Why see a Clinical Psychologist?
Clinical Psychologists are applied psychologists who have a doctorate in clinical psychology and specialise in working with people where there are concerns or difficulties with mental health, emotional wellbeing, behaviour or development.
Clinical Psychologists are trained to work with people of all ages and abilities and so can work just as well with parents and families as they can with children and young people. They also train to work with the systems around children and their families, including schools.
How Clinical psychologists work: Assessment and Formulation
Clinical Psychologists work by first carrying out a good and thorough assessment that then leads to an understanding of what the problems or concerns are, and why they have developed; this is called a formulation.
This formulation then leads to a plan of what might need to happen to try to bring about a change.
Assessment and formulation are really important in helping to work out why things are difficult and in thinking about what might be the best thing to do to make a change.
This means that Clinical Psychologists may spend a lot of time trying to get to the root of the difficulties that children and families come to see them with.
It is possible that an 'off the shelf' intervention might work, but even if it does it won't help in understanding why the change has happened. Interventions based on a good assessment and formulation are much more likely to be effective.
We know that when children are having difficulties it does not mean that there is something 'wrong' with the child. It may be that there is something going on in their lives that is behind the difficulties that they are having. This means that, after a really thorough assessment, any intervention may not actually be with the child or young person - they might be with the family, or the school, or a combination of different parts of the system around the child.
Who might see a Clinical Psychologist?
Clinical psychologists work with children, young people and their families who might be experiencing a range of difficulties including:
feeling unhappy, worried or very anxious
having relationship or family difficulties
having physical health problems
problems with attention, learning or concentrating
developmental difficulties, including autism
struggling to behave in ways that adults expect
What happens when you see a Clinical Psychologist?
The first thing the Clinical Psychologist will do is find out who thinks there is a problem, and what different people think the problem is. It is also important to find out what it is people want to change, and what has already been tried.
The assessment might include different things depending on the age of the child, and at the first session parents might not even bring their child. This first session might involve:
talking to parents about why they are seeking help
meeting with the child or young person to find out their views and to do some assessment with them. This might include talking or working through play.
questionnaire assessments to be completed by the child, the young person, and the school.
After this first session we may agree to do some more formal assessments including cognitive assessment or a formal play based assessment.
Assessment might also include observation in school depending on the child's difficulties.
At this first session we will agree a plan for what we will do and how many sessions this will involve.
All the work we do is confidential, which means that I will not tell anybody else about it. There is a limit to confidentiality where any risk to a child or young person has to be passed on, and all health professionals work within this framework.
Clinical Psychologists also offer confidentiality to children, which means that we agree with the child what information to share with parents (within the limits of confidentiality).
Schools are only involved with parents' permission.