Congratulations to our Clinical Lead and Service Manager, Sue, who was chosen as one of the joint winners for the Inspirational Colleague award in the Pride of DPT awards.
On winning the award, Sue opened up about how it feels to be recognised, why she joined TALKWORKS and what career path she has taken to get to where she is now.
It feels like a genuine recognition that people think I’m doing an OK job. I’m retiring at the end of September so it’s a nice feeling to have the work that I’ve done acknowledged. Everyone works hard so naturally there’s a little bit of ‘why me?’ and not other people within the organisation, especially those in unsung roles.
I’m grateful for the acknowledgment and accolade from my colleagues in TALKWORKS, although I felt a little embarrassed at the awards! I’m lucky that two other people won as well, so it felt more joint rather than one person being picked out.
I started working for TALKWORKS as a Therapist back in 2009 when it first opened as the Depression and Anxiety Service, gradually moving into the role I hold now.
I’ve been the Clinical Lead and Service Manager for TALKWORKS for a number of years, recently sharing this title with Jonny Wilkins who will be taking over the role when I retire later this year.
In regards to where I sit within a team, it’s a hard question to answer as I don’t sit locally within a team, my role is across Devon. We do within TALKWORKS now have a much smaller HQ Team so I sit there along with Jonny, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) Practice Leads, Administrators, Project Manager and our Marketing Lead.
It’s quite varied, which is one of the things that makes the job really interesting. A typical day would involve a number of meetings, either TALKWORKS related, external, or within the Specialist Directorate; as well as developmental projects around improving the service, the governance and performance of TALKWORKS, and the creative aspects our service is involved in. There’s a fair number of meetings that happen.
There’s some line management in my role and I’ve also continued to see patients and do so at least once a week. Although I’ve just stopped taking on any new patients. I decided to keep the patient facing element so I could remain connected and grounded. It’s important to always be reminded why you’re doing the job. The further you move away from actually seeing people who are seeking help, the more disconnected you can feel.
I’m an Occupational Therapist (OT) by profession, qualifying in 1984, and have since worked in mental health and various OT roles, mainly working in the core mental health service.
Around 14-years ago I completed my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) training and became an accredited CBT therapist; working in primary care and psychological therapy services. I also led a Chronic Fatigue Service before Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) was introduced in 2009. Since then I’ve become a CBT Therapist, whilst retaining my OT state registration, and more recently I’ve gone down the leadership route.
I’m motivated by what TALKWORKS offers and by the service doing the best it can for the individual people we see. I think it’s genuinely a really good offer. It’s not the panacea for all things, and it doesn’t address the needs of everyone, but we do a really good job for the people we are able to help.
It’s important that the service holds standards of supervision, governance and high quality performance to allow us to help individual people with our sessions. I’m not just motivated when I’m sat in front of someone but I’m motivated to make the whole service as good as possible.
I guess the reason behind what motivates me is probably what I enjoy the most – seeing us deliver a really good service to thousands of people across Devon. I enjoy the fact we can do that and I feel proud of it.
There’s good leadership so I enjoy working in a service that’s supportive and has a good culture of always wanting to improve what we offer. Even though it’s a challenge in many ways, I enjoy being part of a service that is changing and growing. It offers something to people that can have a genuine lasting effect of their lives. It’s a great thing to be involved in and I feel privileged.
One of our main challenges is time. There’s a lot we could do as a service to develop or change to make the offer from TALKWORKS more inclusive and reach out to more service users, but unfortunately there’s not enough hours in the day.
Along with colleagues in other teams, the gaps between services and people seeking help between those gaps can be challenging. It’s challenging for those seeking help and for individual clinicians who are trying to do the best they can for them. I hope this will improve with the Community Mental Health Framework (CMHF).
Since the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) started in Devon back in 2009, there has been a significant increase of colleagues requiring training and improving the number of people who use the service. We’re held to account by the forever increasing national Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and that can be quite challenging at times. It’s challenging to get the word out and constantly push against the stigma for people seeking help for their mental health. Although it is a good thing to aspire as it still only represents a fairly small percentage of people struggling with depression and anxiety. However, the pace of change, the upward trajectory and the training of staff to meet that within IAPT is most definitely a challenge.
I don’t have a stand out bit of feedback but I can remember specific people who I’ve worked with and a standout person to me. I worked with a young woman – a trainee medic – who looked like she was about to fall out of her training. She was really struggling and severely depressed but she engaged well with psychological therapy. We worked really hard together and her depression resolved, allowing her to step back into training. She wrote me a very kind and touching piece of feedback that stuck with me, probably because she’s the same age as my children. It was clear that if her mental health was not addressed her whole life trajectory would have taken a very different course.
I’m sure if I thought about it, there are other people as well. Sometimes it can be difficult to know which people you’ve been most effective in the work with, as it can take a little while for people to realise the benefit.
Throughout the lockdowns I built up the habit of going out for a walk most evenings. As I still work predominantly from home it’s important for my wellbeing to go outside and notice the environment around me, even if I’m walking the same route.
I sometimes think we always feel the need to do something worthy after work, but there’s a huge amount to be said for not doing anything. To spend your evening watching a Netflix series rather than always thinking you’ve got to be doing something.
I’ve also got a very supportive family who I enjoy spending time with, especially my delightful granddaughter.
The word I would use to describe my team is outstanding. People really do try their best for the high volume of people we see and are in communication with. Although we may not be seeing the severity of illness other colleagues within our organisation see, it’s the volume of distress our clinicians and administrators are exposed to. Our service isn’t perfect, but the work my colleagues do is outstanding. They’re compassionate and hard working with the people we see and you can’t really ask for more than that.
For my role I would use privilege. It’s difficult to sum up the role in one word because it’s so varied, but I feel privileged to be in this position. I feel very lucky.
Posted by Victoria Walmesley on 21 September, 2022