I recently completed an Adult Mental Health placement where Susan was my Clinical Educator. She asked me if I would be interested in writing up a reflection of my placement as her first guest blog. My first thought was “Oh no, another writing assignment to top off my already busy workload”. My second thought was “blogging – how trendy!” And so I agreed to take on the task granted there was no deadline.
My experience was as fascinating as it was eye-opening and the best way to describe it is through analogy.
Picture a well set table including a table cloth, plates, cutlery and glasses. The table cloth represents the medical model that forms the basis of Speech and Language Therapists’ practice in the majority of care settings. The items on the table cloth represent the clients we work with, the other health professionals and support staff, our skills and knowledge base, tools and assessments, and so on. Now imagine that cloth being whipped away from the table while all the items remain standing. At first you are awed by the trick and feel surprised at how all the objects managed to stay standing without being thrown to the ground. You then begin to wonder how it happened, and you feel confused as you would assume that some items would have fallen over.
This may seem confusing and hard to follow, but that’s the point. Mental Health is an emerging area in Speech and Language Therapy, and providing services in this area is confusing for someone who has only thus far been exposed to the ever-dominating medical model of communication disorders. I saw that medical mind set and approach being pulled away in front of my eyes, yet everything else was left standing just as it should be.
Mental Health is very different from the other clinical areas Speech and Language Therapists traditionally work in but it is not difficult working in this area; it just requires lots of adjustment. We also need to see past the overshadowing stigma. The service users I met on placement were the friendliest bunch of people who had been dealt a bad set of cards in the game of life. They opened my eyes and made this placement a truly special one. As Susan said, “You have all the skills and knowledge it takes to work in this field…all you need to do is simply apply them with confidence”.