What is Clinical Psychology training composed of?

Information about qualifications, experience and the typical career path

What is Clinical Psychology training composed of?

Postby miriam » Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:23 pm

In a nutshell, training has 3 components.

Firstly there is academic teaching, usually done as a block of a few weeks once or twice a year and then a day a week for the rest of the year. This covers common presentations, models, ways of working, professional issues, across all the client groups we work with. This is universal to all trainees on a course, and the courses all aim to cover similar content.

Secondly there are the clinical placements. These are typically 3 days per week (some courses expect 4 days per week when there is not teaching, eg over the summer) and mean you will be placed in a service with a supervising clinical psychologist. Typically you will do 3 or 4 six-month "core" placements, to ensure you have covered a range of client groups (often these are: adults, older people, children and people with learning disabilities) and gained a number of "core competencies". These are usually dished out to you, maybe with some account of geography but often without much choice. Then you choose a final year long placement, or two six month placements in the areas you are most interested in. For me these were "complex children and families" and "developmental paediatrics" because I wanted to work with kids, but there is a lot of negotiation about these, and they are based on your interests.

The third component is research. You are expected to do a "Phd level" piece of research, although not quite as broad, and this is quite autonomous, though you will get some teaching and supervision and be expected to follow a pre-set timetable. The topic of the research is pretty much a free choice, but they like you to find an academic supervisor who feels competent to support you, and someone clinical who can guide you from that end and give you access to clients to participate in research. So in my case my research was about a computer intervention for children on the autistic spectrum (see www.emotiontrainer.co.uk if you wanna know all the details) and I found an academic supervisor whose area was people with learning disabilities, and I was doing child placements and quite linked in clinically anyway and found my own participants. Some people like to do research that springs from a supervisor's research, or follows up previous trainee's projects, but some people have clear ideas of their own.

Anyway, what that means is that I would apply to a course you like the sound of, and one where you "match" to the extent you are maximising your chances of getting on! Don't worry too much ahead of time about how you will fit in, because most courses are pretty much what you make of them.

Update added:
Most courses are moving towards core competency teaching and so this means that information about each of the client groups mentioned above will not be taught on some courses. This will continue to evolve as core competencies are rolled out, much of what is described above is in a state of flux. for example Leeds from this September (2007) the first years will get general assessment and formulation skills, lifespan development, how to conduct teaching sessions, different types of therapy (but not how to adapt it to different client groups), what consultancy is, how to be a supervisee etc and none of the client group specific stuff that we got in our day!

With the move to core competencies means that trainees will no longer have core placements in Child, Adult, LD, and Older People. A trainee could pass through training having never worked with anyone over the age of 65 or with an LD. As long as you can demonstrate the competencies it doesn't matter which client group it is you are working with. Whether this is a good or bad thing for the profession remains to be seen, but the idea is still that the qualification in CP equips you to work with all client groups, just through a slightly different rationale.

More information on Core competencies here:

Assessment on the training course is carried out academically and clinically. Your clinical competence is assesed by your supervisor, and then there is the written work (such as essays, and case reports, and reflective writing), some teaching or training, case presentations, as well as research projects; a service related project which may be a an audit, and a larger resarch project that forms your thesis.

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Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on 18/12/2010
Last modified on 18/12/2010

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