It is a pleasure to give talks and have discussions with trainee clinical psychologists about lived experience of psychological distress in the clinical psychology profession.
What is clear from the various clinical psychology courses that I visit, and from trainees with lived experience through in2gr8, is a real wish for dedicated safe spaces and time to be able to sit with various explorations including questions like:
What happens to the individual's relationship to distress at different levels of inhabiting the professional system: with course peers, with course staff, with training policy makers, in mental health service placement systems, with regulators and professional bodies?
What are the enablers and barriers to thinking feeling and discussing lived experience when a trainee?
What are the relationships and real differences between competency, capacity, lived experience and vulnerability?
There seems to be a need to reconcile fantastical and damaging ideals of 'perfect', with being a thinking, feeling, perfectly fallible human being.
What is being set up and maintain by whom when it comes to this projection of the ideal? Yes something about performing and moving through such competitive processes to reach training, but that still doesn't seem to get at it enough alone.
What are the personal qualities needed to be able to provide help to another? Are they fully reconciled with the core competencies that are measured?
How can idealism be dismantled, being only a painful and unreal spectre threatening the ability to flourish and connect?
What leaders can we build in the profession, when there have been tacit understandings, still preeminent and spoken of, that vulnerability may be best left at the door to the profession? Is this related to idealistic stances?
Conversations are early and beginning and yes, staff wellbeing is a 'hot topic', but I'm not sure yet that the understanding of humanity and psychological distress in all its forms in our professional workforce is being discussed deeply enough, nor are it's implications for challenging systems as they stand, quite understood.
The wish I'm hearing is to be able to engage genuinely, deeply and authentically with these issues. Its as if I'm hearing a plea from those within to be allowed to unshakle. It's a shame permission feels like it needs to be asked, and from whom implicitly?
In my personal experience, systems can sometimes be too slow to change, or can change quickly but thoughlessly. With this sense of repression starting to lift, I hope that those who lead in our professional systems can listen, see the need, find their ground, and open doors to what feels like an increasingly critical need to engage with genuineness. There is much here that will increase the capacity and humanity of the workforce. I would say it is ignored at our peril.
Dr Natalie Kemp