Meet people in the School, Psychology

Introducing Kerry Hughes, a new Staff Tutor in the School

This week we meet Kerry Hughes who tells us about her background in psychology and mental health care in the NHS.

There is a joke that I have been familiar with for a long time, as a true Liverpudlian (being half Irish).  It tells of a visitor in Dublin asking a local for directions. The reply? ‘Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’.  I have always felt that this could apply in my journey to becoming a Staff Tutor in Psychology and Counselling at the Open University. Particularly as I did kind of start from here, just not at first!

I began my working life with young adults with emotional, behavioural difficulties and learning disabilities.  I was a newly qualified early years teacher in a year with very few posts.  This experience pushed me in to wanting to find out more and more about what was happening for the people I worked with, the age-old question of “Why?”.  Why did music seem to work so well with some of the people I was working with? Why did some use communication that was physical (including punching) rather than verbal? Why were we not able to help more? Help earlier? 

Thus began my psychology journey with the Open University, kicking off with DSE202 in 1999. I took my first exam just after starting to work as a Primary School Teacher (I do not recommend this), having returned to teaching.  Modules came thick and fast over the next four years (only four thank goodness as I already had a degree in History).  I came out with a First and found myself at a crossroads.  Managing a Children’s home or working in a Day Centre for adults with severe and enduring mental health issues?  I chose mental health. I am now a qualified Clinical Psychologist, who when practising specialised in working with adults in the community and adults in in-patient wards, and particularly focussed on people for whom learning difficulties and disabilities were also a factor.  I worked in the NHS in parallel with the Open University, tutoring on a range of psychology and counselling modules, and moved into full time academia in teaching, quality and pastoral roles after 10 years in the NHS.  I have come to the Open University from another university, where I worked as a Senior Lecturer in Psychological Sciences, Senior Tutor, and Academic Link Tutor (counselling provision).  And here I am.   

So my journey has now come full circle.  Although I did not start from here originally, my psychology journey did.  I am glad to have arrived back at my beginning. It begs the question though, what next? There are so many options, so many avenues of research and scholarship that thrive at the Open University.  I remain fascinated by how mental health, learning disabilities and learning difficulties impact all people and how the world is forthem and how the world behavestothem.  I hold a continuing fondness for looking at historical underpinnings to find sense in our current experiences.  And I see so many intriguing research pathways in the work of my colleagues. It feels a little like being in a sweet shop, with an internalised kindly adult telling you that you need to concentrate on eating the sweet in your hand (the new Staff Tutor role, a sherbet fountain perhaps or a drumstick lollipop?) before embarking on investigating all of the other delights in front of you.  

So what am I looking forward to?  All of it. I am looking forward to learning (something I always enjoy).  I am looking forward to having new experiences, even in this “time of Covid”. I am looking forward to working with colleagues, from all disciplines, and all backgrounds, in whichever direction my psychology journey now takes me.  I hope to meet as many of you as possible as I walk.  

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