What is a Clinical Psychologist?
A Clinical Psychologist works with people who are experiencing emotional or behavioural difficulties. They typical work in the NHS as part of a larger health team but see people in a wide range of settings. A Clinical Psychologist will work with children, teenagers, adults (both individually, as a family group and in a couple) and professionals.
People come to see us who are worried about their own situation and hoping to make changes or get support with distressing circumstances or who are concerned about their children.
There are four main aspects to our work:
1) Assessment: In order to help everyone understand a person’s situation, a Clinical Psychologist will conduct an initial assessment. An assessment involves asking the person (and with consent and where appropriate, family members) detailed questions about events in the past and the present situation. We often use questionnaires and other assessment measures to gather more specific information,for example, about mental health problems, learning difficulties or developmental disorders, such as ADHD or ASD.
Important things to know:
A Clinical Psychologist will often write their assessment conclusions in a report to the client and with their permission, this could be also copied to the GP or relevant parties. Notes are taken in the session to help us remember what is discussed and these are stored according to Data Protection regulations.
Clinical Psychologists typically believe that emotional difficulties in the present have their roots in the past. For this reason, we often ask people about their childhoods. However, there is never any pressure to talk about anything distressing.
All information is treated with confidence, so a Clinical Psychologist would not discuss anything a client discloses in a session, with people outside of the session, unless prior consent is given. However, where we feel that a Client is at risk to themselves or poses a risk to others, we would have to break confidentiality to speak to the relevant authorities, on a need to know basis. This is discussed in more detail during the initial assessment session.
2) Formulation: Following an assessment, a Clinical Psychologist starts to develop what is called a formulation. This is a theory, often drawn in a diagram, of what we believe has caused any present difficulties (predisposing factors), what has made things difficult now (precipitating factors), what factors are making the difficulties worse (perpetuating factors), what the current difficulties are (present factors) and importantly what can help or what is making things easier at times (protective factors).
We tend to explain our initial formulation at the end of the assessment session but we would really hope that a formulation is developed in collaboration with the client, so that we incorporate their thoughts and ideas. After all, the client is the expert in their own life.
A formulation helps us to identify ways in which we can make things easier and how we can best support clients and their families (as often difficulties are due to the relationships people have with their close family).
3) Therapy/ Interventions: Research has shown that there are lots of ways in which Clinical Psychologists help people to feel better or make changes in their life. These can include finding ways for families and schools to help support young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, referring to other specialist professionals who could help or by providing therapy.
Therapy is where a person arranges to meet with a Clinical Psychologist on a regular, usually weekly, basis for an hour (or 50 minutes). In this hour, we spend time talking about any difficult thoughts, feelings and behaviour that you have and find ways, either through talking itself or with techniques to try at home, to make the situation better over time. Therapy isn’t easy as it involves talking and thinking about challenging and sometimes painful ideas but people often feel better as if a weight has been lifted and over time, the research evidence shows that for most people, it can be helpful.
4) Consultation: A Clinical Psychologist has extensive knowledge and experience in psychological theory (why people tend to feel, think and behave the way they do) and it can be helpful to share this expertise with others, for example, in a professional setting. Consultation involves a Clinical Psychologist meeting with family members or professionals who would like some help in understanding and supporting the people they care for and offering their expertise.
My training and experience
I completed a number of educational qualifications as part of my training in becoming a Clinical Psychologist where I learnt about a wide range of scientific psychological theories which help us understand how people develop, interact with others and how we explain emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties. These included a first class BSc hons in Psychology, a PhD in Neuropsychology, a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and further training in Systemic Family Therapy, EMDR, ACT, DBT and expert witness assessments.
As well as learning the theory, I carried out extensive published clinical research and have worked for many years within the NHS and wider mental health settings. In a similar way to a medical Doctor in training, I completed several clinical placements, working with adults with mental health difficulties, adults with learning disabilities, adults with health difficulties and who have experienced cancer, children and their families in CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service) and adolescents in an inpatient unit. As expected, this gave me a wealth of experience working with different people, with a range of presenting problems in a range of settings.
I have also worked as a Samaritan in a voluntary capacity.
Since qualifying in 2011, I have worked with Looked After Children (those who are in foster care or who have been adopted), including managing the Looked After Children service in Peterborough and have worked for several years within social care in Cambridgeshire, supporting social workers to help children and their families. I have also worked with care leavers, who are aged between 18-25.
Since 2012, I have been working in a private capacity with adults as well as young people and their families.