Nithura’s story: MSc Early Intervention in Psychosis

Nithura Sivarajah
Nithura Sivarajah
Nithura Sivarajah
Nithura Sivarajah

I chose the MSc Early Intervention in Psychosis to learn more about psychological disorders, the detection of them and intervention strategies. I was intrigued to understand this innovative approach and field of clinical psychology. The fact it was the world’s first MSc in Early Intervention in Psychosis captured my interest even further.

Early Intervention in Psychosis is about better access, quicker detection and practical preventive strategies for people with early signs and symptoms of psychosis. It supports people at “ultra-high risk”, who suffer from early warning signs of psychosis but are yet to develop the illness, and those who have developed a first episode of the illness.

I completed the course on a full-time basis. It was divided into 4 teaching modules and a final thesis. My favourite module was ‘Psychosocial Interventions in Early Psychosis’. We had different lecturers teaching us about the different treatment approaches. We got an insight into how they work with their clients and gained in-depth knowledge about the various interventions, their pros and cons and the differences between them all.  I think I enjoyed this the most as my main interest in psychology lies in clinical work. Essentially this module taught us how to effectively work with clients.

My research project was about attachments, schemas and engagement in therapy. The most interesting thing was to see the end results, to understand the impact of attachments on therapy engagement and share that with the rest of the team. Furthermore, the teaching I received from my supervisor was very special – he taught me a lot about how to write a good report, how to draw conclusions from literature reviews and make use of it to form innovative theories. He also taught me a lot about the interference of experimental studies and how they are implemented in clinical settings.

I did my clinical placement at the OASIS service, which specialises in the treatment of individuals at ultra-high risk for psychosis. It was incredible to be able to work in an EIP service in the National Health Service and I had a clinical psychologist supervising me. I learnt about the setup of an EIP service, how the hub system works, what to bring to multi-disciplinary team meetings, how clinicians treat clients, how to develop interventions for the clients and much more. The most interesting thing about my clinical placement was having the opportunity to develop an Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)-based intervention for the clients. I worked part-time while completing the course. We had two days of full-time teaching and the rest was self-directed study days which allowed me to balance part-time work and still focus on the course.

Time management is key for this course. I had recently completed my undergraduate studies when I started the course and therefore did not really know what to expect. The lectures are very intense and cover a lot but you hold a lot of responsibility for your own learning. Make good use of the extra 3 days in the week, where you are assigned to do self-study, and speak to your tutors as much as you need; they are all very supportive and helpful.

I currently work at an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service, treating people with common mental health problems using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I am a lead practitioner on the NHS 5 Year Forward Plan for my clinical service and also have a big focus on working with domestic abuse cases.

The MSc Early Intervention in Psychosis has genuinely made me a better practitioner. It allowed me to learn about engagement in therapy. Engaging people who exhibit signs and symptoms of psychosis can be hard, therefore there was a lot on the topic of engagement in the teaching curriculum. I have been able to apply what I have learnt in this area to work on various service related projects, to collaborate with physical health services, the police, social services etc. Understanding the importance of early detection and prevention of psychosis, motivates me to support people at primary care level and accurately signpost people to EIP services rather than letting them slip through the gaps.

This MSc is unique compared with other psychology related masters. The learning you receive is extremely transferable to all areas of clinical psychology. You are well supported throughout the academic year. It is a well-structured and rounded course, covering psychosocial interventions, pharmacological intervention and research methods – which I doubt many courses have.

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