A day in the life of a Chartered Psychologist by Richard Pierson

Richard Pierson is a freelance psychologist based in Yorkshire. He primarily works in schools and is an Associate Fellow of the BPS and Chartered Psychologist.  Richard worked in the computer industry, the Police Force and teaching before becoming a psychologist. In this article he describes a typical day working as a freelance Chartered Psychologist.

I came into psychology via an unusual route working in the computer industry, the Police Force and finally teaching.

My previous jobs have all involved both Psychology and computers, with a common theme of education or training: as a Police officer I researched and lectured on both driver and crowd behaviour. In the computer industry I worked on developing computer based learning systems. As a teacher I had an obvious and vested interest in child behaviour and learning, taking on a senior role in assessment.

With further training I became a member of the British Psychological Society, progressing to become a Chartered Psychologist and now an Associate Fellow.

My main interest is in psychometrics and I now work as a freelance psychologist, mainly in educational settings. I am particularly interested in the development of computer-based assessments which I believe provide the gold standard for consistency and the opportunity to develop adaptive assessments which reduce fatigue and encourage engagement for the participants.

A typical day

As a self-employed psychologist there is no typical day - there is the “feast or famine” of long hectic periods with plenty of work set against fallow periods. So what do I actually do?

There are always emails to check - clients who are looking for assessments or further information from previous ones or advice on further action. I take some new work or refer others to practitioners according to geography or area of expertise: it’s vital not to take on work outside my area of confidence.

There’s also marketing emails to reach new customers or maintain existing relationships.

There may be appointments to schedule, or confirm: there’s nothing worse than driving for an hour or more to meet a client who is apparently elsewhere. Even though I email, ring or text to re-confirm (and sometimes all three), I have clients who’ve forgotten which can be very frustrating!

Enjoyable work

A particularly enjoyable aspect of my work is looking at, and working with new materials which are being developed or standardised. This takes me into new schools and people’s homes all over the country. I meet children and adults of all ages and from all walks of life and get a real insight into how the other half live.

Although I enjoy this experience it makes me sad that there is still so much depravation in our society with many people living in sub-standard accommodation, working in low-paid, part time jobs and struggling to make ends meet.

Assessment

A large part of my work involves assessing students in school who may be eligible for examination access arrangements.

These are adjustments made within public examinations to ensure students with a long term disability are not disadvantaged in the exam situation. Adjustments may mean they have more time to process information and formulate their responses, are given a reader to help them make sense of the exam paper, or other options specific to their needs.

Schools I work with tend to be exceptionally well organised and optimise their use of my time, ensuring I have a constant stream of students to assess throughout the day.

With all the sessions I have completed I pride myself on running a smooth operation and leave the schools with the assessments and the necessary documentation completed. This means their students receive the support they need with approval from the JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications). Without this approval schools may be barred from running national qualifications, so it
is important to get things right!

Challenges and rewards

Undertaking these assessments is interesting and rewarding as I meet a wide range of students, some of whom are reluctant to accept the support offered. I also find students who have managed to keep under the radar in class, yet struggle to read with any degree of fluency or understanding.

It comes as a surprise to me that they reach Year 10 (age 14 - 15) before the need for support has been identified: the students often tell me that they misbehaved in class as a distraction or simply because they aren’t able to access the texts. A particularly memorable student had been placed in low ability groups but produced excellent prose under dictation and went on to achieve success in his GCSE examinations using a word processor: the beaming smile on his face when I told him this could be arranged was heart-warming.

Spare time

When I have time to spare I continue work on various research projects which could involve data collection, statistical analysis, writing up or editing a journal submission.

This often takes rather longer than I would have hoped, but there is a sense of satisfaction when I finally send it off.

As I am self-employed I have a business to run, so completing invoices and sending them off for payment is a job for the end of a day.

  • Winner of the COT Pearson Award for education, research or CPD announced

    Samantha Armitage, a member of the British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT), has been named as the winner of the 2013 COT Pearson Award for education, research or continuing professional development. 

    Samantha has been qualified as an occupational therapist for eight years and has worked in paediatrics for six. Samantha currently works for East Cheshire NHS Trust as a community children’s occupational therapist.

    Read the full press release, and Samantha's reaction to the news.

    Following the announcement we caught up with Samantha to find out more about her background and how the COT Pearson Award will support her development.

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and training?

    I have been qualified as an Occupational Therapist for eight years and have worked in paediatrics for six years. I currently work for East Cheshire NHS Trust as a community children’s OT. As a paediatric practitioner I commenced post-graduate training in Sensory Integration Therapy four years ago, learning the foundations of theory, skills and evidence to guide practice when using the approach. I integrated knowledge and skills from this training into my NHS work to consolidate my learning, whilst also reflecting on the practical application of learning outcomes into the NHS environment through case studies, bringing together theory, evidence and practice.

    After a 12 month secondment to complete a Master of Research qualification, I have returned to practice and identified the need to develop more specialist services for children with Sensory Processing Disorders. Continuing my progress along the Sensory Integration post graduate training pathway, offered through the collaborate efforts of the Sensory Integration Network and The University of Ulster, will enable me to develop services in a methodological, specialised and evidence based way, ensuring children and families receive the most effective therapy and achieve optimum health outcomes. Winning the Pearson Award this year has allowed me to pursue this goal.

    What encouraged you to apply for the BAOT and Pearson Assessment award?

    As the NHS provide such eclectic health services, particularly in community paediatric settings, securing funding for developing more specialist areas of practice is difficult as resources are prioritised for learning and development which will be generalised across services. Resourcefulness is therefore needed to find ways in which these much needed specialist services can be developed. I saw the BAOT and Pearson Assessment Award through the announcement of annual awards in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy and saw an opportunity to apply for support in the CPD element of developing this service.

    Which course(s) will you be attending?

    I will be attending a course entitled ‘From Assessment to Practice’, the second module on the Sensory Integration post graduate training pathway. This modular pathway has been developed collaboratively between the Sensory Integration Network and The University of Ulster to offer a total of three modules of learning where specialist skills, knowledge and practice can be gained in Sensory Integration and academic recognition of learning is awarded. The learning outcomes for module 2 are based around the selection, utilisation and evaluation of assessment tools for practice including structured and unstructured clinical observations as well as use of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT), a standardised assessment tool. The module is split into two blocks of teaching, I will be attending my first block in June, complete two months of consolidation where I will apply learning to practice and return for the second taught week in September.

    Why did you choose these courses? 

    My interest in Sensory Integration started when I was a student OT on placement, in paediatrics, with an educator who was passionate about Sensory Integration and the role it has within child development. This spurred me to commence formal training in 2010 as a qualified OT. I was fortunate to be supported by East Cheshire NHS Trust in applying this training to practice, developing my understanding of Sensory Integration (SI) and my therapeutic practice.

    As my own understanding of the role of SI has developed, I have been able to recognize more clearly the needs of children with Sensory Processing Disorders and wish to continue to develop a service that can be responsive to these needs. The course selected allows me to build on my previous knowledge, ensuring my CPD is progressive in this area and will allow me to amalgamate research, evidence and practice ensuring knowledge and skills gained are current and evidence based, qualities which will be reflected in practice.

    What outcomes are you hoping to achieve?

    Specific learning outcomes are clearly related to assessing, identifying, diagnosing and differentiating Sensory Processing Disorders in children in order to recognize when Sensory Integration Therapy is indicated for intervention. These outcomes will be achieved through critically appraising the approach, ensuring appropriate selection in practice, reliably administering and analysing the SIPT and incorporating information gained into clinical reasoning, applying sensory integration techniques into assessment practices and through applying evidence, practice, experience and theory to the clinical process of diagnosis and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder.

    Generalised outcomes are to improve the quality of services received by children with Sensory Processing Disorders and their families through providing evidence based, specialist services which are effective and able to optimize health outcomes.

    Congratulations Samantha, we look forward to hearing how your course goes later in the year. 

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