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Day in the life: Working in Mental Health Support Team in Schools

Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) is an early intervention service that works in partnership with local schools to offer a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing.

The Milton Keynes MHST support children and young people in primary, secondary schools and colleges in parts of Bletchley, Wolverton, Stantonbury and central Milton Keynes. They also support families delivering evidence-based interventions to support young people with mild to moderate mental health difficulties.

Three colleagues share what they get up to in their role, what they enjoy the most and what they have learned since they started.

Hannah, Education Mental Health Practitioner

Hannah is an Education Mental Health Practitioner, she previously had a career in education but now works as a band 5 within the team.

Hannah, how did you get into working in the Mental Health Support Team, and how did  y our previous experience help you?

“I was working as a teaching assistant in secondary schools, I had several young people who were struggling with mental health and I wanted to be able to help. I started taking some courses online with MK college in child mental health and autism and knew this is where I wanted to work. I was on a group for teaching assistants and they were discussing MHSTs, I started to look more into roles and realised it was something that would fit with my skills and passion for helping young people.”

What do you enjoy the most about working within MK MHST at CNWL?

“I love that every day is different, I could be giving an assembly, creating resource, running a group and I love that my job has so many aspects to it. Within CNWL, I have had the opportunity to undertake some additional training and I always feel there are pathways for me to develop further.”

What does a typical day look like for you?

“I start work at 8am, this is usually a chance to check my diary, catch up on emails and check in with the team before the day starts. Most days I will have 4 to 5 clinical appointments either with young people, groups or parents. I will drive to different schools in my area and meet with the client for between 45 minutes and an hour, write up my notes on our clinical system. A few times a week I will deliver Whole School Approach, something that encompasses staff training, assemblies, workshops and coffee mornings, this means we get to meet more people and talk about the service and what we do. At the end of the day, I complete any admin I need to, maybe creating resources for a session or answering emails and write my to do list for the next day. During my week, I also have supervision, a chance to discuss my cases and get advice and support from senior colleagues, this wasn’t something I had before and it took some getting used to! It’s so nice having a space to discuss my work and get support and feedback regularly.”

What makes your role exciting?

“Working with young people makes the role exciting, they are all different and come with different experiences and personalities, you never know what you are going to get! I get quite nervous before leading an assembly, but I find I can channel that into giving a good performance and engaging the young people. It’s quite exciting to stand in front of several hundred people and attempt to juggle… badly!”

What is career progression like within MHST?

“With registration it has become more clear the progression routes within MHSTs, I have seen many colleagues go on to become supervisors and I know that if that is of interest I will be supported to take the next steps. We have access to in-house training to develop our skills and often have CPD and skills building sessions. I’ve also undertaken external training that was paid for by the service in order to widen by skill set and that is encouraged.”

Have you learned anything new since you started working within the team?

“I have learnt so much since starting the role, I began as a trainee and my first year was learning all about the interventions we deliver and the role of an EMHP. I went to university and in Norfolk and met some wonderful people and learnt so much, the course was a mixture of face to face and online teaching alongside my day job and it felt like a good way to learn. I’ve also learned a lot about myself, I have grown in confidence a lot and have developed skills in self reflection that have really improved my practice.”

What would you like someone interested in applying for the EMHP Trainee post to know?

“How supportive everyone is, working with young people can be challenging but I have an amazing team around me to offer advice and support. We try to make time to socialise together too, we’ve had some great work nights out playing mini golf and completing escape rooms! Every is different and you’ll never be bored. It’s great ending a day feeling like you’ve made a difference.”

Dawnn, Senior Education Mental Health Practitioner

Dawnn is a Senior Education Mental Health Practitioner, she also previously worked in education and join the team in September 2021.

How did you get into working in a Mental Health Support Team, and how did your previous experience help you?

“I was working as a learning mentor and teaching assistant in a primary school and noticed the impact of those students who were struggling with their mental health on their social, emotional and learning outcomes, so wanted to do more to help at an earlier stage. I went ahead and completed a MSc in Education and Psychology. My experience working in schools and learning from the MSc highlighted how therapeutic based interventions can be used to promote positive mental health and wellbeing for young people.”

What do you enjoy most about working within MK MHST?

“I love that I am able to work with likeminded people who are also passionate about supporting young people and their families in their achievement of positive outcomes.”

What does a typical day look like for you?

“Excitingly, every day is different! I tend to have around 4 clinical intervention sessions a day which is a mixture of sessions with young people, parents and/or group sessions. My day can also include whole school approach work which varies from presenting assemblies, holding class workshops, delivering staff training and having consultations with the school senior leadership team. A typical for me also includes supervision, allocation/assessment meetings and advising parents, school staff and colleagues.”

What makes your role exciting?

“Working within diverse communities has been exciting and getting to form working relationships with the local schools and internal/external services has been invaluable. Personal growth and learning is also something that I have always looked for in a career and it has been exciting to advantage of the opportunities here at CNWL.”

What is career progression like within MHST?

“CPD is encouraged within the team as well as regular supervision and appraisals to help individuals work to their potential. Registration has also helped to clarify the pathways available for career progression. Since starting as a trainee EMHP, I have been fortunate to use the experience, knowledge and skills that I have gained to now progress to a Senior EMHP. Within this role, there is also the opportunity to be sponsored by the service so you can further your clinical skill set via university to support varied mental health presentations and become a supervisor.”

Have you learned anything new since starting with the team?

“Absolutely! My training year was at Reading University which was a great introduction to the CBT-based intervention models. Since then, clinical supervision has been great for expanding on these therapeutic models as well as ‘real life’ experience. Personally, it is lovely to reflect on how I have grown in confidence and honed by therapeutic style to best engage with young people and their families.”

What would you like someone interested in applying for the Senior EMHP post to know?

“There are so many opportunities to make a difference on a day to day basis… and you have such a lovely and supportive team behind you every step of the way.”

Sarah, Senior Practitioner

Sarah is a Senior Practitioner, she previously had a career as a Social Worker with the Local Authority and then in CAMHS before joining the team in January 2022.  

How did you get into working in a Mental Health Support Team, and how did your previous experience help you?

“I was working in CAMHS when I first heard about MHST’s through a colleague and was really excited by the idea of a service that was working within schools to promote good mental health universally through whole school approach as well as targeted therapeutic interventions. My previous experience as a social worker gave me a sound knowledge base and practical experience of recognising and responding to risk as well as the ability to build relationships with people going through difficult times. My experience working in CAMHS gave me exposure and teachings in different therapeutic models and I was able to train and work within a CBT and DBT modality as well as completing two years of family therapy and systemic practice. This experience has given me the therapeutic evidence base needed for my role in MHST’s as well as a passion for supporting the system around the child.”

What do you enjoy most about working within in the team?

“What I love most about working within MK MHST is that my role enables me to fulfil a lot of passions including delivering clinical interventions, supporting systemic and culture change within schools, supporting and developing a staff team and evaluating and being part of service change in order to meet need.”

What does a typical day look like for you?

“My day always look different, and this is one of the things I enjoy most about my role. I hold a caseload of young people that may need a slightly different approach to the EMHP interventions or be demonstrating more risk taking behaviours. I am also really passionate about working with parents and run a parent led group based on principles of Mentalisation Based Therapy. I currently offer management and clinical supervision to my team so my day may involve delivering one to one supervision to band 5, band 6 or trainee EMHP’s. I also run consultations and planning meetings with our schools, so my day may include meeting with the mental health lead of a primary or secondary schools to think about their current mental health needs within the school and consider how the MHST can support in meeting those needs. Alongside the other band 7’s and clinical lead, we meet regularly to think about aspects of service review and improvement, for example currently we are meeting to set up consistent cross wave working for the next academic year. Whilst my day to day activities may always look different, with my team based in one location there are always moments of check-in, emotional support or humour within the team.”

What makes your role exciting?

“As previously mentioned the role is incredibly varied and this enables the role to be exciting, interesting and enable lots of opportunities for skill learning and development. I find the ability to affect change both within individuals, families and the school system as the most exciting and rewarding aspect of my role.”

What is career progression like?

“There are opportunities to work towards and progress up through the senior structure within MHST. Development is always encouraged and there are lots of opportunities within CNWL learning and development to access training opportunities. Self-directed learning and consolidation of learning is always valued and encouraged. There are internal CPD learning opportunities across the teams, as well as reflective practice where clinicians can bring learning from previous roles or recent training and share amongst the service. Personally, I have been given opportunities to progress my passion for working within the parent-child relationship and been able to attend Anna Freud Mentalisation Based therapy courses.”

What have you learned since you started working within the team?

“I have learnt a lot about myself since working with MHST and found a new level of confidence in my therapeutic skills and supervisor/leadership skills. I have had supportive opportunities to take on more responsibility and progress. I really enjoy learning from others and have added new skills and resources to my therapeutic toolkit which has made me a more versatile practitioner.”

What would you like someone interested in applying for the Senior Practitioner post to know?

“That it is a role you can really make a difference in… and the snack box is never empty!”

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