Psychological Professions Week | News

Psychological Professions Week

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Working in the profession with Elysia Merenda, Clinical Associate Psychologist

What does a clinical associate psychologist do?

Generally, we work with people with mental health difficulties in a variety of ways. This is mainly around assessment and interventions for their difficulties to help patients, families, carers, professionals, and services better understand someone’s difficulties, considering psychological theories and wider systemic issues that would impact.

We work with people using a specific set of skills and knowledge gained from our training as clinical associate psychologists. This is under the supervision of a clinical psychologist.

We’re also trained in research, evaluation, and supervision. Some clinical associate psychologists, since qualifying, have gone onto managerial, research or academic areas still within their role. Some are at the fore in terms of the development of the clinical associate psychologist role. All of which I think demonstrates the potential of the role for someone to make their own.

What motivated you work in this profession?

Having always been interested in psychology and mental health, but there being limited opportunities aside from pre-existing roles and pathways to develop. The clinical associate psychologist role was something new that enabled me to progress, learn more and continue working in the field of mental health and help those with a wide range of, or at times severe, difficulties.

How did you get into the role?

I got a psychology degree and volunteered at a local Mind charity, alongside part-time hospitality work. I then gained employment at Mind, before working at a trauma counselling service as a triage worker within a small team. I delivered psychoeducation to individuals within the service and front-line mental health advice as part of a service and phone line. Then I also gained additional experience as a support worker for a psychologist within a community mental health team. The psychologist was visually impaired, which meant I worked closely with him, as well as working within a multi-disciplinary team. Then I applied for the clinical associate psychologist role and interviewed in Cornwall before moving here.

What are the best bits and challenges?

Being able to work (although under supervision within scope of practice) quite autonomously. Our team and manager are wonderful and given the newness of the role, we’re luckily able to work in our own way but still feel really supported when needed. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue working in this way, which will allow us both individually, and in the clinical associate psychologist role generally, to develop further. Our position within the Individual Response service in Cornwall, means alongside the clinical associate psychologist role in our respective teams. We’re also part of the development of a new crisis service which aims to support those who unfortunately present in acute distress, which can be as result of a whole range of factors, including mental health difficulties. So, we’re trying to intervene as early as possible in their journey and working in a trauma-informed way alongside our multi-disciplinary team colleagues.

While the newness of the clinical associate psychologist positions is exciting, I suppose there are times when working in a more established role, where there is perhaps a blueprint, would be more assuring or containing. Especially given the pressures of the systems we’re working in where there is such high demand and need. But we’re learning a lot and it’s allowing us to grow.

What are your career plans?

Technically, I’ve been qualified now for a few months and having just moved into the team, which I’m starting to settle in, means we’re still developing the roles. There are exciting potentials for what clinical associate psychologists will be able to do, within our specific team but also more widely in the Trust. In some instances, this has been further training, management roles and prioritising research within roles which is often neglected post-training in psychology. It seems very promising.

What advice would you have for anyone considering a similar career pathway?

It would be to get as much experience as possible in different areas of healthcare. Working in multidisciplinary teams allows you to see the various skills from those across the professions and I think having spent time in different work environments, would have allowed me greater understanding of the pressures, strains and contexts in which people work. After all, it’s those systems in which patients spend their lives, which impact them greatly.

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