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.

Susan Fleming featured on BBC Radio Derby discussing “Blue” or “Brew” Monday.

Susan Fleming, Course Director for Counselling and CBT at Staffordshire University was featured on BBC Radio Derby discussing Blue Monday with Ian Skye’s radio show on 17th January 2022.

During the interview Susan shared some background to Blue Monday, the need for us all to check in with ourselves and with each other to determine whether we need access to support services. She shared insights into cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and how to become a trained CBT therapist. Incase you missed the radio show Susan has summarised the interview to share as part of this years’ university mental health day.


Blue Monday is a term coined in the early 2000s to name the 3rd Monday in January. The name suggests it’s a low mood Monday however the scientific evidence behind it is open to critique. A number of factors including number of daylight hours, financial status after seasonal spending and how many days there are before the next public holiday are allegedly part of the equation. There is a question mark over whether it was linked to a travel firm’s publicity campaign for the new year.

With over 2 years of uncertainty and loss in this global covid-19 pandemic, it may be that the term Blue Monday has run its course. Haven’t there been more difficult days that we have collectively endured than just one Monday in January?

The Samaritans say ‘biscuits’ to the term Blue Monday. They have campaigned to change the term to Brew Monday instead. Let’s turn this into a day to focus on talking to each other and reaching out, maybe over a cuppa and plan more of these days into our calendars every week, not just the 3rd week in January.

It is helpful to talk about mood throughout the year and the opportunity to talk about mental health, mood and how we are feeling can really help people. Therefore, whatever your stance on this nominated day, it provides the opportunity to discuss feelings and mental health.

Checking in with ourselves

Blue Monday provides us all with the opportunity to check in with ourselves, assess how we are coping and to identify the impact that our mood is having on our lives. This is a continual process that we should engage with regularly throughout the year. Checking in with ourselves can help us to assess whether we can cope on our own, or whether we need to seek help.

You can do this for yourself. Consider your mood on a scale from 0 meaning worst mood to 10 meaning best mood and think about where you are. Over time review your ratings and how they change day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month.

This process of checking in allows us to consider what has had an impact on how we are feeling. This helps us to identify whether we are able to manage on our own, or whether we would benefit from professional help by working with a professional to help us manage.

Susan recommends to not hesitate in reaching out for help as soon as you identify changes towards mental ill health and that this is really important so that things do not continue in the same pattern. Therefore, it is really important to reach out as early as possible to gain access to the support that you may need.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

From a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) perspective, we can use this calendar day as an opportunity to consider feelings and how our thoughts and what we are doing might be leading to vicious cycles of increasingly negative experience.

CBT is a theory that looks at how we think and our behaviour and how this impacts on our mood. It is used with success in the treatment for depression, anxiety and other mental ill health conditions.

CBT is based on how a thought can impact on how we feel and then has an impact on what we do and vice versa. This can become a vicious cycle as these negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings can continually impact each other which can lead to feelings of being unable to manage.

CBT focuses on breaking the cycle to help to improve how we feel and think. These changes can be made with therapeutic support and is one way in which you can start to move out of the vicious cycle.

Need access to support?

Please do reach out to your GP and they can refer you to support services. There are also mental health charities and organisations who work throughout the UK who can offer mental health support including the Samaritans:

Call any time, day or night for free: 116 123. Chat online:

Online services, such as and apps can offer you the opportunity to engage in some of the aspects of CBT theory and track your mood so that you can keep checking in with yourself and see how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours change over time.

Our University has a range of support, creating an inclusive community for talking about our mental health together.

Help others – CBT training

There has never been a better time to train in therapy, including CBT, to support mental health services which can struggle to meet the demands. This is especially critical given the unknown impact the covid pandemic has had on mental ill health. After being trained you may help in 1-1 or group therapy for a charity or organisation, or for self-help online or phone support services. Due to the shortages, there is a growing need for people to join and contribute to supporting people with their mental ill health.

There has never been a better time to train on our therapy courses with good prospects for future skills demand and an opportunity to contribute to more than 15,000 hours of therapy that we offer to the community through our courses.

Find your counselling-related course:

Critically, ‘blue’ or ‘brew’ Monday offers us all the opportunity to keep the conversation open regarding mental health. So please do take the time to check in with yourself, your family, your friends, your co-workers, everyone who you know so that we can all support each other. Perhaps this day can act as a reminder for us all to make contact with support services that we have been meaning to for some time.

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.

Keith Walmsley-Smith discusses mid-life crises on BBC Radio Derby

Keith Walmsley-Smith (Lecturer in Psychotherapeutic Counselling) was featured on BBC Radio Derby’s Sally Pepper Show (Monday 20th November 2017) discussing why some people experience a ‘mid-life crisis’ and whether there are any possible benefits to behaving younger than your actual age.


You can hear Keith’s interview via the BBC iPlayer link below (from 1 hour, 16 minutes approx. into the show):

BBC Radio Derby: Sally Pepper Show (20/11/17)

Keith teaches counselling to students studying Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Psychology & Counselling degree and professional postgraduate counselling courses.

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.

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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:


What is Neuropsychoanalysis? Dr David Goss explains…

Dr David Goss

Dr. David Goss (Lecturer in Counselling & Psychology and a  member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) blogs about the field of Neuropsychoanalysis and attending a recent conference on neuropsychoanalysis:

Similar to Ronseal quick drying wood stain, Neuropsychoanalysis (NPSA) is exactly what it says on the tin; it’s an integration of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, combining modern quantitative neuroscience research with qualitative, psychoanalytical theories of the mind. The aim is to provide an integrated approach to further understanding human existence.

Attending the 18th annual congress of the International NPSA Society at University College London (UCL), my mind (or brain?) was ready to take on a whole range of subjects and learning. A range of speakers presented talks on fantastic subjects, but perhaps the one that stood out was a discussion on the nature of consciousness. The intention of this blog article is to present the idea that consciousness resides in feeling.

Discussions of consciousness often revolve around the notion of thinking, the narrative of the “I” and other cognitions such as daydreaming and rumination. A popular quote in philosophy is Rene Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” – an example of the premier role ascribed to thought in defining consciousness. But maybe “we feel therefore we are”?  Clear your mind of thought for a moment, stare blankly at the space in front of you, are you not still conscious? All of your homeostatic feelings, thirst, hunger, attraction, approach, avoidance…when we are in moments of flow, reacting to a threat or external situation, we often do not have time to think, we operate from feeling. Feeling is at the core of what drives our actions and guides us through life, yet we often try and think our way through things.

The 2017 NPSA Conference

The cortex, an area which is often suggested to play a key role in cognition/thinking, sits at the top of the brain (geographically). The more primitive and ancient feeling centres sit further below, in limbic system and brain stem regions. This evolutionary layout in itself highlights the core and primitive role that feelings play in our experience. Mark Solms, chair of the NPSA society has presented the example of a young child who suffers from hydraencelaphy, a condition which results in the absence of a cerebral cortex (i.e., thinking part of her brain) and yet when her baby brother is placed in her arms, she smiles with what seems to be happiness and joy. As such, is she therefore not consciously experiencing the process of holding her baby brother, without thinking about it?

I say these words not to try and convert or push a viewpoint upon you, solely just to highlight the important role that feelings play in determining our core experience. Just something for you to think – or feel – about!

Dr. David Goss has recently published a chapter on ‘Working with Neuroscience and Neuropsychology‘ in the Fourth Edition of the SAGE Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy (click here for more details).

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.

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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Doreen Fleet discusses using sand-trays in Counselling practice

Doreen F

Doreen Fleet

Doreen Fleet (Senior Lecturer in Counselling and a member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) is conducting a multiple case study using sand-tray with adults in short-term therapy from a pluralistic perspective and blogs about her recently published research:

Sand-tray therapy is a creative intervention and involves the use of a sand-tray and a collection of objects (see below for examples). The objects act as physical metaphors or symbols to represent a client’s inner–experience, personal history, personal relationships and their relationship to the wider world.

Doreen, in her article published in Private Practice in 2015, says:

In my view sand-tray therapy has something to offer over and above talking therapy; it appears that the client shifts from being stuck and overwhelmed in their pain to being able to explore and express it” (p17).

Being able to express and externalize their pain involves the client becoming “observer and experiencer simultaneously” they are able to take one step out of their pain, without losing connection to thought and feeling” (p17). This process enables the client to go further in their exploration and often brings new insight and relief from working through previously unexpressed emotion.

Jul16 DFleet SandTray 2 Jul16 DFleet SandTray

In the ongoing multiple case study using sand-tray, Doreen takes the dual role of counsellor-researcher. Doreen, along with her supervisors Dr. Amy Burton, Dr. Andrew Reeves and Dr. Mani Das Gupta have had a paper accepted by Qualitative Research in Psychology entitled ‘A case for the dual-role of counsellor-researcher in qualitative research’ which is now in press.

The article explores how the dual role of counsellor-researcher was managed in the study and a case example taken from the multiple case study is incorporated to illustrate how taking the dual role is a legitimate approach in qualitative research. Some researchers argue against taking a dual role in research, warning that the different roles have conflicting obligations and expectations which are not easily resolved (Kitchener, 1988).  Doreen, in her new paper (2016) challenges this and would echo Dallos and Vetere (2005) who state that practice-based data is convincing evidence for counselling research as “it captures the miracle of therapy in a way that statistics and randomized controls cannot” (p131).  Doreen and her supervisors argue that this research approach is highly relevant to counselling, as it closes the gap between research and counselling practice.

Are you interested in studying for a Counselling qualification?

Staffordshire University offers counselling courses ranging from Foundation Degrees with local partner colleges, undergraduate degrees (including a British Psychological Society accredited BSc Psychology and Counselling degree) and postgraduate counselling qualifications at our Stoke-on-Trent City Campus:

Counselling Workshop on Systemic Practice for North Staffs Mind

Nov15 Couns Blog BM

Beverley Meakin

Belinda Priestley and Beverley Meakin, lecturers in Counselling from Staffordshire University’s Psychology Department, blog about a recent Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshop they gave to counsellors from the North Staffordshire Mind organisation.

On Saturday 19th September we delivered a one day CPD workshop on Systemic Practice to an enthusiastic group of 24 counsellors from North Staffs Mind. Mind contacted our counselling team and requested an Introduction to Systemic Practice as their counsellors often have to see a partner or carer of adult clients, or parents of young people they work with. It can be quite a challenge to manage therapeutic conversations with more than one person in the room!

A Systemic Approach pays attention to communication patterns, the interpersonal aspects of relationships and the context of the people concerned as well as the ethical and organisational contexts. Family dynamics can be a powerful influence and a therapist can find themselves in a very different environment with family members present rather than on a one to one with the client.

The enthusiasm and openness of the group from Mind helped the day develop into a fascinating experience as participants reflected on their own contexts, family dynamics and ethical concerns. They built on knowledge and skills through engaging in a very life like role play scenario! Feedback was really helpful for us to develop the day further and very clear about what was most worthwhile and enjoyable.

Surprisingly I enjoyed the role play!’ commented one participant ‘I feel I gained from every aspect of the CPD

Others found the role play difficult and the small group exercises more useful ‘looking at systems within families, uniqueness’, ‘learning about the different interventions and family scripts’. There were requests for more… ‘Felt like we only touched the surface, perhaps 2 days training?’ ‘Will definitely be interested in more CPD from Staffs Uni’.

The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University offers a range of qualifications in counselling and psychology. For more information about the wide range of Psychology degrees on offer please visit our website and our courses page.

Staffordshire University offers counselling courses ranging from Foundation Degrees with local partner colleges, undergraduate degrees (including a British Psychological Society accredited BSc Psychology and Counselling degree) and postgraduate counselling qualifications at our Stoke-on-Trent City Campus: