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Graeme Clarke Profile

Graeme was profiled in the New Zealand Journal of Clinical Psychology , Autumn 2012,Volume 22(1) pp.21-23

Graeme Clarke Psychologist

Graeme S. Clarke

What makes you think the hardest? Not sure if it is thinking ‘the hardest’ but providing the passion. For me  the passion drives the thinking. This would be the case for any Life Science model  that clarifies and simplifies the essence of being human, how to  adapt constructively  to the chaos of living, how to function optimally and how to enjoy the journey. I also  ponder on how sociopolitical systems impact on the way we function and human rights issues.

How did you learn how to do your job?  The Clinical psychology program provided the structure and boundaries of how to act ‘professionally’, to understand  the Science Practitioner framework, and an understanding of  Clinical ‘Disorders’. Apart from those profession bones and extensive work experience, a major component of the ‘how tos’ as a Clinical Psychologist are the values gained from family and life experience:  to respect others and their lens to the world, to listen, and to maintain an optimism and belief in our ability to adapt and ‘grow’.

A work focus for me has been to understand and maximise the therapeutic change process in a range of areas of adult functioning. CBT approaches were taught at the Canterbury program. I also became enthused with the Eriksonian utilization model: we all have personal resources, it’s how to tap into them, and enhance skills. Jeffrey Zeig uses a beautiful metaphor: View each therapeutic session as Christmas; we have a gift to offer, and it’s how we package that gift that counts.

It was also helpful to complete a Diploma in Sport Science, with the emphasis on how we function ‘well’ in contrast to the ‘Clinical ‘ issues. A Diploma in Clinical Hypnosis was also valuable, with insights  into the Phenomenology of altered states of consciousness. The study of hypnosis also examines the quality of communication,  how a person processes  information at  many levels(e.g. metaphor),and how to maximize the delivery of  suggestion. More recently I have enjoyed integrating EFT, EMDR and Mindfulness constructs into my practice.

Tell us about getting into clinical? I was working part time at Templeton, a Psychopaedic Hospital as a holiday job and struggling with University papers in Chemistry, Physics and Botany. I felt stimulated and energised by the Templeton role. I also felt uncomfortable with some of the relationship power imbalances observed in a range of work situations and was motivated to get into a profession that was taken seriously and allowed you to empower others. So, I switched the degree to Psychology and Education papers , and found my grades improved.

I was then fortunate to be accepted into the Clinical Psychology programme at Canterbury.

What do you like about your job? I like the connection to others, the ability  to facilitate  change in behavior and emotional ‘wellbeing’, monitoring the  evidence based information, keeping creative, and defining the ‘Art’ of influence, the humbling  and inspiring experience of being privy to the resourcefulness and resilience of others; and  being paid well to do this!

What are your thoughts about clinical psychology – where would you like the profession to go? What do you think are professional issues?

Three questions there so firstly…

What are my thoughts about Clinical Psychology? The profession in NZ appears to be in great heart. I often reflect  back to the vision of John Duggdale, John Bushnell and others and the legacy they have produced, with some impressive young people maintaining the momentum. I also believe the Psychology Board auditing  is healthy and assists  to remind us of issues like Core Competencies and an awareness of our professional goals etc. I was professionally audited in 2010 and although it was a challenge I gained much from the process. It has also been so encouraging for us in Shakey Canterbury in the last 18 months to gain genuine support from colleagues.

We often talk about it here, the generosity and understanding that has been offered, again reflecting the strength of the profession in NZ.

Clinical Psychology offers well validated assessment and treatment approaches, and  clear boundary constructs. In an era where cost effectiveness and quality of delivery is rightly prioritized Clinical Psychology remains competitive.

Where would you like the profession to go? The traditional Clinical areas of assessment e.g. Neurospsychology, will always remain in demand, as will the well grounded Clinical treatment approaches, e.g. with respect  to trauma, depression etc.

Clinical Psychologists from the early eighties have also moved into positions of leadership and Management and such career paths will continue. My work  focus in the last twenty four  years has been in Private Practice, with an interest in therapeutic and behavioral change at an adult individual or couple level. I believe one future direction for Clinical Psychologists  is to  broaden the ‘therapeutic’ market , to general problems of living and ‘health’ psychology issues. With grounding in the  Bio-Psycho-Social approach, Clinical Psychologists are in a strong position to embrace this area. I have found Les Greenberg’s Emotionally Focused approach has depth and appeal to clients. Greenberg introduces the concept of emotional coaching which is a positive, respectful, non pathologised  approach. Through my involvement with Sport psychology the concept of ‘Mental Coach’, was often used.

The Life coach role is a burgeoning area for Clinical psychology. The article by Jarden and Anticich in NZ Clinical Psychologist (2005) gave some excellent guidelines. The challenge with the Life Coach role is to define what Clinical Psychologists’ offer that is different from other professions. My belief is we offer ‘plenty’ with the layers of understanding of human behaviour, empirically based principles ,and  clear professional boundaries. As a profession we also need to maintain high standard teachers like Les Greenberg, Michael Yapko, Graham Taylor and find ways to pass on the wisdom of local experienced Clinicians.

What do you think are professional issues? There are the traditional chestnuts such as legal confidentiality issues and  law interpretation. There was an excellent Legal and  Ethical issues forum at the 2010 NZCCP Conference in Christchurch that addressed issues  such as dealing with information from third parties, and ‘protecting ‘information about clients.

Another issue is the adversarial agenda of some Psychological assessments. My observation with some cases e.g. Traumatic Brain Injury, is that the clients integrity and confidence can be considerably undermined in this assessment process. A further issue is the public profile of Clinical Psychology relative to funding agents. It has been absorbing recently to be part of a working party initiated by John Duggdale which looked at the provision of Psychological services following the Christchurch Earthquakes.

This involved discussion with other disciplines, from NGO’s, CDHB etc. All good stuff to facilitate coordination of services, but it was also apparent that some of these agencies lacked understanding of Clinical Psychology provision. One final professional issue is our responsibility with regard to psychosocial issues. Given the trends we observe in our work e.g. the growing gap between rich and poor, issues of domestic violence, etc. Do we need to take greater responsibility publically to highlight the psychological impact of these issues, as well as commenting on the many positive legislative decisions that are made?

What would you have done if you weren’t a Clinical Psyc? I was heading in the direction of horticulture prior to finding Psychology, but I doubt if that career would have been as fulfilling. Diplomacy as a Career would have been interesting but I would not have the patience for the political agendas. A professional musician, and writing music would have been a dream but what a chaotic lifestyle. I’ve always been a team player so some leadership role, but the organization would have to ‘fit’ the values I’m driven by.

Why did you become a clin psyc? My prime motivation was, and remains, the enjoyment of working closely with people.

I’ve always been conscious of the struggles we all experience and  motivated to understand  how we adapt to the ambiguity of ’life’. I wanted to be in a profession with a positive influence.  Clinical Psychology was a respected profession and the Canterbury Clinical Psychology program was recognized as high standard, with excellent placements and career opportunities.

What do you do for fun? The social side of golf is always fun, although the golf itself has its moments! I  play the guitar , compose, enjoy many genres of music, and engage in regular moderate exercise. I enjoy simple everyday pleasures like good food, coffee or a Central Otago Pinot and spending quality time with friends and family. A leisurely breakfast on holiday is a highlight. I enjoy a good story and humor.

I also like to have the occasional well judged punt. My 60th birthday celebration was held recently and was planned over several years. That was great fun.

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