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Designing Interventions for Behavioural Change


Entry requirements

Only open to master’s students in Psychology with specialisation Health and Medical Psychology (mandatory) or Occupational Health Psychology (elective).


Students will learn how to develop an intervention program to promote health behavior, based on a systematic evidence-based approach. During the lectures, theories on the determinants of health behaviour (change) will be presented including recent insights in health promotion research, and vivid examples from practice. During the practical sessions, students will work in subgroups to design an intervention aimed at preventing the onset and/or continuation of health-compromising behaviours (e.g., snacking, stress-related behaviours) or by encouraging health-enhancing behaviours (e.g., exercise, fruit and vegetable consumption, sleep hygienic behaviour). Students will perform a literature search to establish a state-of-the-art summary of the relationship between this behaviour and relevant health outcomes. They will then design an intervention model including determinants of the behavior and methods of change, based on theoretical and empirical considerations. Following this, they will develop an intervention program and implement and evaluate part of the intervention.

Course objectives

On completion of the course students can:
1. apply key theoretical models and integrative frameworks of health behavior (change) to make a comprehensive analysis of relevant determinants of a pre-defined health behaviour
2. apply key frameworks for planned intervention development and develop a theory-based and evidence-based intervention for a pre-defined health challenge
3. take the perspective of the target population into account in the process of developing and implementing interventions
4. identify the promises and pitfalls of intervention development and implementation

Designing interventions in a systematic evidence-based way prepares students for future work situations in which they may need to develop intervention programs or trainings for clients and patients or other groups in the general population. Students will also gain some real life experience with implementing such interventions.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.

Exams (if applicable)

It is mandatory for all students to register for each exam and to confirm registration for each exam in My Studymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

During the course the whole process of intervention planning will be introduced and illustrated. Students will learn how to systematically design and implement an intervention in co-creation with members of the target population. The course consists of some lectures and online knowledge clips, two weekly work group sessions (1,5 hours each), and the delivery of a workshop. The theoretical background of intervention development is presented and discussed, including several illustrative practical examples. Themes are amongst others: Which steps need to be followed when systematically designing and planning evidence-based interventions? How do you empathize with your target population? How to perform a Needs Assessment? What are known determinants of behavior (change), and which theories and methods of behavior change are helpful for specifying effective intervention elements? Attention will also be paid to ethical considerations, such as potential adverse effects of interventions, including hardening or stigmatisation. Students collaborate in subgroups and work on one specific topic/behavior, e.g. sleeping behavior or sedentary behavior. During the workgroups they follow the steps of intervention development, and discuss difficulties they encounter. The practical component of the course consists of designing and implementing a workshop.

Assessment method

Students design an intervention together with their subgroup members. They write an individual paper about the intervention that comprises a description of the development process, including how the development is based on scientific reasoning and how the intervention may be implemented (course objectives 1-4). In addition, they will implement and evaluate part of this intervention in the form of a workshop (course objectives 2-3).

Final grade is based on the weighted average of:

  • Group assignment: workshop (30%)

  • Individual assignment: paper (70%)

If the grade for the paper is lower than 5.50, students will not pass the course, regardless of the grade for the group assignment. Put differently, students cannot compensate an insufficient grade for the paper with the grade of the group assignment.
If a student fails for the paper assessment, the student will get a resit.
In principle, the grade of the group assignment applies to all group members. However, if the task allocation or quality of input of each group member is highly unbalanced, the instructor can decide to deviate from this procedure.

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

  • Course syllabus (which will be made available in BrightSpace)

  • Selection of scientific papers (will be made available in BrightSpace)

Contact information

Dr. Laurens van Gestel
Dr. Pam ten Broeke