On Monday I helped Dr Langman draft questions for a survey designed for clients who are about to finish having therapy sessions. I learned more about what makes good questions for a questionnaire; they shouldn’t be too personal and should aim to cover every possible response from respondents in order to be accurate. It’s important to analyse people’s experiences with therapy in order for the service to be improved and to know what helps people and what doesn’t.
I also spoke to a client after they had completed a session and they told me what aspects of therapy they find helpful and how it influences their day-to-day life in a positive way. He told me that it enables him to see things from a different perspective, especially since advice from friends and family may sometimes be biased. It’s also a good way to unload worries and problems which in turn reduces stress by breaking down the issue so it seems more manageable.
Through talking with Dr Langman I learned the differences between what it’s like working in the NHS vs being self-employed and working privately. Working in the NHS is busier and more stressful whereas private work gives the psychologist more control around their schedule, seeing clients and what type and length of services they can offer. Dr Langman offers a diverse range of services from business consultation, to clinical supervision for teams, to couple's therapy.
I also was taught about the difference between a diagnosis and a formulation. It seems to me that formulations are more helpful as it allows clients to feel more flexible and optimistic about improving, whereas diagnoses have the potential to be more damaging as it labels the person as having a certain disorder or condition. A formulation is done using the 5 P’s. Presenting symptoms, predisposing symptoms, precipitating factors, perpetuating factors and protective factors.
On Tuesday I spoke to a client about their opinion on the usefulness of therapy. They said that although it is sometimes hard to attend due to feeling vulnerable, seeing a psychologist has been helpful. We also spoke about male stereotypes, as men in general are expected to hold their feelings in and are less likely to get help. We agreed that men and people in general should be more open with each other and also that having a psychologist on site would be useful for many businesses and schools. Dr Langman talked about her recent work on a construction site, teaching the builders mindfulness techniques.
I was also shown testing kits for children on Tuesday. They are used to assess developmental delays and any disorders that the child might have. There were cubes in the kit which children use to make various patterns. Another part of the test is being shown pictures and having to state what they are. It is important to observe the child’s reaction to participating in these tests. For example, it is worth seeing if they get frustrated or not if they struggle with the task, and how readily they ask for help if they need it.
I also was shown memory tests for adults which can screen for dementia and Alzheimer's. The test asked basic questions about time, location and facts that people without memory problems would be able to answer easily. There was a list of words on this test that the patients would have to recall a few minutes after being told what the words were.
After this, I was shown questionnaires that teachers are given to fill out regarding a student’s behaviour in a classroom setting. Another thing I was shown was an evaluation that parents were able to fill out about their relationship with their chid/children. I also learnt that before a child is assessed, their parent(s)/guardian(s) is asked about their child’s history and information. This helps the psychologist get to know the child better as they now know their background.
On Wednesday I spoke to a client who attends Plymouth University. We spoke about managing stress and she told me that therapy gives people an opportunity to feel free of judgement and helps individuals feel more normal. She said that she has recommended therapy to many of her friends due to how useful it is.
Next I read the BPS publication, “The Psychologist” and looked at articles on topics such as the placebo effect, nature vs nurture and five ways to get better at a new language. I learned a lot by reading these articles and found them very interesting.
After this I looked at the Adolescent Coping Scale which looks at whether coping strategies that teens use are active or passive, and this enables them to be able to cope with stress and problems in a more effective way.
Next I read through the stress reduction workbook as well as a workbook aimed at teens who self-injure. These books help teens form healthier habits and beliefs, and also how to improve their health, fitness and wellbeing.
I also learned about abstinence vs harm reduction as ways of stopping a harmful habit or addiction, such as self-injury or alcoholism. Abstinence refers to stopping the behaviour completely whereas harm reduction focuses on being safer and attempting to form healthier and safer habits and coping strategies.
On Thursday I spoke to a client after a session. She said that therapy can be something that some people feel they need to revisit throughout their lives. We spoke together about the Milgram experiment and obedience to authority despite people knowing what they are doing is wrong. We also spoke briefly about diminished responsibility and social loafing. The client said that she thinks psychologists can provide support if family and friends are unable to or if they are unable to provide the right kind of support. We all agreed that mental health professionals are likely to be needed even more in the future.
Next I read a “The Psychologist” article about weather affecting mood. I discovered that it’s hard to investigate as many factors can affect our mood. Society in general spends less time outside which makes it harder to find a cause and effect relationship between the weather and our mood. The article states that it has been found that men in general are more likely to be affected by the weather.
I also read another article about exam stress. GCSE reforms have led to a significant increase in exam stress among students. This stress can affect sleep as well as triggering depression, anxiety and eating disorders. This can lead to avoidance towards the school environment. The article made me realise that schools need to provide more psychological support to those who need it.
Lastly I spoke to a client who had previously experienced a stroke. He said that therapy had definitely had an effect on him and helped him to recover. He said that therapy had been very useful to him and was encouraging me with my choice to continue to pursue my studies in psychology.