Child and adolescent psychotherapist
Matthew is continuously learning in his job and enjoys having various opportunities for training and career development
How did you get your job?
My qualifications include a degree in fine art and a PgDip in art therapy. Following these I decided to move into psychotherapy and completed the PgDip in psychoanalytic observation studies and then the four year clinical training in child and adolescent psychotherapy.
I qualified in 2014 with an MProf.
Embarking on the clinical training was something of a risk as it meant I had to resign from my full-time, permanent role to apply for the temporary training post.
Ultimately this was a risk worth taking. After completing my training I returned to work as an art therapist for a year within adult mental health but was then able to secure my current position within a local CAMHS team.
The opportunity to help people and occasionally see them take great strides in their psychological growth is a fascinating and deeply rewarding
What are your main work activities?
There are parts of my day and working week which are characterised by regularity and routine. Psychotherapists tend to see their patients in the same room, at the same time each week.
However there are other parts of the job that involve more variety. At the times when I'm not seeing my regular patients I'm likely to be found fulfilling my teaching commitments on the Psychoanalytic Infant Observation course, completing brief assessments of children and families, attending consultation and child protection meetings and completing paperwork.
What are your career ambitions?
Although I have worked within CAMHS for many years, this is my first position as a child psychotherapist post-qualification. In the short term my aims are about consolidating the training experience and finding my feet as a clinician.
My longer term aims are about maintaining direct therapeutic contact with children, developing my skills as a teacher and supervisor and developing a small private practice alongside continued work in the heath service.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the challenge of providing meaningful help to the children and families who I come to meet as part of my job. The opportunity to help people and occasionally see them take great strides in their psychological growth is a fascinating and deeply rewarding process to be a part of.
The nature of my work means that the learning experience is a continuous one. I'll never reach the point where I know all there is to know about the job. This helps to keep me engaged in the process of development and interested in the role I'm doing.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
I frequently meet with individuals and families who have experienced and who exhibit high levels of distress. In these circumstances providing help is not always an easy or straightforward task.
The job can be emotionally demanding and requires a high level of personal emotional stability. Learning how to manage these demands is one of the issues addressed within the comprehensive training we receive.
The current climate of austerity and the pressures to work 'more efficiently' has only made these pressure more intense. Protecting the time and space to maintain meaningful therapeutic work with children and families is a permanent aspect of the job.
Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?
Be clear about what it is you want to do and why you want to do it. There are many different ways, other than child psychotherapy, to work in mental health, including psychiatry, psychology, nursing, social work and art therapy.
It is important to have a clear idea of how each of these professions work, the different training involved and the various pay scales they attract before making firm decisions about what to do.
Once you are working within the NHS and mental health services there are many opportunities for training and career development. You don't always finish where you started out.