Tag Archives: psychology

Every placement has an end, but in life every ending is a new beginning

Hello all!

Hope you are all well and good! In all honesty, I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news.. but my placement has unfortunately come to an end. I never imagined my time would come to an end so suddenly, but it seems if you keep yourself occupied long enough, you won’t even realise where time has disappeared to! It’s truly sad to see the placement coming to an end and especially saying the final farewells (the part I find the hardest!). The way I see it, it’s all part of the learning process and I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I have been given. I was always on the fence about choosing a career in clinical psychology, but I feel I have a much clearer idea now.

As this is my final blog post, I will give the most credible and honest (believe me when I say this) feedback about my time as an honorary at BSMHFT. I will give you a breakdown of the service, what I did on a day to day basis, the psychological interventions that you will encounter and important tips to remember if you are one of the lucky ones working in a CMHT setting as part of your placement year!

Community Mental Health Team (CMHT):

The core function of CMHTs are to provide assessments and interventions for people experiencing moderate to severe and enduring mental health problems. The diagnosis criteria includes psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression,  bi-polar disorder and OCD. People can only be referred to this secondary care service by their GP or a primary care service such as IAPTs (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) or BHM (Birmingham Healthy Minds). To accomplish and complete shared objectives, a CMHT is made up of professionals from different disciplines including Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Support Workers, Occupational Therapists and Nurses.

Responsibilities:

➔ Shadowing assessments and other members of staff: I was given many opportunities to sit into assessments which measure a persons suitability for psychological therapy. During this, the clinician usually requested me to make notes from which I could make a formulation (see below). As you’ll be working in a multi-disciplinary team, you will be able to shadow other team professionals such as psychiatrists, occupation therapists and support workers.

Writing formulations and case histories: Throughout the year, I was involved in planning service user care programmes. Following an assessment, I would use the 5P formulation (Predisposing, Precipitating, Presenting, Protective and Perpetuating factors) to organise the notes and present them to the clinician. Also I was given the task of completing detailed case histories which required reading through their past history and summarising the information into one easy to read document. Both helped in making a decision whether the client should be taken up for therapy.

➔ Facilitating group programmes: At my CMHT, I was fortunate enough to participate in a depression group programme. Here the service users were provided with therapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness) in a group setting. My role as an honorary assistant was to write up progress notes, scoring measures and facilitating mindfulness exercises.

➔ Attending meetings: On a weekly basis, I attended multi-disciplinary team meetings which involved discussing about team caseloads. Here different professionals would offer their own insight into how best resolve managing a service user. Also on a monthly basis I attended business and depression group programme meetings.

➔ Conducting audits: As an Honorary Assistant, you will be required to complete an audit during your placement time.  This will involve you collecting and analysing data from the database and trying to identify anomalies that shouldn’t otherwise be there. Once complete you will have to report back in the meeting.

➔ Maintaining databases:  At the CMHT, the psychology team will have their own spreadsheet database which allows clinicians to track referrals to Psychology. As an Honorary Assistant, it will be your role to keep this spreadsheet up to date by entering referral dates, appointments attended and assessment forms received.

➔ Aston CPD programme: On a weekly basis you will be given training on topics relevant to your placement. These will be facilitated by clinical psychologists based on their speciality. Topics will cover basic formulations, psychosis, and research methods.

➔ CORE/Scoring measures: During assessments, service users are required to complete questionnaires. These are used to assess the severity of the individuals problems. You will come across measures such as Becks Depression Inventory, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale and Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire.

Psychological Interventions offered in a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) setting:

Out of all psychological therapies provided, you will see that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) will be administered quite frequently and is the first choice of therapy by Psychotherapists. There are interventions which focus on relapse prevention and early warning signs. Here therapists focus on making coping strategies which can help clients handle their symptoms and identify signs of relapse. This reduces the number of clients from becoming admitted to hospitals. A powerful and newly emerging therapy known as Mindfulness Based Cognitive therapy (MCBT) which aids in preventing relapse of depression, especially in individuals with major depressive disorder.

Therapy specially designed for treating patients with trauma related symptoms such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. Individuals who may suffer from chronically suicidal thoughts and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be offered Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Behavioural Activation therapy is often used to encourage individuals to develop positive behaviour that they would usually avoid doing.

Things you need to remember:  

➔ You will most likely feel overwhelmed  when encountered with word terminologies and areas of psychology which you might not be familiar with. Don’t worry you will pick it up without realising but don’t be scared to ask others if you are unsure! They know you are a placement student and would be happy to answer all your questions.

➔ This placement year will be a steep learning curve, expect to make mistakes, but make sure to learn from them!  Through my own experience I would highly recommend carrying a diary and making good use of it. Placement staff will begin to trust you when you can prove you can work by yourself and show self-initiative. As the placement progresses you will be given more and more to do!

➔ Before sitting in on an assessment to see a client, it is useful to read up on their background history. This will help you know what to expect!

➔ You will only gain shadowing experience if staff are aware of who you are! Try and get yourself known within the team by attending meetings and any other social events.

➔ You will have been assigned a placement tutor who will give you useful advice throughout the year and will be happy to talk to you about any thoughts, issues and most importantly your systematic review.

➔ You will have regular contact with other Aston placement students and will be attending weekly training sessions provided by the NHS. Make good use of this time to address any worries you may have with your peers.

➔ If you have any issues that you wish to raise don’t be afraid to speak up. Both the placement and Aston university want you to make the most of this year but also at the same time want you to enjoy it thoroughly.

Disclaimer: You will be expected to complete the minimum 150 days which will require you to work full-time unpaid 4 days a week. Remember don’t count the days, make the days count! Once you have finished for the day you have actually finished; you will not be required to take any work with you home. This leaves your evenings and weekends completely free!

It’s been a pleasure blogging my placement experience to you all! I wish you all the very best in life and hope I have been of help! Whenever in doubt remember:

“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs!”

Ali

7 Transferable skills that you can learn as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist

Hello again! How is everyone getting on? it’s been a while since my last post, truth be told I have been slacking slightly on keeping up with the regular posts… but that is no excuse to keep my readers waiting in anticipation! Gosh what month are we in now… APRIL! That means that I am already two-thirds into my placement, by July I’ll be finished.. where has the time gone!

Now I can understand that some of you will be at a point where you are still trying to secure a placement. Now rest assured if that is the case then you do not have to be worried about a thing! It is often the case that you might not be finding the luck in getting the placement of your choice, but with persistent determination you’ll be bound to find one! In all honestly I think Aston students fail to acknowledge just how many placement opportunities are available, enough to go around for everyone (though of course some placements differ in quality than others)

The thought of trying to focus on your academic studies whilst applying for your placement simultaneously can be such a stressful task at times, hence why I highly recommend that you guys book yourself into a spa of some sort.

Cheezburger cat animals dog cute

Regardless, don’t get discouraged if you keep failing to secure a placement, chin up and keep hitting that apply button! 

However if you are one of those students who have already secured your placement, then I can certainly imagine you will be doing something like this…

office chill relaxing chilling

Upon securing your placement, you will have the desire to know what your new placement year will bring you, the challenges that you will encounter but most importantly the transferable skills that you will be able to take back with you into your final year studies.

Below I have nicely (tried to!) summarised the transferable skills that I have picked up on so far  whilst on my placement as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist. For those interested in the field of clinical psychology, these might be of relevance to you!

1)  In this placement, you will get many opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of psychology. You need to make sure you take as much back as you can from this placement. Make notes and learn the different therapy models (the three most relevant: Biological ,Social and Psychological) Use this time to gather ideas for your final year dissertation!

2)  This placement will guarantee you a strong insight into the field of clinical psychology. Throughout my own placement as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist in the Community Mental Health Team, I have learnt to appreciate clinical psychologists and their commitment to the field of mental health.

3)  In your placement, you will start to build up a good rapport of psychosis. There are different diagnosis levels which vary from least severe to extremely incapacitated. This diagnosis assessment helps clinical psychologists assess who requires therapy and which type in particular, whereas less severe patients are recommended to other services of which could be NHS owned or third-party.

4)  Your placement supervisors will offer you many opportunities to shadow in clinical settings and even allow you to sit in large groups where you can administer questionnaires and build up an understanding with service users. Through experience you will start to gain confidence in speaking with service users and listening to their past history whilst adjusting your behaviour and appropriateness.

5)  You will be making a good use of your IT skills throughout the year. You will be expected to have basic admin knowledge and have worked on databases using MS Excel as well as MS Word. Expect to be a pro at taking minutes in a meeting by the end of the year! 🙂

6)  As an Honorary Assistant Psychologist, you will be sitting in on Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meetings. This is where service user referrals are discussed and different professionals ranging from Psychiatrists, Junior Doctors, Support workers, Community Psychiatric Nurses and Clinical Psychologists all give their input on how to deal with this service user best. You will get to understand how team work and sharing perspectives helps make decisions especially in the Community Mental Health Team setting.

7)  Overall this placement is very relevant to clinical psychology and will benefit you and your personal growth. You will strive to be proactive, show self-initiative in your work and demonstrate confidence in your own ability.

Hope that helps!

What would you want to take back from your placement year? Let me know what you guys think in the comments section below!

Until next time!

8 Tips For Being A Successful Applicant And Securing A Psychology Placement Interview

Welcome back. Hope everyone has survived the bleak January blues. Trust me I know… the feeling of starting your day in pitch darkness and ending it in pitch darkness alongside the pleasantries of the English weather. This is by far the most depressing feeling that one should never endure.. but alas spring is nearly here. So, enough faffing about and lets crack on shall we?

Hope you are all doing well, especially with the exam season coming to an end, I bet some of you are making the most of these weeks to have a breather and prepare for the second term! Literally I can still recall sitting in one of my exams during second year half way through an essay feeling like my arm was going to fall off because I was writing too fast! Thought I’d take short break and…

reaction celebs jimmy fallon fallontonight tonight show

Now I know that the super duper highly organised students (and that doesn’t include me)  have most likely accepted and secured their placement offer by now.. however for those who haven’t… do not worry, for atlas help has arrived! In the form of a…. blog post! 🙂

Lol okok I’m just going to cut to the chase, I thought I’d dish out some simple yet helpful tips that can often be overlooked. I’m sure you lot will benefit from this in the long run especially when it comes down to your very own applications and interviews!

1)  You should aim to start early and keep yourself organised. Make it a weekly routine to check the Aston placements website for newly added placements.

2)  Make sure your CV is up-to-date and has been thoroughly checked over for any grammatical errors. This also applies for your cover letter. If you need support with this, it is highly recommended that you try the Aston Royal Literary Fellow service.

3)  Show your passion through interests and your dedication through experiences. An employer loves to see candidates who have a variety of experiences in different work settings.

4)  As a candidate during the interview process, you need to demonstrate a professional and confident outlook. Take pride in your achievements and don’t be afraid to talk about them even if they aren’t relevant to the placement.

5)  Be yourself! The placement employers won’t expect you to know it all. Remain calm at all times and don’t let your nerves get the better of you. When giving responses do not rush to answer, take time if you need to think of a well thought answer.

6)  Throughout the interview, remain positive, that is the key! If you ever feel at any point during the interview that you’ve given a poor response or ruined your chances, then simply “Keep Calm And Carry On”. Most interviewees experience this feeling but later it turns out that the interview went better than expected!

7)  Keep your options open, apply for as many placements as possible. The more interviews the better. Not only will this be good for your experience and confidence, but it will also show you how competent you are. Once you feel that you have enough options in the bag, start to deduce your placement offers by making comparisons taking different factors into consideration such as travel distance, job specifications, perks etc.

8)  DISCLAMIER: Please make sure you thoroughly read the job specification for the placement you are applying for. Often students miss out on the crucial details which make a huge difference in what they actually do during their placement year. For example, in terms of responsibilities and experiences, this is a significant difference between Assertive Outreach and Community Mental Health. Try researching each role carefully and try finding past placement students who have worked in either role to see their perspective on it!

Hope that helps!

Let me know what you guys think makes an interview successful in the comments section below!

Until next time!

Welcome to the working world of psychology in the NHS

Hi everyone, welcome to my first post of the month! My name is Ali and as an Aston placement year student I haven’t really had the opportunity to introduce myself, I think now is the chance! I’m originally from Worcester (home to the famous Worcestershire sauce!).

For those who don’t know me, I study BSc Psychology at Aston and will be going into my fourth and final year studies come October 2016. So.. what am I doing in my placement year? Since the start of early September 2015, I officially became an honorary assistant psychologist! Now for those who don’t know, an Honorary is the unpaid equivalent of an Assistant psychologist who on the other hand, may bear extra responsibilities and most of all…gets paid! However when one looks at the benefits and experiences that an honorary assistant post has to offer, the dilemma of working for free doesn’t sound that bad after all! Now you might be asking yourself.. what are exactly these responsibilities?  

  1. As an honorary assistant, you will have plenty of opportunities to observe assessments and/or therapeutic work with service users reporting psychological difficulties.
  2. To be able to develop and practice skills in psychological assessments and interpretation, making good use of formulations and honing your listening ability.
  3. To support clinicians in everyday tasks such as analysing service user notes to find specific information or divulging into past histories searching for life events that could have been potential triggers contributing to mental health disorder.
  4. To be able to observe multidisciplinary discussions about a service users diagnosis, treatment, risk assessment and care plan issues whilst having opportunities to interact with other professionals.

Now what I mentioned above is just the tip of the ice berg, as there is always something new to encounter and things to pick up as an honorary assistant. The service users that you come across each portray their own unique diagnoses alongside the relevant therapies given. As I progress through my placement year, every month my post will cover certain aspects of my honorary assistant post and the key highlights of my experiences.  Mind you, it’s quite interesting to listen to our experiences as the leap from University life (theoretical) to a fixed routine working life (practical hands on) can be quite difficult at first to adjust to.

I’m guessing you are eager to ask me right now, what is the work placement world like? It’s actually what you would expect, working your socks off 9am till 5pm 4 days a week. It’s really not that bad when compared to working a full 5 days a week! I guess that’s the benefits of being a psychology placement student.  Up till now the most I’ve really struggled with is commuting. As I live in Worcester, a standard train journey to Birmingham can take up to an hour and this is not including the walking distance between the station and the placement location. Therefore in order to be punctual and on time, I’ve often found myself waking up much earlier (6am wakies) than friends in similar psychology placements, only because I’m geographically situated further away from Birmingham than they are. However for me that’s no excuse for being late! Unfortunately the down side for me is that because of other commitments i.e. part time work and extra curricular activities, I often find myself either jogging or running around most of the time!

Overall, I’ve found myself  having a very compact and structured day in which I would find myself waking up early and sleeping late. Even till now I’m still trying to find ways to balance my activities and sleep routine, as I feel I don’t have enough time to get most of my tasks done. To address this issue, I’ve came up with a time management plan in which I prioritise my workload effectively. This allows me to get the most important tasks completed for the week, leaving the weekend free to have a break in the evenings after my part time job in the mornings! I think the only thing that I’m constantly worried about is falling asleep in the train especially in the mornings! The feeling of waking up in the train realising that you’ve completely missed your station and have to spend hours getting back isn’t a pleasant one!

cat train whatever lazy idgaf

I hope you’ve found my introduction post useful,  I’m certain it will provide an insight that will be useful for anyone with an interest in a clinical psych placement like this or something similar. Please stay tuned for my second post, see you all!

3 things I have learnt from placement

  1. The importance of asking– If you don’t ask you don’t get, if you speak to the right people and ask questions and take an interest you never know what things you may get the chance to do. I got the experience to go out with a occupational therapist, but that is only because I asked, people are not going to do work for you, if you want to learn and gain experience… seek it out!
  2. Collecting resources-it is important to remember the things you have done on placement, and yes you have a brain but you may not remember that 7th housing checklist you did and what you learnt from that day- so keep a record, your reflective log is tedious and annoying to do sometimes but really keep a record of what you have learnt, it will help one day. Also all the training and stuff you get to go to, keep something interesting from the day, make a folder of all the things you have done. IT WILL HELP. 
  3. Take time for you- Remember if you are working unpaid like me you will more than likely have a part time job. Luckily for me my new job is relevant to my career goals now (I am now a neurorehab assistant for a inpatient unit specializing in brain injury- part time- more on that later) but it means I now work a 57.5 hour week, which is ALOT!!! I am tired and I am stressed I wont lie to you, but you and myself need to learn to take time out a bit. Thats what annual leave is for… if that means booking one half day off do it because that recharge of your batteries is the boost which will keep you going and being positive, and getting the most experience out of placement as you can… and that is the most important thing.

I hope this helps someone somewhere 🙂