Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Emma Culley (BSc Psychology and Counselling)

As part of our series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Emma who completed her BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling degree here at Staffordshire University in 2022. Find out about Emma’s experiences on her course and her plans for the future:

Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:

I decided to study psychology at university on my first day at sixth form! I started studying psychology at sixth form in 2017 and my teacher was a real inspiration to me. As soon as I stepped into the classroom on my first day I knew it was what I wanted to study and I became very dedicated to those studies. This set me on the path to where I am now!

Emma Culley

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Staffordshire University was the first place I went to an open day when choosing a university. As soon as I arrived at the university I felt at home and was comfortable walking around. During the talks given by the lecturers on the day I was enthralled by the topics and was very engaged in these talks. I felt that I could gain a lot from the experience that Staffordshire University could give me and what they had to offer and I knew it was the place for me to be for the next 3 years at least!

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffordshire?

During my time at university we went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic so my experience was somewhat interrupted due to this. In spite of this I managed to make the most of the experiences the university had to offer with day trips to Alton Towers to meet people on my course and other extra-curricular activities on offer (the club nights in the LRV and karaoke in the Ember Lounge!). I was also part of the university badminton club for my 3 years of studying and made some wonderful friends there and gained experience in running clubs – highly recommend being part of as many clubs and societies as you can – this is what gives you that full university experience!

What was the biggest challenge(s) that you overcame whilst studying at Staffordshire?

The biggest challenge I faced at university was the change in learning styles from starting with face-to-face lectures in first year to only online lectures in second year and then a mix of everything in my final year. Due to the online learning bought about by the pandemic communication with peers was limited as discussions during lectures were difficult due to often unstable internet connections and difficulty in communicating online. Also arranging meetings with mentors and lecturers meant a stable internet connection which was sometimes hard to find in a student house when everyone was studying online! Due to not being on campus access to resources was limited for a while as not all textbooks/articles were available online, however this was resolved quickly by the university in difficult times! These challenges were overcome through perseverance of online lectures and many emails to and from (very) patient lecturers discussing any questions that students had.

What have you done since leaving Staffordshire? How did you course help you with this?

Since finishing my undergraduate degree in May 2022 I have been busy completing a summer internship with lecturers at the university. This internship has been based within Health Psychology, the area in which I am most interested and has consisted of a systematic review. As part of the review team I have been searching across multiple databases, completing data extraction and quality appraisal of articles. This kind of review is not something I had been able to complete as part of the course and so gaining this experience has been invaluable. This has been a really wonderful experience and has given me many skills that will prove useful in my future career in Health Psychology.

I am starting a master’s in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University in September 2022, during which I will be undertaking a placement module which will give me a great deal of experience working within the industry alongside my studies.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Go for it! Studying psychology at Staffordshire University was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The experiences I have been given and the people I have met have allowed me to develop skills and create lifelong bonds with some amazing people, whether this be the lecturers being great mentors or friends that I have made along the way. All these things make me Proud to be Staffs.


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Abigail Finnegan joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Abigail Finnegan who joined the University as a Lecturer in Counselling and Psychology in 2022. Abigail introduces herself below:

Coming to Staffordshire University has been a pivotal moment in my career which allows me to blend my two passions – education and psychotherapy, and the welcome here at Staffordshire University has been simply beautiful from both the staff and students alike.

Picture of Abigail Finnegan smiling at the camera.
Abigail Finnegan

I have a long history of teaching and training, and I have worked in the field of counselling and psychotherapy in various guises in the third sector and the NHS, and now privately. I have been fortunate to train with world leaders in the field of psychological trauma which has supported me in my development of trauma informed practice which I am looking forward to bringing to my role here at Staffs.

Eighteen years ago I founded a counselling organisation providing specialist therapeutic support to children and families affected by sexual and domestic violence, and from there went on to work within Primary Care developing a specialist service for patients with Complex Trauma and persistent physical symptoms. This service was shortlisted in the National GP Awards for clinical practice. I have also chaired various specialist groups working with Child Sexual Exploitation and other areas of sexual violence, and sat on a governmental advisory panel working for Victims of Crime within the Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR).

At Staffs I am currently Level 4 Module Lead on the BSc in Counselling, and I’m looking forward to teaching across both undergraduate and post graduate courses, and supporting students who have an interest in further research on Trauma at dissertation level. My research interests lie in understanding the delicate interplay between the stories we hold and which need to be heard, and the impact on our bodies and minds of our untold stories. I am interested in widening and unifying an understanding of the fragile process which lies beneath the familiar diagnostic labels of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), ADHD, Emotionally Unstable/Borderline Personality Disorders, and other similar emotional health diagnoses in a way that has utility to both client and clinician through practice-based inquiry. In line with this I am presently developing trauma informed courses for working with and supporting people with fragile processes that draws on what we now understand about the neurobiology of stress and distress. 

Qualifications: MA (Hons), PGCE, PGDip (Psych), MSc (Psych)

Professional Memberships UKCP, BACP


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.