Highlands and Islands, http://bemis.org.uk/documents/MappingEthnicityReport2005.pdf 


Teaching and Supervision

I am the Programme Director of the MSc Sport Psychology programme and the Module Leader of SSP7133 Research Design in Sport Psychology. I also deliver on other modules in the areas of sport and exercise psychology at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate level. I am currently supervising dissertation research projects at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level.

Postgraduate Research Supervision: Doctor of Philosophy

Candice Lingam-Willgoss. Thesis Title: Transition experiences of elite female athletes, Student registered at The Open University and co-supervised by Dr Caroline Heaney, Dr Martin Polley, and Dr Sam Murphy. Expected completion 2022. 

Ciara Everard. Thesis Title: Adversarial growth in elite athletes. Student registered at St Mary's University and co-supervised by Dr Ross Wadey,and Dr Leanne Griffiths . Expected completion 2021. 

External Links

I have links with a number of external organisations in relation to research, professional practice, enterprise and learning and teaching.
Membership of Professional Bodies:

British Psychological Society (Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology- DSEP)

Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP)

Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Consultancy Activities (Organisations/Governing Bodies of Sport):

Swim England

British Swimming

British Petroleum (contracted through People Factor Consulting)


Swim Wales Home Countries Masters Swimming Management Group Representative (2019)

Qualifications and Awards

BSc (Econ) American Studies and Social Anthropology, Swansea University

MSc (Psychology), The Open University

Postgraduate Diploma (Conversion for Graduates) in Psychology, The Open University

MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology, Staffordshire University

Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology (Stage 2), The British Psychological Society

PhD Sport Psychology, Loughborough University

Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Registered Practitioner  

British Psychological Society (BPS) Chartered Sport & Exercise Psychologist

British Psychological Society, Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology PhD award 2016

British Psychological Society Approved Supervisor for The Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology (2019)

Sporting / Coaching Profile

UKCC Level 2 Swimming Coach:

Cardiff Metropolitan University Swim Team (2018-present)

Loughborough Town Swimming Club (2016-2018)

Nottingham University (2014-2017)

Leicester Penguins (2012-2014)

Forres Bluefins (2008-2012)