Feeling Positive About Mental Health

Mental health is unquestionably seen differently today than it was even a few years ago. In a sense the realisation that mental health is a subject that health professionals need to take more seriously provides a new challenge for the medical sector.

Now accepted as a challenge, or as some suggest, a crisis, given the long waiting times for appointments, hospital beds and tragically, suicide rates.

As many politicians have said, the project is to achieve “parity of esteem” (with physical health) – and as soon as possible with figures like those according to the charity, Rethink Mental Illness, suggesting that as a proportion of the NHS budget, mental health receives just 13% despite accounting for more than 23% of the disease burden.


It’s clear that improvements in mental care need to be made, specifically through prevention and early intervention as well as giving more patients broader access to services, perhaps through the much discussed idea of a ‘seven-day’ NHS. (At the same time the economic evidence from bodies such as the Centre for Mental Health (CMH), suggest that clinical reform would certainly be cost effective as well, potentially saving billions of pounds.

The chief executive of Mind and chair of the Mental Health Taskforce, Paul Farmer, says the challenges may be formidable, but long-lasting change is achievable if there is consistent political will and the cash to back it up. “We’re trying to do something that’s not easy, especially in the current climate. But I do think there’s a momentum and a new level of confidence from people that this is the moment that things not just should change, but really will change.”

All of this points to a medical sector in transition. Service-leavers with appropriate attributes might well find a place to exercise their skills to significant effect and find an effective environment and decent rewards to do so.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists apply psychological methods to improve the mental wellbeing of their clients as well as offering various forms of treatment.

The breadth of issues covered by the term ‘mental health’ means that clinical psychologists will deal with people of all ages and with challenges ranging from defined mental illnesses, depression and anxiety through to addictive and challenging behaviours including conditions such as eating disorders or the adjustment to physical illnesses as well as neurological disorders, learning disabilities, through to personal and family relationship issues, all of which may also impact their mental health.

Clinical psychologists (usually specialise in one area and) work in partnership with their clients over a series of sessions in order to diagnose, assess and manage their condition, usually as part of a wider (multidisciplinary) team within which the psychologist will offer therapy and treatments to mental health difficulties and suggesting further service provision in other areas.


‘Clinical Psychologist’ is a protected title which can only be gained once a candidate has registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which involves completing three years of postgraduate training leading to a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, or equivalent, approved by the HCPC.

To gain a place on a Doctorate course candidates need Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC), achieved by completing a psychology degree or conversion course accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS).

Applications for most doctorate courses are made through the Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology with course providers mainly looking for a first class honours degree or a good 2:1, although some may accept a 2:2 if you have a relevant Masters degree or above (as well as a minimum of six to 12 months relevant clinical work experience). Competition is so fierce that course providers can ask for very specific requirements, for example, some ask for experience gained as an assistant psychologist in an NHS clinical psychology department, or as a research assistant. (Just one in six applicants gained a place in 2015. It is common for people to apply more than once.)

After successfully completing the doctorate, candidates are eligible to apply for registration with the HCPC and chartered status with the BPS. (Funding for most places on the doctorate training courses is provided by the NHS and you will be employed by the NHS as a trainee clinical psychologist while you study.)


Trainee clinical psychologists start at Band 6 (£26,041) of the National Health Service (NHS) Agenda for Change (AfC) Pay Rates. After qualification, salaries within the NHS start at Band 7. A typical starting salary would be in the region of £31,072.

More experienced psychologists (Band 8a) can earn up to £47,559. Band 8b-d roles apply to senior experienced psychologists, possibly managing departments or large specialist sections with responsibility for the psychology service and its staff. Salaries in these posts range from £46,164 to more than £81,000 for top-level posts.

(Figures from: www.prospects.ac.uk)

Psychiatric Health Social Worker

Psychiatric social workers can be found operating in specialist mental health settings such as child and adolescent mental health services, but more usually in adult community mental health teams. These are multi-disciplinary teams, usually within an NHS Trust, which can include social workers, nurses, support workers, occupational therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

Mental health social workers build professional relationships with individuals affected by mental illness as well as their families, carers, and communities. They provide guidance and arrange therapy and support (which underpins people’s safety and may include acting to protect people’s rights). Mental health problems can sometimes be associated with physical or social circumstances such as physical illness, addiction, or homelessness and so a social worker is the most effective bridge between social issues and professional services.

In March this year (2016) the Government funded an expansion of its mental health social work fast-track scheme – ‘Think Ahead’ for a further two years.

Applicants for the programme must hold a 2:1 degree and undergo a rigorous assessment, which tests them on seven personal qualities required for social work (leadership, motivation, adaptability, relationship building, communication, problem solving, and self-awareness).

Selected candidates will then undergo an intensive two-year programme, which involves three stages, starting with a six-week residential course preparing students for their on-the-job learning.

In the first year students will undertake on-the-job training led by an expert mental health social worker. At the end of the first year students gain a postgraduate diploma in social work, which allows them to apply for registration as a qualified social worker.

In the Second year they take on newly-qualified social worker (NQSW) roles in the service they are working for and gain a master’s degree in social work. (Leadership training also takes place throughout the two years.)


Civvy Street has seen recent job vacancies advertised at £31/hour which translates to around £64,000 per annum for experienced psychiatric social workers.

More:  www.thinkahead.org

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