Positive experiences working in IAPT?

This section is for discussion relating to the Layard report, and subsequent schemes like Improving Access to Psychological Therapies where lower intensity inteventions are offered in primary care
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Positive experiences working in IAPT?

Post by Kw165 »

I have just started as a counsellor (CfD) in an IAPT service. I know there are a lot of people who have bad experiences in this service, it's making me worry and I'm anxious that I've made a big mistake in taking this job (I could be catastrophising here, its like new job nerves amplified by all the IAPT horror stories I guess)

It is a big opportunity for me and on paper it is a dream to be able to get paid work in counselling. I am trying to be positive about it, but there is so much bad press when it comes to the culture in IAPT, workload, target pressures etc.

When I took this job, I'd come to the conclusion that I needed to give it a try, I'd always wonder what if otherwise.. but I am worried about what I've let myself in for

Is there anybody that has positive experiences of IAPT to share?
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Re: Positive experiences working in IAPT?

Post by Victoriomantic »

Hi there! Congratulations on getting your post first of all. Make sure you let yourself celebrate regardless!

I've worked in IAPT for the past 4.5 years. I started as a graduate mental health worker, then a PWP, then a trainee HI CBT therapist, and now I am a CBT therapist, having qualified late last year. I've worked in two IAPT services and prior to that I've worked in CAMHS, so in fairness I don't have much to compare it to.

Yes it is true that there is a high workload and high target pressures, and one of the key struggles with IAPT is that oftentimes we can feel out of our depth as we often take the clients that fall between primary and secondary care services. And I think the most painful part of IAPT is not being able to offer clients as many sessions as I'd like, and as such there can be a high return rate.

However with that being said, it's important to remember that some of those pressures (not enough staff, complex clients, long waiting lists etc.) are the case in many, if not most / all, NHS settings and certainly isn't IAPT-exclusive.

Despite the high workload targets, there have been many wonderful and positive things that I've enjoyed about working in IAPT:

- You get to work with a massive range of clients with huge variety in presenting problems, life stories, cultural backgrounds etc. I know that you may not get the variety of the big range of anxiety disorders as much with CfD but the high caseload still means you get to work with that variety

- The high caseload also means you know you are allowing for a huge number of people to access support that they may not have had otherwise, which is massively rewarding in and of itself -- in all honesty this is probably the biggest bonus to IAPT working

- You are not alone! Everyone I've worked with in IAPT services have been incredibly supportive of each other and validating that we can all struggle at times. I've found managers and supervisors have always been very mindful of staff wellbeing and the importance of checking in with us, as well as the same from my colleagues. Everyone tends to chip in and help each other out when necessary. I can think of at least 3 or 4 occasions where, in my 1st service, I was able to just walk into my manager's office and have a good cry and an offload when I've needed to. (I'd like to note that this wasn't always work-related either!)

- In a lot of cases, you may be the client's first experience of ever talking to a psychological professional and that is humbling and motivating. And whether you work with them or end up referring them on or signposting them elsewhere, you know that you are instrumental in helping these people to get to the help they need, even if it takes a while. I find a lot of clients really appreciate just being heard, and validated, and advocated for.

- There are plenty of opportunities for CPD and to get involved with side projects for innovation - I have been involved with writing treatment protocols, trialling new groups, and doing outreach work with high-need low-access groups such as BAME, LTC and LGBTQ+. Both IAPT services I have worked in have dedicated CPD talks 1-2 times per month

- In both services I've worked in, the culture has been good in the sense that staff have always been encouraging of each other to take lunch breaks, not go home too late etc., and service managers have often been open to us offering ideas and suggestions for how to streamline or improve different processes or procedures

- In both services I've worked in, despite the targets being high there has always been autonomy over my diary; as long as I see the number of clients that is required, it is up to me how I organise my day - I can choose to have some days very busy and some quieter, or a more even spread etc.

I think the key thing to remember is that imposter syndrome and worries about caseload targets etc. are common across a huge number of psychological professionals but there is almost always a way to make it work and you will get into the rhythm of it. And if you hate it after all, you can still move onto other work elsewhere. But I'd say try to keep an open mind, you might even love it!
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