What is a clinical psychologist?
Clinical psychologists have studied normal human development and behaviour and the psychology of mental health problems. They apply this knowledge and the conclusions of research to working with a wide range of psychological difficulties. Clinical psychologists work with people of all ages and across several client groups and are trained to take on a variety of tasks including some or all of the following: assessment of mental health needs; risk assessment; formulation of problems; planning, implementation and evaluation of therapy; and psychological research.
My approach to therapy is based on the view that psychological problems develop out of a combination of factors, including genetic make-up, personal and family history, and life’s experiences. My way of working derives mainly from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Cognitive behaviour therapy aims to help people change the way they think and feel by a process of developing an awareness of self-defeating ways of thinking and exploring the use of more adaptive, positive alternatives. The aim of the therapy is to help people learn different strategies to deal with life's dilemmas and test out new ways to resolve ongoing problems so that ultimately they are able to become their own therapist. But it is not just about training people to think positively, as of course we often know rationally what would help us to change, but our emotions can get in the way of doing the things that make rational sense.
My work is also informed by ideas from several other approaches including dialectical behaviour therapy and compassion focused therapy, which focus on helping people to tolerate and manage difficult emotions so that they are better able to manage the balance between wanting to behave differently and the feelings that keep them stuck in old ways.
Sometimes, too, I use EMDR (short for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing): a therapy that has been developed for people who have experienced trauma, either from a specific incident or incidents or from a series of difficulties in earlier life and which can help to speed up the brain's natural process of healing.
I aim to work together with clients to build a joint understanding of their current difficulties in order to develop the most appropriate treatment plan, based on current evidence about what works best in each situation in combination with the client’s goals and wishes for the future.
A first appointment will usually take the form of an assessment. In this session, I will explore with you the nature of the problem(s) you want to focus on. I will help you to outline the difficulties you are having, and to think about how they have begun and what has made it difficult for you to change. I may ask you to fill in some standard questionnaires which can help to build up a picture of how you deal with situations, and clarify the problems. This more formal method of assessment can help us to understand the problems better and can be a benchmark helping to assess improvements later on. Sometimes an assessment can take up to two or three sessions; this period allows us to explore in some detail what the problems are, what the best options for treatment might be, and whether now is the right time for you to be focusing on change.
Towards the end of the assessment stage, if appropriate, I will discuss with you what treatment I am able to offer and the availability of other options. I will aim to give an estimate of how many sessions you will need, but outcomes vary and depend on many factors so this will be discussed with you again at pre-agreed intervals. Depending on the problem, some people are happy with as few as two or three sessions, some need between twelve and twenty sessions, and others who have longstanding or more complex difficulties may prefer sessions to continue for a longer period in order to achieve the level of change and improvement they are looking for.