Student Interview: David Neill Parker
Family Partnerships Officer, David Neill-Parker, enrolled on our CPD64 training in 2019, and now has his sights set on becoming a child and adolescent psychotherapist.
David Neill Parker is a Family Partnerships Officer at Tower Hamlets SEND Information, Advice and Support Service in London. In 2019, a colleague suggested he consider a fully-funded, ten-week CPD course with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – Developing a diverse child and adolescent workforce (CPD64).
“She tried for a year to get me to do the course”, David recalls, “and I don’t know what the unconscious blockage was, but I never got round to it, until one day I came and there was a sticky note on my computer screen saying “CPD64”, just as simple as that, and that’s where it started. I applied, I was accepted, and thus began the journey of me being educated by the Tavistock.”
For David, Developing a diverse child and adolescent workforce (CPD64) offered the ideal introduction to a compelling subject – a “bite-size” course that delivered “a lot of information” in a short space of time, “instantly impacting” his work with children, young people and their families.
David was eligible to apply for a free place on the course through the Tavistock and Portman’s Training Skills Escalator. Funded by NHS England, this programme aims to increase access to academic learning in the field of child psychotherapy – enabling professionals to develop skills that support their work, while furthering their understanding of the emotional worlds of children, young people and their families, and of working in multicultural settings.
The course’s exploration of adolescent emotional and psychological development was particularly of interest: “I’ve got kids of around that age, and they talked about the rebirth of a teenager, a second-coming almost”, recalls David. “It changed my practice, how I was supporting some of the young people, my communication with my sons, how I spoke with my friends and family members who had kids of a similar age”.
His experience of the course was positive: “I expected to do a lot more studying, writing, presenting and so on – and there were elements of that in CPD64, but they understood that we all had different levels”. Instead, the approach was “gentle” and “supportive”, with an accessible programme of lectures and seminars centred around a young child observation. “I was lucky also that the group I was with was quite diverse, so I instantly felt quite familiar in terms of my surroundings, which was important in the beginning for me”, he adds.
“I loved it”, says David, “it really stimulated me to want to learn more, to go a bit further”.
After attending a free, five-week study skills course, David was able to apply to the Training Skills Escalator for a funded place on Emotional care of babies, children, young people and families (EC1) – a two-year, university-validated training, which acts as a bridge between our introductory courses and pre-qualifying training, and which David describes as “amazing”.
This transition was eased with the help of the course tutors, as well as the “support network” of the existing student group: “We had built quite a good group relationship – we held each other, it was a mass containment”, he reflects, “so everyone had the capacity to go forward into what was scary and challenging”.
And there were indeed challenges along the way: “I expected to go quite deep in terms of my own thinking and things I’d suppressed”, says David. “I was happy to do that, I’m always reflecting and challenging my own internal world, but there were a few things that came up that I had suppressed so deeply, I wasn’t even aware of.”
“It was mind-blowing”, he adds. “My language changed, my empathy – or my patience and understanding of other people – really changed. I always wanted to be less judgmental, and now I became less judgmental, because I’d start to think: what else is going on for that person? It impacted my ability to do my job more effectively, it impacted my relationships with my partner, my kids, friends and family.”
David’s studies have continued to be funded by our Training Skills Escalator, and he is now working towards a Master’s degree in Perinatal, child, adolescent and family work: a psychoanalytic observational approach (M7) – a pre-clinical training which explores the earliest stages of life via study of the latest child development research, key psychoanalytic texts and infant observation, “putting into practice some of what we’ve learnt”.
This course brought complex new dimensions to David’s experience: “My identity became – it wasn’t such a big deal in the CPD64 or the EC1 – but it became a big deal in the M7. I realized that in terms of my race, age, sex, I was kind of isolated in many of those things. It was nothing to do with the course, the tutors or my fellow students, this was all my own internal insecurities, reflections, defences”, he explains. “I felt isolated, but I spoke about this in one of the seminar groups and I said that, on reflection, I’ve possibly isolated myself unconsciously, without even realizing it, because my sameness and difference is worn on my sleeve, there’s nothing I can do about it”.
“I managed my experiences by constantly reflecting on what might be taking place for me, why I felt isolated, or why I purposefully isolated myself to feel safe. As well as reflecting, I spoke to close friends, family members, and my partner, about my thoughts, struggles, and differences.”
When looking back on his journey to date, one of David’s academic highlights has been reading the work of Tavistock and Portman clinician and academic, Frank Lowe. “That was more to do with identity”, he explains. “Coming from around that kind of background, I felt like I was able to identify on a different level, so that was quite unique for me, and heart-warming.”
Advice for applicants
David would encourage other practitioners to consider the same training pathway: “In CPD64, the emphasis isn’t about your writing ability or your academic ability, it’s just around receiving information and your thoughts around it, your experiences – there’s a lot more conversation and exploring, and you can do it at your own pace.”
David also recalls struggling with accessing course reading material and personal organisation, owing to a Dyslexia diagnosis: “The Tavistock and Portman supported me by applying for and paying for my dyslexia assessment. I have been lucky enough to have amazing fellow students who offered me their personalized timetables, which helped me make sense of the reading weeks and topics, this also helped me become more organised.”
With this support, and the possibility of undertaking clinical psychotherapy training in the future, David is positive as he enters the second year of his Master’s training: “My experience has been challenging as I adapted to the demands of the M7 course, however I am grateful for the increase in demand as this has proven to myself how much more I have to offer, and I am confident in the fact Tavistock would go above and beyond to support me where needed.”
Intrigued? Learn more.
If you’re feeling inspired by David’s story and would like to explore a similar training pathway, we are here to help:
- Developing a diverse child and adolescent workforce (CPD64): This fully-funded, ten-week training is open to support workers without a degree, based in London. Building understanding and skills, it will boost your confidence and career.
- Emotional care of babies, children, young people and families (EC1): This university-accredited course offers an introduction to children’s emotional development through a psychoanalytic lens – providing a strong baseline of knowledge.
- Perinatal, child, adolescent and family work: a psychoanalytic observational approach (M7): This observation-based Master’s degree delivers deep insights into human development and emotional dynamics, while preparing you for further clinical training.