A day in the life of Pamela Roberts
What does your role entail?
“I joined Priory in 2009 and took over as Addictions Programme Manager at The Priory Hospital Woking in 2014. My role is really varied. It includes looking after the continuous development of our treatment programme and our team of qualified and committed therapists, as well as reporting and measuring against best practice, and assessing new patient placements to ensure the best treatment and team makeup is available to them.
“I am also directly involved in patient-facing clinical work – I am passionate about this work and the wellbeing of patients. I get involved in the group therapy sessions and I also run one-to-one therapy sessions with patients that require individual support. One-to-one sessions are often done in preparation for residential treatment as well as to support those making the transition from residential treatment back into their day-to-day lives.”
What is your role as an Addiction Treatment Programme team?
“It goes without saying that a major part of our role is creating an environment of abstinence. Sometimes this is the first time patients are considering life without their addiction – a scary prospect for them. Creating this environment clears the way for us to explore unhealthy patterns of behaviour, deeper issues that sustain addiction and to encourage healthy changes. We hold and nurture our patients at the same time as challenging their addictive processes and denial.
“I couldn’t be prouder of being a part of the team I work with at Woking. They are hardworking and committed to the best outcomes for our patients. They embrace this journey with each and every patient with enthusiasm as well as professionalism.
“This sense of unity at Woking doesn’t just apply to the addictions team. It emanates across the whole hospital community.”
What is the role of therapy programmes in treating addictions?
“Our role as therapists involves reflecting the patient to themselves. By being more self-aware, our patients can make different, healthier, wiser choices, rather than remaining unaware and driven to addictions by unknown drivers.
“The start of this treatment journey involves exploring these unconscious drivers of addiction, not the substance or behaviour as the driver, but as the motive to escape and avoid living life on life’s terms.
“Another part of the treatment process involves spending time developing our patients’ personal resources – these are the tools that help them maintain their recovery from addiction. They include expanding their support network, becoming more emotionally aware and asking for help. Group work – which our programme is centred on – is the ideal environment to start practicing and learning how to change everything.”
What makes The Priory Hospital Woking an ideal place for addictions treatment?
“I think it starts with the team and the relationships, work ethic and authentic passion we all have for our jobs. This attitude and the environment we have created naturally filters down to our patients.
“The surroundings here at Woking also make it a perfect place to recover; the lawns where deer and foxes pass by, the sunsets and trees – it is a calm and tranquil environment.”
How do you develop positive relationships with your patients?
“We see Woking as a place where we can support patients to simply be themselves. We create an environment of trust with our patients. When they first arrive they are often at their most vulnerable. We travel the journey of therapy with them, supporting them as they encounter highs and lows.
“By default we recreate a ‘family’ for our patients. This can provide a different family experience for them as often they have had family relationship difficulties in their lives. It’s a bit like a psychological learning lab; a safe environment to experience the daily ups and downs, conflict, challenges and upsets of life, and to not need to escape these experiences by ‘using’. We know that the support and structure we provide helps to counter the chaos of addictions.
“We also work through cycles of rupture and repair with patients which fosters trust and positive rapport. This enables the team to support them in finding ways to deal with life differently without the need to avoid or escape through the use of addictions. They can start to trust themselves.”
How do you encourage patients to support each other as a peer group?
“A lot is gained from the positive connections the patients make with each other in their peer group. This is often in stark contrast to connections they had in their lives of active addiction. I personally get such joy to hear the peer group sitting together laughing – that real belly laughter – and all without their addictions. These connections are made as they become more genuine with each other through the group therapy sessions and are encouraged to spend time together outside the group sessions. We often say the best therapy happens when people are socialising.”
How do you support patients once they have left inpatient treatment?
“At times we can have up to 30 people returning to our Aftercare Programme each week. To me, that demonstrates the trust we have built with our patients – a trust that lasts beyond 28 days.
“I was in one of our Aftercare sessions recently; I was sitting there as part of the group and I just smiled. To witness someone coming back week after week as a member of our alumni community and to see them develop on what they’ve learnt as a patient here brings me delight and reinforces the importance of the work we are all doing.”
What do you enjoy outside of work?
“My love and my passion is art. Walking into an art gallery and losing myself in the strokes of an oil painting brings me joy and peace.
“I live in the depths of Hampshire and benefit from long walks across the South Downs.
“I also love loud scrabble nights with my friends; it’s never really about the scrabble though. It’s the company and the laughter.”