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Qualifying as a Child Psychotherapist During the Pandemic

Congratulations to our newly qualified child psychotherapists.  We are looking forward to their contributions to the child and mental health workforce in the months and years ahead. To find out what it has been like to finish the child psychotherapy training during the pandemic, we spoke to a newly qualified member.

The end of the academic year is particularly strange in 2020. Many students of all ages have not had the opportunity to complete their studies in the way that they would have wished.  Some books and equipment have been left untouched since many institutions were closed in March. This has stirred up a range of feelings for students and their families, as well as their teachers, especially as we are coming to the end of the academic year.

Trainee child psychotherapists, as well as holding trainee posts within NHS clinics, are enrolled on a four-year doctoral programme at an ACP approved training school. Trainees often formally complete their training in July and become qualified child psychotherapists, eligible to be full members of the ACP. Despite the unprecedented challenges that trainees, tutors, and their patients have faced in the last few months, we are pleased that 30 child psychotherapy trainees will shortly qualify and begin a new phase of professional development as qualified child psychotherapists.  We hope that they will be able to contribute to the child mental health workforce in the months and years ahead.

To hear more about the training and what it was like to qualify during the pandemic, we spoke to one of our newly qualified child psychotherapists, Jessica Maliphant

Why did you want to do the training? 

I wanted to do the training because I have always been fascinated by why people behave, relate and feel as they do. I felt that this intensive training would help me to explore what lies beneath the surface of a person. Having worked predominantly in education before my training, I was conscious of how children communicate their distress in multiple ways, and I wanted to deepen my understanding of what impacts on them.  

What have been the biggest challenges in the training?

The challenges of the training vary enormously from person to person. As a parent, one of the biggest challenges for me was the time and emotional commitment that the training requires. It was a real juggle to balance clinical work, family life and academic coursework for such an extended period of four years.  

What components have been particularly helpful in the training?

During the training you attend a weekly small group seminar where you share your clinical work with approximately five other trainees and a seminar leader. For me, this experience was incredibly helpful as it gives the opportunity to learn from an extremely experienced and knowledgeable seminar leader and to learn and develop from your fellow trainees.  

What has it felt like to end the training during the pandemic? 

As a group of trainees ending our training, we are all saddened not to be able to mark the ending of this journey together at the moment. The experience of training is intense and includes a whole gamut of emotional experience and it is hard not to be able to reflect in person on all of this with our trainee colleagues. However, we will be sure to mark qualification together as soon as it is possible to do so.  

In clinical terms, the reality of the pandemic has meant that many of us have had to end with our child and adolescent patients on video or telephone. We have been working with many of these children and adolescents for a long time, sometimes up to the duration of four years. This work forms the foundation of our understanding of the complex ways in which the mind works, often in ways we are not aware of, and how to understand this through the relationship formed with the therapist. Ending such intense work in this way is something we would never have anticipated. Out of necessity, we have quickly developed our skills in working remotely but it is painful to have to say goodbye in this way.     

What areas would you like to focus on clinically as a qualified ACP member?

Following on from qualification, I would like to develop my understanding of trauma including broadening my knowledge of the confluence between relational and environmental factors. I am also keen to work with schools as I think that it is important for child psychotherapists to share their perspective to support children at school and those working with them.     

What do you see as important issues for child psychotherapists to tackle in the current climate?

I think that it is important for child psychotherapists to work collaboratively with professionals in other sectors. I think it will be especially important to work closely with our colleagues in education to support them and the children they work with as schools continue to welcome back their pupils. We anticipate that this will be a very difficult transition for many children and young people.

To find out more about training as a child psychotherapist, and the accredited ACP training schools please visit our page about training as a child psychotherapist.