Procrastination is 'stopping you from making decisions', says TV psychologist

When someone wants to analyse what is going on inside a celebrity’s head, Jo Hemmings is the woman to call.

As well as regularly appearing on Steph’s Packed Lunch, Good Morning Britain and Sky News, she has worked behind the scenes on Lorraine, Big Brother and Married At First Sight.

But it’s not just famous people that Jo works with.

The accredited psychologist helped out the Manchester NHS Trust during the pandemic by providing frontline workers with mental health support.

We chatted to the reality TV counsellor on the dangers of social media and how to stop procrastination.

Has the talk that you give to potential reality stars changed from when you first started worked on Big Brother in 2007?

Yes, partly because of social media, partly because they are far more exposed than they ever were before to what the audiences think.

We now have a better view towards mental health issues but Big Brother was a pioneering show. Before that, no one actually did psychometric testing and assessments and evaluations for contestants. That was unheard of.

But there were changes to the Ofcom code in April 2021 and the risk matrix was introduced to assist broadcasters in identifying, assessing and managing potential risks to contributors in programmes.

Was it a turning point in your career when you became a celebrity psychologist?

I was asked a lot by magazines and newspapers to analyse celebrities’ body language so I added celebrity psychologist to my name and that got mistaken as my being a psychologist who deals with celebrities.

What happened was I got celebrities coming to me as a psychologist. I was either approached by them themselves or by their agents. If you’ve got a celebrity having a difficult time and they are on a set or tour, they can’t afford for them to not be at their best.

The agent is asking you to do a sticking plaster job because they need that person back tomorrow being 100%.

I’ve actually dropped it out of my name now because it felt inappropriate during the pandemic to sound that shallow.

Jo’s top tip on being a psychologist to the stars

Your family and friends are your real allies. Fame can be very transient. Don’t lose sight of the anchors, the people.’

Is your career what you envisioned when you studied as an educational psychologist at Warwick University?

I was very happy in book publishing for about 20 years but I trained to be a coach alongside that.

TV stations would come and film me in my publishing office and I was always given time off if I was needed for Big Brother’s spin-off show, Big Brother’s Little Brother. Then I decided to do this full time.

Brits lose almost 43 nights a year worrying over decision making – and you’ve launched Decision School.

The biggest hurdle is procrastination, elaying a decision for fear of whether you’ve made the right decision and what the outcome might be.

It has the uncertainty value to it. It’s easier not to make a decision because then you haven’t got the jeopardy. Also, learning to trust our own instincts.

What’s been the hardest part of your job?

Through the pandemic I worked for the Manchester NHS Trust. I was talking to their front-line staff at the height of the pandemic, I was talking to young people.

One person I talked to referred to ‘body farming’, making the decision about people who probably wouldn’t last the night because there were other people waiting outside to come into the hospital. That was tough.

Afterwards I used to just roll up into a little ball and have a sob. I had never experienced anything like it before on such a scale.

What it’s like to be a celebrity psychologist

Salary: I’m self-employed so there isn’t a salary. But the things that people see you most on, like TV, are the things that pay the worst

Regular hours? You are very often called upon at weekends and evenings. Sometimes it’s with people who are in a different country and different time zones. It wouldn’t serve you well to down tools at 5pm. Between 5pm to 8pm are sometimes the busiest hours.

Top tip: Your family and friends are your real allies. Fame can be very transient. Don’t lose sight of the anchors, the people.

Have you ever been called up to go on Sky or BBC at an hour’s notice for a breaking news story and worried you hadn’t had enough time to prep?

Almost daily. Whatever answers they want, it’s giving out some simple but sensible advice on a situation and that’s something I do on a daily basis anyway.

Mistakes – you’ve made a few?

It’s sometimes tough when they ask me about a peculiar phobia on TV. I got asked about one some time ago that I had never heard of. I think it was phobia of cake. The best thing is to be honest.

For more on the Aviva Decision School, visit

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