Assistant Psychologist, Sophie Fair, reflects on her year at Richardson Care.
The Psychology Team at Richardson Care is led by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Pedro Areias Grilo, who is supported by three Assistant Psychologists. The Assistants stay for around 12 months, in which time they gain experience and broaden their knowledge. They also provide invaluable support to the service users, delivering one-to-one and group psychology sessions.
Sophie has been working with service users who have an acquired brain injury and a variety of complex needs. Although each Assistant Psychologist brings their own personality to the role, they work in a similar way and have the same end goal as their predecessor. They can also bring new energy to their role and a slightly different perspective, bringing added benefits to the service users.
Sophie says: “It’s been so rewarding to support the service users to achieve their goals. It’s been really nice to reflect on how I’ve impacted them and helped them to improve their skills and coping mechanisms. And the fact that they are able to build new relationships quickly shows their resilience.”
“I work on a one-to-one basis with the service users, both in structured psychology sessions and ad hoc support. It’s been really interesting to get to know them, build professional relationships and support them with their individual needs. Everyone is different, so needs a slightly different approach.”
Managing low mood
Low mood can be a barrier for service users to engage in other therapies, so Sophie has worked with one individual in particular to help him initiate coping strategies. Overcoming low mood then enables him to work on his cognitive skills. Sophie also works closely with his family. This not only supports them, it also helps her to understand the person that he is and the character traits he demonstrated before his brain injury.
Low mood in our service-users is also tracked and monitored using neuropsychological assessments, particularly looking into elevations of anxiety and depression. This provides comprehensive insight into psychological health of our service-users, and our interventions are based on these outcomes. For example, anxiety and depression often occur comorbidly with brain injury, so exploring what goals they can achieve to increase their wellbeing.
Building professional relationships
Another service user was not engaging with the multi-disciplinary therapy team (MDT) as she had had previous difficulties with healthcare professionals. By working with her, Sophie built a professional relationship. “I had a mission to build a relationship with her,” explains Sophie, “and after three to four months, she was willing to engage in her therapies. It was so rewarding because we had broken down the barriers and a door had opened for her to gain additional support. She now engages with other members of the MDT. I saw a big change in her, which was lovely. We built a collaborative relationship and she taught me how to crochet, which was really nice. I also facilitated Zoom sessions with her Mum and built a good relationship with her family.”
Completing psychological assessments
Sophie really enjoys the collaborative, person-centred approach offered by Richardson Care, and the variety in her role. She adds: “It’s really interesting to work with people who have different complex conditions. I’m interested in the way that cognitive impairments, brain injury and mood all interact. We conduct a range of psychological assessments, which can help us to understand each individual. For example, someone may be high functioning so these assessments help us to understand some of the underlying issues. I support the service users to complete the assessments so that they are not daunted by them, which provides them with some insight into their own levels of functioning as well.”
Psychology group sessions
As well as one-to-one sessions, Sophie runs group sessions in Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) and Relaxation Therapy. She says: “I was quite nervous about running group CST sessions initially as they involve a combination of preparation and improvisation, as well as tailoring each session to individual needs. However, I soon began to really enjoy them. They are really rewarding and we often go through newspapers and discuss meaningful topics. It’s really interesting to hear the service users’ opinions on different subjects and we have some fascinating debates. These sessions can also present opportunities for further development. For example, they can help to identify any difficulties that the service user experiences in a group setting, so we can work on strategies to enable them to support themselves when in a group situation, particularly in terms of social and cognitive skills.”
Sophie also runs group relaxation sessions where she supports service users to focus on regulating body sensations in a low stimulus environment. She says: “Everyone loves the relaxation sessions and they help service users to find a safe space for themselves if they’re feeling anxious.”
Management and MDT
Sophie adds: “I’ve been really impressed with the MDT. It functions very well as we all work well together. It’s very collaborative and dynamic. It’s a whole-MDT approach as the disciplines all interact with each other. For example, if other members of the MDT identify mood or cognitive difficulties in someone who is reluctant to engage in therapeutic sessions, then we use clinical formulation to plan and address it.”
“I know it sounds like a cliché, but it feels like one big family. We all have the same goal. The Managers are very supportive too and I feel valued and listened to by the whole MDT.
“I feel that my experience at Richardson Care has helped me to become a well-rounded professional. I’ve been working in all aspects of psychology – I’ve done independent research, worked with the service users and seen them progress. I’ve also developed a good relationship with the Managers and staff, and being available full-time on site, I can help to support them too. Having input by creating care plans and psychological interventions, as well as feeding back to internal and external team members both at Richardson Care and outside of the company has given me confidence in myself as a professional which I will take with me in the future.”
“It’s been a brilliant place to work and I’d certainly recommend it!”