A day in the life of an Educational Mental Health Practitioner (EMHP)

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Hello, I’m Helen, a qualified Educational Mental Health Practitioner (EMHP). Prior to taking on the role of Trainee EMHP, I held a Pastoral role within a 11-18 years academy for 18 years within Mid Essex. I started training at University of East Anglia (UEA) in January 2020 and qualified in March 2021, which was delayed by 3 months due to the pandemic. I currently work in the Tendring area of Essex for Mid & North East Essex Mind.

I feel I have been extremely fortunate to have had the experience of both remote and face to face working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the fantastic support from our team. This has given me experience of both Parent-led and Young People interventions. I also have been very fortunate to have delivered two face to face Parent Workshops in one of our local Primary Academies plus a Mind and Mood Group to a group of Year 9 students.

My typical day starts at 6.15am. I have breakfast and grab a coffee, leaving my home to make the 45 minute commute to either my school base or a nearby school where I start my day at around 8.35am. The school I am based at is a split-site 11-18 years academy, with the lower school being my primary base with a 4-mile drive to the upper school further towards the coast.

During the summer term, we were mainly getting referrals for young people and would book in face to face sessions around their timetable. The interventions I deliver are low intensity CBT around Worry Management, Brief Behavioural Activation (Brief BA) or Graded Exposure. Since qualification, I have started to work with students around OCD.

I find it really useful to arrive 15 minutes earlier than my first student, just to park, go through reception, saying ‘hello’ to the reception staff and finding my way to the Mind room, having a quick check of my e-mails and logging onto our clinical system (Iaptus). We have been very fortunate that the school have provided us with our own room that we book out within our team.

On occasions, students forget they have sessions, therefore I would pop along to the Student Welfare Hub to check whether the student was present in school. This would be an opportunity to check in with the Student Support Officers (Pastoral team).

My first student would arrive just after 8.50am where I would deliver an intervention on either Worry Management or Brief BA. I would have a few minutes in between sessions before my next student arrived just after 9.50am. This student is meeting me for the first time for their assessment. I start by introducing myself, discussing confidentiality and asking them if they would like to add anything to the agenda. We collaboratively look at the RCADs and then start by gaining an insight into the student’s difficulties though a CBT led approach, family and school. A full risk assessment is undertaken with a safety plan made collaboratively, if required. We talk through the problem statement together and then introduce goals. I finish the assessment by gaining some general feedback and explain that I will speak to my supervisor and give them a ring later in the week to discuss the outcome of the assessment. The student leaves by saying they feel much better for having talked through their difficulties and go off to break time.

Break time is scheduled between 10-50 – 11.10am, which gives me an opportunity to stretch my legs, grab a coffee and send any e-mails that have come along during the morning or to catch up with the Safeguarding Lead regarding any students of concern.

A sixth form student arrives just after breaktime during their free period (I always try to fit in sessions with sixth form students around their timetable) and we discuss pressures of getting the grades needed for university, without sitting the formal exams, balancing working part-time job and the worry of passing their driving test. This student was referred to me with anxiety and we go through the ROMs, including their Goals, exploring their scores, checking in with risk and discuss homework that was given the session before around Worry Time and the Worry Diary. We then move onto exploring thoughts and how these are linked toemotions which impact on the student’s anxiety. The session lasts for 55 minutes, I gain feedback from the student on how they felt the session was for them and then make an appointment with them for their next session.

I then make the 4 mile journey across to the lower school, my main base to have some lunch and meet with my supervisor for Case Load Management Supervision (CMS). This is an opportunity for me to bring selected clients from my caseload to discuss and ask a particular question. Growing in confidence and gaining experience has helped me to make decisions on which clients I need to bring to CMS. My supervisor always starts by asking how I am, which makes me feel validated as a Practitioner. We always discuss clients that hold any risk, followed by any assessments that I have undertaken and then other clients I may feel a bit ‘stuck’ on. Both my supervisor and I make notes on Iaptus.

I then spend the next hour catching up on notes from my sessions and assessment earlier in the day, recording these on Iaptus.

At the end of school, I wander across to the Student Welfare Hub to speak to a member of the Pastoral Team about one of the students I have been working with. She tells me that two teachers have separately reported to her they are increasingly concerned about another student in the year group – the student is regularly seeking out the teachers at break and lunch time but then does not say anything. We arrange a consultation after school for the following week with the two teachers and herself to explore ways to engage with the student and ensure the student feels valued and heard.

Depending on the commute, I arrive home around 6pm, make dinner and catch up with my husband, face-time my elderly parents and telephone my daughter. It took me a while to adjust to not working on university assignments during the evening following qualification but now feel I am developing a good balance of work and home life.

I have learnt to prioritise self-care this year, learning yoga, baking, being out in nature, ensuring I am getting a good amount of sleep, gardening and cycling with friends.

Helen Ellis
Educational Mental Health Practitioner