Working life: Clinical psychologist Mark Smyth

Mark Smyth is a senior clinical psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

6.30am

The kids, aged four and six, are my wake-up call. I drop them to the childminder before hitting the 20-minute commute to work in Swords.

8.15am

In work I wear two hats — clinical psychologist and co-ordinator of our CAMHs team which includes psychiatry, psychology nursing, social workers, OT, speech and language therapists, and dieticians. As team co-ordinator, I take the lead on waiting lists and am first point of contact for referral issues. The early morning is spent responding to emails and planning when to return phone calls. A large catchment area means a lot to process.

10am

I switch back to my psychologist’s role for an individual session with a teenager. I work predominantly with teenagers with a range of mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. Social media has been playing a significant role in terms of anxiety and body image.

There is a lot of pressure to be seen to be perfect, to fit in and be accepted.

11.30am

I meet another teen. All referrals to our team are in consultation with the GP.

I grab lunch at my desk while watching a box-set on my laptop, which helps me switch off.

2pm

We run a dialectical behaviour therapy programme, aimed at helping young people with ongoing difficulties managing intense emotions and self-harm. Young people receive weekly individual therapy and group skills sessions with a parent. This is reinforced by out-of-hours phone-coaching to help remind them of the coping skills they’ve learned, such as distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.

3.30pm

I see another individual young person or facilitate group work with a colleague. We hold a monthly support group for groups of teens on a Thursday afternoon and the teens largely guide the discussion on different topics affecting their mental health.

5pm

I engage in private practice twice a week.

7.15pm

Home for dinner and story time with the kids before their bedtime. For downtime, I get out for an occasional round of golf. I also help run the Twitter account for the Psychological Society of Ireland as a member of its communications team and governing council.


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