Case study

Trainee education mental health practitioner — Alexandra Murphy

Alexandra talks about how passion for mental health and helping young people are important in this exciting new role

Where do you work?

I work in a wider mental health support team with children and young people in primary and secondary schools. I have been in my trainee role for seven months and at the moment my week consists of two/three study days a week and two/three days in schools. I have just started taking on a client caseload and really look forward to supporting young people with their mental health.

How did you get your job?

I found my job on the website of my employer when I was going through local charity organisations and checking their vacancy pages. The interview included one leadership panel with my employer and the university present and then a youth panel afterwards. This meant that the university and my employer decided to offer me the role together rather than one and then the other.

What's a typical working day like?

During the days I am not working on university assignments I am prepping cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions for young people and delivering a caseload of 1:1s. The CBT sessions are scaled down brief interventions that last six to eight weeks. The goal is that it is delivered as guided self-help so that the young people can be supported to manage their own mental health. In addition, we also involve parents in the CBT intervention so that they can support the young people as co-therapists.

We also attend many interdisciplinary team meetings with mental health, education and social care staff.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy working with colleagues with the same passion from lots of different backgrounds. Some colleagues have different degree backgrounds or have worked within mental health for many years, however everyone shares the same goal of supporting young people with their mental health.

I also really like working with children and young people and that I am working with them in a meaningful way.

What are the challenges?

The sheer amount of work has surprised me, as we have lots of university assignments and at the same time we are managing our own caseload of clients. However, I thrive under these circumstances, so it is also something I enjoy.

In addition, it can be difficult to know who to ask for support sometimes as you are working with many organisations e.g. your own team and employer, the school, the university and NHS. You will need to be good at asking for help when needed.

How is your degree relevant?

I would say that my education with psychology degree allowed a more specific and practical perspective when entering the EMHP role. Knowing about contexts of childhood and developmental psychology is definitely more suited to this role, and the understanding of the role of education in a child's life as well as of the education system as a whole is very relevant as we exclusively work within schools.

What are your career ambitions?

I am really enjoying my job and can see myself working as an EMHP for many years, developing my own skills as a practitioner. I am also interested in becoming a senior practitioner so that I am able to supervise other EMHPs. I am interested in working in schools and may also move into a more specific mental health role in a school, however I am focusing on my EMHP role for now.

What are your top tips for anyone applying to be an EMHP?

  • Make sure you show passion for the role and for working with children and young people. Passion and motivation go a long way in order to get a trainee post.
  • For the application process, make sure that you show you have transferable skills even if you don’t have that much relevant experience with young people.
  • Be self-reflective. Think about all the experiences you have, both work and voluntary as well as in your degree, and how they can support you in the role.

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