Canan Işık is an alumni of the MSc of Child and Adolescent Mental Health within the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. As a former international student, she reflects on the benefits of a collaboration with a community partner in the UK. If you’re wondering what and how CRIS can contribute to your master’s experience at UCL, read her story to find out more!
What did you do, who did you partner with, and how frequently did you meet or interact?
I was interested in applications of the grounded theories and aimed to do my dissertation project upon this. Specifically, my initial interest was attachment-based programs for adolescents and was particularly interested in the Circle of Security (COS) attachment-based parenting program. When we searched for our community partner with my supervisor and CRIS staff, we found Connected Lives NGO which brought COS UK and run the first UK COS Parenting Groups. This charity is an attachment-based early intervention charity working to support family relationships; particularly relationships between parents and young children, parents, and adolescents, and within couple relationships in Westminster, London.
In our collaboration, Connected Lives had identified a significant need in the community to support parents of teenagers and were keen to know if there were evidence-based programs that utilize attachment theory as the basis for intervention in this age group. Therefore, our initial plan was to adapt COS to adolescent parents. However, my research revealed that there was no literature about the connection between COS and adolescence yet. Because of that, we changed our route and started to evaluate our options. In that stage, we conducted several meetings, I worked as a researcher and presented my findings in these meetings. In each meeting, we put some goals and when I reached these goals, we arranged our following meeting. In the end, we updated the purpose of the research as a review of the literature to identify and critically review the attachment-based parenting programs for parents of adolescents. Additionally, we decided our eligibility criteria according to the necessities of Connected Lives.
Since the evidence-base of attachment-based parenting program(s) for adolescents is relatively new and there are limited studies about this topic, I used the scoping review method to map the existing literature. I screened 1611 publications from three databases and identified only one attachment-based parenting program, namely Connect. After identifying the Connect program, I examined its evidence-base through 11 studies. In that stage, the most enjoyable part of my dissertation started. I attempted to evaluate the findings regarding whether this program appeals to Connected Lives and whether the program is eligible for implementation in a community setting.
How did you find out about CRIS?
Our student rep had delivered the information about CRIS in our WhatsApp group. In that way, I was informed.
Why did you want to do this?
I always give equal importance to both theory and practice. Also, I am so passionate about putting my academic knowledge into practice. This is one of the valuable reasons this collaboration attracted me.
When I heard CRIS I felt really excited and directly talked with my supervisor. I think this collaboration was the most valuable part of my master's journey. The reason of this is about my life goals and experiences. To be specific, I always give equal importance to both theory and practice. Also, I am so passionate about putting my academic knowledge into practice. This is one of the valuable reasons this collaboration attracted me. Another substantial reason is about who I am: my life approach, past experiences, and future goals. For me, volunteering is always one of the important parts of my life which shaped my personality and gave me a chance to know myself more deeply.
When it comes to my experiences, I’ve carried out not only academic studies and internships but also, I did social projects in non-governmental organizations, so far. With my volunteering experiences, I gained several skills which I believe I cannot gain otherwise. For instance, when I was in my undergrad, a group of friends and I established a non-governmental organization called as “Genç Rota Association (Young Route Association)”. We targeted the young population of Turkey. Although we were just undergrad students or new alumnus, we aimed to identify the needs of the community and developed science-based multidisciplinary prevention programs with our occupational point of view. These experiences gave me an opportunity to come to the UK with my government scholarship. I intentionally chose UCL and this MSc program because this MSc program facilitated a multidisciplinary perspective for students to develop their clinical and research skills and gives equal importance to both theory and practice. Meanwhile, I was planning to attend volunteering work when arrive in the UK. CRIS gave me a chance not only for gaining insights into UK volunteering area but also for putting my new academic knowledge into practice.
What difference do you feel you’ve made through your collaboration?
Although my dissertation contains a secondary research project, I think it is more than an ordinary scoping review. Because the first step was identifying community needs and our research question derived from these needs and existing literature. This made my findings more meaningful. In addition, its outputs gave us not only implications for clinical studies and research but also gave implications for the target parents of Connected Lives.
What difference did your collaboration or CRIS make to your master’s?
I think this collaboration was the most important part of my master journey. As I mentioned earlier, I did several projects in my country and I really wanted to gain some volunteering experiences in the UK according to my interests and expertise. Within this collaboration, since my community partner serves a multinational target group, I gained valuable insights about UK multinational communities as an international student. Also, it gave me a chance to put my research interests into a project aiming to meet the community’s necessities which was the most productive part of my master journey.
Within this collaboration, since my community partner serves a multinational target group, I gained valuable insights about UK multinational communities as an international student.
Can you describe your interaction with partner(s) and what they contribute to the research?
As I mentioned above, we decided to make a collaboration with Connected Lives due to our common interests regarding attachment theory, parenting, and adolescence. They brought their expertise and experiences about applications of attachment theory for parents of toddlers and adolescents which was exactly what I would like to learn. We shared the same interest in adapting the Circle of Security for parents of adolescents. Due to the lack of literature, we had to change the trajectory of the study but in the end, this collaboration gave me an insightful opportunity to make my research more applicable. My research question and eligibility criteria were shaped by this collaboration.
What impact has this collaborative experience had on you?
Wellbeing, new skills, academic studies.
Becasue Connected Lives is a kind of early intervention charity, exactly like our NGO in Turkey, I gained insights about practices of one of the UK-based charities. This experience was so informative for me as an international student. Additionally, I learned many details about family profiles in the UK to some extent. Also, I had a chance to improve my research skills, design a study, and work collaboratively. I did several mini presentations which were so helpful to enhance my presentation skills and sometimes I felt like a researcher in this collaborative experience. Investigating research topics according to our meetings outputs was really enjoyable. Lastly, although I was just an international student, I felt that I was doing more than an ordinary MSc and tried to provide some community profit within this collaboration which meant a lot for me.
What’s the best thing about CRIS and collaborations?
I felt I made really meaningful work for both my master journey and the community. I experienced my future goals to some extent. As we designed my dissertation project according to community needs and evaluated findings not only for clinical works and research implications but also for community works, it accomplished more than a secondary research project.
I experienced my future goals to some extent. As we designed my dissertation project according to community needs and evaluated findings not only for clinical works and research implications but also for community works, it accomplished more than a secondary research project.
And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges?
First, we planned to do some studies about adapting COS to parents of adolescents. However, my research results showed that there was no literature about this yet. So, we had to change our route and thought first preparing a new protocol and making an intervention to adapt COS to parents of adolescents but due to the pandemic, we had to change our plan again. To decide our research question, I started an investigation of the application of attachment theory for adolescents. Thus, we changed my research question. Until this decision, I had already done several preparations so when we decide to change our research question, my entire dissertation outline has changed several times, and I had really limited time for my new question and writing my dissertation.
Would you recommend CRIS and working in this way? If so, why?
Absolutely! It was really meaningful for both my own journey and for my partner in terms of its outputs. Defining the necessities of our community partner and searching literature according to this made my dissertation project more applicable and gave me a lot of experiences, new skills, and insights. Also, as an international student I learned so much things about the multinational community of the UK which was really fruitful.
What’s happening now for you? Has your CRIS experience got anything to do with it?
Nowadays, I have been involved in some projects within this NGO and I believe that my CRIS experience inspires me in all my current attempts.
After my graduation, I returned to my country and now I am working as a psychologist in one of the residential care service units for children and youths in the local branch of The Ministry of Family and Social Works of The Republic of Turkey. When I returned to Turkey, I started to live in one of the small cities of Turkey named Çanakkale. This city was a new experience for me. When I moved here, along with my work, I was searching for opportunities to continue my volunteering in this new city. I contacted one charity and have been invited as a board member of Korunmaya Muhtaç Çocuklara Yardım Derneği (The Helping Children Who Need Protection Charity) targeting disadvantaged children and young people. Nowadays, I have been involved in some projects within this NGO and I believe that my CRIS experience inspires me my all current attempts. To be specific, in my workplace, my role is mostly a clinical position but besides my clinical interventions, I also develop psychoeducational parenting programs and group works and try to utilize applications of grounded theories like Connected Lives does. Additionally, now we are preparing a collaboration project with this NGO, our government units, and Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. Our aim is to do some pilot projects here and then according to their outputs our long-term goals are to generalize these projects to the entire of Turkey which is exactly we attempted with our CRIS project.