Why I Decided To Study for a Masters Degree in CBT
In September, I started a Masters Degree in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for children and young people, specialising in Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) at The Anna Freud Centre/UCL. I have done this for two main reasons:
- My negative experience of local CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) services.
I have written about this in an earlier blog entry (How the NHS Is Failing Our Children), so I will not dwell on this here. Personal experience of a service that has been so affected by lack of funding, and of the impact this has on training and skills in a team, combined with working in an area where I hear the same story on so many peoples’ lips, led me to want to train to be a CBT therapist. If you can’t beat them, which you can’t, join them. I do not want to work for CAMHS, as in the area I live the damage caused by cuts is too extensive and I think that bad practise has spread like a rampant weed throughout the service. But I do want to work with children, young people and families affected by mental health conditions.
- I need more tools in my toolbox to support young people with mental health difficulties.
Working closely with children and young people on the Autism Spectrum has made me realise that being a Speech and Language Therapist is not enough to provide the support that they need and that I want to give.
Simon Baron Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at University of Cambridge, highlights the fact that everyone on the spectrum is first and foremost an individual, who happens to have ASC. Although there are core symptoms of ASC, these do not present exactly the same way in everybody and one size most definitely does not fit all. In areas of my work – in my diagnostic role with pre-school children, in my role in schools working on social communication and interaction skills, and in my role as an independent therapist working one to one with children on the spectrum and their families – I became increasingly aware of the impact of anxiety, reduced understanding of others and difficulties regulating emotions.
One young person I work with told me that she now realises that she was exhausted all the time when she was growing up, which stopped her from doing many things, e.g. after school clubs, learning an instrument. When I asked her why she was so tired, she said it was from the effort of trying to keep her feelings inside, manage her anxiety and fit in. I am not trained as a speech and language therapist to help with these kinds of difficulties. I can provide a listening ear, I can make sympathetic noises, but as a speech and language therapist, I don’t have the tools.
It was not an easy decision. I work full time and I am a single parent to two children. But it was the right decision and already what I am learning is changing what I do and helping me to provide more effective support. I have been doing social communication work for a long time, but I can see that the skills I am learning are leading to better outcomes and providing me with a better understanding of what and how to provide support.
Mental Health Difficulties in Young People Are On The Rise
There are some psychologists on the course who know all the jargon and have many of the tools we are learning to hand already. However, there are many people like myself who want to widen their knowledge and skill base in order to help children and young people with mental health difficulties.
This is a well-publicised topic. Young Minds estimate that 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 to 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. This is about 3 in every class. Around 1 in 12 children and young people self-harm, and over 8,000 children aged below 10 suffer from severe depression. These are shocking figures and make depressing reading. You can read more on this subject at: www.youngminds.org.uk