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27 February 2024

How working within SLT gives you a job you can be passionate about, and gives you variety in your role…

Mark Methley, Speech and Language Therapist

Mark Methley is our Speech and Language Therapist and Practice Development Lead at Cygnet Hospital Taunton

Mark has been practicing as a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) for over 15 years. He has been working at Cygnet since 2018. For the first 3 ½ years, Mark worked part-time in an in-patient setting for autistic people and people with a learning disability. He is now full-time and continues his clinical role plus also working 2-days a week as a Practice Development Lead to support the SLT team in expanding their capacity to offer student placements and to support our junior SLTs to evidence their clinical and professional competencies as they progress to full registration with their professional body, the RCSLT.    We recently caught up with Mark to ask him the following questions…


Hello Mark! How did you get into Speech and Language Therapy?

It was quite a round-a-bout route. After teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad, and learning foreign languages as well, I became fascinated with how we learn to speak, so I returned to University to complete a Master’s degree in Language Acquisition. I was funding my studies by working in a residential setting for autistic people and people with a learning disability, and it was there that I first encountered people with speech, language, and communication needs and the SLT profession.  I realised I had a special affinity for working with the residents and I really enjoyed my time there: I was even using a technique called Intensive Interaction, long before I learned about it and became trained in it as an SLT.


Did you know then, that SLT was THE career path for you? 

I guess so.  It was the first time I’d ever heard of Speech and Language Therapy, so after finishing my MA, I decided to find out more.  I volunteered in a specialist primary school for children with communication difficulties that was run at the time by the charity, I-Can, and that confirmed it for me.  I then went back to University to get my 3rd degree.


How was your newly-qualified experience and were you excited about your career path? 

Getting my career started was a bit stressful, and challenging at times.  My wife was pregnant with our first child, so I felt the pressure to get a job quickly.  I was covering maternity leave in a split position across a stroke rehab ward and an acute hospital, where I also trained as a Dysphagia Specialist.  At Uni, I had enjoyed the academic challenge of understanding and working with Aphasia, but the reality of working with critically and acutely ill people was too much for me.  I wasn’t cut out for it, and I found one of my mentors through the NQP pathway to be totally unsupportive.  I was relieved to move on and was more careful in finding my next job. I then spent 8 years in a specialist school and college for children and young adults with visual impairment and complex needs, which I enjoyed very much.


When and why did you join Cygnet?

I joined Cygnet after having a bit of time out.  The school had been going through a process of rebranding and redefining itself, and I had taken redundancy to spend more time with my young family and help my wife with her childminding business.  I kept up my competencies with some private work and I started practicing as an expert witness in medico-legal cases affecting young people with complex needs.  I still do a bit of this now, but I can’t fit too much of it in now I’m working full-time.  Anyway, I eventually needed to earn more money, so I started looking for a new job and found Cygnet: it was a perfect match!


What did you like about Cygnet as an Employer and SLT provider?

I’ve been very happy working with Cygnet.  I love working with the client group, and I have a genuine empathy and practical skill set that helps me support people with mental health needs. Cygnet hospitals are very special places where the environment and staff are as supportive of each other as they are with the people they support.  I love working collaboratively with the multi-disciplinary team and the atmosphere on the ward is great.  The pay is good, and there is a wide range of network groups, staff perks, and benefits that make life that little bit easier, such as a free lunch, health cover, financial advice, and NHS discount schemes.  I have to say, it’s a genuine pleasure to come into my clinical role after two days of working from home in my Practice Development Lead Role.

Cygnet employees playing cards
Our purpose is to make a positive difference to the lives of the individuals we care for, their loved ones and all those who work with us which is why 85% of our staff say they enjoy working for Cygnet

You do 3 days as an SLT and 2 as a Practice Development Lead – can you tell us about how the PDL role came about?

The bottom line was that I needed to work full-time.  I had successfully applied for a full-time clinical role in North Devon, but then an opportunity arose to help our SLT team support the RCSLT’s workforce reform programme.  This meant that I could continue my clinical role 3 days a week, and work as Practice Development Lead 2 days a week.  Specifically, I’ve been leading our team to expand its capacity to offer student placements as the profession tries to grow its members to meet the ever-increasing need for speech and language therapy.  I’m now taking the lead on our activities to support newly-qualified and experienced junior therapists develop their competencies and establish themselves as autonomous SLTs in the profession.


Do you have a passion in supporting newly-qualified staff and how do you approach it?

I must say that it is an honour to have been entrusted with this role and one that I am enjoying more and more as I learn to trust in my leadership and mentoring skills. I look back on the “good cop, bad cop” mentors I had across the two settings in my first job, and I’m glad I didn’t let the “bad cop” put me off entirely – though it was a close run thing! I want to do it differently.  I want to be solution-focused and positive.  I want to support people to overcome their challenges, not make things even more difficult and add to them. I think people thrive when we lead by example and offer the resources, encouragement, and freedom to follow.


Has anything changed with this generation of SLTs versus the time you qualified?

I think there’s a wider range of different settings nowadays: there are a lot more private, independent sector, and voluntary agencies around now, and the profession has expanded into the mental health and justice sectors, for example. This can be quite exciting and offers different opportunities, but it’s important to be aware of your self-development needs and the support structures you have around you.  When I was working in the independent sector special school, for example, I benefitted from a wonderful MDT work ethic, but I was a little isolated from my profession, and I had to work hard to identify and organise clinical supervision and CPD opportunities. That’s why, at Cygnet, we have our NQP and Band 5 Development Forum, where recently qualified SLTs can meet regularly in a peer support network, and benefit from presentations and workshops from our more experienced team members that help them identify, practice, and evidence their developing competencies on a whole range of clinical and professional issues. As a leading provider of mental health services to support our patients, I think Cygnet is just as good at supporting their employees.


Do you think SLT is a good career for anyone looking to ‘Re-career’ into a health setting, who may not have a ‘medical’ background?

Yes, absolutely.  People have transferrable skills from all sorts of walks of life.  I recently had a mature student on placement who had come from a successful career in hospitality, and she demonstrated excellent communication and interpersonal skills that will help her succeed in our profession, too.  One of our team had a senior role in marketing before working with us, so she’s excelled in both careers!


And finally Mark – tell us what’s the best part about being an SLT – why do you still love it?

I love working with people.  And it’s our speech, language, and communication skills that make us human.  Speaking up; saying what we mean; getting it off our chest; having a voice; being listened to and being heard; connecting with others; and understanding each other…these are the things that make life meaningful, bearable, and rewarding.  And if I can help someone to do this a little better, or a little easier, then I feel very content and satisfied.

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