What is a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner?

For those of you who follow me on instagram (@thegrowingbutterfly) you may remember that I have started a new job after graduating from my masters, and I am sure there may have been a few people asking and wondering “what is a psychological wellbeing practitioner?” or “isn’t that just a different way of describing a type of psychotherapist?” because that was me around about this time last year!

Since this is going to be all new and exciting for me, I thought that it may be helpful to share what it is that a psychological wellbeing practitioner is, where you will find them working, and how they practice.

WHAT IS A PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING PRACTITIONER?

So before I explain about this role, I do need to give a little background about the type of services that you will find a psychological wellbeing practitioner working in. A psychological wellbeing practitioner or PWP for short is specially trained to support people with common mental health problems within IAPT services; IAPT stands for Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies, which was started in 2008 in order to improve access to psychological treatment and reduce the waiting times within the NHS. In an IAPT services aim to provide the most effective and least resource intensive treatments, so patients are offered treatment that has been recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE); they review all the research on treatments that are available for common physical and mental health conditions.

Now I know that is pretty wordy, but essentially what this all means is that the NHS has worked on improving the quality of care for anyone who is experiencing a range of mental health conditions:

  • Depression
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Depression with GAD
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorders (with or without Agrophobia)
  • Specific Phobias (e.g. heights or animals)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Health Anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (mixed Depression and Anxiety)

What is great about IAPT services is that there is an integrative approach to assessment and treatments, which means that there is more of a holistic approach to treating every individual so physical and mental health are both important aspects of the treatment, particularly when it comes to anyone who has long-term physical health conditions or physical health symptoms that are impacting their mental wellbeing and overall quality of life. In an IAPT service you will find a range of different practitioners offering support; PWPs, Cognitive Behavioural Therapists (CBTs), Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs), Counsellors, Couples Counsellors for Depression, and Interpersonal Therapists. IAPT services work closely with other primary care services, especially General Practitioners (GPs) to ensure that everyone remain involved in each individual’s care.

A PWP works with people who are experiencing mild to moderate depression and anxiety disorders. The treatment approach used is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills and techniques through a guided self-help approach. This does not mean that patients are left to complete their own treatment (far from it!), as the majority if not all patients will have weekly sessions together with their PWP to work collaboratively through treatment with a focus on the sessions being patient-led. Treatment with a PWP will likely involve identifying the thoughts and behaviours that the patient is experiencing, then exploring what they mean through looking at the evidence to understand what they mean for the patient (e.g. are they helpful or unhelpful) and then putting into practise the skills and techniques outside of sessions with encouragement from a PWP. Below are the types of treatments and interventions that a PWP does:

  • Behavioural Activation
  • Cognitive Reconstructing
  • Worry Management
  • Problem Solving
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Exposure and Response Prevention
  • Medication Mangement
  • Signposting

Also PWP’s complete all initial assessments, so they are the first point of contact for anyone accessing the service. For the assessments, PWP’s aim to capture a great understanding of what the main problem is that an individual is experiencing and from there they can identify whether they are appropriate for IAPT treatment or whether they need to be signposted to another primary care service.

HOW WILL MY ROLE LOOK AS A TRAINEE PWP

As a trainee PWP my role will look slightly different to those who are fully qualified though that is not to say that will have any less to do with my days, in fact it will entail me juggling between my studies, growing caseload and also my personal life. I am going to start my PGCert in Low-Intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through Exeter University next month (March 2021), so I will have two days attending online lectures and then three days practising in the service as a PWP. My caseload will gradually be built up over the coming year as I train, so I will not be seeing as many patients as a qualified PWP (average 263 patients per year).

Like all practitioners, I will have support through supervision and will be helped by my amazing colleagues who have been so welcoming and helpful from day one, which I have really been thankful for especially since I started this job working from home immediately! I do think that is going to be one of the challenges over the coming months, but hopefully things will start to slowly return to some form of normality soon.

There is going to be a lot to learn and improve on over the next twelve months but I am incredibly excited to get started and become established in this role. I will be documenting how I get on and also providing some more information about my work as I go, starting off with the mental health conditions that I will be treating so stay tuned!

I hope this has been helpful and interesting for you! Please do let me know what your thoughts are or if you would like to know anything specifically, I would be more than happy to share where I can.


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