Psychological therapy - Making an impact in the city and the community

Leeds Beckett academics and our students across our University are making an impact beyond university life: drawing on our expertise to bring benefits to communities across Leeds and further afield. In this article we share some of the positive impacts our Psychological Therapies and Mental Health team have made, and offer insights into how we were able to make these impacts.

Sharing LBUs psychological therapy expertise

Profile raising through Leeds International Festival

On 9th May 2019, we delivered a major one day event ‘What Does it Mean to be Human’ as part of Leeds International Festival, placing our subject and our University at the heart of one of the city’s showcase events. Attracting four internationally renowned speakers including anthropologist/TV presenter Alice Roberts and author/mental health campaigner Matt Haig, a variety of perspectives on the theme were provided to a total audience of over 1,000 people. Part of this also involved support events at four venues across the city provided free by academic staff on subjects such as ‘What is Love’, ‘Is Pain Real?’, ‘How to Slow Down Time’ and the ‘Neuroscience of Creativity’. These talks enabled local engagement with research and were pitched at informing and entertaining a public audience.

Leeds International Festival is growing and Chris Hudson, our Head of Subject, saw the Open Call for projects to feature as part of the 2-week programme. We wanted to showcase some of our academic expertise in a practical way for the citizens of our city, but also place our University as an anchor institution in a large scale city wide event. The International Festival had not hosted talks or presentations before so this was a bit of a departure from the cultural and artistic activities of previous years. It was Chris that made contact with our speakers via their agents. Matt Haig had studied here in Leeds for a while and wanted to revisit the City. He also had a book to promote! Alice Roberts was enthusiastic about the way the festival straddled the arts and the sciences and the possible connections made between subjects.

Building capacity and confidence with the Battle Back program

Elsewhere Bryony Walker, Penn Smith, and John Hills have begun work with Battle Back, a program led by the Ministry of Defence in partnership with the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, supporting returning Armed Forces personnel. Carnegie Great Outdoors who have pioneered this hugely successful work for our University for many years, sought expertise to help them adjust the programme to meet new arising needs. Informed by our own clinical backgrounds, we are delivering training to their coaches in understanding mental health issues, developing strategies for managing mental health crises and supporting one another. Leeds Beckett staff have delivered residential courses at the Battle Back centre since 2011, and the recent involvement of our team is in response to growing awareness of mental health challenges emerging through the courses.

Psychological therapy training at Bradford District Care Trust

One of our primary mechanisms of impact has been to keep abreast of gaps in local health and social care provision and co-produce training modules with our partners. For example, our staff have taken up various opportunities to deliver training and CPD sessions to practitioners at Bradford District Care Trust (BDCT). We recently delivered a module on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to tele-health coaches at the Cellar Trust, which provides mental health support to adults in Bradford. Through maintaining our awareness of local needs we are also able to keep certain training modules and other CPD sessions ‘live’ so that they may be offered as available ‘off the shelf’ with enough flexibility to shape delivery according to local contexts.

Empowering refugees and asylum seekers

Our research activities have also had impact beyond the academy. Across two large scale qualitative research projects, Dr Divine Charura – working alongside seven other Leeds Beckett academics in psychology, nursing and the social sciences - has investigated the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers who were now living in Leeds or the wider region. Outputs from this research have enhanced clinical knowledge on working with psychological trauma and the conditions supporting post-traumatic growth, and informed policy and guidelines of good practice around working with refugees and asylum seekers. Participants were invited to a party in Roundhay Park at which the findings were presented, and they shared their narratives, including use of artefacts, such as the shoes in which one participant had walked across the desert. They reported feeling heard: that the research had given them voice in a system in which they felt they did not have power.

On occasion, Divine has also been sought out to provide expert contributions to BBC Radio Leeds on topical psychological stories of the day. Divine is listed in the Leeds Beckett Media Expert directory which was how Radio Leeds found him.

Making a real difference - Our fantastic students

In training for practice our postgraduates are delivering approximately 4500 hours of counselling and psychotherapy per year, currently across 79 placement partners offering counselling through colleges, universities, prison, hospice and bereavement support, and NHS foundation trusts.

Our Counselling and Mental Health undergraduate students too are applying their learning out in the community.  For instance, our level 5 student Amy Hoyle, with support from Barnsley Council and finance from St Helen’s Crypt, has created the Next Steps program supporting young people who are struggling in education, or who are not yet ready to enter training or employment. Amy delivers group sessions in positive psychology, informed by her studies and her own lived experience as a service user.

How we make an impact

Therefore when we look back on the various impacts our team’s activities have made, the following mechanisms appear to be at work:

  • A conscious commitment by staff and our students to making an impact in the community
  • Receptiveness to opportunities to establish partnerships beyond academia and showcase our expertise
  • Academic staff drawing on their own research and introducing creative methods into teaching
  • Academic staff drawing on our own professional networks
  • Anticipating local needs and pro-actively offering solutions
  • Co-producing training with our partners
  • Keeping training modules and other CPD sessions ‘live’ so that they may be offered as available, ‘off the shelf’
  • Designing impact into our research projects from their inception
  • And creating a platform for service users, so that their voices can be heard

We hope that by sharing some of our experiences we might spark a conversation within our University. What can we learn from one another about how we might enhance our impacts out there in Leeds and the wider community?

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