Case study

SLV Global Mental Health Placement — Jack

Following a degree in psychology at Bournemouth University, and his SLV Global Mental Health Placement in Sri Lanka, Jack landed his dream job as an assistant psychologist

How did participating in the SLV Global Mental Health Placement help you get your job?

As well as the gaining three months of clinical experience in a foreign country, I was able to develop a whole host of transferable skills in Sri Lanka.

The most important skills I gained on the placement were emotional resilience, developed through working in highly-emotive situations, an ability to communicate empathy and sensitivity when language barriers were present and finally the ability to lead a therapeutic team in a challenging, cross-cultural environment.

How often do you use the skills gained from your SLV Global Mental Health Placement?

I am constantly using my interpersonal, organisational and problem-solving skills to meet challenging deadlines.

When working with people who have mental health problems, I find myself employing the non-verbal communication techniques I developed while on the placement, to complement my verbal communication skills.

Furthermore, I now find myself taking full advantage of the tools that are available here in the UK in order to fully optimise my care.

The placement is a unique experience, which sets you apart from other graduates.

What's a typical day like?

I work in an in-patient facility with an NHS Trust and do everything from supporting the psychologists with creating treatment plans for service users and assisting with assessments, to working with clients and their families to implement strategies to promote positive mental health.

I do research and a lot of filing too, which is also really important, but less exciting.

How has your role developed?

During my placement year at University I spent time volunteering on the SLV.Global Mental Health Placement, and then went on to work as an honorary assistant psychologist.

Upon returning to the UK I wished I could do it all over again. I learned so much in Sri Lanka about different approaches to mental health treatment and how to work with diverse and challenging client groups, that I felt I had a lot more to give, which is why I started applying for assistant psychologist posts as soon as I graduated.

What do you enjoy about working in this sector?

I like knowing that I'm working to help people. I learned in Sri Lanka to really focus on the small changes. Breakthroughs don't happen overnight, but if you focus on small things, like a smile from a service user or if you see an improvement in a specific area like balance or coordination, that's what it’s all about.

If you only focus on the big things chances are you'll miss the times when change is really happening.

What are the challenges?

I currently work with people from all walks of life, all ages and all backgrounds, so although it's incredibly stimulating, my job is not without its difficulties.

On the SLV Global Mental Health Placement I worked with clients who, at times, exhibited challenging behaviour and because of the lack of resources I had to get creative. Thinking outside the box on my placement has helped me to continue work more inventively with service users, which isn't always easy. But what can I say? I like a challenge.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Get as much hands-on experience as you can. I know that people say that all the time, but it really helps.

In addition to my honorary assistant psychologist post I've worked as a peer assisted learning leader - delivering lectures to prospective placement year students. I've also worked as a research assistant helping to plan, run and analyse a research project relating to social attention with individuals with autism and borderline personality disorder.

Despite all this, the role that employers were most interested in was my placement in Sri Lanka with SLV Global. A placement abroad shows that you are able to push yourself, to work outside of your comfort zone and that you're well equipped to work with multicultural client groups. It's one of the best things I've ever done both personally and professionally.

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