What initially attracted you to CGL?
The service I’m working in has never had a psychologist before so it seemed like a good opportunity. CGL is very progressive in putting psychologists into drug and alcohol services. I’ve worked with St Mungo’s for a year or so and I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work with the Samaritans and other charities like CALM, so this role fits with my values and the work I’ve done.
What does your role involve?
My role involves being the mental health specialist for the service, alongside the consultant psychiatrist. I assess clients’ mental health needs, diagnose mental health problems and support applications for rehabilitation. I also supervise the counsellors within the service. Now that I have joined the team we can take more counselling trainees and provide more counselling services under my supervision.
Another one of my roles is to provide psychological support for staff within the service. They work with vulnerable people every day and that has an impact on you. I provide a group to support staff and anyone can come to me individually for support as well. This allows staff to clear the air and then go back to work with confidence. It’s really important that we provide emotional support for staff – in order to look after our clients we must look after our staff.
What areas are you most passionate about?
There are lots of things I want to do with mental health - I think that drug and alcohol problems are ultimately self-medication for a mental health problem of some kind.
All drugs are just trying to make you feel a bit higher, or a bit calmer – including prescription drugs. They are all emotional regulators. You’re trying to deal with your feelings, your feelings are caused by your life, and your life is based on what’s happened in the past – so unless you work on that, nothing’s going to change. You need to work on your mental health in order to help the drug or alcohol problem.
I want to look at the service model and framework to see how mental health and drug and alcohol treatment can be better interlinked.
How are you finding the role so far?
So far it’s been really excellent, I’m really enjoying it. It’s a team that’s moving forward, and it’s a really positive time for me to join.
There’s a real family atmosphere at STARS. Everyone’s really rooting for each other. Everyone cares about the clients and everyone knows them all. So if you’re a client coming into that service, someone always knows who you are. And that’s the essential ingredient in helping you change your life. You won’t change your life if you don’t have people who are mentors and will look after you and meet the needs that haven’t been met before, helping you make the changes you need to make.
The peer mentor scheme is also working really well. I see a lot of good there.
I’d like to add value to the culture of the team, and think about the psychological aspects of the wider organisation. Psychological health is part of the whole story and it’s something that should always be catered for as part of the package.
What would you say to someone thinking about joining CGL as a psychologist?
The environment at CGL is quite free – you’re trusted. You’re hired to do a job rather than being told what to do. It doesn’t feel hierarchical or ‘top down’. The culture of CGL is very healthy.