“Studying chemistry at university wasn’t that common for women at that time,” says Catherine, with women making up just 13% of the STEM workforce in the UK even today. “I quickly discovered I didn’t want to work in a lab. There was a lot more going on in the world, so I decided to switch to psychology.
“After uni, I got a job as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, which were - back then - quite unpleasant environments,” adds Catherine, who is in her 60s and lives in East Lancashire “I was interested in making changes because I thought there had to be a better way of life for people.”
Now a chartered and registered clinical psychologist, Catherine thankfully trusted her instincts and left the lab to study matters of the mind, going on to work in a number of psychiatric facilities before founding her own company, CD Psychology, in 2010.
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“I was never one to stop still, I always had to have a new project, so I started to think about how I could help people in businesses manage their mental health better because the industry side only tends to look at work-related stress,” she says. “But we all have some aspect of vulnerability which can manifest in different ways.
“Having been involved in assessments, treatment, and therapy, I thought a more whole view of people’s mental health and life was required,” adds Catherine. “So, I designed an approach which recognises each person as unique with their own characteristics and experiences and which acknowledges that we all have mental health.”
Now helping people develop resilience and confidence in both the workplace and their personal lives, providing bespoke assessments and training, Catherine helps both employers and employees forge happier and more effective workplaces in tandem.
Running the business herself, Catherine’s outlook is expressly holistic. With her expertise - she also provides reports for criminal proceedings, the Court of Protection, and mental health tribunals - she specialises in how people can improve their working lives by incorporating a focus on facets from their personal life.
“Even today, there aren’t that many clinical psychologists working in the business world,” she explains. “I’m interested in helping people make a change and the only way to do that is by connecting with people who want to make that change.
“When people are keen to engage, it’s so fulfilling professionally because you can have such an impact and enable people to get to where they want to go,” she adds. “I think this industry will become more prevalent; it’s not about fixing a person, it’s about focusing on things at both an organisational and a personal level.
“The approach I take is different in that it concentrates on how the individual and the organisation interrelate and the impact that has.”
As an expert in helping employees adjust and adapt to difficult personal circumstances and traumatic events, Catherine’s expertise could prove crucial at a time when companies are starting to emerge from a year of tumult.
“I enjoy the work hugely, particularly when I see people making their own changes,” she says. “It’s about balance and about helping people widen their focus and see the range of possibilities available to them. The principle is the person as a whole, taking into account their well-being, their motivation, and their goals.
“People like the big vision and the end-point, but I’m more interested in talking to businesses who value their people and who are open to conversation and feedback,” Catherine adds. “Giving people permission to start a conversation is a powerful thing.”