Private Paediatrician doing therapy. How did it all of that start?
Sit back and I'll tell you a story.....
I'm Dr Sharryn (Gardner) - all of my patients and families call me Sharryn or Dr Sharryn. Dr Gardner really is like my Sunday name and I hope that you'll free to call me that too.
I (absolutely) love Paediatrics! That's not too special - most Paediatricians do.
I'm right on the frontline in Emergency Medicine with some of the best Doctors and Nurses in medicine. I'm the one leading the big resuscitations like you see on TV or dealing with the biggest issues and most difficult cases (I'm not remotely like House!).
Many of us can do that.
I realised as far back as 2007 that the previously perceived gap in needs between medical and psychological issues was closing. Our treatment options are completely separate. That was never going to work - we had psychologists working at one end of the spectrum, clinicians at the other and most patients and families sit firmly in the middle - and psychologists and clinicians are not even aware of or in touch with each other.
So what if you could bring psychological help into the medical consultation, or conversely take medical expertise into the talking therapy?
I (and our department) were extremely lucky to have a CAMHS nurse based temporarily with us. What really worked was working with her with the children who wouldn't normally have been labelled as needing psychological or CAMHS help.
We worked with children with unpredictable or visually obvious conditions (things like migraines or eczema), children with anger and low mood, children with severe social anxiety and more.
There was some immediate improvement with almost all of them, and they also stopped needing to keep coming back to A&E.
It became clear that A&E hadn't had the answers for them and there was nowhere else to go to look for help.
Once you know that, when that fantastic nurse moves (she was so transformational that this was inevitable) on you can't un-know this amazing discovery.
Finding a therapy that fitted me
So after 5 years of medical school, 10 years of postgraduate training an extra BSc an extra MPhil and professional exams in Paediatrics I wasn't honestly in a position to start training again as a psychologist. And honestly much of the psychology training was geared towards that.
I did find though an approach called Solution Focussed Therapy where you could do foundation training relatively quickly.
That foundation course (4 days just before Christmas 2010) changed my life!
It talked me the basics of the therapy and more importantly completely shifted my perspective to look for what is important to patients and what they want rather than looking at what's wrong and what's missing.
It asks what do you want, what do you really , really, really want - spolier alert it can be something from far out in left field that you could never have predicted. Start with the solution not the problem!
Starting to use the therapy
I tried it on my first patient as soon as I got back.
It was a teenager who had had a short term issue keeping her away from school and somehow she just hadn't been able to get back for many months - the longer it went on, the harder it was. There was nowhere for the family go but A&E and you could argue it was neither an Accident or Emergency (not attending school for many months is a developing Emergency in my book).
So we talked about what she wanted and about friends and she went back to school full-time the next day and never looked back.
I use it in some shape or form every day now - a full session, a clinic or even a one-off Solution Focused Therapy question within a medical consultation.
It changes perspective and that allows change to be imagined and achieved.
Just conversation that's like sprinkling fairy dust
One of the families I worked with the mum said that this therapy was like I'd sprinkled fairy dust and she was there and had no idea how it happened - it was just a conversation.
That's the beauty of it.
FWIW I don't know if I'd be more Tinkerbell-like or have a bit more sass (and a whole lot more kindness than) the fairy from Shrek. I am a huge Disney fan of the parks and films.
So don't keep thinking about it, go for it
Evidence shows that people look into getting therapy an average of 11 times before they go for it.
That's a lot of time where things could have been much better and I don't want that for any of you.
What I want for you (all of you) is to feel good and be living your best life, for your children to have the best childhoods and chances to become happy adults.