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 - Carolyn Brown ProfileArmy Benevolent Fund - Injured servicemen charity

A day in the life of...WWTW Clinical Lead, Carolyn

Over the next few months, we're going to introduce you to some of the team members behind Walking With The Wounded. In this interview, we hear from Carolyn, our Clinical Lead.

Carolyn joined Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) as our Clinical Lead in November 2018. Carolyn is based in our Head Office in Norfolk and works alongside our mental health programme Administrator, Colette, to run the mental health programme, 'Head Start'.

In 2019 we had 366 individuals receive support through Head Start; an increase of 98% on the previous year.

What is the Head Start Programme?

Head Start provides 1-2-1 private therapy for ex-service personnel with mild to moderate mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and adjustment disorder. Therapy is provided via face-to-face and digital sessions. Evidence-based talking therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) are delivered by accredited private therapists within the ex-service personnel’s local community.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a mental health nurse as well as the WWTW Clinical Lead at WWTW. I completed my mental health nurse training at the University of East Anglia, then went on to complete further training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and EMDR therapy. Following graduation I worked with women battling severe mental illness, then moved to Australia working on a very busy acute inpatient ward as well as managing a caseload in the community. Following this, I worked with various NHS Community Mental Health Teams in Norwich. The work entailed being exposed to a wide range of psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, personality disorders and post traumatic stress disorder. I have worked with ex-servicemen and women since 2011.

What does an average day look like for you?

An average day would comprise of reading through and reviewing referrals into the Head Start programme, which have been sent in by various agencies such as our NHS partners, other NHS teams and military charities. Liaising with referrers is a fundamental part of the role, ensuring that each referral is appropriate and that the veteran seeking support is likely to benefit from the 12 sessions of therapy we are able to offer them. The next stage would be to source a therapist for the veteran.

What is the best bit about your job?

One of the most rewarding aspects of the role is when a veteran completes his or her therapy, attends every session of treatment and is able to reconnect with their families and their community. It can be fairly overwhelming for an individual to get to this point. When they do, it is a positive step towards recovery. Monitoring the veteran’s journey can also be rewarding – we often begin the process with individuals who want to address their difficulties but have struggled for years. Watching a positive, therapeutic and trusting relationship develop can be uplifting.

What's the biggest challenge?

We aim to find a therapist for a veteran within 10 days and within a 10 mile radius of their community. This can be challenging; particularly if the individual in question struggles with physical issues or financial difficulties, making it difficult to access treatment. Online therapy is a potential solution and we’ve seen great results from those clients that have opted for this.

What do the clients you support struggle with the most?

It can be extremely difficult to accept that you have mental health difficulties and there is still a lot of stigma around this. So coming forwards in the first place is a challenge for many. Once they do engage, therapy is challenging and difficult; creating many barriers to remaining in treatment. It can be painful and exhausting to continue through the sessions and avoidance is a major factor resulting in disengagement. Encouragement and a non-judgemental attitude is necessary from our team, and it is important to be aware of an individual’s limitations. Offering reassurance and working together to overcome some of these barriers is an integral part of the role.

What would you like to achieve in this role in the future?

Head Start aims to offer an excellent service resulting in veterans being able to manage their difficulties in an adaptive and positive way. Recovering to an optimum level of good mental health is the goal and the hope is that we continue to meet the needs of veterans referred into the Head Start Programme. Ideally, we would like to see more veterans completing treatment and we will continue to work towards this aim. This will be achieved by continuing to work closely with our partners as well as our Head Start therapists.

Click here to find out more about our mental health programme.