Diversity in Clinical Psychology

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Diversity in Clinical Psychology

Post by miriam » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:20 am

I know I have posted on this topic before, but I think we have to let go of how "hard done to" we are as a profession. Fair play, assistant salaries (until agenda for change radically alters this) are poor, but there are many other graduates who manage a poorly paid year or two to get their foot on the ladder too.

I've only got my own experience to measure by, but my life went like this:
1) degree 2) two years assistant work, with self-funded masters degree 3) training 4) first qualified post 5) second qualified post. My husbands life went like this: 1) 4 year degree 2) crappy first job 3) moved up within company 4) job at different company 5) redundancy 6) job at different company. If you compare our earnings then they have been pretty much neck and neck to date, though I have much better prospects, I get more leave, better terms and conditions and I don't risk redundancy.

The same story is true with a lot of my graduate friends, and I don't know anyone who enjoys their job better than I enjoy mine. I don't carry a chip on my shoulder against professions or individuals that earn more than I do. I just try to remember how grateful I am to earn a decent wage doing something I find stimulating and worthwhile.

I'd also say that one of my good friends and a CP I know well is an example that breaks all these assumptions. She came from a very tough background: a non-white, working class, inner city, single family, who immigrated to the UK when she was a child and first learnt to speak English when she was ten. I also know plenty of other CPs, Trainees and assistants who are not the stereotype and yet have managed to find success in our profession.

So yes, we do need to address issues of ensuring equal opportunities; otherwise we risk missing out on the wider breadth of population than we have so far predominantly drawn from in our recruitment. However we don't need to justify that by thinking we are so different from many other professions, or so impossible for people from anything other than a white middle class background to attain. I think Agenda for Change will help a lot, and there are many other things that can be done, but that requires realism, and not blanket assumptions of exclusivity.

A study into this issue was recently published in Phoenix magazine (which is a magazine for careers advisers) entitled ‘Entry into Clinical Psychology Careers: the Diversity Challenge. The article mainly focused on careers advisors views but the study included clinical psychology trainees, staff involved in selection to the doctoral courses and under represented groups: male undergraduate psychology students and those from ethnic minorities.

Reasons for under representation included:

-low visibility of CP as a profession
-low numbers from the under represented groups studying psychology at undergraduate level
-possible additional competition faced by ethnic minority graduates and those with disabilities in gaining the required pre-postgraduate course work experience
-a lack of transparency in the selection criteria
-student debt following graduation with some people suggesting males were more attracted to highly paid careers
-perceptions of CP held by males (for example that it is not a traditional male role especially in comparison to other areas of psychology such as sport and occupational psychology)
-few role models or mentors for under represented groups

Recommendations, suggestions and strategies for change included:

-improve the information available about CP careers
-clinical psychologists to target under represented groups at HE institutions and careers fairs
-the profession needs to address the confusion and lack of clarity in selection criteria and routes into CP
-available case studies of those in CP from under represented groups
-a clear statement about diversity within the Clearing House information
-for the profession to consider the establishment of more linked routes into CP from undergraduate courses

Please note this information came from the article and does not necessarily represent my opinions.

Spatch later added:

One additional reason is the lack of clear career progression in psychology from School => University => Experience => Doctoral training, which is quite off putting for people from conservative cultural backgrounds, especially if you factor in the uncertainty at various stages.

Instead, quite often individuals will be guided towards the more obvious traditional professions such as medicine, law, engineering or more entrepreneurial vocational courses such as accountancy or MBA. Sometimes this may manifest itself as fierce opposition at the undergraduate stage, where parents may agree to support a child through say, a pharmacy degree, but refuse to do so for psychology. At others a more subtle community level pressure may be exerted, where success is defined by achieving status within the established professions, and not to pursue them is tantamount to an admission of failure. In either case it would take a fairly resiliant and oppositional disposition to pursue the 8+ years required just to qualify.

Guest23 later added:

Boyle et al.. (1993). Selection for clinical psychology courses: A comparison of applicants from ethnic minority and majority groups to the University of East London. Clinical Psychology Forum, 56, 9–13.

Scior et al.. (2007). Selection for clinical psychology training: Is there evidence of any bias against applicants from ethnic minorities? Clinical Psychology Forum, 175, 7–11.

BPS document: “Widening access within undergraduate psychology education and its implications for professional psychology: gender, disability and ethnic diversity”

Astra later added:

I think this debate could rumble on forever with those who have got there relatively easily saying it's not that bad and those who have really struggled feeling like "something should be done". That's not to say it was necessarily easy for you Miriam, self funding a masters probably was no picnic, I'm sure. But as ever I come back to my rather boring argument that not everybody can bend over backwards and leap over the hurdles (especially not at the same time!) that are required to get into our profession. I totally agree that other professions present similar barriers - the hours you have to put in, in medicine, law and business to really get on would put many people off too. If I had chosen those routes, I'd be saying the same things on forums relating to those careers! I think though, that clinical psychology sets itself up as being a very liberal, egalitarian profession which values everyone from whatever background and tries very hard to do right by everybody without discriminating, and yet that mindset is not reflected in the demographics of the profession or in the way the career pathway is set up (I'm on slightly dodgy ground here as I don't have any figures for the demographics, but looking around I don't think I see the populations we work with properly reflected in the profession). I don't think I could have done medicine or law any easier with a young child than I've done clinical psychology, but does that mean that once you've had a child you're either excluded from professional life or you have to really struggle against an unsupportive system? Why can't there be training routes in all professions that allow a better work life balance? And why can't clinical psychology lead the way and show that it can be done? I don't have the answers to how this could be done but I do think the questions still need to be asked.

James later added:

A thread discussing the representation of ethnic minorities can be found here

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