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Dr David Carless

Reader in narrative psychology, Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK.

My research uses stories – in various forms – to better understand human experience and behaviour. Stories are used both as a way of uncovering critical aspects of human experience and as a way of sharing the understandings that ensue with others. Much of our work examines the processes by which mental health, psychological wellbeing, and identity are developed, challenged or recovered in physical activity and sport related contexts. The theoretical foundations draw from psychology, sociology, and the performing arts while the applied implications inform physical activity interventions for people diagnosed with a mental health problem and soldiers returning from war.

For over twenty years I have been a performing songwriter in the UK and USA. Over this time, I have produced five CDs of original music as well as, with Kitrina Douglas, two CDs of songs, poems and stories drawn from our ethnographic research. This experience underlies my commitment to using songs and songwriting to expand and develop arts-based and performative approaches to qualitative research. Our work has been published, presented and performed internationally through keynote lectures, live performances, books, invited book chapters, and interdisciplinary academic journals.


Something Between Us, 2012.
Under One Roof, 2009.
The Journey And The Way We Want It To Be, 2006.
Across The Tamar, 2005.
Welcome To The Sun, 2003.
The Black Dog, 2002.
Life Of Sundays, 2000.

Illustrative Academic Publications

Carless, D. (2012). Negotiating sexuality and masculinity in school sport: An autoethnography. Sport, Education and Society, 17(5), 607-625.

Carless, D. & Douglas, K. (2011). What’s in a song? How songs contribute to the communication of social science research. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 39(5), 439-454.

Carless, D. & Douglas, K. (2011). Stories as personal coaching philosophy. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 6(1), 1-12.

Carless, D. (2010). Who the hell was that? Stories, bodies and actions in the world. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 7(4), 332-344.

Carless, D. & Douglas, K. (2010). Performance ethnography as an approach to health-related education. Educational Action Research, 18(3), 373-388.

Carless, D. & Douglas, K. (2009). Opening doors: Poetic representation of the sport experiences of men with severe mental health difficulties. Qualitative Inquiry, 15(10), 1547-1551.

Carless, D. & Douglas, K. (2009). Songwriting and the creation of knowledge. In Bartleet, B. & Ellis, C. (eds.), Musical Autoethnography: Creative Explorations of the Self Through Music (pp. 23-38). Queensland: Australian Academic Press.

Douglas, K. & Carless, D. (2009). Exploring taboo issues in professional sport through a fictional approach. Reflective Practice, 10(3), 311–323.

Carless, D. & Sparkes, A. (2008). The physical activity experiences of men with serious mental illness: Three short stories. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9(2), 191-210.


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