Skip to main content
Postgraduate study

Student views

Alexander Hektorsson

Alexander came from Sweden to study counselling psychology

Taught PhD in Counselling Psychology

Alexander Hektorsson

A week in the life Alexander Hektorsson


Today is one of my twice-weekly placements at an affective disorders team, which is a secondary care unit within the NHS that provides mental health care for patients with complex and enduring difficulties. I really enjoy working here, my colleagues are very friendly and I feel a valued member of the team.

On this day, I’m seeing three clients and I will also participate in a meeting that I have organised together with a patient’s psychiatrist and care coordinator. The reason for the meeting is that I have identified that the diagnosis that had been given to one of my patients does not fit with his presentation. It is in such instances when the theory that we have learnt really comes in useful!

When I get back home, a run in wonderful Albert Park to clear my thoughts and the tensions of the day. Fajitas with housemate Tom for dinner, with Fajita mix sent from Sweden as I find the one that is sold in the UK far too spicy.


University day, two lectures: Integrative Approaches, which focuses on the integration of different psychological theories and Counselling Psychology in Context, which provides an overview of the different settings in which counselling psychologists may work. For the latter, we have a guest lecturer from a forensic service.

When I get home, I do some work on two essays. Afterwards, I do some mindfulness exercises. For dinner, Tom prepares a glorious ratatouille with rice and salmon! I wash the dishes, not being able to convince myself that “mindful washing up” could be a relaxing activity.


Placement at a specialist psychotherapy service. This is an NHS tertiary care service that provides psychological therapies to patients with extremely severe presentations, who might have been treated in primary and secondary care previously, and who may need long term psychodynamic therapy. This setting is very different from my other placement, in that rather than working in an integrative way, I work solely using a psychodynamic framework. Today, I am seeing two patients and conducting a psychological assessment, which in this service is quite comprehensive.

When I get home, I read a book about compassion-focused therapy that I aim to use with a client. Moreover, I do some work on my thesis. Another run in the park, and later I watch one of my favourite German TV series from the 70’s, Derrick.


Second University day of the week. In the morning we have Therapeutic Practice 3, where one of my colleagues presents a case about a patient, and the rest of the trainees hypothesise on the causes, precipitating and maintaining factors corresponding to that client’s issues.

We then have lunch at the cafeteria with my colleagues, after which we have a module called Professional Roles, where we discuss the different roles that a psychologist may have, such as clinician, supervisor and trainer.

When I get home I have to prepare for the group work for my placement tomorrow. I also do some work on my thesis and I Skype with my nephew in South America.


Second day of my placement at the affective disorders team. I have supervision in the morning and one client in the afternoon. Moreover, I am leading a therapy group together with a colleague, which is aimed at helping a group of 11 patients to improve their coping skills, such as management of anger or reducing stress. I particularly enjoy working with groups although it can be quite demanding.

After work I am going to Newcastle to visit my partner. On the train, I read a book about trauma that was recommended by one of the leading experts in the world on this matter, during a dissociation workshop organised on one of my placements. We go for sushi, which I love!


A stroll in a park nearby and in the evening we celebrate a friend’s birthday. We go out for drinks and when returning home we play the guitar and sing until late.


It’s relaxing day. We watch Frasier, an American series that features a psychiatrist who chats with callers on the radio. Secretly, I question his methods of talking to people although I remind myself that it is just a comedy show…