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Psychological Professions Week 2022

Date: 14 November 2022

Psychological Professions Week 2022 14-18 November 2022.  Logo of cartoon people huddling in a circle.

Psychological Professions Week 2022 is taking place this week (14-18 November). We’re marking the occasion by celebrating our wide range of psychological professionals at SCFT. This includes roles working in community neuro rehab, diabetes, reflective practice and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT).

To mark the week, we’ve put the spotlight on five professionals from IAPT: the Time to Talk and Time to Talk Health services. Find out below about their journey into the field, and what they love about their roles.  

Claire Francis - Counsellor, Time To Talk Health

Photo of Claire Francis

“I was working in an administration role when my manager asked me what job I would like to do if I wasn’t in my current role. I said I’d be a counsellor, as it was something I’d always wanted to do and had thought about doing since I had received counselling myself for postnatal depression after having my daughter 28 years ago. I was referred by my GP to my counsellor and I really took to it.  I remember sitting in the first session thinking, “this is what I’d like to do one day!”. I’ve always been a good listener and someone’s friend to turn to. I didn’t think it would ever be something I could do, though – I needed to work and training felt like something I couldn’t afford to do. 

When I was made redundant, I thought again about it, and realised I didn’t want to go back into the corporate world and that I wanted to follow my dreams and train in counselling. It was hard work – I took a foundation course at Kingston University and I studied a Level 3 NVQ in Counselling at night school, followed by a Level 4 Diploma for two years.  After qualifying I didn’t want to study anymore and needed a rest, so I decided to get some practical experience.

I was lucky enough to work for an employer that allowed five volunteering days a year. This allowed me to use some of my volunteer hours at a cancer charity.  I provided face-to-face and video counselling for anyone who had come into contact with cancer including terminal patients and families who had lost loved ones.

I passed my accreditation in counselling during the Covid pandemic. It took me a while to feel ready to work in the profession full time, and in summer 2022 I took a leap of faith and began working as a counsellor at Time to Talk Health.

I love working as a counsellor because you get to continuously learn and develop your practice, whilst helping people at the same time. I am constantly learning about different types of therapy and learning different ways to support my clients. You just can’t get bored!

If other people are in the same position as me – wanting to change career but not sure they can, I would say, go for it! If you are committed and it’s something you will love doing, you’ll find a way. It’s important to be prepared – when you’re working full time and you’re studying, as it’s full on and it is commitment. It’s worth it – don’t give up!”

Laura Walton, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, Time to Talk

Photo of Laura Walton

“I qualified as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner this year but I’ve had an unusual journey to this career. I studied drama as I wanted to initially become a playwright. I trained as a personal trainer after my studies as I wanted to help people, but the fitness industry can be quite brutal and money oriented. I wanted to help my clients become their best selves and go on to do that independently of me but personal trainers are supposed to keep clients, not try and let them go!

I accessed my local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service as a patient and after receiving treatment, I realised that being a therapist was actually what I wanted to do with my career. I asked my therapist how I could be one. I was worried because I didn’t have a psychology degree or any specific mental health experience.

I was told obtaining some relevant work experience is key to training to become a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP), so during lockdown I looked for an entry level mental health role. I became an occupational therapist assistant at a prison service. The role was sat within their mental health team there and I worked with many prisoners with a range of mental health problems. It was a great experience as I worked with patients directly to help improve their mental health.

I then applied to train with Time to Talk as the team seemed nice and caring and I’ve just completed my trainee year.

I think my background has contributed to my career. When you’re a Personal Trainer, it’s your job to keep people motivated and support them to achieve their goals. That’s a huge part of what I do as a therapist. My acting skills from drama school helps, too, it has taught me how to be a host and put people at ease, without those skills, I would find that more difficult.

When I started working in mental health it felt like something clicked – I now feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. I feel privileged to be able to help people and that they let me in and feel safe to be vulnerable with me. That keeps me going when things are busy and tough.

When I first began to retrain in mental health I doubted myself. A lot of other trainees had psychological backgrounds but everyone was so supportive and we all go through the same things which means you bond with your team a lot. I’ve found that everyone checks in on you and people really do care about one another. If you have a passion for helping people, that’s what counts!

Stella, CBT Therapist, Time to Talk Health


“I’ve been working as a CBT Therapist with Time to Talk Health for four years. 

My professional career began after earning a degree in Criminology and Forensic Studies at Portsmouth University.  I then went on to qualify and work as a Probation Officer for seven years. I really enjoyed the more therapeutic aspects of the probation role; being able to support vulnerable people who may have never talked about their mental health before. However, I wanted to develop the skills to do this professionally and therefore decided to retrain as a psychotherapist.

My background has given me the insight to appreciate the importance of working with a person holistically, to enable them to make the changes they need to improve their lives and the lives of the people around them. It has also taught me that health, mental or physical is fundamental to a fruitful existence.

After qualifying as a Cognitive Behavioural therapist, I chose to specialise in working with clients with physical health conditions and I find the work fascinating and challenging in equal measures.

One of the benefits of this service, and why I enjoy the work, is that with every client I meet, I am creating a bespoke package of therapy just for them. I can think about each person and have the freedom to be very creative with them, rather than taking a blanket approach. Each person feels listened to and valued. This allows the service to have a positive impact upon their lives.  We all have a real passion for what we do and I think this shows in our results. Our recovery rates are excellent and that can only be good for the people we are here to help. 

I feel very privileged to do the work that I do.  I love the variety of the work, the opportunity to learn new skills and the chance to work with therapists who hold themselves to very high standards.

Working within the world of long-term conditions is very exciting to me. There is huge scope for improving our understanding of what contributes to these health problems and the role that mental health plays in this.  I feel like this is an area that will continue to evolve indefinitely and allow treatment options to improve and become even more impactful. 

I would absolutely advocate the role that I do.  You have the opportunity to meet wonderful people and help them to go on and have more fulfilled futures.  You are always learning and there is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing someone finish therapy feeling happier and most of all, better equipped to deal with life’s challenges.” 

Tembi Njini, Senior Psychological Therapist in Primary Care, Time To Talk

I started my career as a Registered Mental Nurse in an acute psychiatric ward then worked for a year in a crisis house where people experiencing mental health problems would present for support. I then worked as a Community Psychiatric Nurse in an Early Interventions in Psychosis team. I really enjoyed this role as it was so rewarding to support young people with psychosis through secondary school and university. During this time I trained as a Nurse Prescriber.

I then decided to train as a complex needs CBT therapist. My current role is as a Senior Psychological Therapist and I have been doing it for the past 16 months.  I provide assessment and treatment to a range of patients including those experiencing common mental health problems and refugees and asylum seekers experiencing complex PTSD. I have previously worked as a CBT therapist in an IAPT service and as a complex needs CBT therapist in secondary care.

The best thing about my role now is being able to support service users as well as my team achieve their ambitions. I love working together with patients and staff to rise to the challenges we are all facing collaboratively as a partnership, not individually. I am also so proud to work for and be part of a service that is one of the leading IAPT services in England. I encourage my team to continue delivering excellence!

I would advise anyone wanting to join the profession to hurry up and do it as they would not regret it. It’s the most rewarding job with so much support, I love it!

Filipe Vieira, CBT Therapist, Time to Talk Health

 When I was growing up I saw my grandmother supporting many people in her role as a nurse. Since then, I have worked and studied so I could get the experience to support others too. Initially, I trained as a Psychologist in Portugal and worked in clinical and community settings.

My role is as a CBT therapist in Time to Talk Health, a specialised IAPT service for long-term conditions like diabetes, IBS and Long Covid. I have been doing this role since 2017. After my training in Psychology in Portugal I moved to England to pursue a career in the NHS and worked as an assistant psychologist and Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner.

Being from a different country and having different training experiences really helped me to be open to people’s diverse experiences of mental and physical health.

The best thing about working in a long-term conditions service is being able to offer the opportunity to our patients to be heard and understood in a way that other services might not be able to do. It’s amazing to see patients manage their physical and mental health in a way that improves the quality of their lives.

If you are thinking about joining psychological profession, I would say, do it today!

Other psychological professionals at SCFT

We have also spoken to professionals from other teams around the Trust whose jobs are crucial in ensuring psychological practice is embedded at SCFT.

Find out below about their journey into the field, and what they love about their roles.

Juliet, Lead Psychotherapist, Diabetes Care For You

I initially graduated with a degree in Media and Communication and worked in the film and television industry for fifteen years. Alongside that I was a volunteer with a children’s charity phone line and later when I had my family I made the decision I wanted to retrain as a psychological professional. I returned to University and graduated with a masters in Psychotherapy and Counselling.

In my twenties I had my own experience of therapy. Later, through my counselling volunteering with young people and having my own family, I realised I wanted to retrain in this area as I was able to reflect on how positive and helpful therapy had been for me personally.

Before my current role and moving to Sussex I lived in London and worked in a busy London hospital for ten years with kidney patients including patients having kidney transplants and patients on the hospital wards at the end of life. Prior to that I worked in both a male and female prison with forensic patients with complex emotional needs and before that with patients in several other NHS psychological services. Now I am Lead Psychotherapist for a small team working with patients with diabetes at SCFT and have been in post for four months.

I have worked in many different services in the NHS and am passionate about working with patients that alongside the hurly burly of life are also coping with managing a long term health condition. It is immensely rewarding and enriching work as I am always learning from my patients.

Marianne, Reflective Practice and Trauma Informed Care Lead, SCFT

I started my career in the field of overseas development, working in health promotion. My interest in psychology resulted from working with people with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe and Mozambique and witnessing high levels of stigma and discrimination and a lack of available psychological support. This led me to train in HIV counselling and was the start of the shift towards a career in psychology.

After undertaking a psychology conversion degree, I eventually trained as a Counselling Psychologist. My interest in the psychological side of so-called physical health conditions continued and the integration of physical and mental health was a key focus throughout my doctoral training. After qualifying, I joined SCFT’s new physical health oriented IAPT service, Time to Talk Health, and then went on to work as the Psychology Team Lead within the Primary Care Networks community teams, where I remained passionate about promoting psychological thinking across our work in our multidisciplinary community teams.

In 2021 I was seconded into the role of Reflective Practice Lead, a new position in the Trust within its newly created Connect (staff support) service, to deliver reflective practice sessions to teams across SCFT. My post was made substantive at the beginning of 2022 and I continue to deliver the reflective practice programme, providing SCFT staff with opportunities to reflect on the complex and emotionally charged work that they do, as well as contributing to wider Trust thinking about staff wellbeing and the integration of mental and physical healthcare.

In addition, in February 2022, I was seconded to the Integrated Care Board, Sussex Health and Care Partnership, to work as Trauma Informed Care Clinical Lead for SCFT. My role is to promote trauma informed approaches throughout SCFT and involves delivering training and providing trauma informed consultation across the Trust. This role complements my reflective practice work, where trauma informed approaches were already being explored and found to be useful in understanding and managing complexity in patient care.

The best thing about my roles is that I get to combine working directly with staff with contributing to wider thinking about how we support staff and promote psychologically and trauma informed healthcare. I get to work in an area I feel passionate about and, in collaboration with fabulous colleagues, we get to influence positive change.

I love working in the psychological professions and am very glad I made the career change, even though it was hard starting over again as a student and new starter. My advice to anyone thinking about joining the professions would be to investigate the range of opportunities (they are broader than you might think) and to consider a psychological career within the so-called physical health services. 

Psychological Professions Network

The week is run by the Psychological Professions Network (PPN), which is holding its 3rd annual conference during the week, with thought-provoking sessions and panel discussions.

The PPN Conference is free and virtual, and open to everyone, whether you are a psychological professional, person with lived experience, member of the public, policy maker or just interested in the psychological professions.