Are AP posts the be all and end all?

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hiccup
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Are AP posts the be all and end all?

Post by hiccup » Sat Mar 05, 2016 6:21 pm

I've applied for the doctorate for the first time this year, I haven't heard back yet from any of my choices, but I was browsing the Oxford doctoral course's web page and noticed they have profiles up for their current trainees. Almost all the trainees have had multiple years working as assistant psychologists, or research assistants. :shock:

I worked briefly as a research assistant (ages ago - back in 2007, for 2 months during the summer when I was at uni), but other than that haven't had an assistant post of any variety. I've done a range of things like forensic support worker, interactive play facilitator with children with ASD, crisis phone line worker and so on. I'm currently working as an interventions facilitator in a prison therapeutic community. I mainly facilitate the therapy groups, but am also doing a piece of research for the prison, a qualitative study into some of the men's experiences of leaving care, their pathways to offending and experiences in the therapeutic community. It's a funny old place as most of the men are serving life sentences, and I'm having a fairly intense hands-on crash course in psychodynamic therapy as part of facilitating the groups. We get at least 1.5 hours group supervision each day with the whole team of therapists and psychologists, another 1 hour group supervision session in addition weekly, plus individual supervision on top of that. So to me, it feels like some of the best experience I could be getting right now, however my confidence is suddenly seeping away as I read 'assistant psychologist' over and over and over on successful candidate profiles.

I suspect I won't get on this year, but intend to reapply next year when I've spent longer in my current job. But all this has got me thinking - should I start applying to AP posts? In that super short application form for the doctorate, does the title 'assistant psychologist' create more impact than attempting the explain the nature of my current post? I have seen that some people without an AP post get on the course, but this does seem to be the exception rather than a common event.
If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.
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MarkM
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Re: Are AP posts the be all and end all?

Post by MarkM » Sun Mar 06, 2016 5:00 pm

Q: Are AP posts the be all and end all?
A: No.

I'm not saying they aren't helpful and yes, they can be very useful and advantageous... but ultimately it depends on what you have done AND what you have learnt from it. If you've been an AP but you're not reflecting on your experiences you're less likely to gain a place than a HCA who is thinking about their experiences and learnings in a psychologically informed way.

There's a thread on here where people post their experiences (click)... yeah, many will have been APs, but not everyone. I wouldn't call people without AP posts an 'exception', personally. It may be true that more people have had AP posts than not, but it's not THAT rare to get on without one in my experience. Just judging from my cohort, I can think of quite a few people who haven't been an AP... so it doesn't feel like an exception. I believe some courses might value AP posts more than others, though... so it might depend. And in the thread above, I'd say most pages show an example of at least one or two people who didn't have an AP post.

Equally, if you look at the alternative handbook (click), you'll see that not everyone has held an AP post (and you might also notice differences between the courses).

It sounds as though your experiences are relevant, and you're also getting a lot of supervision... are you finding yourself able to make use of this supervision? If you're able to convey what your experiences have taught you about working psychologically with service users and teams, you might be in quite a strong position, actually.

Good luck :) I think it's good to have realistic expectations, but at the same time I'd suggest to not give up and keep your hopes alive - you never know!
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hiccup
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Re: Are AP posts the be all and end all?

Post by hiccup » Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:19 pm

Thank you for your reply Mark, it's very reassuring to hear. I think on one level I knew already what the answer was, I was just failing to manage some negative thoughts I've got going on. I've had a look through the alternative handbook and have realised that whilst I've been obsessing over the Oxford course, all the other courses I've applied to have lower percentages of trainees who have had AP roles, which is comforting.

Sometimes I wonder if I am making enough use of the supervision we get. Most of it is group supervision, to unpick the complicated dynamics of working in a forensic therapeutic community, and enable us to process the material we hear in therapy, as it can be quite graphic and potentially distressing. I'm certainly learning a huge amount about managing groups and making links between current behaviours and offending behaviours, but nothing at all about one-to-one work. I've just been out and bought myself a book to use as a reflective practice style journal which I hope will help me to make the most of the experience I'm getting, especially as at work the focus is on a psychodynamic interpretation which is very new to me, so the part of my brain where everything else I know about psychological theories is switching off somewhat.

Thanks again for your reply. :)
If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.
- A. A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh

astra
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Re: Are AP posts the be all and end all?

Post by astra » Mon Mar 07, 2016 3:44 pm

It sounds like the prison work is great experience and you have loads of psychological supervision going on so I'm assuming you would be able to speak quite reflectively on the work you've done there. It will all come down to how well you've conveyed what you've learnt from the job about applying psychology in practice, with clients and with teams, and then how you talk about that in interviews. There's no reason why you wouldn't be able to use that role to answer any of the usual sort of interview questions that come up to demonstrate you suitability for training, it's just a question of how you put it across.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

kazrw
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Re: Are AP posts the be all and end all?

Post by kazrw » Mon Mar 07, 2016 4:28 pm

Just to agree with the above, absolutely not the be all and end all.

My experience was very similar to yours when i got on clinical training, having also had a forensic background...and I never had an AP post. It really will depend on making the most of the experiences, gaining everything you can from supervision, and being able to reflect on what you have learnt.

Also, i can't remember from your post whether you said what your previous experience was, but the psychodynamic work in prison i would think would add a whole extra dimension, this isn't something i came across at all whilst working in prisons and was a real weakness in my knowledge before clinical training (which i was aware of and able to reflect on in terms of how this would impact my practice). Ditto for therapeutic community work and the huge amount of supervision you described. It sounds like fantastic experience. There isn't a prescribed way of getting onto clinical training so make the best of the experiences that you do have.

I think everyone in my cohort had different experiences/ posts in the lead up to clinical training. That meant that we all had different strengths and weaknesses in different areas, noone will know everything regardless of what posts they had.

I remember someone telling me that some universities are more forensically focused than others so may be worth looking into. However, i didn't and just applied based solely on location and had no problems, my university was not very forensically minded and it didn't seem to make a difference as i could apply my knowledge to various settings.

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