Staff profile

Susan Elmer

Dr Susan Elmer

Academic Group Leader, 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

  • Advanced Award in Social Work (M level),

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy,

  • NVQ Level 4 Management ,

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

  • University of Leeds Teaching Award 2,


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 has regularly presented at international conferences in respect of her research on children and families and playful practice in Higher Education.


Dr Elmer has been involved in several funded research projects with colleagues at Leeds Trinity University and at Leeds Beckett University. These studies have included early intervention in domestic abuse, front line decision making in social work, family group conferences,  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, including PhD and MA students, to develop and disseminate research in the following areas:

  • Social justice and social work for vulernable adults and children.
  • 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: 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.

Dr Elmer is concerned with promoting playful practice to improve learning and teaching in HE.

Research interests

I am working with and UK based 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
  • a standardised assessment tool to capture outcomes of play therapy
  • early intervention in domestic abuse: 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 L6 Therapeutic Interventions with Families

PhD supervision from September 2014, with Dr Paul Smith.

 MA Family Support programme responsibilities:

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

Insitute of Childhood and Education: Academic Group Leader: responsible for work based learning programmes (including Foundation degrees, Professional Practice and HLA apprenticeship programmes) and post graduate education

Programme Leader: MA Family Support 

Responsible for co-ordinating programme based activities, including:

Student Feedback (Module Review Forms, SSAC, SES  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 Instute Board meetings

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

Co-ordinate programme development 

Chair Academic Group exam boards and programme co-ordinator 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:

Supervise MA student dissetartions.


Development Leader: MA Family Support

Lead Responsibility for development of this new post graduate programme, including liaison with key employers and other stakeholders, 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


PhD projects

Social Care, Family Support, Play Therapy and Education