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Jessica is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist, on the PsychD Clinical Psychology Doctorate. This is a three-year programme that fosters trainees’ development of psychological knowledge and therapeutic competencies, in preparation for a career as a professional Clinical Psychologist. As part of her training, Jessica works across the lifespan supporting people with their emotional well-being. She particularly enjoys working with children, young people and their families in emotional health, physical health and educational settings. Jessica has a specialist interest in the use of compassion, particularly in the context of managing chronic conditions.
How would you characterise your current work?
My work can often be divided up into research, academic study and clinical practice. I simultaneously work on my chosen area of research that will later form my written thesis; attend seminars and reflection groups to discuss psychological theory and evidence-based practice; whilst also working therapeutically in services to support people with their emotional wellbeing.
How do you feel about maths?
How do I feel about maths? I’ve actually grown to love maths! I always remember feeling anxious in my statistics lectures, assignments or exams. I used to worry about not understanding all of the steps involved in the calculations or being able to interpret the results. However, I remember a great lecturer on my Master’s programme normalising this experience. I found the interactive teaching methods, frequent exposure and opportunity to practise maths greatly improved my confidence.
What is it about your work that is mathematical?
So much of my work is mathematical. Doctoral training requires a lot of efficient planning and problem-solving in terms of time management and completing multiple tasks. In clinical practice, I use maths to help measure any reliable changes in therapy outcomes. For example, measuring people’s progress towards their therapy goals or changes in the frequency of their reported symptoms on a questionnaire. I also use maths to determine whether a person’s performance on a series of cognitive tests is within the expected range for their age group. This, together with other information can be used to detect early signs of dementia and other diagnoses related to cognition.
How do you use maths, calculation or numeracy in your work? What tools do you use to help you?
Calculating people’s responses to questionnaires not only helps me to track their progress or changes in wellbeing over time, but it can also indicate the level of need. Although the questionnaires used will vary according to each service, commonly used questionnaires measuring anxiety and depression symptoms often offer descriptive categories such as mild, moderate and severe depending on the score. These categories can indicate the length or type of intervention needed. Furthermore, I use other tools such as Excel or SPSS to help with data analysis when I am completing service evaluations, audits and research.
Do you think maths is creative? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely. That’s a good question, as I’m not sure creativity is the first word I think of when I think of maths – logic is. However, just because something is logical does not mean it cannot be creative too. To me, it’s all about how you approach something, what you imagine the outcome to be and being flexible with its undertaking.
Do you use or rely on any maths that you learnt in school?
Yes, all the time, perhaps more than I realise! Maths operations like counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing help me every day. For instance, I use those skills to simply organise my day; working out how many clients I can see in a day, and how long for; scheduling time for writing reports; and making time for that all-important lunch break that too often escapes us. Hmm, although I’m still trying to think of a way I use algebra. I can’t think of one now but I’m sure there are ways we use it in our everyday lives. You’ll have to ask a mathematician for that one!
How would you change the school curriculum, if you had the chance? Why?
Thinking back to my time in school, the most memorable and meaningful lessons were the ones that really engaged me in terms of movement, teamwork or creativity. I think this last year has taught us all what is important, so if I had the chance to change the curriculum it would be diverse in content, where everybody is represented and celebrated, is taught in a creative way that captivates and inspires students (not solely practising questions from a textbook, which was my experience) and has a focus on wellbeing, emotions and how to manage them to aid a greater understanding of ourselves and others. Of course, within a context where those delivering the curriculum are adequately supported and funded too.
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