I’d wondered about further study after my B.A. in Psychology – or else I wouldn’t have been at a postgrad open day. I was looking at a noticeboard and I saw an advert for a DPhil studentship at Oxford, studying anxiety disorders in adults. It was funded (the main attraction at that point) and although I hadn’t really been that drawn to clinical psychology – I was more interested in straight developmental psychology then – it sounded interesting. I applied, and that was that. I ended up loving it, and a career as a clinical psychologist and academic followed.
“In the past few decades we have really increased our understanding of common mental health problems and are starting to be able to treat them. But at the moment, we psychologists only manage to reach a tiny minority with our skills. We really have to try to help more people.”
I think that Improving Access to Psychological Therapies is a step in the right direction but probably still only scratches the surface.
The first thing I’d say about research is that it’s varied. I have really valued the Management and Leadership course that I attended at Ashridge Business School, which was designed specifically to meet the needs of health researchers. You also end up having to develop skills in accountancy, PR, marketing, design, and communication skills. However, there have been less obvious benefits to a research life too. It has also been immensely useful to be part of the NIHR machine (the NIHR portfolio, CRNs, the Research Design Services), which ensures (mostly…) the smooth running of research projects. As a researcher I’m independent – but not alone.
I’m immensely grateful for the fellowships I’ve had – indeed, I think my MRC Clinician Scientist fellowship is probably the proudest moment of my professional life – but they don’t fit well with all types of research. For my current project, I needed a large multi-disciplinary team, and fellowships don’t really facilitate that, so I applied for and was lucky to receive a large project grant from the Kavli Foundation.