Future You podcast transcript

Working with young people: child and adolescent psychology and neuroscience | with Anna Freud

February, 2024

In this episode we take a look at an online distance learning program that brings the latest neuroscience findings of trauma and adversity to the forefront - shining a light on what working with children and young people who have experienced adversity can look like across the globe


In order of first appearance:

  • Emily Slade - podcast producer and host, Prospects
  • Jodie Rawlings - programme director, CAPNiP
  • Vanessa Puetz - programme director, CAPNiP and associate professor at UCL


Emily Slade: Hello and welcome to Future You, the podcast brought to you by graduate careers experts Prospects. I’m your host, Emily Slade and in this episode we take a look at an online distance learning program that brings the latest neuroscience findings of trauma and adversity to the forefront - shining a light on what working with children and young people who have experienced adversity can look like across the globe.

Dr Jodie Rawlings: Hello, my name is Jodie Rawlings. I'm the clinical co director for the CAPNiP program. I'm a clinical psychologist by training and still work part time within the NHS for half my week and spend the rest of the time leading on the CAPNiP program alongside Vanessa, to try and embed clinical practice within the work that we do.

Dr Vanessa Puetz: And hello, so yes, I'm Vanessa Puetz. I'm an associate professor here at University College London. And this is my 11th year at UCL, I started out as a researcher, and now I'm running this program together with Jodie as the academic lead to co lead. So I look after the neuroscientific content. And I also co run another research Masters at the center. We're here today to share a little bit about our exciting and still fairly new and fresh program, the Postgraduate Diploma in child and adolescent psychology and neuroscience in practice, to share a little bit about how the course is structured, what the content is, the decisions we've made in designing the course and how it's been in our first year of implementation.

Emily Slade: Perfect. So would you like to begin by just sort of summing up the program.

Dr Jodie Rawlings: So the postgraduate diploma in child and adolescent psychology and neuroscience in practice, is a distance learning program. So it's completed entirely online, everything is remote. But importantly, when we were designing it, we were thinking about a cohort based online learning experience, we've all learned a lot about what online learning can look like as a result of the pandemic. And what can be great about that, and what can be challenging about that. And we wanted to create something that held on to all the benefits of distance learning around flexibility, accessibility, the kind of capacity to reach a so much of a broader audience than we can do when we're in person. And at the same time, hold on to some of those great bits about being face to face and connected within a learning environment. So connecting our cohort to one another with lots of networking opportunities. The course has five fascinating modules at the moment. And to complete the course, people need to finish four of those modules. And some people can do that full time within the space of one year or part time over two years. Our modules cover a range of topics, a really exciting range of topics, but all really focused on what the most up to date, expertise on psychology and neuroscience with respect to children, adolescents is and we have a particular interest and expertise within the program itself around children who've experienced trauma and adversity, and how that might impact their development, their well being their neurology, their neuroscience and their behavior, and what settings and services working with children, young people might be able to do to support them. And that's a real focus within the program itself.

Emily Slade: Yeah, amazing. Why has it been developed in this way? Like, is there something special about it, that's, that's cutting edge or you're using? You said, you're using the most up to date information. So why has this program specifically been developed?

Dr Vanessa Puetz: So a couple of years ago, I mentioned that I have a research background, I used to work on a longitudinal study, here at UCL that was looking at how young people who've experienced really severe adversity and trauma, how you know, their brains process, you know, memory differently, and how they process social rejection slightly differently. And so we had this major research study and really incredible findings. But you know, after several years, it kind of dawned to me that the general public has not really heard much about what we've been doing. And so I said, now to develop an online course, on the topic of childhood maltreatment, childhood adversity, childhood trauma, on future learn, and FutureLearn is an online learning platform. And we put the course on there really geared at the general public trying to translate the research findings that we had received. And we had, you know, investigated in the lab, trying to translate these into, you know, or for the general public. And the resonance for this course, was truly overwhelming. This, I think, close to 40,000 people who've done this course by now. And the feedback was really Yeah, we see children who have experienced trauma everyday now, professional practices, such as teachers, social workers, but we often don't feel particularly well equipped to understand really what's going on and how to best support these young people and their families. And so, the scores that we developed and that we put out there was really limited to our own research findings. And it was really, you know, a short, short six week deep dive into some of the things that we thought were important. But it was really clear over the time, that we did this that yeah, there was great need for professionals working with young people frontline, such as social workers, you know, mental health nurses know people in all kinds of different professions who are in contact with young people, that there's a need to understand more about trauma informed practice, and about the consequences of childhood trauma and adversity. And so we developed this course, the postgraduate diploma cabinet, and, you know, given the the nature of, of the work that a lot of these professionals are in, and you know, how busy it is, it is, it was kind of a no brainer that this should be online to accommodate the flexibility. And, you know, the responsibilities that learners have outside of studying with us.

Emily Slade: Yeah, absolutely. So, when you talk about those working closely with young people, social workers, teachers, is that who this course is aimed at? Or is it anyone that has an interest in the subject? Do you need any undergraduate qualifications to get to this point, or could anyone hop on and undertake it for the year for their own benefit,

Dr Jodie Rawlings: We've got a real range of people who've come to join us on the course, which is exactly what we had hoped for. So we've been delighted to see it in this first year. And beginning to get a sense of that for our second cohort coming through for starting in September 24. What we asked for in terms of our entry requirements is an undergraduate degree with an understanding that some people won't have had the same educational experiences, or may have been at different points in their journey when they were undertaking those educational experiences. So we have had experiences of being more flexible around that where it's needed to be, or it has been appropriate to be particularly where people have got really long standing experience with children and young people that they can use to build some of these ideas, theories and practices on top of, we have people from a real range of backgrounds. So lots of our students come from an educational background, teaching teaching assistants, and school support staff, early years staff working with infants, and young children. In education and care settings, we've got a couple of people who are from kind of further into higher education backgrounds, we really applicable I think, to the work of social care professionals, and people working within social justice roles, social care, youth justice, youth offending. And then we have people who are applying it to their own journeys and moving forward with it for new career opportunities, who are maybe newer to the world of psychology, or working with children and young people, but really want a thorough grounding in what these principles might be and how they're applicable to a wide range of kind of career opportunities and forms of specialism.

Emily Slade: Absolutely, so. So if you don't have an undergraduate degree you shouldn't be put off is it still worth reaching out and seeing if this could be for you?

Dr Jodie Rawlings: Absolutely. We have a great support team around us, as well as all the support from the university, say from UCL itself, to help us understand what we need from people to be able to be sure that they can meet the academic rigor because it is an academically rigorous course, it's a testing course, it's a challenging course, we cover a lot of ground very quickly. But where we can ensure that those things are possible, we're always willing to do what we can to make sure that this is a course that is accessible to as many people as it can be, because both Vanessa and I and our wider course team, as well have real faith that this is a useful, valuable, applicable piece of training that people can bring into their working lives to the benefit of children and young people, which is at the end of the day, why so many of us are here.

Emily Slade: So once you're on the course, what opportunities does it offer?

Dr Jodie Rawlings: So many opportunities, it's hard to know where to start. So there's opportunities for learning. And we've tried to structure that learning such that there's something for everyone at every point. So we've really scaffolded the learning. And if it's an area that people know a bit about already, then we've got resources, additional readings, additional opportunities to apply it that can stretch that learning forward. If it's an area that's completely new to people, there's introductory readings, introductory podcast to help people kind of get into the headspace and be ready to learn and dive into a subject in depth. There's opportunities to learn from leaders in the field. We've got such an exciting range of academics that we can access through the university itself, but also through wider networks. Vanessa's experience in this field in terms of research, clinically applicable research, and other academics who are working in the area, my experiences in the clinic clinical field. So we're trying to really blend in the voices of people who understand this stuff and use this stuff day by day, whether that's in their research roles or within their clinical roles, as well as we're both really passionate about making sure that the voices of children and young people and adults who wants children and young people are core and central to this course. So learning from experts through their own experience. and their voices be being through the course is an absolute core to it. So I think there's a real opportunity to learn from experts by experience experts by research and academic practice and experts from clinical practice. Also, fundamentally, and I think most importantly, and the thing that certainly brings me most joy within this role is the opportunity to connect with professionals from across the globe, from a range of professional backgrounds, all who are deeply committed to the well being of children and young people and learn together and apply things together and find bits where it feels like it doesn't fit, find bits where you think, brilliant, I can really use this next week. And together, find a way to engage with apply and deeply understand the learning that you're going through from these fantastic lectures that you're having week by week, I will say as well as opportunities to stretch yourself in different ways. We know that some people in our course have been out of academic learning for a little while, and the opportunities that I'm not sure if people see it as such, but the potential opportunities of assignments, and essay writing, to begin to get back into those ways of thinking and learning and sharing your knowledge, we've really worked hard to make sure that the assignment opportunities within this course, are varied and interesting and applicable to daily practice. So there's opportunities to write policy documents, or blog posts around the things that you're learning that you can potentially bring back into workplaces and use within your your own kind of professional lives, as well as being applicable to the assignments for the course and for qualification and around that in terms of opportunities, not just in the course itself. But we've been really thoughtful about having a distance learning format, and the opportunities within the course itself and within the university. And for people to really feel like students and connected into something bigger than just the cabinet program. So people have opportunities to access careers counseling, students support and well being academic writing, input and support through the UCL opportunities. They're all of which is absolutely accessible to people who are learning at a distance do you have moments throughout the year, or across the two years, if you're doing it part time, where your cohort comes together sort of a get together at on campus, as it were? Or is it entirely do it all from home, it's we've tried really hard to make sure that the course itself is completely accessible, enjoyable, you get the full experience at distance. So we build in in terms of opportunities to connect, there are weekly seminars for each module of 90 minutes, where you're connecting together with your peers around the world. Those are scheduled at appropriate times for different time zones, and different working patterns that people are always able to access them, to connect with your colleagues and fellow students and our amazing module leaders who can really help to embed and apply the learning. So those are opportunities to kind of come together and to form this cohort based learning. But we're really clear from the beginning that people are students of the university, they are connected to the Anna Freud center itself. And so if people do find themselves in London, they are very welcome to come along and enjoy the facilities that that offers. The same goes for we've been beginning to think about the graduations of our very first cohort, particularly those people who are full time who will be able to come and join the in person graduation. But we'll also make sure that we have a virtual Distance Learning celebration of their learning to really mark that that's the format that we've been doing it in. And that's the format that we've connected with each other and made these kind of long standing and important learning relationships together.

Emily Slade: Yeah, brilliant. So what is the thing that excites you the most about this program?

Dr Vanessa Puetz: So I think Jodie and I have been thinking about this quite a lot, because I think for the two of us having, you know, made this program really from scratch, I think we were very excited about a lot of aspects. But one of the most exciting one for us is clearly the novelty of the topic. The fact that you know, we make it so explicit that trauma informed practice is so you know, should be key to anyone. So working with young people and their families, the way that we're really bringing the neuroscience, the very latest neuroscience findings about trauma and adversity really to the forefront and make it accessible. And try and make sure that people see the value in this type of research and the evidence evidence base in order to apply it to their professional work, though, that clearly is something both of us are really passionate about understanding childhood adversity and the support that we could give. But I think also the fact that we've just developed it to people who are absolutely pioneering new interventions, who are pioneering new views, new perspectives on childhood adversity and childhood trauma, and that really includes also understanding you know, forms of racism as a form of adversity and trauma that really understands also homophobia as an adverse life event. So it's really we're trying to really get as many different views and perspectives into this, to really make sure that we're really, we're really covering topics that are relevant in the year 2024. And yeah, it has a very global outlook. And that's something that we've worked really quite hard on, you know, talking to professionals, working with communities, for example, in South Africa, and making sure that we're not just talking about a UK context, but really shining a light on what what, what working with young people who have experienced adversity could look like around the globe, you know, also with light to topics such as bereavement or war and conflict, you know, how contemporary the program feels. The other thing I think it's really important to say Jodie has really, really, really made sure that lived experience, so that young people and adults who have lived experience in terms of trauma and adversity are being heard, you know, almost every week or every second week, we have someone talk about what it's actually like, rather than just having academics illuminating it from a research perspective, or from a clinical perspective. And I think this is really what makes us quite strong at the Anna Freud centre, the focus on multiple perspectives. So for example, we're looking at every single fan childhood and different psychopathologies, from a neuroscientific perspective, we look at it from a systemic family perspective, we look at it from a cognitive perspective, psychoanalytic approaches, you know, are really relevant to our teaching. So this is something that a lot of students will not be used to often you attach yourself to an organisation, and you will be kind of goaded into a certain, you know, theoretical framework, whereas we do the exact opposite, we kind of say, you know, all of these things are here, and what is it? You know, what is it in each of these perspectives? What are the key concepts from each of these perspectives that could be useful to your type of work. And, I mean, on the on the flip side of that, it means also that the diversity of our students that we talked about earlier, from coming from different backgrounds, that that also delivers so many perspectives, that we just think that that's truly enriching for the program. I mean, lastly, and I think this is probably something that we're very, very proud of, is that research and clinical practice really go hand in hand on the program. So we have experts who are either working clinically in the in the in the rest, or when they're not on cap, no, but yeah, we're working clinically directly like charity, within people or researchers who have their own research programs. So you really hear it, I think, the right word to say, is from the horse's mouth. So people really walk, walk the talk, and that's really quite unique on our program.

Emily Slade: Oh, that's fantastic. It sounds amazing. Where can people go for more information?

Dr Vanessa Puetz: So we recommend that people first and foremost have a look at the UCL postgraduate website or on the Anna Freud website as well. So our program, you just googled PG dip, postgraduate, diploma, PG dip cabinet, plus UCL or plus on a Friday, and you should find our information pages, which really tells you everything about what this course was going to give you who the course is for Jodie and I, we added a little video about the two of us really explaining a bit more about the different modules. So all of this you can find on the website. And the other alternative is to email us on the program, our administrator is to be found under the email address CAPNip.admin@annafreud.org. So worth mentioning that the tentative deadline for applications is going to be end of June 2024.

Emily Slade: Can you tell us a bit about the accessibility of this course, we've briefly touched on it. But let's just dive a little bit deeper.

Dr Jodie Rawlings: It's so really accessible course it's been core to us in the way that we've designed the program and the way that we think the program is going to be most effective to ensure that it is absolutely accessible on a number of fronts. Part of that is around the global accessibility. So we think about time zones. When we're planning out seminars and peer groups and networking events, we ensure that the rest of the learning is accessible at different time points. So our lectures are uploaded onto the online learning platform for people to watch as the seats them. We also make sure that things can be downloaded as podcasts or transcripts can be downloaded, not just for people's flexibility, but also for accessibility that people can digest this program in a way that fits with their own learning needs. We are able to adjust the program itself according to people's individual access needs, with support from our colleagues and student students support and well being who can help people to understand what their learning needs might be and to let us as a program know about how those can be met. And it's absolutely vital for us ethically in in the practice that we do to make sure that we are working in ways that fit those needs. And in line with those briefs. We also think about the program being accessible to people who are working. As we've talked about our program is designed for people who generally are in some way working, or are in practice with children and young people in a range of different fields in a range of different ways. But as part of that, we recognise that people are likely to be spending at least part of their day in paid employment. So we're making sure again, to make any meetings times of connection at appropriate times for people who might be working in shifts or working nine to five roles in various places across the globe.

Dr Vanessa Puetz: So one thing that Jodie and I are quite excited about is the global reach of the program. In our current cohort, we have students from India, we have students from China, we have students from really all around the world. And the unique perspective that that brings into the program is something that we're really quite excited about, and also really proud. And we feel that this is advancing the study of adversity quite significantly for our students. Just to add to that, as well, I think we've really built that into the way that the pedagogy of the program is structured. So we talked a little bit about how we're taking kind of critical approaches towards race and decolonisation and homophobia or class or all these kind of really important global social powers and factors. And we're using points where we come together as a cohort to really reflect on those to be able to acknowledge areas of difference to be able to talk safely and securely as a cohort about some of these things. Some of the things that are countries or cultures, or working environments, our professional qualifications might mean we see differently and making it a secure learning environment to be able to move towards some of those differences with reflectivity, a sense of mutual respect, and mutual learning and engagement, which I think is a real strength of the program and has been a really beautiful thing to watch as people have gone through it. So yeah, for those who are currently listening, and who would like to know a little bit more, aside from the web pages and the possibility to contact us directly by email. We do also run several information and taster sessions. One is going to be on the fifth of March 2024. From six to seven UK time we will have an information session which is going to be virtual, obviously. And we're going to talk about what the PG dip is like it's an opportunity to get to know us and ask us questions on the 16th of April from 12.30 to 1.30. UK time we will have a bit of a taster session where we're going to talk about how to transform practice. And we're going to examine how high quality neuroscientific research evidence could be leveraged in your professional practice to inform clinical work or any other type of work with children, adolescents and their families. And both of these virtual webinars can be found on our UCL information webpage.

Emily Slade: Perfect. That's all fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today.

Dr Jodie Rawlings: Thank you.

Dr Vanessa Puetz: Thank you, Emily.

Emily Slade: Thanks again to Vanessa and Jodie for their time. If you want to find out more about the Child and Adolescent Psychology and Neuroscience in Practice Postgraduate Diploma you can click the links in the description. Make sure you give us a follow wherever you get your podcasts. If you want to get in touch you can email at podcast@prospects.ac.uk or find us on Instagram and TikTok, all the links are in the description. Thanks very much for listening and we’ll see you next time!

Notes on transcript

This transcript was produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.

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