One on One with media expert & Counselling Psychologist Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo
Assistant Psychologist Fauzia Khan interviews Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo (CPsychol, AFBPsS), media expert and Chartered Counselling Psychologist in private practice.
23 February 2023
Can you tell me a bit about your background and what inspired you to pursue a career in psychology?
I started my training in Counselling Psychology in 1999. I was extremely lucky to be accepted onto the first ever training run by Professor Rob Bor, an eminent Counselling and Health Psychologist who is now world renowned for his work in Aviation Psychology. At this time the training consisted of a Master’s Degree followed by a Postgraduate Practitioner diploma which qualified me as a Counselling Psychologist in 2003. As the Doctorate was not automatically included, which is common-place now, I later went on to complete that at the Tavistock Clinic as this was an important personal goal to become Dr Quinn!
What drew you to train specifically in counselling psychology?
Counselling Psychology is a branch of psychology that places emphasis on the therapeutic process and relationship between psychologist and patient/client. I wanted to work therapeutically with patients following my postgraduate work in head injury rehabilitation, acute mental health, PTSD and learning disability. I wanted the flexibility of being able to work directly with individuals and support them to create change. Counselling Psychology was a great fit for this.
What does your role as a counselling psychologist involve?
As a Counselling Psychologist I pride myself on my relationships with others and being able to harness this to help those in need. I worked in the NHS for many years before setting up in private practice in 2014. I have now developed a thriving client practice and also been able to tap into my creativity and love for community psychology, using my autonomy to develop community projects, collaborations and also dive into the world of the media.
My roles have included being a specialist advisor for the CQC and a Clinical Reviewer for NHS England which came off the back of the Winterbourne View Scandal and the identified need for better monitoring of individuals with learning disabilities in inpatient units. I have found this role to be so rewarding.
I think that my Counselling Psychology training has helped to shape my ability to initiate and forge relationships with others including those in the media, people I collaborate with and most importantly the patients I work with in my clinic. While I appreciate that my 22 years clinical experience plays an important part in the service that I deliver- it’s the feedback about the therapeutic relationship that I value the most. Connecting with people, especially when they are often at their most vulnerable is just the most humbling thing. Creating a safe, containing space for patients to begin to explore and work on their difficulties is essentially what Counselling Psychology is all about. I love my job; I love my role and I am excited to see where it will take me next!
Tell me about your media work?
Over the past few years I have done many tv, radio and newspaper, magazine articles and collaborated with health and wellbeing platforms and websites. I want to bring the principles of psychology to individuals and communities. My aim is to bring good quality psychology and mental health knowledge to the wider public. I have established some valued connections and regular TV and Radio appearances and publications which is great for being able to bring my own ideas to the public.
What about your work with the British Red Cross?
I am a Psychological reserve Volunteer for the British Red Cross. I was in the first cohort of these practitioners as a joint venture between the Red Cross and the British Psychological Society. We are there to support people following major incidents in the UK.
You host ‘The Adversity Psychologist’ podcast; how did this come about?
During the pandemic I started my own local online support forum and was also involved in an international support forum with other psychologists and speaking to the media. Inspiration for the podcast has come from this work during the pandemic along with my existing clinical experience. The podcast incorporates narratives about facing and navigating adversity. It focuses on lived experience of adversity and includes discussion of psychological principles of coping and learning from it. I use my background to explore different types of adversity including emotional, mental, physical and financial adversity.
Tell me about the ‘Conversation Starter Project’ that you recently co-founded?
I set up this local voluntary project in my community to help people to manage their emotional wellbeing. The “Conversation Starter Project” includes weekly ‘walk and talk’ and wellbeing sessions, training and consultancy to support community organisations and staff wellbeing. The Coronavirus pandemic has exerted a significant impact on the emotional wellbeing of many individuals due to the restrictions imposed and the social isolation. Those with mental health issues/those without/those working at home/those impacted by the pandemic. The project aims to tackle loneliness, emotional health, wellbeing and grief. The project is also designed to help facilitate connection in the local community as well as tackling loneliness and supporting people with grief and loss. This allows engagement in a supported way using my clinical and safeguarding experience and established referral pathways with local agencies to ensure a robust safe model.
What advice would you give to other psychologists who may be interested in pursuing media work?
I want to get high quality evidenced based psychology to the media. I believe in using qualified and regulated professionals when giving information to the public. I feel it is important to educate both the media and public on what qualified practitioner psychologists do and not to mislead in any way. It is important to make sure you are staying true to your values as a psychologist and are clear about your remit when accepting pieces of work. Don’t be afraid to put those boundaries in when contributing to articles and also when live on the radio or television!
More information about Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo
To find out more about Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo's work, you can check out her website.
Fauzia Khan is an Assistant Psychologist currently working within the NHS, whilst completing her Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. Follow her on Twitter.