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September 2016

“It’s really given me confidence”: A participant’s reflections on the Summer Institute

Jenni WingroveThis Monday Think Ahead participants will join community mental health teams across the country to begin their on-the-job training as social workers. Here, Jenni Wingrove, a participant who will start training in Luton, shares her reflections on how she’s feeling ahead of starting the role, and the best bits of the six-week Summer Institute.

Why I wanted to join the Think Ahead programme

I studied psychology at university and then a master’s in forensic psychology, and then went into working in research, but I really missed the face-to-face work. I had worked alongside social workers during a previous job, so I knew that they’re able to work with service users to address things that really have an impact, like housing and employment. Social workers are the ones who can make a real difference.

I have also had personal experience of people with mental health needs within my family, so the mental health focus of Think Ahead was a real draw for me.

Hearing from service users at the Summer Institute  

The service user involvement at the Summer Institute was definitely my favourite bit. Service users were involved in lots of the teaching, helping us to see different conditions and different social work approaches from their perspective. It was so interesting to see things through their eyes – I think it’s the only way to really learn what an experience is like.

The fact that they were sharing such personal stories was amazing, and it really showed how much they value social workers and the impact social workers have had on them. They were willing to share difficult experiences to help us to be better at what we do.

Seeing other perspectives  

Being part of the Think Ahead cohort has been brilliant. The participants are all amazing, such a great bunch of like-minded people, with a real range of different backgrounds. A lot had personal experience of mental ill-health, either themselves or with family members. Some had experience of working with service users already, and some had no experience. Along with the brilliant academic and practitioner points of view we got from the lecturers, it created a great environment for some really interesting classroom discussions.

Looking ahead

I am really looking forward to starting my on-the-job training. I want to get out there and put the things I’ve learnt at the Summer Institute into practice. I can’t deny the institute was full-on and tiring, but it’s really given me confidence that I know what I’m going to be doing.