The role of a Psychological Well-being Practitioner (PWP) is incredibly important. They work for North Cumbria Talking Therapies – Cumbria’s specialist service for people with mild to moderate mental health issues. Since the service began, PWPs have been part of a service that has helped more than 35,000 Cumbrians overcome and deal with their mental health issues. PWPs help people overcome things like sleep problems, mild to moderate depression, or anxiety disorders such as chronic worry, panic attacks and obsessions.
PWPs are highly trained and after listening to the individual’s problems, formulate the best way of helping patients.
In the past the role of a PWP has been thought of as a stepping stone for other careers in psychological work but now more people are seeing it as a permanent career choice in its own right.
That was the case for Ria Lowrie. After studying her psychology degree she spent time in temporary positions within mental health, she saw the PWP route to be a way to get a more permanent position within her field of expertise.
Being a PWP is great, you get to help people who are often in a very dark place and a lot of the time you can see results very quickly. A typical day involves seeing around six clients for face to face interviews which last around 30 minutes. Every person that comes to us through North Cumbria Talking Therapies is given a tailor made treatment plan individual to their condition and their needs.
Most of the interventions are based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) principles and self help advice. CBT works by talking through problems to determine how your actions can affect the way you think and feel. It helps make sense of things that can seem overwhelming by breaking them down into smaller more manageable parts. By addressing these smaller parts negative cycles can be stopped.
Initially we work on short term goals which are often associated with encouraging the client to restart doing something they used to do or that they once enjoyed but no longer do. So it could be taking part in sport or going to the gym, meeting with a group of friends or going back to work. By achieving short term goals we encourage them to use the same principles for longer term goals such as lifestyle changes, moving home, and career advice.
We give the client support and guidance and will signpost them to other organisations for specialist advice on things like housing or legal advice.
Gaynor Ronsdale is a PWP based in west Cumbria; having always had an interest in mental wellbeing and psychology she jumped at the chance of training to be a PWP back in 2010.
The idea of working with people and helping them to understand and overcome their difficulties was what interested me most. Now I am fully qualified I find helping to understand what maintains my patient’s low mood or anxieties, getting a plan together with the patient to work on and then getting feedback saying you have helped someone turn their life around – well that’s great job satisfaction.
Gaynor explained that in the role of a PWP no two days are the same:
Each day really is different. During my average working week I work from Flatt Walks Health Centre, Queen Street Surgery, West Cumberland Hospital and Seascale Surgery. Each patient I see is individual and the interventions I deliver are tailored to suit a person’s individual needs. The work varies from assessments to follow-up clinical work, telephone and face to face work, screening of referrals, team meetings, training, and supervision. Each day really is different and this helps to keep the role feeling fresh and new.
Ria explained that job satisfaction also comes from the team that work with her and support her:
In Cumbria we have a really supportive team of colleagues, everyone is encouraged to develop and grow in their role. There is continuous training and plenty of opportunity to climb a career ladder in this role. I now help train other PWPs and I supervise and support other PWPs.
We get regular feedback from surveys taken through the Patient Experience team and often the responses are very humbling. You are given access to peoples inner most thoughts, you are listening to what makes them frightened, what takes them to dark places and you help them realise that it can be stopped, that they can be ok and when you see the look on their faces when penny drops and they know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it gives you such a good feeling. You know that you have really helped that person.
I feel that the role has given me the chance to make a difference. Knowing that the work we do as a service can help people overcome difficulties that they may suffered from for a long time, makes the job worthwhile.