Service User and Carer Involvement
Service users and carers are involved in every aspect of the clinical psychology programme. We have links with service users and carers in the four mental health trusts associated with the programme. Service user and carer colleagues meet regularly with staff and trainees.
The aim of service user and carer involvement is to enhance the learning and practice of clinical psychology trainees.
Service users and carers involved with the programme draw on their knowledge and insight gained from experiences such as:
- Living with physical, neurological or psychological difficulties
- Caring for someone who lives with these difficulties
- Using services relevant to the working lives of clinical psychologists.
The presence of service users and carers in the programme, and hearing from them, highlights for trainees the importance of placing the goals, needs and strengths of the service user and their families at the centre of all they do.
The Salomons course has a long history of involvement going back to 2006, has pioneered a number of innovative forms of involvement and is recognised as a national leader in this regard. Central to this is the SAGE group, Salomons Advisory Group of Experts by Experience. This small and dedicated group of service users and carers meets every two months and has steered the development of involvement across the programme. Members are also available at other times for trainees to consult about their work.
"It’s really helpful to hear about experiences and think about the importance of an ethical person-centred, compassionate approach."
"It reminds me about the reality for the people we work with and helps broaden perspective. Brings teaching to life"
"Service user involvement helps the trainees in making that journey from theory to practice."
"A guiding principle at Salomons is holding in mind the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’."
Types of involvement in the programme
Each year SAGE is involved in designing the selection process. Service users and carers also form part of interview panels.
In addition to involvement in nearly every teaching unit, there is a dedicated unit entitled ‘Service User and Carer Perspectives”. Guest lecturers who are active in the mental health service user and carer movement introduce trainees to the current issues and debates.
One issue often discussed in teaching, and which SAGE has identified as particularly important, is the importance of a hopeful approach to practice which is mindful of people’s strength and potential in the midst of mental health difficulties, and holds hope even where people may be feeling hopeless.
Many placements involve work with local service user and carer groups. Additionally, all trainees have access to the ‘Service User and Carer Placement Advising Scheme’. Every first year trainee is paired with a service user or carer in the NHS Trust where they are on placement, whom they meet on a regular basis. We are proud to have pioneered this scheme, the aim of which is to enable trainees to meet a service user or carer outside of a clinical role and setting, in order to learn from his or her experience both of mental health challenges and of using local services. This scheme is hugely popular with trainees and many find that it is an opportunity for profound and transformational learning that they draw on throughout their subsequent career.
"For me, the scheme was an invaluable space which allowed me to develop a deep respect for the incredible challenges faced by those who care for loved ones experiencing mental health difficulties, and for the (often unacknowledged) incredible strength and resilience that can emerge within this context."
"I have taken away a lasting resolve to hold carers in mind when working therapeutically with their loved ones."
The National Institute for Health Research has a focus on patient public involvement in research. We seek to reflect this in the encouragement and opportunities we offer to trainees to consult with service users and carers regarding their research. There is formal time allocated in the teaching programme for trainees to discuss their research proposals with SAGE member, and service users and carers are also encouraged to suggest possible topics that they feel are important.
The SAGE group hold regular seminars open to staff and/or trainees. The aim of these is to enable the service user and carer voice in the academy and to discuss and debate issues of common concern.
A number of trainees have undertaken research relating to clinical psychologists’ own experiences of mental distress and how this relates to being a trainee and practitioner. Recent SAGE seminars have addressed ‘the place of personal experience in clinical psychology training’ and this is an area of ongoing interest, discussion and research amongst staff and trainees. Two former Salomons trainees, now qualified, have recently formed a national UK network for clinical psychologists with lived experience of psychological distress, IntegrateMH.
This is another aspect of involvement that we are proud to have pioneered at Salomons. In 2017 service users and carers became joint examiners of trainee work for the first time. As part of a pilot, they listened to recordings of trainees’ therapy work and took part in discussions of them known as clinical vivas, working together with staff and regional clinical psychologists. The pilot was successful and from 2018 service users will be formally involved as examiners on the programme, giving summative feedback on trainees clinical practice in collaboration with staff.
Co-ordinator of Service User and Carer Involvement Laura Lea sits on the Academic Programme Committee which makes decisions relating to the teaching programme, and also on the Programme Committee, our highest level committee which makes decisions regarding programme development. Laura is also the service user and carer representative on the Board of Examiners.
We are one of the few programmes to have a dedicated Co-ordinator of Service User and Carer Involvement, Laura Lea, who leads and manages all aspects of involvement as well as being available for consultation to trainees, staff, service user colleagues, and those involved in planning and delivering teaching. One of the Programme Directors, Anne Cooke, holds overall responsibility for this work on behalf of the programme management team.