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Mental Skills Training – Delivery Style Matters

In this blog post we are returning to the mini-blog post series on Dr Grace Tidmarsh’s PhD work. Read on for the second installment in the series!


Think about your all-time favourite comedy sketch. Would it be as hilarious if it was delivered in a different way?

Just as the delivery of classic comedy routines is as vital as the actual content, the way Mental Skills Training programmes are delivered can have important implications on their success.


The My Strengths Training for Life™ (MST4Life™) programme trains mental skills that are commonly used by elite athletes. Created collaboratively by the SPRINT Project team and charity partners St Basils, it adopts a strengths-based approach to allow individuals at-risk of or experiencing homelessness to recognise and capitalise on their unique abilities.

Led by Grace, the SPRINT team recently evaluated the delivery style of the MST4Life™ programme and examined the factors that may help or hinder the intended delivery style by completing a fidelity assessment. The results of this study are published in the journal Evaluation and Program Planning.

Image description: A photo of SPRINT Project team members stood outside with a group of young people taking part in the MST4Life™ programme in Birmingham, UK.

What is a fidelity assessment and why are they important?

A fidelity assessment is a tool used by researchers to assess how well programmes or interventions adhere to how they are meant to be delivered.

Fidelity assessments are important because they:

1. Help researchers to check that interventions are delivered in line with specific procedures.

2. Generate knowledge on how well interventions improve the things that they set out to improve.

3. Give the people who develop interventions detail on what is presented in the different components of the intervention.

4. Encourage longer-term intervention improvement and immediate amendments during the delivery of interventions.


How did the SPRINT team conduct the MST4Life™ fidelity assessment?

The team used surveys and observations.

They observed deliverers (individuals trained in psychology at a postgraduate level) and co-deliverers (frontline staff from the housing service, with undergraduate social care degrees) whilst they delivered the programme.

The deliverers and co-deliverers also reflected on their adherence to the intervention protocol after each session using surveys.

The team assessed average adherence scores and used a statistical test to examine any differences in observation scores between deliverers and co-deliverers. They also broke down non-numeric data (e.g., written comments about the delivery of the programme) from the observations and surveys into meaningful chunks for further interpretation.

Image description: A close-up photo of a person filling out a paper form using a gold pen.

What was found?

  • MST4Life™ was implemented with high fidelity by both deliverers and co-deliverers.

  • There was a difference in observation adherence scores between deliverers and co-deliverers. This showed that deliverers with knowledge of psychology could implement MST4Life™ with higher fidelity.

  • Key factors that helped the intended delivery style included good communication and teamwork.

  • Key factors that hindered the intended delivery style included co-deliverers needing to provide a high level of support to young people and inconsistency in delivery approach.


Key takeaways

  • Fidelity assessments are vital to understand the factors which can make an intervention successful.

  • Frontline service staff can successfully deliver MST4Life™ after engaging in training which is included in the programme package.

  • Researchers should think about assessing intervention processes at an early stage to improve the engagement in, and success of Mental Skills Training interventions.


Do you want to find out more about the MST4Life™ fidelity assessment? Read the academic paper here. You can also check out the mental skills that are trained in My Strengths Training for Life™ via our mental skills toolkit and find the first blog in the mini-blog post series on Grace’s PhD work here.



Tidmarsh, G., Whiting, R., Thompson, J. L., & Cumming, J. (2022). Assessing the fidelity of delivery style of a mental skills training programme for young people experiencing homelessness. Evaluation and Program Planning, 94, 102150.

Walton, H., Spector, A., Tombor, I., & Michie, S. (2017). Measures of fidelity of delivery of, and engagement with, complex, face‐to‐face health behaviour change interventions: A systematic review of measure quality. British Journal of Health Psychology, 22(4), 872-903.


Photo credit: Canva and Dr Mark Holland.

Written by Dr Sally Reynard, Research Associate in the SPRINT Project.

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