Case study

Psychological wellbeing practitioner — Louise Sturgess

Following postgraduate training Louise is now using her knowledge to help patients with common mental health issues. Discover how she helps to empower patients to better manage their illness

How did you get your job?

I originally studied for a degree in nutrition, health and lifestyle. Following three years of working in a community health setting, I used my experience of working with patients with common mental health problems to apply for a trainee psychological wellbeing practitioner role. I studied for a postgraduate certificate in low intensity psychological therapies at The University of Sheffield while gaining experience working as psychological wellbeing practitioner.

What's a typical working day like?

My role at Sheffield IAPT involves assessing patients with common mental health problems, for example anxiety and depression, assessing their motivation to change and helping them engage in guided self-help.

I deliver a range of evidence-based low intensity psychological interventions or guided self-help to help patients manage their symptoms better. I do this in a variety of ways, including one-to-one sessions, computerised cognitive behaviour therapy (cCBT) or group improving wellbeing sessions.

I also spend some of my time developing relationships with key referrers to the IAPT service, such as GPs, community support workers and health trainers.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy working collaboratively with patients to help them recognise the symptoms of low mood and anxiety they're experiencing. I also enjoy helping to empower them using guided self-help to be able to control their symptoms better. This also helps the patient to access higher intensity cognitive behavioural therapy, should this be required, and get the most from this approach.

What are the challenges?

Trying to assess the high volume of patients which are booked into my clinics as quickly as possible and referring them to the right service can be challenging. Mental health services can change on a regular basis, so it can be hard knowing which service(s) are best suited to a patient's needs when the main presenting problem is not related to a common mental health difficulty.

How is your degree relevant?

My postgraduate course is relevant as it's taught me how to assess patients who are experiencing common mental health problems and work collaboratively with them to agree treatment to help them manage their symptoms better.

Additionally, the tools, techniques and various self-help treatments that I've learned have an important role in managing some of the demands of my role and times of stress more effectively.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

At the moment I'm consolidating the knowledge I've learned from the course and am gaining more experience in clinics, groups and being a clinical supporter for cCBT. There is scope in the future to become a supervisor and do extra training in the management of long-term conditions.

What's your advice for others wanting to get into this job?

Be ready to demonstrate your experience of working with people who have experienced a common mental health problem. Additionally, the employer will want to know how you will be able to manage the demands of balancing a postgraduate course alongside employment. As such, self-care is very important.

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