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A decade of Tom’s Trust in Cambridge: an interview with the clinical psychologists

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As we celebrate the NHS taking over the funding of our Cambridge psychologists, we interviewed the team about their work with us over the past 10 years.

Angela Kirby, Lead Clinical Pyshologist, Dr Philippa Lewington, Clinical Psychologist, and Mariana Decheva, Assistant Psychologist.

Cambridge team of Psychologists stood with CEO Rebecca and Co-founder Debs

(From left to right) Rebecca Wood, Tom’s Trust CEO, Angela Kirby, Lead Clinical Pyshologist, Mariana Decheva, Assistant Psychologist, Dr Philippa Lewington, Clinical Psychologist, and Debs Mitchell, Tom’s Trust Co-Founder.

How has your service changed over the years since it began in 2013?

Angela:We’re now part of their journey at various time points through their lives whereas before it used to be interventions if the need arose, so we’d have to identify the need, and you wouldn’t be able to follow it up two or three years later. Now we have a pathway so we’re making contact with people at various timepoints so we’re addressing their needs even if they don’t realise they have needs. We introduce ourselves, and even if they don’t initially take up the support they know they can do. We’re just trying to do some preventative early work and then being reactive later on, quicker, for families when they need it, instead of having a really long waiting list. We’re also talking to them at crucial points with school and college. Being both preventative as well as reactive has made a huge difference to families.

Philippa:We’re very proactive now – reaching out at the start of their journey. Some people don’t feel comfortable to reach out and ask for help. Families aren’t always ready to hear you, but they know we’re there.”

How have approaches changed to get the best care for patients?

Angela:I think we can offer a systemic approach now and it’s a different approach to before so we can help the whole family. We are trying to think about the whole-family approach, including looking at supporting siblings locally. Normalising their reactions is really important.

We’ve got better at liaising with schools, where they spend the most time. It’s important to be involved in their education and advocate for these families. We work closely with physio and OT (occupational therapy), so we all have picked up from each other what we might ask, and that doesn’t happen when you work in isolation. We use the same kind of terminology which is helpful to patients.”

Are there any families who you’ve helped since you started in 2013?

Debs, the founder of Tom's Trust, stood with Angela, the lead clincal Psychologist
Pictured: Debs, Co-Founder of Tom’s Trust (L) and Angela Kirby, Lead Clincal Psychologist (R)

Angela: There are three families who have gone onto adult services who I still talk to. You know them from when they’re five or six and just being able to see the various amount of input we’ve had and what we’d done for them while in the service. There have been all these various timepoints when we’ve had an intervention and it’s wonderful to see how far they’ve come.”

What is your best memory over the past ten years?

Philippa:Probably the first pilot of a group working jointly with a therapist, seeing for some kids that it really made a difference. Meeting other children who share the same challenges. Seeing the positive changes come out of that has been really nice. This was really helpful for a group of children with a craniopharyngioma, a particular type of tumour, who had similar challenges and really needed that group dynamic.”

Mariana:In school exams, the children do need the extra time to meet their potential, and seeing that we’d been able to achieve a child getting extra time in exams who was then able to achieve that extra level was really good, knowing that because of that they’re able to achieve their full potential.”

Angela:Some trauma work I did. There was a particular case of a family who had a bereavement and it was really difficult work and I really felt I’d helped. There was also a girl who we did a lot of work with and she’s gone on to do accountancy. We’d worked with her until she was 18 and now she’s got an apprenticeship job and every time she has a wobble we have a conversation about it and going from someone not being able to talk or walk or anything for themselves, all this rehab and being two years behind, to being able to drive a car, having a boyfriend and getting a job. We don’t see that very often, it’s a really good outcome which we like to see.”

Would Tom’s Trust funding a transition post in the East of England (to help children move from children’s services to adult health services) help you in your job?

Angela:Yes. I like helping children with their patient journey. It’s important they know what’s happened to them, but we say goodbye to them at a point where they’re really interested. I’d like to see that through.”

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