Professor Philippa Garety
Professor of Clinical Psychology
Clinical Director and Joint Leader, Psychosis Clinical Academic Group, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust / King's Health Partners
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
Starting as a student of clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry in 1979. I did not know then whether I would become a full-time clinician or an academic. But I saw the work of people like Jack Rachman and David Hemsley, and realised that I could combine empirical research and clinical work – the perfect combination.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
I have always been interested in the experiences we call psychosis, especially delusions.
I vividly recall walking into a ward at the Maudsley as a first year trainee and a person I had never met before approaching me and saying ‘You put my mother in the washing machine’. I was certainly rather frightened by this – but also intrigued. What psychological processes would lead to a person thinking this? How do we come to believe things? Exploring reasoning and emotions in delusions has been at the heart of my research ever since.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Being one of a small group of clinician-researchers who successfully challenged the prevailing view in the 1980s and 1990s that psychological therapy was unhelpful for people with psychosis, by developing and rigorously evaluating a new approach. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Psychosis is now recommended in many parts of the globe.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
In my early career I was impressed by a number of outstanding psychologists and psychiatrists at the IoP and the Maudsley. Whether predominantly research-orientated or clinically-focused, they all combined clinical innovation with academic rigour in the service of better treatment and services for people with psychosis– people such as Douglas Bennett, Isobel Morris, Dave Hemsley and Jim Birley. More recently, I have been privileged to work closely with Tom Craig and Elizabeth Kuipers who share these values and qualities.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
First and foremost it is the support of my partner and having a life beyond work.
Within the work setting, it has been collaborating over many years with a group of close research colleagues who have formed the Psychosis Research Partnership, central among whom are Paul Bebbington, Graham Dunn, Daniel Freeman, David Fowler and Elizabeth Kuipers. They have been an endless source of ideas, debate, shared publications and grants, good conversations and support when times are hard.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Working with outstanding colleagues and PhD students, in a setting where clinical work and research are genuinely cheek-by-jowl.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
I work as clinical director and joint leader of the Psychosis Clinical Academic Group as well as being a professor of clinical psychology. This clinical leadership role makes considerable demands on my time and energy, as well as being intensely rewarding. Therefore I need to be clearly boundaried about time for research, and aim to work from home 1-2 days each week so as to concentrate fully, while being flexible when new clinical or academic priorities suddenly emerge, as so inevitably they do.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
I have a very rich life outside work, filled to the brim with family, friends and leisure. I also share in caring for my very elderly mother. I am one of those rare people at KCL who doesn’t work at weekends. My temperament is such that I much prefer to work long days in the week, and know that I will recharge by engaging in other circles for two days. To go for a sail in my dinghy, with its physical and mental demands, and immersion in the beauty of the natural world, is the perfect antidote to work life in Camberwell!
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Focus your efforts on the research which interests you, and which you believe matters…easier said than done, sometimes.
Good research is a team effort – value your colleagues.
Be prepared to learn from negative results – really, they may be the most interesting ones!