If you work as a mental health clinician, keeping up to date with the latest research can improve your practice, for better mental health outcomes for the people you support. However, with so much information out there, it can feel hard to stay on top of things. Elizabeth James is a clinician who supports NHS hospital staff, as well as a mental health researcher. She shares her top tips for staying informed.
It’s not like working in clinical practice is easy, after all. It took a long time to train, and substantial effort to develop skills for practice. And then there’s the complexity of working with people, applying psychological theory and knowledge. To say nothing of navigating service delivery remit and scope, of funding, of working in a complex organisation or setting up independently. Staying up to date with the latest mental health research might therefore come fairly low down the list of priorities. This can be especially difficult when you’re getting up and running after qualifying as a practitioner psychologist in your chosen field of specialism.
The benefits of doing so, however, will bear fruit in time. Bringing current research to bear on clinical practice is an important component of staying up to date and working ethically and responsibly as a clinician.
Fortunately, there are some fairly quick and easy wins to help you keep up to date with the latest research to inform your clinical practice. Here are some suggestions and tips on getting started.
Create Google Scholar Alerts in your areas of interest
Use a database such as Google Scholar and create an alert on a particular search term of interest to you. This could be a demographic group connected to your current clinical practice or your own existing research topic from your training. Whenever any new literature is added to the database which includes your search term, you’ll be pinged. Then you can briefly skim whatever catches your interest in your own time.
Use Research aggregator apps
Research aggregator apps or platforms, such as Researcher, gather research from various sources and put them in one place. Yes, it’s true that thousands of articles are uploaded daily. But it’s also the case that the greater portion of these are simply not relevant or interesting for you. Use Researcher to build a personalised feed, by defining your research topics of interest and then following the output of the journals you specify.
Social media platforms for academics, researchers and researchers are another way to get started with building a research network and finding out who’s doing what. There’s not only Google Scholar but other platforms such as ResearchGate or Academia.edu that allow you to create a profile and follow the output of fellow researchers you find interesting.
Make the most of Twitter
You can turn Twitter (the wild west of social media) to your advantage. Using Twitter to follow researchers and research groups, organisations, institutions, campaigns, charities, universities or similar which align with your own research interests is a great way to generate some passive updates. Added bonus: you can now claim that the aimless Twitter scrolling we all get caught up in is also legitimate continuous professional development.
Podcasts, newsletters and blogs are the way to go
Podcasts, newsletters and blogs are another great way to get started. See if your favourite researchers or academics have set up a podcast or YouTube channel. What about research institutes, think tanks, policymakers or funders who might also have an email newsletter?
One of my research interests is wellbeing. I find the regular Works for Wellbeing newsletter vital for informing my understanding of the application of research to practice. All options to consider to keep up with the research news and cutting edge.
If you are a psychologist, it’s worth noting that the British Psychological Society does have a very popular research digest. It features three new research articles from across all the disciplines and fields of psychology crunched for you every week with a summary of the key findings and some critique.
Build personal connections and your professional network
If you have previously trained in a setting where you had a research supervisor and were fortunate enough to have a good working relationship with them, staying in touch with them could help you stay up to date with research. They could point you in the direction of a research network or group to join, postgraduate students to supervise in your area or other research opportunities.
Attend in-person events
Attending conferences (when you have time!), participating in research seminars, symposia, running a workshop on your topics of interest, being a guest on a podcast or applying to deliver at a conference are all ways to promote and develop yourself as a researcher while working clinically. Check out the Mental Health Research Matters webinars, too.
Become a researcher yourself
And finally, if you do get the opportunity, you might consider undertaking clinical research while in practice – perhaps as part of service evaluation or building a partnership between your service and the local university.
As you can see, there are lots of different options for keeping up to date with the latest mental health research. The important part is to find the ways that work best for you. Keeping up to date with the latest research helps inform your practice, making sure you are offering the best-possible support to your clients.