Helen Wakeling, Alumni, School of Psychology

Helen Wakeling

I currently work as a Research Psychologist for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) in London. I work in the Evidence-Based Practise Team, and our role is to help front line staff working across prisons and probation embed evidence into practise.  My role involves conducting evaluations and research into how best to rehabilitate people, as well as assimilating evidence to improve outcomes for people convicted of crime, and for the staff supporting them.

After my degree I got a position as a Psychological Assistant in HMPPS. The role was to provide support for researching, delivering and evaluating treatment programmes delivered across prisons. I loved it and decided quite quickly that I wanted to continue working in the field of psychology, and particularly in forensic psychology. I also enjoyed conducting research. Luckily, I was supported by my employers to do a part-time MSc in Research Methods. After that I worked for a number of years in different roles across HMPPS gaining invaluable experience conducting research, and became chartered as a Research Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. I then did a part-time PhD whilst continuing to work for HMPPS. The focus of my work through my career has been on helping to rehabilitate people who have committed crime.

The degree from the School of Psychology gave me the essential groundings to embark on my career as a researcher. Without a psychology degree I would not have been able to secure the initial post in HMPPS. The degree at Leeds had a strong focus on research and statistical analysis. This statistical and methodological knowledge I gained supported the development of my passion for research. Additionally, the theory and psychological knowledge from the degree still help me in my current role today (and in life generally). Throughout my career my interest has been on what explains behaviour, and how we can support people to understand their behaviour and make positive changes.

If I could, the advice I would give to myself whilst studying would be to enjoy the studying and embrace the time you have to read and learn new things about life and behaviour. The study of human behaviour and experience is so fascinating; it shapes the world around us. I would also tell myself not to get so worried about statistics, research methods and statistical software packages! I was apprehensive about these when I was studying. I wish I had worried less. I also wish I had known that the more you conduct and use statistical analysis, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes!