“No idea is conceived in our mind independent of our five senses” Albert Einstein
I was once fortunate enough to hear the great Temple Grandin give a talk about her ingenious ‘squeeze machine’ which she uses to alleviate her anxiety associated with her needs arising from Autism. This made perfect sense to me, to the extent that I would even consider a trip to her Texan cattle ranch to give it a go myself. I am certainly, like most of us, somewhere on ‘The Spectrum’.
Therefore, when I sat down to try to write a blog to summarise my feelings after a full year of qualified EP life I couldn’t help reverting to my sensory seeking tendencies.
For me ‘feeling held’ is a sensory experience; one which I may not necessarily have been aware of until the feeling went away. As hectic and fraught as the training experience may have been, it was a ‘wrap around’ experience. I could access peer supervision with my course mates and fellow trainees on placement and I received good supervision regularly both at university and on placement.
That is not to say that I have now been ‘dropped’, but supervision is a bit more ‘as and when’ and the very nature of no longer needing those reports signed off can lead to some silo working. No longer needing to write that reflective practice report at the end of the year also places a little less pressure on reflection. As any psychologist, I am reflecting and ‘being reflexive’ (and sometimes over-reflecting) regularly. However, from a sensory perspective it has felt different in my first year post qualifying.
I am fortunate to work in a rather ‘flat’ team hierarchically but I do wonder whether that has left me feeling a little less ‘held’. My final year supervisor was somewhat maternal; no wonder it feels a little less ‘attachment-ey’ this year by comparison. I was trained to believe that good quality supervision should provide a ‘secure base’; one from which to explore and experiment with psychological theory. Although I was also trained to believe that what you learn in training may differ drastically to what you experience ‘out in the field’.
When sitting down to contract outcomes with my supervisor in my training years, those outcomes invariably revolved around me learning the role, developing my application of psychology and passing the doctorate. However, once qualified these outcomes have, at least partially, been achieved, therefore outcomes can be a little harder to define. Yes, of course, I still want to develop my practice and develop my competencies and expertise, but also I want to regain my work-life balance and position myself as a ‘team player’ to fit in with my new colleagues.
This year that tension, between idealised and real world psychologist, has led to doing that extra report as a favour to a member of the team rather than reading that interesting article; doing that statutory work rather than attending that CPD. Or going to that professionals meeting rather than attending supervision. Of course the conflicts of work pressures are not unique to psychologists and I am not the first person to highlight the need for more time reflecting and receiving supervision in the work place.
I recognise that supervision is my responsibility as much as my supervisor’s, and I have attempted to initiate peer supervision within my team in addition to monthly supervision. However, that sensory feeling has gone, the safe space (or ‘play space’ as I think Winnicott so fantastically put it) is not a regular weekly time slot but rather the occasional lunch, monthly meeting or chat in a corridor. Fully qualified life is great but it is missing some sensory reinforcement.
Maybe I needs to take a trip to that Texan cattle ranch after all!