I'm a psychology graduate, why can't I work psychologically?

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I'm a psychology graduate, why can't I work psychologically?

Post by miriam » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:15 am

A lot of graduates in psychology express frustration with roles as support workers, special needs assistants, care work etc as they feel they would like to apply more psychology. If you are in that position, here is some of my advice:

I guess the only thing that I wanted to add is the importance of recognising and staying within your own current compentancies, as well as the need to stay within the job role and supervision. It seems that you are being challenged about how to manage this, and how to try to also give the best service you can, and that is great experience in learning about boundaries - a perennial issue in psychology. Working within your competence is in the BPS code of conduct for good reason - because we are all the kind of people that are motivated to want to help, and that drive can be so strong as to pull us out of job-role and onto dangerous ground. Believe me, its not that I don't believe you can offer more psychological skills to these clients, its just that in doing so you lay yourself open to all sorts of risks (complaints, allegations, exploitation, etc) and I'm not sure that it would be in the clients' best interests either.

There is always a conflict between giving the most service and giving the best service. Every day there is pressure to churn through more people, to deal with the waiting list faster, and yet we are a limited resource. The result is a constant tension between quality and quantity. And the way that we deal with that is by trying to reserve the highest levels of skills/qualifications/experience for the roles no-one else can do, and then having other layers of staff that can do more generic things, where necessary supervised by the more senior positions. And that is why support workers are so vital - that they can be involved with tasks and time that simply couldn't be given by others such as CPs. Not necessarily any less vital, but tasks that don't require the specialist expertise that so few people have (and are consequently much more expensive for the service to provide).

However it is also the case that often there simply isn't enough resource of therapy, or qualified input in any form, and therefore a lot of people are in a "holding position" whereby they are simply prevented from going into crisis rather than having their needs addressed more thoroughly. That may be because the client is not ready or able to engage in any other work, but it is also (sadly) often because we can't "go out looking for work" when we are swamped with the work that can't be avoided. In metaphor terms, we are too busy patching people up after road accidents to be able to change the signs or road layout to prevent accidents.

So, to come back to your original thoughts - sometimes what is needed is a support worker. Don't undervalue that, or try to change the boundaries so that it becomes an AP in disguise. A good supervisor wouldn't let that happen, but there are always service pressure to do more, and your own personality and motivation seems to be to want to try to do more too, so the temptation will be there (I know from my own experience). Doing things without the support of the whole system, and before you are ready is counter-productive for both you, the clients and the system. If you have good supervision you can think of the long game-plan of systemic change to better address the clients needs, but meanwhile use it as a reflective learning opportunity about the challenges of appropriate role boundaries.

Anyway, I hope that gives you something else to think about.

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Last modified on 01/03/2012.

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