Promoting real change within the lives of individuals

Colleague spotlight | Dr John Hills


John Hills

I am a senior lecturer in Psychological Therapies and Mental Health, as well as a psychotherapist accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.  As a practitioner I have delivered therapy as part of cancer care, in hospice settings, in prison, student counselling and the third sector, and am now in private practice. My research interests include change in psychotherapy, the social determinants of mental health and first person research methods.

Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with the School of Health

I am a pluralistic therapist.  Hardwired into pluralism is the idea that we collaborate with our clients rather than the therapy being done to them.  I think this comes through in my teaching in the School of Health too – I believe that we’re on a learning journey together, and there’s something really inspiring for me about sharing in that. I also love mentoring our students – getting to know them and what they care about – it’s one of my favourite parts of the job and also seems to connect well with my work as a therapist.  

I’m a massive geek. I love learning and new ideas and sharing in that geeky enthusiasm with our students and colleagues. I lead on our MA Integrative Counselling degree in which as well as training to be professional therapists, students will undertake dissertation research in which they go deeply into a topic that they are passionate about; developing their own specialisms and identity as emergent therapists. It was an honour to host our student research conference this year in which our students chose to present their research online to an international audience. 

What makes you passionate about your work and why is it important? 

I see the work of counselling and psychotherapy to be not just about helping people to cope with difficult times and circumstances but moreover about promoting real change and even transformation in the lives of individuals, within relationships and even potentially within the wider social fabric. I have been in practice for 10 years now and it is an incredible privilege to accompany people at any part of their journey through this life. Here at Leeds Beckett I try to model a relaxed and authentic approach to therapy training and practice. I do think that sometimes psychotherapy can be presented as a mysterious or esoteric discipline and I think this can heighten anxiety in trainees. I want our students to feel good about themselves and their work, and confident that they know what they’re doing. This is to the benefit not just of themselves but to the people they will counsel too.  

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?

Perhaps the collaboration that I’ve been most proud to be part of have been the delivery of our MA in Psychotherapy to students at the College of Allied Educators in Singapore.

The idea is that Singapore based students can study the exact same curriculum that our Leeds based students do on the MA program – so that we have two streams of study running in parallel in different hemispheres!

I perform a link tutor role here and so work closely with the course leader in Singapore to translate ideas from our course into a local context.  

Another collaboration which has been a real success has been the involvement of various Leeds Beckett staff in the Battleback program, supporting wounded, injured and sick service personnel. Myself and colleagues for our team have been able to offer an intensive program of mental health training for Battleback staff in recognizing and working with challenges and crises. Participants had the opportunity to test out their skills with medical actors whilst we provided feedback on their performance. Participants had significant learning experiences and all reported back that the training would have a transformational effect on their practice.

What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working with the School?

The achievements I’m genuinely most proud centre upon the capacities in which I’ve been able to support and mentor students on their learning journeys. As a teacher I feel so much pride to see our students building confidence and competence, carving out their own identities and reaching the point at which they are ready to fly the nest.  

Dr John Hills

Senior Lecturer / School of Health & Community Studies

John Hills is a senior lecturer in Counselling and Mental Health across courses offered by the School in Psychological Therapies and Mental Health. He is a BACP accredited psychotherapist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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