Service User and Carer Involvement

Service users and carers are now involved in every area of the programme: selection, teaching, placements, research and assessment, as well as in the overall management and oversight of the programme. We are one of the few programmes which employs a dedicated co-ordinator of involvement. Laura Lea has held this two day a week post since 2009.

Aims of Involvement

The aims of service user and carer involvement in the Psychology Doctorate programme are:

1. To enhance the learning and future practice of clinical psychology trainees by drawing on knowledge and insight gained from the experience of one or more of the following:

  • Living with physical, neurological or psychological difficulties
  • Caring for someone who lives with these difficulties
  • Using services relevant to clinical psychology theory and practice 

2. To collaborate in ensuring that the work of clinical psychologists graduating from the programme is underpinned by values and practices centred on the goals, needs, and strengths of service users and their families.

Overview and Advisory Group (SAGE)

The Salomons course has a long history of involvement going back to 2006. We have pioneered a number of innovative forms of involvement, are recognised as a national leader in this regard and our work in this area was commended by the BPS at our recent accreditation visit. Central to this work is the SAGE group, Salomons Advisory Group of Experts by Experience. This small and dedicated group of service users and carers, chaired by Laura Lea, 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.

"I have found the service user involvement in teaching really helpful in hearing people’s experiences of different therapy models (such as psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy, CBT). Hearing fantastic stories of recovery also instilled hope."

Alexandra Bone, Trainee

"Salomons has a really strong emphasis on service user and carer involvement which is one of the main things that initially attracted me to the programme. As trainees, we are encouraged to think about co-production in all aspects of our work, and the programme approaches this thoughtfully through having a regular service user and carer advisory group to continually guide and shape our training. As a person with caring experience myself, it has felt nourishing to be part of a programme which actively values lived experience in the workforce and provides opportunities for trainees to think about how we integrate our personal and professional selves."

Kerry Middleton, Trainee

"It’s really helpful to hear about experiences and think about the importance of an ethical person-centred, compassionate approach."

Helen, SAGE member

"SAGE has been a lifeline for me not just for my mental health but to test me intellectually."

Linda, SAGE member

"A guiding principle at Salomons is holding in mind the idea of ‘nothing about us without us'."

Laura Lea, Co-ordinator of Service User and Carer Involvement

The clinical psychology programme team are proud of our pioneering ‘Placement Advising Scheme’ which we run in collaboration with our partner Trusts. For the first year of the programme, each trainee is matched with someone who has used, or cares for someone who has used, mental health services local to their placement. The pair meet monthly to discuss both the advisor’s and the trainee’s experience of, and reflections on services. We have made a short (six minute) film introducing the scheme, available here.

"I really enjoyed the placement advisory scheme. It helped me be more confident with my abilities as a therapist. The advisor I was paired with was supportive when I expressed anxieties around being a trainee, and I always left our meetings feeling a lot more hopeful and motivated. Moreover, I think I can sometimes get caught up in trying to learn the specific CBT competencies and skills. My advisor always reminded me to reflect on things from a client’s perspective and on the therapeutic relationship instead, which I found valuable."

Zafirah Sathar, Trainee

"Having the opportunity to work with the advisor, someone who had accessed services in the trust I was working in gave me an insight into what services can feel like from the other side. Getting to know my advisor, and developing an understanding of what she had been through, achieved and accomplished on her own journey, gave me a real sense of hope for those I was working with. This has been invaluable."

Lizzie Driscoll, Trainee

"I found the placement advisor scheme invaluable. I was moved a lot when my advisor shared their experience of an ending in therapy. They taught me that in addition to parting ways, endings could be an opportunity for growth. They also helped me think through how I could discuss more openly the end of therapy with a client that I found difficulty bringing myself to do. Wherever they are, I am grateful to my advisor for sharing with me that relationships can continue to exist and sometimes grow even when a person is no longer in your life."

Thanos Prountzos, Trainee

Each year SAGE is involved in designing the process for selecting new trainees. Service users and carers also form part of interview panels.

Service users and carers are involved in many aspects of teaching, including 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 issues in  mental health care that are particularly important to service users and carers.   

One issue often discussed in teaching, and which SAGE has identified as particularly important, is the need for clinicians to hold hope for service users.  

Di Morris, a member of SAGE, has worked with programme staff to develop training which enables students to understand the perspective of someone with a learning disability. Di  says:

"I teach about learning disabilities, as I have them myself. I’ve written a play, which the trainees join in with. I give a different perspective and  answer any questions."

Di Morris, SAGE mamber

The SAGE group hold regular lunchtime seminars open to staff and 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.

"It’s been an honour and privilege to contribute to the teaching of trainees by using my personal experience, and to see them learn and grow as clinical psychologists. Their course is richer by us being involved."

Diana, SAGE member

Being able to hear the experiences and insights of service users and carers throughout the course has been such an important part of my training experience. It really helps to ground the work we're doing out on placements in the reality of what it is - both the responsibility and the privilege of it. 

Lizzie Driscoll, Trainee

The National Institute for Health Research has a focus on patient and 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.

"I consulted the SAGE group for advice regarding my Quality Improvement Project and Major Research Project. For both of these, I found the consultation extremely useful, and it has helped me reflect on the accessibility and readability of all of my work. The members of the SAGE group were also very open, thorough and encouraging with their feedback."

Zafirah Sathar, Trainee

"Being able to consult SAGE about my research idea was immensely valuable in developing my ideas and questions for my interview schedule. My participants are mental health professionals but to hear what questions service-users and carers would like staff members to be asked around my research topic was really insightful and helped to shape my interview schedule."

Alexandra Bone, Trainee

A number of trainees have undertaken research relating to clinical psychologists’ own experiences of mental distress. The place of personal experience in clinical psychology training and practice 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, Int2grateMH.

This is an aspect of involvement that we are proud to have pioneered at Salomons. Since 2017 service users and carers have been joint examiners of some trainee work. Working together with programme staff and regional clinical psychologists, they listen to recordings of trainees’ therapy work and take part in clinical vivas, where the trainee is invited to discuss their work.

"We train and support service users to be involved in assessment. It is a way to ensure the trainees think about the things that matter to service users. It is really important that the trainees are reminded that it is the service user they are working with that matters the most."

Laura Lea

"I really valued the ‘human’ approach that the service-user brought to my viva panel, picking up on those elements that I feel are core to any therapeutic interaction, such as warmth, empathy, openness and authenticity."

Alexandra Bone, Trainee

Along with the trainees and members of staff we have had to get used to working on-line and only rarely in person. We are pleased that as a committee and network, the SAGE community at Salomons has stayed together. People who are not so much on-line have been enabled to stay involved. We have also found that service users and carers from the wider network have been able to join us more easily, because on-line for some people means accessible. However we look forward to meeting in person together as experts by experience, staff and trainees.

Our team

Laura Lea 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.

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Last edited: 22/04/2021 10:00:00