A day in the life of… a family psychologist

Jen Wilson talks us through her work with children and families who need help

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Who: Jen Wilson

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Age: 34

Profession: Child and family psychologist.

Lives: In Milton Keynes with her husband and two children.

How Jen became a psychologist: After completing a degree in psychology, I spent a few years in social work. My experience in hostels and schools convinced me the earlier you intervene in a child’s life, the more effect you can have. That’s why I specialised in child and adolescent mental health, then studied for a doctorate in clinical psychology.

I work in Milton Keynes, at a practice called Evolving Families. It’s a social enterprise, so most of the profits go towards helping the community – for example, I run free antenatal and postnatal mental health groups.

Diary:

6:30am I get up as this is when my 3-year-old daughter wakes, and start to get my family ready for the day ahead.

8.40am My husband walks our 5-year-old son to school while I drop our daughter at nursery.

9:30am My first client arrives. She’s a 9-year-old girl, referred by her parents because she won’t go to school. She clings to her mum and is generally anxious. Last week we made a treatment plan – I’ll help manage her anxiety and a colleague will help the mum develop parenting stratergies.  It takes 25 minutes to persuade the girl to leave her mum so they can be treated.

11am I visit a mum who had an acute mental breakdown after giving birth. Six months later, she’s doing well – social services have no worries about her caring for her baby. I use a technique called Compassionate Mind Therapy to help her combat feelings of shame and self-criticism.

1pm I grab a sandwich, then do a Skype session  with a young man who grew up in a home where there was domestic violence. He’s had two relationships but couldn’t let women get close.

2.30pm I see a teenage boy who’s been referred by the hospital – he’s not taking his diabetes medication as he’s concerned about weight gain. I use a technique called Solution Focus Therapy to help him manage his health more effectively.

4pm I see a foster mum who’s caring for two children aged 4 and 6. They have a history of neglect, and she’s struggling to manage their behaviour. She’s new to fostering and the techniques that she used with her own children aren’t working. We talk about parenting techniques. I don’t recommend ‘time out’ for neglected children; instead, I suggest ‘time in’ – burning off energy with an active game, then trying to work out why they showed that behaviour.

6pm I arrive home after a busy day. My husband has picked up the children and made a stew, and we all eat together. We give them a bath and read stories.

7.30pm The children are asleep. After chatting to my husband, I go to a gig with colleagues. We go out about once a month. We try to practise what we preach and look after ourselves as well as others.

For more information on Jen’s practice, log on to Evolving Families.

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