What is Clinical Psychology?
We asked Paula our Lead Clinical Psychologist here at IntraQuest to answer this question recently …
Wow, this is a tricky question, well not tricky exactly but hard to sum up in a few words!
I think Clinical Psychology is best explained when we look at the meaning of the title so: Clinical = “based on or characterised by observable and diagnosable symptoms”. Psychology = “the science of mind and behaviour”.
So, Clinical Psychology is all about what is happening for a particular individual or family. We look at the difficulty as a whole, whether that be a whole person; mental health, behavioural, physical health, symptoms etc. Or as a family unit, how individuals interact with others, relationship difficulties, parenting issues, mental health, physical health etc.
We observe what they present, what they report and think, and perhaps what others may see or worry about. Gathering all of the relevant information, and coming up with hypotheses (assumptions of what might be going on based on the evidence). Sharing that hypothesis with the client (and family) and working together towards a shared goal that is beneficial to the individual/family.
Clinical Psychologists are qualified to the highest academic standard. We are trained to Doctorate level, following many years of training not only in the classroom but also in clinical settings. Clinical Psychologists are also regulated by the HCPC (Health & Care Professions Council). And as with all Doctors, we are required to continue to maintain our professional standing through learning and research, which continues throughout our careers.
My personal view of Clinical Psychology is that it is a very privileged position, that allows me to help people, who for whatever reason are experiencing difficulties in their lives.
We then work together to find helpful outcomes, using a wide range of psychological interventions, I love the fact that one therapeutic intervention does not fit all, so the skill of a psychologists role is finding the best treatment plan and being flexible and empathic. The most valuable skill that a clinician can have is the ability to form good therapeutic relationships, not only with the individual but with their family and wider systems (education, employment, other professionals etc.), these relationships are key to any therapeutic changes and the ongoing support that may be needed for that individual.
Again, this makes perfect sense to me as you have to be able to trust the person that you have asked to help you with what may be a potentially very difficult journey for you. One of the things that sets a therapist apart from other roles is that we are actually delighted when either our client “sacks” us or we agree together that our time together is done. That doesn’t mean that we are glad that you won’t be coming back to see us, but rather that you have worked hard to resolve your difficulties and you no longer need to see us on a regular basis. Of course, we plan this ending, just like we plan every session so that it is tailored to the individual’s needs, we can offer reduced sessions or check-ins until you are happy to say goodbye. This is why I love what I do!
Another tricky question! Well, two but hope I have answered both here:
The National Health Service is experiencing unprecedented pressure, the reason for this is both manyfold and complicated, but I am happy to share some of the experiences I faced whilst working in a CAMHs service some 5 years ago: Reduction in funding to health services year on year, this then placed pressure on all trusts and in turn further pressure on individual services, teams and practitioners. Services tried to adapt to the lack of funding, but with ever-increasing costs and ever-decreasing funding the pressure on staff to see more people also increased. Waiting lists climbed to an all-time high and the overall feeling within services was quite bleak. I began to feel that I was not really helping clients as much as I should/could have and felt overwhelmed, after all, I had trained for over 10 years to improve people’s lives, I decided that I had to leave the NHS for my own well-being, sadly not unusual in the current climate. This coupled with the pandemic and even further investment cuts, the NHS to coin a popular phrase is now “on its knees”.
Having worked in private practice for over 5 years, I am delighted to say that there is an alternative to waiting on a waiting list for over 2 or 3 years just to be assessed. At Intraquest we are able to offer initial Consultations to clients and their families, this is usually achieved within a few weeks (rather than years) and this allows us to work together to come to a shared understanding of an individual’s need and come up with a plan. Sometimes this will be to consider neurodevelopmental issues (one of the longest waiting lists on the NHS), we are able to think about and screen for autism, ADHD and learning difficulties, through interview, observation and screening questionnaires. This relatively simple intervention can reassure clients and help them to consider ways to help the individual concerned. The family may decide to embark on one of our Specialised Pathways and could have an answer to their concerns in a matter of months. As we do not have a huge waiting list we can see people relatively quickly and have all of the gold standard (NICE guidelines) psychometric equipment, we are person-centred and absolutely determined to provide a world-class service to our clients.
We also offer therapy to our clients, again once we have discussed what is going on we can decide on a therapeutic package that everyone is in agreement with. We work with a wide range of problems including, anxiety, depression, behavioural concerns, health-related issues, adjustment challenges, gender identity and trauma. Again the benefit ofIntraquest is that we do not have waiting lists and can offer the right treatment package in a timely manner. We are not tied by the constraints of larger national companies and can react to demand quickly and efficiently.
One of my favourite therapeutic interventions with children, and I say favourite because you can see how much this helps people from the first session and, how this can also reduce treatment time, is Animal Assisted Therapy. At Intraquest we have the absolute privilege and pleasure of being able to offer this amazing intervention to children and adults. Not only are we located in an area of natural beauty with wildlife happily roaming free nearby, we also have the space to house and care for animals. At present, we have guinea pigs and rabbits and 2 trainee therapy pups. The small animals are available to children and adults who, for whatever reason are struggling with anxiety, low mood or just struggling to find the words to say how they are feeling. In conventional therapeutic surroundings (office-type locations) this barrier to therapy can take many months to overcome, however, introduce one of our beautifully calm-natured animals and it seems like magic happens, individuals seem to feel more relaxed and able to open up. Coupled with the beautiful surroundings you can see the most troubled souls begin to uncurl and relax at Intraquest. I have to admit it also make for a great working environment for us too and we can’t wait for the expansion of the site to get underway this year so we can add more therapeutic animals to our growing pack.
It is so important to be able to see clients in a timely manner, not simply because people deserve to be seen and treated as soon as possible, but early diagnosis and intervention are directly associated with better outcomes. It makes sense to me that if someone is asking for help then the problem must already be affecting their everyday life, if that person is then left to wait for several years, the problem will only become more established and more difficult to treat. If we can begin to explore those difficulties as soon as possible we are in a better position to begin to change that person’s outlook on life. I think this is even more important when it comes to diagnostic interventions, such as Autism, ADHD and learning difficulties, if we can assess young people at an early stage, this can be literally life-changing for that young person, not only will they and those around them have a better understanding of certain behaviours, but we can begin to scaffold that person’s future and put in place strategies and support (school, college, employment, relationships) to help them become the people they deserve to be. This also applies to adults who have gone through life aware of certain difficulties but never having the chance of receiving a diagnosis or explanation. The effects of early intervention are far-reaching, not only to the individual, their family and loved ones but also to the wider Community.
If you’d like to find out more about Clinical Psychology, you can visit our page on the website and fill out one of the questionnaires and we’ll be in touch with next steps. Click here.
Lead Clinical Psychologist