Former teacher George Coulson swapped the classroom for a role with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), a provider of mental health and learning disability services.
George began working in the Trust as an assistant practitioner in occupational therapy before embarking on a course to become a children’s wellbeing practitioner.
The year-long course, which he started in October, involves splitting time between placements and education with Northumbria University. A relatively new programme, children’s wellbeing practitioners work in a variety of settings to support children, young people and their families.
George is being trained to offer focused interventions in the form of low intensity support and guided self-help to young people who demonstrate mild or moderate anxiety, low mood or behavioural difficulties.
George added: “The training looks at low level psychological intervention to help young people who find things difficult.”
“I work with other practitioners doing initial assessments to see what the young people’s difficulties might be and offer things that are meaningful to them.”
Working with children is something George has done for most of his academic career. Before joining CNTW, George studied for a PGCE in Primary Education going on to work at a school in a SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) role.
While he enjoyed this work, George felt like he could be doing more to help more children. “I wanted to be able to support a wider network rather than just one set of children in a class”, he explained.
“My work at CNTW enables me to help more children over a longer period of time and that’s what is important to me.”
George also believes that the children’s wellbeing practitioner role allows him to provide a more personalised form of care. He said: “In teaching you have to follow the national curriculum whereas the care in Children and Young People’s Services (CYPS) can be more tailored to the individual.
“What I do now is more person-centred instead of focusing on goals and targets.”
Although he is based at Benton House in Newcastle, George’s role involves a lot of work in the community. He regularly does observations in schools throughout Newcastle and Gateshead, something he describes as a home from home.
He says the best part of his job is the team, who have been extremely supportive of his studies.
He added: “My team are really understanding of my academic commitments. I also didn’t have any clinical background so they have been really helpful with that too.
“The whole Trust is a very supportive environment, people always smile at you in the corridor and I know that there is always someone to talk to if I need it.”
While it is an extremely rewarding role, George says there are some challenges. “It can be really difficult when a young person tells you something negative about how they are feeling or something that has happened to them.
“It’s hard not to take the work home. We are in a caring profession and there are some things that I can lose sleep over. But I love working with children and want to do anything I can to make their lives more positive.”