Andrew West is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the National Health Service. That is true at the point of writing, and has been for fifteen years, but will not be true forever. Never a very comfortable “joiner” he wandered through violin-making (he still plays his own violin), teaching English in France, cycle-touring, and farm labour in Scotland, before starting a Law degree in Cambridge. He managed a year of that before “coming home” to the sciences and Medicine: “Home” thanks to a general practitioner mother, psychoanalyst father, and several siblings, many of whom worked in the medical sciences. The degree, in which he achieved a “first” was a BA in Natural Sciences with a Part1a in Law. By that stage he had still not studied Anatomy which he did in Leeds, never getting to study the foot which he presumes to this day is much like a hand, twisted round and placed on the floor.
He completed clinical medical studies in Oxford where he was told off for wearing sandals and where he and his affinity group encouraged unconventional thinking by means of the Oxford Medical Forum. After pre-registration house-jobs he went with his partner to New Zealand; at the time, as now, a good refuge for British doctors. He worked in various medical jobs in New Zealand while gravitating towards Psychiatry, taking a year-long internship in psychotherapy and counselling. With two young Kiwi children he and his partner returned to the UK – one of those decisions that it would be possible, but largely fruitless, to question – where the young family got larger and learned to speak with an English accent. He made an ideological decision to work less than full-time so as to take a full part in family life. He manages never to add up what this has cost in salary and pension, content in the knowledge that it is a decision that he will never regret.
He works in a generic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service where he bemoans the gradual loss of multidisciplinary and reflective practice. At some point this moaning will become more toxic than useful, humour will no longer have the upper hand, and he will have to withdraw for the sake of others. He is a mentor, trainer, and supervisor within the NHS. He has a special interest in the interface between physical and emotional ailments. Indeed, he has an interest in almost any interface. A major research (as well as personal) interest has been fathering and he collaborated with the Families, Children and Child Care study in London and Oxford. More recently he has become a Project Partner with the Collaborating Centre For Values Based Practice at Saint Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he is currently exploring the nature of “evidence” with a cross-disciplinary group.
Andrew has written all his life, but like his music, his writing has had to fit between learning, growing, studying, parenting and clinical work. A diverse list of publications is posted on his blog Therapeutic Attitude. For Andrew, professionalism is, before and after everything else, an interpersonal relationship and he was able, recently, to pitch this passionately in Being With and Saying Goodbye. Cultivating Therapeutic Attitude in Professional Practice (Karnac 2015). A reflection on the process of writing this book has been posted on the Karcacology Blog and confirms what Andrew has been told, namely that his writing rewards careful, and sometimes repeated, reading. He tweets under @afwesty