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Will someone inspire me for the next step... “but (Anne) you’re not a Doctor!”

2017, and I’m half way through an MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences, at University College London, whilst working part time as a Recovery Worker/Trainer for Addaction/RISE in Exeter, East and Mid Devon. It’s been quite a journey!

Prior to OU, I had somehow got stuck in dead-end admin roles, having graduated from Exeter University (as a Primary School Teacher) in 1991. I felt frustrated I couldn’t progress. I signed up with a temp agency who sent me to a ‘charity assignment’ in 2008, working for Addaction as a receptionist/ administrator.

After securing a permanent position, I then had a major health scare requiring extensive surgery and recovery, and had a Damascene moment. I wanted a role that would make a difference to someone’s life, not line a shareholder’s pocket, nor have a meaningful relationship with paperwork (as in admin roles – fine if you enjoy this work, but I found it soul destroying).

Part of my role encompassed taking initial referrals on the phone for substance misuse issues. I was fascinated by ‘dual diagnosis’. Which came first? The addiction issue, or the mental health issue? Did one influence the other? Where would we start in treatment? I knew then that I wanted to work in a client facing capacity. I asked a recovery worker how they got into their role. He said he had studied for a degree in Psychology. My sister had already enrolled with the OU in a fine arts degree, so I investigated the BSc Hons Psychology, armed with Tesco Clubcard vouchers, savings etc. This was in 2009, and I have never looked back!

I approached a Senior Manager whilst working at the service, to see if I could progress to a client facing role in the future. To which she replied “... but you’re not a Practitioner!” and it was never going to happen, in a condescending manner. I knew it was never going to happen, unless I made it happen, so I handed in my resignation two weeks later with no job to go to. Scary or foolish!

I went through a process of gaining practical experience volunteering for a rival drug and alcohol treatment provider, building up voluntary experience working for Mind, then paid experience working for Rethink Mental Illness, and then the NHS as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner. It’s been a gradual step-by-step process to date. Running alongside practical experience has been the OU Psychology degree, graduating in 2015. I used the ‘student discount’ card for all it was worth as an Undergrad. Attending conferences on a shoestring budget, staying in hostels, learning from the founders of various different Psychotherapeutic approaches. Learning from the best. (Including OU!) I also volunteered with my local branch of the British Psychological Society, helping to run “Psychology in the Pub” events, networking, and getting my name in print (throughout the Southwest) writing articles for the regional BPS newsletter.

The journey is not over yet. The Government introduced the Over 30s postgrad student loans, so I thought what the heck, why not, I’ve learned over the years ‘chutzpah’ is vital...what’s the worst anyone can say to you? No...and it’s their loss if they do! ... I applied to UCL, thinking ‘they’ll never let me on the course, it’s a world leading University, in the top 10 in the UK, they’re all super intelligent ha!’...then they called my bluff...I got accepted...no turning back.

I couldn’t have done this without the OU, OUPS and the support and camaraderie of fellow OU students from such a diverse set of circumstances. You’re all truly inspirational! Shout out to the ‘Infamous Kumquats’, a virtual fraternity/sorority on Facebook who got me through DD303. Never let anyone say you can’t do it. You can! Prove them wrong! Now will someone inspire me for the next step please? Go on..say it (patronisingly)...but Anne...”you’re not a Doctor!” (yet!)

 

 

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