Bethany Temple studies BSc Psychology (Industrial), and has been on her placement with Fieldhead Hospital’s Bretton Centre in Wakefield for eight months.
Getting my placement
To be honest, I was completing application after application in the hope of finding some kind of experience within psychology, but at times they can feel like gold dust! I applied for this forensic psychology placement, not really knowing at all what forensic psychology was. I thought I was going to be some sort of criminal profiler; clearly I’ve watched too many crime series! I filled in their application, which I received through the psychology department, and sure enough got my first ever interview. I researched the hospital I would be based at before the interview, and came up with some questions about the types of therapy that are offered to service users. I also went to a mock interview at the careers centre, which I’d highly recommend. In the real interview, my enthusiasm for psychology clearly outshined my lack of knowledge on what clinical/ forensic psychology is, and I got a call the next day saying I’d been accepted!
I have now been working for about 8 months in Fieldhead Hospital’s Bretton Centre, a low secure psychiatric unit. My main project has been to carry out a service evaluation on team formulation. Team formulation is where we gather different professionals (Occupational Therapists, Medics, Nurses, Health Care Assistants, community team) to construct a shared understanding of service users’ difficulties, and give recommendations of care accordingly. Along with co-facilitating these meetings, I have been evaluating them using questionnaires I developed, and chairing focus groups with staff.
At the 6 month review, a really exciting opportunity arose to get my work published! My line manager received an invitation to write an article for a newsletter attached to the Royal College of Psychiatry, and she encouraged me to do it. I collated my data and summed up my 6 month review, titled Increasing Compassion for Service Users Diagnosed with a Personality Disorder Through Team Formulation in a Low Secure Forensic Unit (catchy title, I know). Everyone I spoke to at work told me what a fantastic opportunity it was, and how good it looks on your CV to get something published, so I was over the moon when I found out it was accepted!
Bethany’s article in the Quality Network for Forensic Mental Health Services (QNFMHS) newsletter can be found here (p.19).
Alongside my project, I have been involved with the different teams within our service. I have spent time with the Occupational Therapy team on the low secure learning disability unit. With them I have been involved in volunteering, baking and a cycling course for the service users. I have found occupational therapy to be a good way of getting to know the service users, as it would be inappropriate for me to sit in on their 1:1 psychology sessions. However, I have been able to co-facilitate an 8 week mindfulness group for the service users. This involved activities such as mindful walking, Tai Chi, drawing, music and even mindful eating! I never really thought much of mindfulness until I started this group and saw how it can really help some service users manage difficult thoughts and feelings by being present in the moment. I have also had the chance to work with a clinical psychologist on the medium secure female unit. He asked me to facilitate a “behavioural experiment” to help one of the women practice real life scenarios. This involved me meeting her in town, accompanied by the psychologist, where she asked me some general questions such as “what’s the time?”, “where’s the nearest train station?” and such – the sorts of questions you would ask a stranger. Then my task was to try and persuade her to come to the pub with me so that she could practise her “safe sentences” of politely saying “no”. This was a great experience as it felt as though I was directly helping a service user.
Aside from the teams on our site, I have been very lucky in visiting a number of different services within the NHS trust. For example I have been to the young offenders institute (a prison for boys under 18 years), sat in on autism assessments at the adult autism service, and been to visit CAMHS (the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). I have certainly found that once you have secured a placement it is a lot easier to access different people and services – it’s just a matter of getting your foot in the door. I would always recommend talking to as many people as possible; the response from other professionals has been amazing, and they’ve always been happy to tell me about their roles and how they got to where they are.