My experience of CLPS: student placement edition

24th Nov, 22

My experience of CLPS: student placement edition

Hi everyone, my name is Sam Hemmings and I’m currently training to become a psychological wellbeing practitioner (PWP for short). I have recently completed the master’s degree in applied clinical psychology at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). As a requirement of this course, I had to complete a placement for a minimum total of 50 hours – and after looking at UCLan’s placement directory for my course, this is where I came upon Charlotte Lowe Psychological Services (CLPS) for the first time. 

  The placement itself involved me working every Wednesday for the full school day (9:00-15:30) with high school students (between the ages of 11 to 15) at Moor Park High School with a variety of different presentations of mental health symptoms (e.g., social anxiety, low mood, and even anger management) using a guided self-help approach. The interventions I used with the high school students were based off cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and I had the chance to carry out hourly individual sessions, as well as a couple of group sessions – but I’ll talk about that in more detail later.

  After contacting Charlotte to show my interest in this opportunity she provided, about a month or so later, she invited me to a talk at Lostock Hall Academy. At this talk, she provided more knowledge around what CBT is and what it was that I would actually be doing. I remember finding this talk really insightful because I’d learnt about what CBT was at university before, but it’d never been taught to me in a way that I realised the real-world applications that it can have – especially towards children and young people (CYP). Charlotte is passionate about CYP mental health, and I didn’t know much about CYP mental health until this talk Charlotte provided – which really excited me as to what I was getting into. After the talk, Charlotte gave me a pack of resources around CBT and CYP mental health and I left her talk excitedly waiting to start my placement. 

  Around a month later, after the schools had reopened and I had my checks completed to ensure I was safe to work in a school, I started shadowing Charlotte in some of her sessions with the students she was working with. I was able to shadow her sessions across 3 different schools within the Preston area, and it was so interesting to see them happen before my eyes. At this point, I had previously worked as a support worker with adults who have brain injuries/dementia, and it was a new perspective on mental health care that I had never seen before. Understandably so, it is tricky to gain any sort of therapeutic experience when you have your sights on the clinical psychology doctorate like I did – so it was breath-taking to be able to see how CBT is put into practice with CYP. I feel like, at that point, I had learnt more about psychology’s practical applications within the few weeks I had shadowed Charlotte than I had ever done with my psychology undergraduate degree. Additionally, Charlotte works with a variety of people (including people who may present with more severe mental health) which was interesting to see first hand because I had never seen this kind of care within a therapy setting before. 

  I believe it was about 3 weeks after I started shadowing Charlotte that I said to her I felt confident working with some of the high school students on my own. Charlotte helped me massively in picking 3 of the high school students whose current mental health was at a manageable level where I could make a difference with them and who I felt comfortable working with. I also chose this group of students just before the half-term in February, which gave me a good week to prepare myself before I started. After the February half term, I started that following Wednesday with the 3 students I had chosen with Charlotte. I remember feeling very nervous before and during doing the assessments with these 3 students because I had never done anything like this before, but Charlotte was brilliant in assuring me that these feelings were normal and providing that space for me to talk about this. Reflecting upon this experience, I feel like I was able to grasp what I needed to know in order to move forward but my lack of confidence definitely showed to the students, and this could’ve impacted me helping them achieve their goals in the short-term Fortunately, I was able to work with other students throughout the time I completed my placement, and I ended up feeling very confident in my assessment skills. 

  From this point, up until the week before the school finished for their summer holiday in July, I was able to work with many different students helping them achieve their goals – which varied massively. Some of the students’ goals varied from managing their anger, to helping them overcome their anxieties, to even reducing the frequency of self-harm. Using the guided self-help approach, I was able to use a lot of the interventions that are common in CBT. I was able to use behavioural activation techniques whereby I planned with some of the students some of the activities they like doing and ones that they could be doing to boost their mood. Also, I was able to use some cognitive restructuring techniques whereby we (the students and me) identified some of the unhelpful thinking styles they were using that were maintaining their problems and ways they can look at these thoughts differently which may not cause as much distress. In addition, I was able to use some worry management and problem-solving techniques in the form of controlled breathing and identifying certain barriers with the students that may have impacted on them achieving their goals. Furthermore, I was able to use some exposure techniques with the students through the use of avoidance hierarchies and planning with them how they can overcome their fears in regard to some of their anxieties. A couple of months after I started working individually with some of the students, Charlotte offered me an opportunity to work alongside her co-facilitating an anger management for a group of year 7s. It was interesting to co-facilitate group sessions because there were issues that I had not previously encountered up until this point, such as making sure the content of the sessions were digestible. Despite this, it was nice to work in a group therapy setting because the year 7s became friendlier with each other and I was able to see a group of people improve over the space of some weeks. One good thing (and there are many) about this placement was that Charlotte allowed me to work at my own pace in the individual sessions – so I opted to have hourly sessions with the high school students which I enjoyed as I felt like I could develop a good rapport with them. 

  As a result of completing my placement with CLPS, it enabled me to get on to a trainee PWP course with the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, which is what I’m currently doing now. I can wholeheartedly say that without the experience I gained from CLPS that this wouldn’t have been possible. I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing now and the very fact I am in this position now, and this is all thanks to CLPS and the opportunity Charlotte gave me as part of my master’s degree. The skills I learnt during my time with CLPS are the same skills that I’m currently using training as a PWP. As a trainee PWP, I help adults self-manage any common mental health problems that they may currently be experiencing using a guided self-help approach – which is what I was doing with CLPS but with high school students. During my time with CLPS, I was also able to bag myself an interview for an assistant psychologist within an older adult community mental health team – and that was all thanks to my knowledge and skills gained from my placement with Charlotte. 

  Finally, I just want to thank Charlotte for providing me with the opportunity to do my placement with her as part of my course. I wouldn’t be where I am without the experience she provided, and I had a blast with her whilst doing it! I definitely did way more than the 50 hours that UCLan required me to do, and if anyone has the opportunity to do even an hour of work with her – take it. 


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