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Dr Debbie Wood

Former Research Student

Professional Role

I am currently a second year student on the Lancaster University Clinical Psychology Doctorate programme on placement with the Community Learning Disability Team in North East Cumbria. In this role I carry out assesments and work therapeutically with people over the age of 18 who have, or are being assessed for, a learning disability diagnosis. This has been an interesting and rewarding challenge in adapting my approach to work with people in a way that works with their understanding of themselves and the world.

In addition I am helping to develop a pathway for people with a learning disability who might also be struggling with their sexual or gender identity. It can be difficult enough for people to form heterosexual romantic relationships with services around them being risk averse without adding the apparent complexity of same sex, bisexual or other diverse ways of expressing sexuality. It can also seem like an extra challenge when people express a need to express their gender differently - and is easily attributed to being a phase or some consequence of their learning disability. I am a firm believer that we all have a right to be sexual beings and to express our gender in the way that works best for us and I hope that in this placement I can go some way to making it easier for peole with a learning disability to do so.

External Roles

I sit on the board of OutREACH Cumbria and hold the role of talking therapies and trans support lead. I have been a board member since March 2015 and was Chair from 2015-16. I am currently working towards the establishment of a therapy service designed to meet the specific needs of LGBT people in Cumbria. In 2018 with a grant from Cumbria County Council I trained 9 local therapists over weekend to increase their cultural competence in exchange for some volunteer hours to work with clients we would refer to them. Since then I have been looking to raise funds to continue this on a paid basis rather than relying on people to volunteer their time. I firmlly believe that this is the ethical approach because people have trained long and hard to earn their qualifications and the evidence show us that a high proportion of mental health isses experienced by LGBT people are as a result of being treat 'differently' in society. It therefore seems reasonable that as a society we should pay to put that right.

As part of this exercise we put out surveys to evidence need with local health professionals and with the local LGBT community. We have had our ups and downs but I am hopeful that more recent bids and communication with North Cumbria CCG might bear some fruit... watch this space!

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