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Staff profile

Susan Elmer

Dr Susan Elmer

Associate Principal Lecturer

Phone: +44 (0)113 2837 100 ext.474

Visiting address:

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Education / Academic qualification

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Leeds Beckett University

  • Postgraduate Diploma, Manchester Metropolitan University

  • Bachelor of Science, Teesside University

Professional Qualifications

  • NVQ Level 4 Management ,

  • Advanced Award in Social Work (M level),

  • Practice Teacher Award (Post Qualifying Social work Award),

  • University of Leeds Teaching Award 2,

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy,


Dr Elmer is  an experienced tutor of undergraduate and post graduate students in children, young people and families’ social work and social care practice.  She is a social work practice educator and researcher, social worker, play therapist, and experienced training manager with proven skills in counselling, play therapy, and direct work with children, student and pracitioner supervision, practice educator training, practice research and knowledge of current developments in children’s services education, leadership and integrated practice and domestic violence early intervention practice.   

Dr Elmer is a HCPC registered social worker, a full member of the British Association of Play Therapists and is Chair of the Research Committee (BAPT). 

Dr Elmer completed her PhD in Social Policy in 2010. Her thesis concerns the use of play therapy in social work practice. She is a founder member of the European Social Work Research Association. She has regularly presented at international conferences in respect of her research on children and families.


Dr Elmer has been involved in several funded research projects with colleagues at Leeds Metropolitan University. These studies have included front line decision making in social work, family group conferences and the role of the lead professional in Early Years Services.   

Post doctoral scholarship includes critical reflection on similar qualitative studies, carried out in England and Holland, concerning the processes and outcomes of professional practice with children exposed to domestic abuse.  In addition she is working with academic and pracitioner colleagues to develop and disseminate research in the following areas:

  • Measurable outcomes of play therapy for adopted children and young people
  • A standardised assessment tool to capture outcomes of play therapy
  • The development of empathy and tacit knowledge to improve assessment practice where there are child protection risks
  • Early intervention in domestic violence in England and Holland: developing a best practice model
  • Recovering from the effects of exposure to domestic violence.
  • School based social work intervention and asessment
Dr Elmer's PhD thesis: Overcoming barriers to the use of play therapy and direct work with children in social care practice.

The study aimed to systematically examine the attitudes and perceptions of social care practitioners who use play therapy and direct work with children in the statutory and voluntary sectors.  A mixed method approach was used.  The findings identified attitudinal and organisational barriers to the use of these interventions and proposes solutions for their removal.

Research interests

I am working with and UK based colleagues and European colleagues to promote research. We are currently working together to develop and disseminate research in the following areas:

  • developing effective learning for students new to University and managing the learning cultural transition into HE
  • measurable outcomes of play therapy for adopted children and young people
  • a standardised assessment tool to capture outcomes of play therapy
  • early intervention in domestic abuse in England and Holland: developing a best practice model.
  • helping children and families to recover from the impact of exposure to domestic abuse. 

Teaching and Administration

Module responsibility for:

BA L5 Violence in the Family

BA L5 Assessment & Intervention

BA L4 Professional Practice and Placement

BA L6 Therapeutic Interventions with Families

BA (Professional Practice) L6 Leadership in a Multi-Agency Environment

BA L6 Dissertation supervision (x10)

PhD supervision from September 2014, with Dr Paul Smith.


Development of module handbooks for current teaching responsibilities;

  • development of teaching and learning materials and assessments;
  • development of e resources to embed learning using Moodle.


Major Administrative / Academic Roles and Responsibilities

Department: Children, Young People and Families

Programme Leader: BA Working with Children, Young People and Families (Wwcypf)

Responsible for co-ordinating BA (Wwcypf) programme based activities, including:

Student Feedback (Module Review Forms, SSAC, SES, NSS where applicable), Employability and External Examiner feedback

Co-ordinate programme team presence with marketing for Open Days & Applicant Days

Co-ordinate programme specific SSACs

Co-ordinate programme team Admissions Tutoring

Attend DACs

Co-ordinate programme specific events for ‘Intro’ week, including appropriate briefing regarding Handbook (to include dept and central student support & advice sources and choices)

Co-ordinate programme team semester 2 follow up of students ‘failing’ semester 1 assessments 

Chair programme team meetings

‘Course editor’ role for programme publications, including prospectus and programme handbook

Lead programme specific preparation for validation / re-validation & audit

Co-ordinate activities with employee partnership office to ensure effective student experience on placement. 


Additional roles and responsibilities include:

Personal tutor and placement tutor for undergraduate students. I also mentor a new colleague.


Development Leader: MA Family Support

Lead Responsibility for development of this new post graduate programme, including liaison with key employers and other stakeholders, potential programme applicants and colleagues likely to be actively involved in delivery.

Responsibilities also include development of all associated documentation in preparation for future re-validation.


Institutional: 2009-2013 I have been previously been a member of LTU Research Committee and LTU Ethics sub-committee. I am currently a member of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee. 

Willingness to take PhD. students