I recently had an article on The representation of clinical psychologists in contemporary literary fiction published in Clinical Psychology Forum. Needless to say, was delighted when Nick Wood got in touch to tell me about his own fictional psychologist. Here’s what he has to say about combining clinical psychology and fiction.
What kind of psychologist are you?
I am a retired chartered clinical psychologist.
I worked in a general hospital in the UK with people who had difficulty coping with disability and physical illness. I devised a method of assessment based on the seven psychological tasks such patients face. These are: understanding and managing symptoms, dealing with the medical procedures, relating to hospital staff, managing upsetting feelings, maintaining a competent self-image, maintaining relationships with friends and family, and preparing for the future. I helped the multidisciplinary team in a physical health setting to understand the illness from the patients’ point of view, and what action might help all concerned. I took on a selected number of patients directly for psychological therapy along cognitive-behavioural lines.
I am also interested in applying psychology to my own life, and have kept up a self-monitoring diary for smoking, drinking, and exercise. As a result, I gave up smoking on July 4th 1984. I’ve not touched the weed since. I also applied some principles of sport psychology to help me play better cricket. However my progress was limited by my sporting ability, not by my psychology.
For my third post in this series, I’m delighted to welcome Barbara Speake to Annecdotal. After an accomplished career as a research and clinical psychologist, Barbara is well on the way to publishing her fifth novel. Here’s Barbara in her own words:
How did you come to writing fiction?
I came to fiction writing through the discipline of writing non-fiction. I was very fortunate to have had two major psychology careers spanning nearly four decades, firstly as a research psychologist and then, after further training, as a clinical psychologist and NHS manager. During my academic career, I authored or co-authored numerous journal articles, book chapters, government reports, a PhD thesis and two books for parents and staff, both published by Souvenir Press. When I later qualified as a clinical psychologist, my writing was mainly of a clinical nature, service reports, and court reports, firstly in primary care, then in learning disability services, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and forensic services.
Of course, like many authors, who have written non-fiction, I always wondered if I had a fiction book in me.
I’m delighted to welcome Ian Wilkinson for the second post in my blog series Psychologists Write (following in the footsteps of Voula Grand). I knew Ian from my time as a clinical psychologist in the north-east of England, but hadn’t seen him for about twenty years when we met up by chance at a Society of Authors event on working with the media. I’ll pass straight over to Ian to let him tell you about how psychology feeds his writing and vice versa, as well as the background to his debut novel – and how you can get yourself a review copy.
What inspired you to become a writer and a psychologist?
My mother would say I loved stories so much that she taught me to read to find some peace. At family parties, my uncles told stories to the children, so producing my own seemed natural - especially since I can’t sing and I’m tone deaf. Stories and films teach you deep emotional lessons; in ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’, a storm in the final scene blows all the gold dust away into the desert, leaving the two survivors with nothing but their deep friendship for each other. Which is the real treasure? That film gave me a rather wonderful lesson at a very early age.
I was also bullied as a child; the moment I became a psychologist was when I discovered myself retaliating so aggressively that I had become… a bully.
Is a background in psychology an asset when it comes to writing fiction? How easy is it to combine a scientific approach to the mind with one embedded in the imagination? I decided to ask professional psychologists who are also published novelists how they do it. I’m delighted to welcome Voula Grand to Annecdotal for the first post in this series.
As a business psychologist, I advise large corporations on executive performance and leadership development. My work has some similarities to sports psychology, as I’m hired to increase the success of executives who are already performing at the top of their game; so doing even better is down to subtle refinements of leadership that can make a powerful impact on business results.
In order to help my clients, I am widely trained in an extensive range of human change methods and techniques, from traditional therapies and psychological frameworks to the contemporary methods of positive psychology that impact the dynamics of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Psychological resilience is a hot topic in corporate psychology at the moment, and I am experienced in the techniques that promote this.
I spend my working days in close communication with executives, either one on one or within their teams. Understanding the organisational context is important, and I need a good business grasp of the strategic aims, culture and goals of the client company, and of the broader corporate world.
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional.
Annecdotist is the blogging persona of Anne Goodwin:
slug-slayer, tramper of moors,
author of two novels.
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