Dr Faith Matcham | Streatham & Clapham High School

I am inspired by my mother, who raised me as a single mother from when I was 11 – she showed me that it’s possible to be a wonderful mother and have a fulfilling and important career, and that if I worked hard enough, I could accomplish anything.

Dr Faith Matcham
SCHS Pupil 2005

Tell us about your current role and what the job entails
I am a health psychologist and mental health researcher at King’s College London. I work on research projects which focus on mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and help us understand how to manage them better, particularly in people who also have long term physical health problems. I have a varied job; some days I am talking to patients and service providers about mental health and helping to provide psychological interventions; other days I might be analysing data, or writing reports based on the research we are undertaking. I get to travel a lot as part of my job, attending lots of international conferences to present the work we are doing, and am involved in teaching undergraduates and post-graduates at King’s College London.

Briefly describe some of the key roles you’ve held in the past and how they have helped you in securing your current role
I have previously worked as a project worker at a charity and as a stop smoking advisor for people with severe mental illness. Both roles gave me experience working with people needing different kinds of help and inspired me to pursue a career in psychology. I have also worked as a research assistant for a service-development project, which gave me experience in using data to answer important questions about mental health and informing how different types of therapies or interventions might be beneficial.

What do you think are the top three qualities/skills required to be successful in your role/field?
Curiosity, compassion and resilience

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what other career path might you have taken?
I think I would have gone into something to do with animals – perhaps a dog trainer or behaviourist.

What does it mean to you to be a Streatham & Clapham alumna?
It means being part of a community which represents accomplished women leading the way for the next generation.

How do you think your education at Streatham & Clapham prepared you for life after school?
I think it gave me a fantastic education (which I probably didn’t appreciate at the time), and exposure to a whole range of activities and interests.

Tell us about any further/higher education that you undertook after you left school
I did an undergraduate degree in Psychology at Sussex University, an MSc in Health Psychology at UCL, a Health Psychology doctorate with the British Psychological Society, and a PhD in Psychological Medicine at King’s College London.

Tell us about your interests/hobbies
I love music – I played the piano, drums and flute throughout my time at Streatham & Clapham, and was able to earn a bit of extra money at university by giving piano and drum lessons. I still play the piano when I can and play the flute in a local orchestra. I also love to dance, took ballet lessons throughout my childhood and have been going to adult ballet classes at the Royal Academy of Dance for the past four years. I love to read and go to the theatre, and I also spend a lot of my spare time hiking with my husband and our dog.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my mother, who raised me as a single mother from when I was 11 – she showed me that it’s possible to be a wonderful mother and have a fulfilling and important career, and that if I worked hard enough, I could accomplish anything.

What piece of advice would you give to a current pupil contemplating a career in your sector?
I would tell people contemplating a career in psychology to get as much work experience as they can, but to be imaginative. Focus on gaining skills (such as talking to people, writing papers, reading scientific reports), as much as (if not more than) trying to get the right job title, or the right-sounding degree programme. Psychology is a very varied career, which needs a range of people with a variety of skills. If you apply for a psychology degree or an assistant psychologist post, but get rejected, this doesn’t mean you will never be a psychologist, it just means you might need to be more imaginative about how you can gain the skills you need.

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Don’t worry so much about what everyone else thinks about you.

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