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My story - Kairen Cullen

Kairen Cullen is a HCPC registered Educational Psychologist. 

Her work, like many others, in film and television has been affected due to the pandemic and she emphasises the importance of using this time for continuous learning and staying connected to her profession.

My background and working in the media  

I’m an Educational Psychologist with my own practice, KCCPS LLP. After many years of mainly individual assessment-based practice I made the decision to use my psychology experience, training and skills to focus on writing, consultation and media-based work.

Having a great interest in community psychology, a love of writing, working at systems level, and a commitment to enabling positive psychology I have always wanted to reach as wide and diverse a client group as possible. My work with the media started in 2001 when I was press officer with the British Psychological Society Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP). I also became involved with the society-wide press and media office when I became Chair of the organisation. 

Over the last couple of decades, I’ve offered screening, safeguarding and general consultation services to a large number of television and film projects. I’ve also done a lot of work with radio and the press offering professional psychologist commentary and written a range of articles. This, in combination with writing two child psychology related books, has allowed me to work in a creative, relevant and varied manner and to continue to develop and learn.

The consequences of COVID-19

In March of this year I was working with a BBC drama production in Bristol. One evening at a location sites, on a rather gritty high-rise local authority estate, I was on set, largely to ensure appropriate safeguarding measures for an under-age actor involved in a scene involving some gang-based drama action. 

At the end of the typically long day’s filming, at about 9pm, relatively early on in the project, half-way through week 3 of 17, the director and writer asked the production team and cast, about two hundred people, to gather.  He told us about the decision to put the project on hold until September. It was an emotional moment as he told us, with a tremor in his voice, of how his project had been six years in the making and of how very sorry he was that this was happening. 

Nearly all of the crew and actors were self-employed and faced the prospect of no income for the foreseeable future in combination with the anxiety of the serious and frightening imminent pandemic. I returned to my base in London early the next morning and several days later lockdown commenced.

Adapting to new ways of working

Several other filming projects, for which I had been booked, had to be abandoned so along with doing my best to keep my family and myself well, I decided to focus on my writing.  I have been fairly busy writing about supporting children and families during the pandemic. Some of this has been remunerated at reduced rates and some has been on a FOC (free of charge) basis. I’ve been asked to comment on the effects of lockdown on children’s education, home learning, how best to support children’s return to school and the benefits of music and story for children’s wellbeing at this time.

In addition, I am writing my fourth novel, which although entirely fictional, inevitably draws upon my career in psychology and on-going reading and research. I also post regularly on my blog site, which at the last count had two hundred plus followers and is steadily growing.

The importance of staying connected

Although there are relatively few practitioner psychologists doing the sort of work I specialise in now, it continues to be hugely important to stay informed about and connected with the world of professional psychology and psychology research.

I have various regular peer supervision arrangements, read about and watch developments in HCPC and the BPS very closely, view and attend appropriate CPD events as much as possible.  During lockdown it was reassuring and helpful to read about the work and ideas of psychologist peers. I offered an on-line webinar on parenting during the pandemic to APT, an organisation offering applied psychology training courses.

APT had the excellent idea of offering free, weekly COVID-19 related webinars to applied psychology professionals and as I enjoyed being a recipient of some interesting and useful sessions I decided to reciprocate. The series of webinars concluded with a Q&A session for hundreds of participants from across the world to a panel composed of webinar presenters. The final question, put to the panel by Dr Will Davis, owner of APT, asked presenters about their best tips for coping with the pandemic. My response was that it was important to focus on the learning opportunities offered by this strange situation. 

I continue to think that almost everything in life, including practice as a health and care professional is best approached in this manner. In this way it is possible to consider how we can use and develop our strengths and opportunities to best advantage and also deal with challenges and difficulties.  

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Page updated on: 24/07/2020