Northern Ireland BPS Cross-disciplinary event – working independently

07 March 20249:00am - 3:00pmNorthern Ireland
  • Professional Practice
Free (members only)
Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast
In person
Northern Ireland Branch

Psychologists in all disciplines work in a variety of settings during their careers; within the public, private and voluntary sectors as well as working within organisations, in consultancies, in academia or independently.

This event is for psychologists at all stages of the career pathway.

It will appeal to those making early career decisions after finishing their academic and professional training and qualifications, mid-career considering a change of direction or diversification of their experience, experienced practitioners and academics wishing to broaden their offering of work or specialise their expertise, or for those members looking to transition from permanent employment to a more flexible working pattern as they work towards retirement planning.

This event will be held at:

  • Crumlin Road Gaol Conference Centre
    53-55 Crumlin Rd
    BT14 6ST

The event will provide an overview of the key considerations and factors involved in working independently.

It will enable members to think about both the professional and practical issues regarding working in an independent, self-employed or associate capacity, with input from those who have worked independently at various stages in their career and across different disciplines in psychology.

It also will highlight the potential opportunities for psychologists in roles which do not require specific psychological qualifications or training, but which utilise the skills which psychologists have gained through their careers.

We are delighted that our keynote speaker is Christine Hamilton, Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Co-Chair of the Special Group for Independent Practitioners. Details of further speakers will follow in due course.

Register to attend this event

09:30-10:00 - Arrival

10:00-10:15 - Welcome

Introduction by Dr Geraldine O’Hare, NIBPS Chair.

10:15-11:00 - Keynote address (including time for questions)

Keynote speaker: Christine Hamilton, BPS Special Group for Independent Practitioners.

11:00-11:15 - Break

11:15-12:15 - Panel Session: Experiences of working independently in Northern Ireland

Members from different disciplines and career stages will talk about their journey to independent work and discuss some of the positives and challenges of working independently.

Confirmed panel members:

  • Dr Michelle Murtagh, Chartered Occupational Psychologist
  • Dr Kerry Sweeney, Chartered Clinical Psychologist
  • Dr Geraldine O'Hare, Chartered Forensic Psychologist

12:15-12:45 - What are the practicalities, and how can I find out more?

Facilitated by Christine Hamilton (Co-Chair of the BPS Special Group of Independent Practitioners) this session will serve as an introduction to the practical issues when considering self-employment and sources of support:

  • The Special Group of Independent Practitioners
  • Networking
  • Marketing
  • Tax and finances

12:45-13:30 - Lunch

Including time for networking.

13:30-14:30 - Workshop/World Café format - what skills and competencies do psychologists have and what areas of work/opportunities could those skills lead to?

NIBPS Committee members to facilitate discussions and feedback.

Members to be encouraged to consider both discipline specific opportunities but also those for which they may have the appropriate skills but which do not need a psychological background (e.g. Non-Exec Director/Board member roles, Public Appointments Commissioners, advisory/organisational consultancy projects).

14:30-15:00 - Are you thinking of a public appointment?

A conversation with Dr Audrey McKeown, Public Appointments Commission, NI. Facilitated session by Dr Geraldine O’Hare, Chair NIBPS.

Christine Hamilton

Christine Hamilton is an Occupational & Coaching Psychologist with an Honours Degree in Psychology from Cardiff University.

An experienced leadership & management development consultant, she has experience working in public, private, and not for profit sectors, she is She is a senior consultant with Affina OD (AOD) and EdoMidas, as well as having an independent practice.

She is a registered Coach with NHS Education for Scotland and as such undertakes GP and director level coaching within the NHS and other parts of the public sector.

Christine is currently Co-Chair of the BPS Special Group for Independent Practitioners.

She is Past Secretary of the Division of Occupational Psychology and Past Chair of the Division of Occupational Psychology Scotland (DOPS).

Dr Michelle Murtagh, Chartered Occupational Psychologist 

A Doctor of Occupational and Business Psychology, Executive Coach, Mediator and behavioural change specialist, Michelle works in partnership with C-Suite and senior business leaders to develop their strategic thinking, psychological flexibility, resilience, influencing skills and sense of authority.  Michelle began her career as an Occupational Psychologist in PwC in London.

During these 15 years, Michelle specialised in delivering Recruitment and Assessment, Business Transformation, Process Re-engineering, Merger and Acquisition, Systems Integration and Change Management programmes for national and international clients.  Michelle subsequently ran her own Consultancy in Portugal.  During these 10 years, she provided strategic support, leadership development and executive assessment services to global businesses.

On her return to the UK, she joined Coca Cola as an independent Occupational Psychologist, specialising in talent assessment and development; then Toward as a Senior Psychologist, followed by the William. J. Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s University as a Programme Director.  

In 2018, Michelle established Clavey Consulting, which delivers bespoke executive assessment, transformational change interventions and executive coaching services to clients in a range of sectors including government, financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, professional services, retail, technology and renewables.

Michelle also provides associate expert services to: Sevenhill Group, Tadley; Seven Psychology at Work, Dublin; Practive Consultancy, London; and CORE Leadership, Belfast.  She is a selected coaching panel member for a number of global institutions.  As a tutor of Executive Education at the Queen’s University, Belfast, Michelle supports business leaders to advance their personal and professional development.

Fascinated by the concept of “self-confidence” Michelle undertook a Professional Doctorate in Occupational and Business Psychology (2019).  The output of her research resulted in "An Executive Coaching Framework Designed to Enhance the Self-Confidence of Employees" .  In recognition of her experience and contribution to the field of Occupational and Business Psychology, Michelle was awarded the professional title of AFBPsP by the BPS. 

Dr Kerry Sweeney, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, BSc (Hons), DClinPsy, CPsychol, Consultant Clinical Psychologist (BPS Chartered and HCPC Registered), DDP Certified Practitioner 

Kerry worked for 20 years in the NHS as a Clinical Psychologist with Children & Families, thirteen of which were as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist/Lead for Therapeutic Services for Looked After & Adopted Children.  Kerry graduated as a Clinical Psychologist in 2002 and worked in the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service & Looked After Children’s Therapeutic Services in Northern Trust for approximately 5 years.  Following this she worked as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in the Belfast Trust School’s MDT. 

She was then employed for 13 years by the South Eastern Trust as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, where she managed the Therapeutic Services.  As well as assessment, consultation, training and management, Kerry provided therapeutic support to enable children to begin to recover from their earlier life experiences.

A key aspect of her role was providing professional consultation throughout social services in relation to care planning and sitting on trust and regional panels.  Kerry supported service and practice development across the trust and the region.  Kerry also became one of a few certified Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) practitioners in Ireland in 2015 and is now on the Consultant Practicum in this model. 

Kerry started undertaking independent assessments for court proceedings since 2017, when she was working part time in the NHS.  In January 2022 she took the leap into entirely independent practice which includes court assessments, clinical work from Kingsbridge Private Health Care Group and training.  She has recently established an Independent Clinical Psychology Special Interest Group under the DCP. 

Dr Geraldine O'Hare

Geraldine is a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist and an Associate Fellow with the British Psychological Society. 

Geraldine has been involved in the NI Branch and the national BPS for many years and has held a number of roles on both local and national BPS Committees.  She is currently the Chair of NIBPS.

Geraldine started up the Division of Forensic Psychology for both the NIBPS and the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) and was Chair of both Divisions for many years.  She is the Chief Assessor for the BPS Qualification in Forensic Psychology and is the Assessment Lead for the BPS Science Council. 

Geraldine has worked for most of her career within the Criminal Justice System as Head of Psychological Services and then the Director of Rehabilitation for the Probation Board for N. Ireland.

She was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to the USA to research alternatives to imprisonment for mentally disordered offenders and those with substance misuse,  and returned to develop and lead on the first Problem Solving Justice Treatment Courts in N. Ireland.

She received the Innovation in Practice Award from the BPS for her pioneering work, and from time, has assisted the Ministry of Justice, England and Wales, in introducing their first Problem Solving Courts across the UK Court System. 

Geraldine holds a number of positions and roles across the Health and Justice sectors both nationally and internationally. 

Dr Audrey McKeown, Public Appointments Commission

Audrey started her career as a Lecturer and Senior Manager in the Further and Higher Education Sector. She held a range of roles across and developed her expertise in a number of areas including Staff Development, European Funding, Income Generation, Marketing, Quality Assurance, Curriculum, Training and Development, Incubation and Innovation. 

Audrey now works independently, having set up her own Consultancy in 2007, offering her key expertise in areas such as External Assessment, Delivery of Leadership and Management Programmes, Performance Appraisal as well as 1:1 Professional Coaching. 

She has also undertaken various contracts as an External Funding Assessor and Evaluator with the European Commission, British Council and the Welsh Government. 

Audrey works as an Independent Assessor for the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Northern Ireland where she has held this position since 2014. 

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