As mentioned in my first blog, there are very few Speech and Language Therapists working in adult mental health contexts and it is not a field where our role is widely recognised or understood, even within the profession. So how did I get here?
When I graduated in 1995 with my shiny new degree in Speech and Language Pathology and Therapeutics (just trips off the tongue doesn’t it), I started my career in a pretty conventional role working with children in community clinics and schools. However, as time progressed, I found that my interest was increasingly drawn away from the mainstream, and within a couple of years I was working exclusively with young people who had complex medical, social and educational needs in a school which had a dedicated health team who worked alongside the teaching staff. The years I spent as part of this close-knit team taught me much about seeing every individual as an individual, about the expertise and perspective of a wide range of other professions, and about how to make collaborative working actually work!
The irresistible draw of a new opportunity then took me into the field of adult learning disability; an area that was to be my clinical specialism for the next 10 years. Initially based in a long-stay institution, this was the first time that I worked with people with mental health problems and where I came to understand that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for challenging the status quo and embracing new ideas; an experience that increased my resilience but did not burst my bubble. As more individuals were resettled from the hospital back into their communities, I also re-located to become part of a community learning disability team. Working in this multi-disciplinary and multi-agency context provided an environment that encouraged my creativity and promoted innovative practice; opportunities which I embraced wholeheartedly.
It was this passion to push the boundaries, in partnership with my inner geek, that then led me to further my professional education and undertake my MSc in Health and Social Care, which I completed in 2008. Then, as if the Opportunity Fairy knew that I was now free to undertake my next professional challenge, a post was advertised to develop a brand new Speech and Language Therapy service in adult mental health; and that, dear friends, is where this story truly begins…