A Day in the life of Clinical Psychologist

I have been asked by the editor to write something to describe what a Clinical Psychologist does. I asked some people in the clinic what they thought a Clinical Psychologist does and here are some of the answers I got:

"Get paid too much" (that can´t be right?)
"Measure peoples function" (what does that mean?)
"We don't know" (Surely it wasn´t a Psychologist who said that?)

So to try and make things clearer here is what I think we do.

There are five Clinical Psychologists in the Caswell Clinic.

Sue Vivian-Byrne, the head of department, Nicola Gray, Pam Roberts, myself and Andrew Hyder who will be joining us in October.

The job of the Clinical Psychologist is to use psychological principles to help understand peoples behaviour, thoughts and feelings. This can include thinking about how a persons mental illness affects them in their lives, or what a persons personality is like and how this affects their relationships with people their life choices and actions. We often look at what strengths and difficulties a person has in their ability to solve problems or organise their daily routine.

When we work with someone we aim to build a collaborative relationship - working together to find ways of understanding things. The person is often asked to share their thoughts, feelings and memories and the psychologist uses knowledge of research in psychology and training in psychological therapies to help to find a way of understanding the person and if necessary find ways to make changes in their life. So developing a relationship of trust is important.

Clinical Psychologists are often to be seen carrying cases filled with tests or waving questionnaires around. We use tests to measure things like memory, concentration and thinking skills. If someone seems to be having difficulty with memory or concentration for instance, we can use the tests to find out if there is a problem and what might have caused it.

Questionnaires are used to measure different aspects of a persons thoughts, feelings and attitudes to add to the picture gained from talking with the person.

All the different professions in the clinical team bring their particular ways of working with people and understanding peoples needs. The Clinical Psychologists views are based on their training and experience in psychological theories of human development, social behaviour, brain function and learning and psychological therapies. That's why, when you ask a Psychologist a question, they often say "It depends..." because what makes you tick is affected by so many things: the temperament you were born with, the things you learnt about yourself and other people growing up, the situations you have faced, the relationships you have had, your health, your aspirations for the future, your understanding of the past and so on and so on.

So how many Clinical Psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

Well that depends, can the light bulb be changed? Does the light bulb want to change? Is it really that dark without a light bulb anyway? Could we use a candle instead?

Ruth Bagshaw, Clinical Psychologist