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With Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services expanding and developing their workforce in line with objectives set out in the Mental Health Five Year Forward View it is an exciting time to be a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP).
The role is an integral part of IAPT services and has evolved since the programme began in 2008. Career opportunities are developing, the PWP role is becoming established and recognised, and is now a popular career path for many. Heather Stonebank explains more.
My IAPT journey began in 2008 when I started training as a PWP; ever since I have been extremely passionate and committed to the PWP role and motivated by its impact and ability to improve the lives of people experiencing anxiety and depression.
The PWP role sits within step two of the mental health stepped care model – providing low intensity cognitive behavioural-based interventions for people experiencing mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. The aim of stepped care is to provide the least intrusive and most appropriate level of care to meet the needs of the person.
The PWP workforce provides short-term, evidence-based treatments in line with NICE guidance to help people manage their symptoms. As PWPs, we work with people to equip them with the tools and techniques they need to manage anxiety and depression effectively and work towards their goals. Our aim is to help people make positive changes to improve their wellbeing and quality of life.
The PWP role is fast-paced, varied and constantly evolving with the evidence base and guidance. IAPT services around the country strive to meet the needs of people who need to access services. Therefore, PWPs offer a wide range of treatments, including telephone and online treatment, computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programmes, psycho-educational groups, courses, workshops and one-to-one work. Adapting what we offer to make our treatments accessible is a critical characteristic of IAPT services.
The PWP role is integral to IAPT services. As a PWP, treating a large majority of people who access the service is incredibly rewarding. I have seen first-hand the positive impact the treatments can have on someone’s life. From supporting a patient to overcome panic attacks and being able to visit their local supermarket to helping a patient understand and manage depression to achieve their goal of socialising with friends again – it really can make such a difference. It is a privilege to work alongside a person, be part of their journey to help them manage anxiety and depression. For me, this is why I am an advocate for the role.
There is a wide range of career opportunities open to PWPs, which start from developing special interests within areas such as older adults, perinatal mental health, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, and supporting people who are managing long-term health conditions. Other career development opportunities range from senior PWPs, lead PWPs, clinical educators and IAPT managers. Some PWPs may also go on to become CBT therapists or embark on a career in clinical psychology. With the role becoming more established and recognised, there are many more exciting doors to open and future career development opportunities.
I feel extremely privileged to be a Lead PWP in Sheffield IAPT and Clinical Advisor in Yorkshire and the Humber Clinical Network. I have an insight into national, regional and local topics for IAPT services and the opportunity to contribute at a strategic level and influence change. My contribution from a clinical perspective has been welcomed and valued by colleagues, and I believe this is a fantastic development for the role and its future influence at a strategic level.
I am passionate about bringing the workforce together to share best practice, learn from each other and generate innovative ideas, also working in partnership with other services to provide the best quality of care. Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Senior PWP Network is a great example of this; we are currently working together on how we can support the wellbeing of the workforce and improve access for different patient populations.
My vision is to continue to develop the role, support the workforce, share best practice and provide clinical leadership to contribute to developing IAPT services and patient care. I am very much looking forward to continuing on this career path and working alongside other healthcare professionals to provide high quality patient care.