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Psychologist

Whilst continuing to provide psychological services as required, the Psychology Department has successfully launched several new initiatives during the year 2011. These were aimed at improving the professional development of the staff and at accessing new resources. In fact the latter were instrumental in enabling training initiatives and facilitating psychological interventions.
 
In view of developments in the section of Community Mental Health, a number of psychologists and a substantial number of Trainee Psychologists have been deployed in the community. Their role is to serve as a backbone to the multi-faceted facilities offered in the community to the client with mental health difficulties.
 
In this way the philosophy of supporting the client within and closer to his community is sustained, thus reducing the chances of repeated relapses and re-entry into a mental institution. In the long-term this measure also minimises the chances for institutionalisation and depersonalisation.
 
On the other hand the mainstay of psychological services in the context of mental health has been the consultant-led mental health multidisciplinary team. This has made it possible for the psychologists to offer psychological services and intervention to clients with mental health difficulties, both as in-patients as well as out-patients. Psychologists are attached to the 11 teams and every consultant psychiatrist is able to refer clients for assessment and/or therapy as the need arises. The psychologist''s intervention latches onto the services of the multi-disciplinary team as a whole, hence the full-benefit of a multi-disciplinary approach is achieved. Thus, e.g. a client may be simultaneously provided with support at a neurophysiological level (Psychiatrist), at a cognitive-behavioural level (Psychologist), at a family/social network level (Social Worker) as well as at an individual competence level (Occupational Therapist). This rationale ensures that all the client''s needs are met and that all domains of human experience are tapped and engaged in the therapeutic/rehabilitative/recovery process.
 
Psychological services are provided to persons along various developmental stages, from early childhood through adolescence, young adulthood and old age. This is made possible through the involvement of psychologists in specialised clinics, including the Child Development Assessment Unit (where in 2011 a total of 463 assessments have been carried out), at the Child Guidance Clinic (Malta and Gozo) and the Learning Disability Clinic. Plans have been laid out to commence provision of neuropsychological/psychological services to Elderly persons within various wards at MCH in the year 2012.
 
Towards the end of 2011, a Trainee Psychologist with training in Psychotherapy, Ms Maria Grech Brincat has been assigned work on a once weekly basis at Gozo General Hospital to carry out psychological interventions mostly, psychotherapy with clients experiencing mental health problems. The latter would be attending psychiatric outpatients Gozo and would be referred by the respective consultant psychiatrist.
 
During the year 2011, psychologists offered their services from various settings, two main settings being the Psychology Department at MDH and the Psychology Department at MCH. The latter has undergone a total refurbishment in 2011 and in this way it will be better equipped to provide psychological services through the increased number of individual counselling/therapy rooms available.
 
Substantial work has also been carried out in reinforcing and improving the departmental structure. The assigning of respective areas of clinical/administrative responsibilities to the senior psychologists will be instrumental in enhancing more accountability and ownership. Therefore apart from retaining their clinical duties as per firm, the senior psychologists will oversee the overall psychological services being provided in their respective areas.
 
Mr Paul Sciberras is responsible for psychological services related to Mater Dei Hospital, he is also administratively in charge of the Psychology Department at MDH.
 
Mr Bernard Caruana is responsible for Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services, comprising of the Child Guidance Clinic and Young People''s Unit.
 
Dott Joan Camilleri is responsible for Acute Psychiatric Services, Forensic Services, Substance Abuse Services (DDU and the planned female DDU) as well as Psychogeriatrics. She is also the coordinator and leader of the Training Coordinating Team which is responsible for the training initiatives within the Psychology Department.
 
Ms Cynthia Bonnici is responsible for the overseeing and development of psychological services within the framework of Community Mental Health Services.
 
During 2011 new areas of psychological intervention have been ventured into. These include Neuropsychology and Health Psychology. In the former, the Psychology Department collaborated with the Neurology Department at MDH on the Deep Brain Stimulation Project.
 
With regards to Health Psychology, psychological service is being provided to persons with renal problems, including renal transplant. Also initiatives are being carried out with youngsters challenged by disabilities and with other persons experiencing chronic medical conditions.
 
Being a Budget Holder for the first time in 27 years (since the first clinical psychologists were employed at MCH) the Psychology Department in 2011 was in a much better position to maximise resources available according to priorities determined by the services. Emphasis has been laid on procurement of new psychological testing instruments and DVDs for training purposes.
 
Monthly departmental meetings have been held and these included discussion of departmental issues, a CPD session as well as peer-supervision sessions.
 
An Away Day was also held in July and this triggered the momentum for change and improvement within the department.
 
During the workshops, the notion of setting up various working groups was brought up. In fact this proposal was further developed during the Conflict Resolution Seminar held in November-December, which seminar saw the formation of 5 working groups to work on issues of (or protocols related to) Ethics, Safety, Corporate Identity and Mission/Vision, Improvement of Work Practices and Didactic/Formation Issue. These working groups would work side by side the already working group related to Mental Health Act and the 4 working groups pertaining to the areas of responsibility of the senior psychologists where protocols also have to be drawn up.
 
Staff Support to staff at MCH, MDH, SVPR and Health Centres has also been provided as the need arose.
 
Psychologists are also being more consulted in the development of new services within MCH such as the female DDU.
 
Supervision of psychologists awaiting warranting and Trainee Psychologists has also been carried out. Psychologists in our department have also provided practicum to MPsy and BPsy students.
 
Psychologists and Trainee Psychologists have also contributed to BST and HST Psychiatry lectures.
 
Psychologists also took part in various media programmes related to issues of Mental Health. They have also contributed through articles in the press.
 
Another involvement by the Psychology Department has been in the Dr Klown Project.  Dott. Edward Curmi Clinical Psychologist has been instrumental in the setting up of this initiative.
 
Regular meetings have also been held with the CEO of MCH. A representative group from the Psychology Department discussed regularly administrative and operational issues with the CEO. This facilitated the inception and development of new ventures and projects.
 
Psychologists offered their services to clients admitted at Mater Dei Hospital due to various medical conditions but concurrently experiencing psychological difficulties. This was carried out through a schedule referred to as Accepting Psychologist system whereby referrals from the various wards and units within Mater Dei Hospital were allotted to psychologists as per daily schedule 
 
Last but not least the Training Coordination team led by Dott Joan Camilleri organised four training initiatives, namely a First Aid Course, Part 1 Training in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing), Conflict Resolution and Supervision for Psychology Supervisors. All this enhanced further our professional development.
 
In all psychologists and trainee psychologists at the Psychology Department followed up 3260 cases through a sum total of 9097 individual appointments.