One on one... Dr Richard Skelton
One psychological superpower
To have more time. There’s always so many more things we can be doing; and each is important in their own right. From research to intervention development, collaborating with cross-disciplinary colleagues to early intervention projects; we’re not short of good ideas, just the time to achieve them all.
One thing about the job
The best bit is working with kids. It never really seems to matter what else is happening in work or life, having the opportunity to see the world through a child’s eyes keeps a certain element of hope and optimism alive. It never ceases to inspire me how much children can bounce back from difficult events when they have the right support in place.
One thing that makes you smile
Seeing my wife skip. When she does this, I know she’s super happy.
One hero from psychology past or present
I remember the first time I saw the late Sir Ken Robinson talk about the need and importance of an educational revolution. As a trainee psychologist, one simple question he posed changed my views of the context of my planned career: ‘What’s it for, public education?’ When we start to answer this, we realise that much of what education attempts to achieve doesn’t lead to the most successful outcomes for young people. And, in my experience, teachers, parents and children mostly long for a system which can evolve and update itself in the same way the rest of society has over the last century. Affecting grand change isn’t easy though. If it were, our educational system would look very different; with a focus on developing key cognitive and metacognitive skills, alongside social, emotional and resilience development. Children might not leave school as knowledgeable, but they would hold many more skills leading to a more productive, satisfying and healthy life. While we have to work within systems to help individual children, it’s also important that we make time to work as a collective to affect positive long-term change of the system itself.
One thing psychologists could do better
Recent events with the Black Lives Matter movement led to important and long overdue conversations within the profession. It made me realise that, just because we spend our days attempting to break down barriers for children and young people, it doesn’t mean there aren’t still many endemic issues within the contexts we find ourselves working in.
One treasured possession
Small tokens of kindness from friends and family are scattered around the home. Even an out of date mulled wine mix from a friend sits proudly at the back of the cupboard.
One advice for aspiring psychologists
Show that you care. Expressing empathy and genuine regard for those we’re working with is key for them to feel safe and trusted with us. Once we have this, the rest of the work can begin.
One big challenge
Our remit is so vast that we can never achieve expertise within every area. With the breadth of children’s needs that we support and the contexts within which we work, I found it best to get comfortable with being ‘good enough’ and embrace continually learning as part of the day-to-day. I came to realise that to truly understand one particular area of need for a child, we need to know the whole child. This is also our greatest strength; integrating our knowledge of their educational, social and emotional functioning to prioritise where we can affect the greatest positive change.
One thing every psychologist needs to remember
I know, a lot of us have had those moments when we realise we’re self-sacrificing hypocrites, espousing ways to improve wellbeing of others, while not taking seriously our own advice. What we all know however is that, we simply can’t be our best professionally if we ourselves are not in the best place personally. While it’s an ongoing work in progress, and especially in light of recent events, being kind to ourselves and having some self-compassion at least now and again feels incredibly important to remember.
One old(ish) song
The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be.
One thing I’ve learnt from working with children
That we’re all much stronger and more capable than we think we are.
One moment that changed the course of your career
Actually meeting a practitioner psychologist during my undergrad, and having the actualisation that all this interesting psychology stuff could really help people.
Anywhere peaceful and in nature. There’s a place in Jordan I’ve been lucky enough to visit a couple of times called the Wadi Rum and, despite being a vast dessert, I’ve found it to be surprisingly relaxing to be so far away from civilisation with only your thoughts.
In a very psychologist like way, I don’t really have any. We all make mistakes, and things don’t always go to plan. But if we learn from them and improve ourselves or reaffirm our values in the process, it’s not something I’d regret.
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