- Written by May Chi, Psychologist, Supervisor at PsychLab.
Yesterday marked the fourth and final session of a focused psychological strategies training that I helped facilitate for General Practitioners. I won't lie. Occupying the same virtual space for over twelve hours, with a group that some of my colleagues refer to as 'the gatekeepers of our profession', was definitely an exposure task and a half. It was also an amazing experience and I hope more psychologists in our community get involved in training other health professionals, including medical practitioners. I now have a better appreciation of the following:
A GP perspective matters when training GPs.
Even though the content of the program was on focused psychological strategies (psychological being the psychologist's domain), I would not presume to understand what these strategies look like in GP practice. A GP understands the practicalities of their profession and can explain these strategies in a way that brings them to life. Co-facilitating with Dr Rebecca Lock was an absolute pleasure and gave me an insight into the world of general practice.
Many GPs are concerned about the mental health of their patients.
The overwhelming impression that I got from this group was that GPs are concerned about the struggles of their patients. They recognise the impact of a patient's thoughts, feelings and behaviours, not just on the trajectory of mental illness, but also the impact on other health outcomes such as in chronic pain, diabetes, and substance use. GPs know they are faced with untangling the web of symptoms, and they care deeply about their patients wellbeing.
GPs can and do apply psychological strategies.
In the Wide Bay Burnett area, it can be difficult to see a psychologist. We're not some sort of endangered species (yet), it's just that there's such a high need for psychological services. GPs who can and do apply psychological strategies change the health trajectory of their patients. I found that bite-sized activities that also integrated into other parts of general practice were most likely to be applied.
You don't need to know the theory, but it certainly helps your agility.
This training allowed GPs to follow a cook book, but that's certainly different from being a chef. I would urge all GPs who have an interest in predicting and influencing health behaviours to do the deep dive into psychotherapy. Heck, if it worked for Russ Harris, who says it can't work for you?
But seriously, to those who are studying undergraduate psychology at the moment, stop rolling your eyes.
Running this training reaffirmed for me that a thorough understanding of psychological principles is what makes psychologists so good at working with human behaviour. Theory sharpens and broadens our focus, helping us to pivot and adapt to the client's needs in practice. Understanding the why helps you adapt the how to suit the situation.
In a month's time, I will do a follow-up session with the lovely cohort of GPs to find out how their foray into focused psychological strategies is going. I am looking forward to it.