Through a series of smaller choices and happenstance, I ended up working in mental health. It was not a lifelong dream or a field that I had particularly set my sights on. For this reason, I often feel like it chose me rather than me choosing it. However I got here, I am here to stay.
I was working as a Social Worker in a mental health team when I first started to learn about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I realised what a good fit it was for me and my way of doing things. I had successfully applied for a post as a Trainee High-Intensity Therapist in a new Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service when my first CBT supervisor said tersely ‘There is no reason why you can’t write something up’. For the first time, I contemplated research and academia. I started to wonder what uncertainties and fears might be getting in the way. Although my training had not prepped me for research, I was probably as able as anyone else to write a case study. Why not?
A few years went by, with some pauses for travel and children. I held on to the idea that I could do something more academic or research-based, but it still seemed like a big leap and I did not know what the transition would even look like. I would not be able to pay for research training. I had no clue where to start looking at PhDs, or whether I would be a viable candidate. I did not even know who to ask or what to look for. So for quite a long time, it was just a hope that one day, I would somehow work out what to do and take the leap.
I started to get involved in some service development work around CBT groups. In CBT, there is a well-established concept of Intolerance of Uncertainty in anxiety disorders. I proposed a group intervention specifically targeting this concept. Coincidentally, a psychologist in my service, Dr Ashley Tiplady, had written her thesis on it — and so we started working together. Mentorship from Professor Mark Freeston has been invaluable and provided steer and expertise.
I was successful in my application for an NIHR ICA Clinical Academic Internship which was instrumental in me taking the first step into research and starting to define myself as a Clinical Academic. My specialism in uncertainty has been a huge asset and has helped me lean into unknown situations, and to have faith in myself that I am probably resourceful enough to find a path forward. I still feel like I am at the beginning of my journey in many ways. I am currently an ARC NENC Practice Fellow and working on a further evaluation of the Making Friends with Uncertainty Group intervention. This is part-time alongside my clinical role.
I do not know exactly what the next step is for me, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?