I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologist?

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jessmorton
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I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologist?

Post by jessmorton » Mon May 08, 2017 11:13 pm

I'm 21 years old, currently doing a master's related to mental health. Trying to figure out what my next steps will be after graduating in September.

For the last few years, I've wanted to pursue a career in clinical psychology. But I'm feeling very confused and conflicted at the moment.

I have pretty bad social anxiety - a variety of social situations make me feel very anxious (e.g. giving presentations, speaking in large groups, talking on the phone, basically any situation in which I am the centre of attention, etc.). I'm still able to function pretty well, and despite my anxiety my social skills are actually pretty good. But dealing with the anxiety is a big mental battle every single day for me.

I know that immediately flags up massive red warning signs because these are the kinds of situations that I'd find myself in all the time as a clinical psychologist. But would I just get over it the more I expose myself to it? Especially since I'd be working my way up (e.g. starting with voluntary work, progressing to AP [and similar] posts, etc. before even thinking about the DClinPsy). And these social situations are situations that I'd have to face in pretty much any job.

I've considered just going down the research route, but honestly that just doesn't appeal to me. It doesn't enthuse me nearly enough to be my sole focus.

So yeah, I don't have anyone to discuss this with in real life. So I just wanted to hear your guys' thoughts and whether you think I'm being ridiculous for even considering clinical psychology as an option.

Hockeygirl
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by Hockeygirl » Tue May 09, 2017 9:10 am

I can't see why not. Presentations and things are a part of the job (I'm only an assistant BTW), but they definitely get easier as you carry on. My voice still shakes at the start, and I still go BRIGHT RED, but they get easier. I can become quite avoidant if I'm anxious (which normally escalates to panic attacks), however my supervisor recently told me that she has noticed if she throws me in without warning, I don't have time to become anxious.

Dealing with people in different ways is most of the job, but the more you do it, the less anxiety provoking it becomes, it can also lead to valuable reflections on your own vulnerabilities and experiences. I still HATE role play and being observed, and I get REALLY flustered when someone observes my sessions, but you do learn to cope with it, especially if you have a good supervisor!

Give it a go :) You can't know for sure until you try.

lakeland
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by lakeland » Tue May 09, 2017 9:14 am

Hi,

I have a few thoughts on this that might help answer your question:

- There are a lot of potentially anxiety provoking situations you encounter as a psychologist, including interviews for jobs with a few people on the panel, delivering groups to service users, meeting new people often, having to make phone calls, delivering training, speaking up in MDT meetings, teaching, sharing formulations etc etc. These are fairly standard at every stage of the pathway, but I'd say that there's a peak during the Doctorate, because everything you do is being assessed.

- You don't say what work experience you have so far (even unrelated jobs might have transferrable skills), but getting something related to psychology / mental health will give you a flavour of the type of situations you might experience - e.g. attending meetings, making phone calls, face to face work with service users. That might help you assess whether you think you would gain confidence over time, or whether the social anxiety is something that you might need some professional help with. However, focus on completing your Masters and getting a good grade (I assume you have GBC?)

- If you're set on this being the career for you, then try it. I would advise anyone at your age / stage to have a Plan B in mind though, because there are no guarantees that anyone will get a place. At each stage, there are bottlenecks, with hundreds of applications for AP posts, and only 1 in 7 people getting a place on the doctorate each year. I think it's important to be realistic about the pathway, as many highly suitable candidates don't get onto training and have to make a decision about alternative careers.

I hope this helps a bit. Good luck.

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BlueCat
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by BlueCat » Tue May 09, 2017 11:01 am

A couple of thoughts.....

Why do you think research would be any less centred around interactions? Particularly if the research is social/psychological in nature? Thinking back to my own research assistant posts, I don't think I've ever done so much ringing around and interacting - recruiting, screening, assessing etc participants.....ethics committees etc......
jessmorton wrote:So yeah, I don't have anyone to discuss this with in real life. So I just wanted to hear your guys' thoughts and whether you think I'm being ridiculous for even considering clinical psychology as an option.
Find someone. You're still at Uni and so probably have fairly easy access to free counselling support? Use it! Social anxiety can get in the way, but it can also be improved. It isn't something you just have to sit with as it is now for the rest of your life.
There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Billy Connolly.

Rainbowcake
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by Rainbowcake » Tue May 09, 2017 1:21 pm

Hi

I just wanted to say that I really relate to your feelings of social anxiety. I struggle with anxiety and I've found that over time, and with experience, I've learned to cope with it. I still feel really anxious at times, particularly before interviews or presentations, but I try to use skills I've learned through psychology to manage.

I also find it really helpful for trying to get a sense of what clients may be feeling if they struggle with anxiety and when I've done group presentations about stress I've used my own experiences to help explain how natural these feelings are, which people have really responded to! I'm an assistant psych now and going through dclinpsy interviews (which I'm super anxious about) but I'm managing, and I don't want you to think you can't do it - that's just what anxiety wants you to think! Reflect on it, and use it as a strength. It may take time but it's not impossible.

Of course, I also recommend having other jobs in mind just to be practical because it is tough, but life is too short to do a job you don't enjoy.

Best wishes and good luck with everything!

MindfulPsych
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by MindfulPsych » Tue May 09, 2017 2:20 pm

Although I cannot relate specifically with social anxiety, I have OCD and I worried about how this would affect my chances to become a clinical psychologist. I had been on my placement year where my OCD began to trigger again and my supervisors were incredibly support and we problem solved how to cope with situations and adapted my job role. However, since then I've been able to reflect on what I've learnt with having OCD and having psychological therapy myself which I feel has allowed me to reflect how a patient might feel in a similar situation. I'm now a Trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner and although I'm not a clinical psychologist I'm working towards it and I now support individuals beginning their journey of recovery :D

It can be done, believe in yourself and reflect upon how you're feeling. You can do it!

Best of luck with everything! :D

lozzyhickers
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by lozzyhickers » Tue May 09, 2017 2:45 pm

I can relate to this. I used to suffer from really bad social anxiety. I got a research post after finishing my MSc, and although recruiting and assessing patients at first terrified me (especially being observed!), I learnt that as my knowledge and confidence in my area grew, so did my confidence in social situations. There are still times when I feel my anxiety growing, but I stop, notice what I am feeling, try to identify why, and tackle it. If I was scared of making a difficult phone call, I thought about what I would say, and before the anxiety takes its peak, make the call, and I would notice how it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But find someone to talk to about this too. Even if it is just a friend. To be able to tackle it, you need support there, and it can be difficult to support yourself if you're having a bad day.

There are so many people working in the NHS with lived experience, and in my opinion, it wouldn't be as good as an institution without it! But remember that anxiety is normal to an extent. It's your body trying to tell you something, so listen to what it has to say, and react appropriately.

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stephenkingfan
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by stephenkingfan » Tue May 09, 2017 7:31 pm

I can relate to your fears -in fact I didn't apply for training for many years post graduating as I was afraid of what I'd be expected to do if I ever got a place on training. I have been at the stage of bursting into tears at work when a supervisor sprung a surprise observation on me,

I had/have social anxiety and have had since I was a child. It took me a long time, a lot of work experience, and a lot of personal growth for me to feel ready for training. It's been a long, hard journey - but worth it. I think that you can learn how to manage your anxiety.

Things that helped me:
* exposure to different work settings/new tasks
* CBT
* counselling (have been going for 2 years and am still going now)
* having supportive supervisors at work
* having a good support network of friends and family
* exercise
* mindfulness practice

These things are just what helped me, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that things can improve. I continue to put work into maintaing my mental health (in the same way that I do for my physical health!)

I didn't have the confidence to even apply for training or an assistant psychologist post until I was about 25 as I thought I'd be rubbish, and it's taken 4 more years to really feel ready for training (and this year I've been offered a place - I don't think that is a coincidence).

Clinical psychology isn't necessarily for everyone. It might be worth thinking about what is important to you in a job, and having a long think about whether or not this is what you want to do (and like others have said, consider a plan B as well).

Whatever happens, I wish you the best of luck. I think finding someone to talk to will be helpful. For me the beginning of learning to manage my anxiety was talking to friends about it. For years I didn't do this. Firstly because I spent a long time thinking I was 'just shy' or 'just awkward' etc and not even recognising it was anxiety, and secondly because I felt too ashamed to tell anyone. Opening up to friends meant I actually got a lot of support and understanding from people (and found out that lots of my friends also struggle with anxiety!).

Good luck x

Alex
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Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by Alex » Tue May 09, 2017 9:37 pm

Social anxiety is a treatable condition - people do recover. I do not know whether you have had the right sort of help, has been limited or you have had no therapy at all? My advice would be to seek out cognitive behavioural therapy - step 3 IAPT High Intensity workers are usually very familiar with social anxiety as it is part of their training. If you have and it hasn't been successful, what were the reasons - therapist didn't encourage experiments, struggled with tasks? Get re-referred!

I am interested that you are writing as if you will still have bad SA by the time you could be on training and beyond.

It is important to get the right therapy and therapist - have they worked with social anxiety before? how would they explain SA? are they getting you to test out your beliefs? setting of homework? are they suggesting you write down what you have learnt? are you entering challenging enough situations?

Good luck!

jessmorton
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Joined: Mon May 01, 2017 9:13 pm

Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by jessmorton » Tue May 09, 2017 11:40 pm

Alex wrote:Social anxiety is a treatable condition - people do recover. I do not know whether you have had the right sort of help, has been limited or you have had no therapy at all? My advice would be to seek out cognitive behavioural therapy - step 3 IAPT High Intensity workers are usually very familiar with social anxiety as it is part of their training. If you have and it hasn't been successful, what were the reasons - therapist didn't encourage experiments, struggled with tasks? Get re-referred!

I am interested that you are writing as if you will still have bad SA by the time you could be on training and beyond.

It is important to get the right therapy and therapist - have they worked with social anxiety before? how would they explain SA? are they getting you to test out your beliefs? setting of homework? are they suggesting you write down what you have learnt? are you entering challenging enough situations?

Good luck!
Thanks for the reply! I haven't received any proper help for it yet, but am seriously considering seeking it soon. I went to the GP about it a couple of years ago but they just directed me to self-help materials which haven't helped.

I guess just because it's been something I've struggled with for as long as I can remember, and I've been trying to battle it myself for so long I just feel a bit hopeless at this point. It's difficult to imagine it no longer being such a big part of my life.

jessmorton
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon May 01, 2017 9:13 pm

Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by jessmorton » Tue May 09, 2017 11:50 pm

hannah0120 wrote:I can relate to your fears -in fact I didn't apply for training for many years post graduating as I was afraid of what I'd be expected to do if I ever got a place on training. I have been at the stage of bursting into tears at work when a supervisor sprung a surprise observation on me,

I had/have social anxiety and have had since I was a child. It took me a long time, a lot of work experience, and a lot of personal growth for me to feel ready for training. It's been a long, hard journey - but worth it. I think that you can learn how to manage your anxiety.

Things that helped me:
* exposure to different work settings/new tasks
* CBT
* counselling (have been going for 2 years and am still going now)
* having supportive supervisors at work
* having a good support network of friends and family
* exercise
* mindfulness practice

These things are just what helped me, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that things can improve. I continue to put work into maintaing my mental health (in the same way that I do for my physical health!)

I didn't have the confidence to even apply for training or an assistant psychologist post until I was about 25 as I thought I'd be rubbish, and it's taken 4 more years to really feel ready for training (and this year I've been offered a place - I don't think that is a coincidence).

Clinical psychology isn't necessarily for everyone. It might be worth thinking about what is important to you in a job, and having a long think about whether or not this is what you want to do (and like others have said, consider a plan B as well).

Whatever happens, I wish you the best of luck. I think finding someone to talk to will be helpful. For me the beginning of learning to manage my anxiety was talking to friends about it. For years I didn't do this. Firstly because I spent a long time thinking I was 'just shy' or 'just awkward' etc and not even recognising it was anxiety, and secondly because I felt too ashamed to tell anyone. Opening up to friends meant I actually got a lot of support and understanding from people (and found out that lots of my friends also struggle with anxiety!).

Good luck x
Thanks for the reply! It's reassuring to know that someone else out there struggles with it and has been successful in pursuing clinical psychology as a career.

I imagine that if I do decide to pursue it, building up my confidence will also be a long process for me. I'm trying to consider all my options etc. at the moment. It's so hard to judge what career is best suited to me, I feel like the more I think about it the more conflicted I feel.

How did you find your first AP post?

And that's helpful to hear the things that help you!

My family have very little involvement in anything I do, and I've felt quite socially isolated this year as I'm living back at home whilst I do my master's and I don't get many opportunities to meet up with my friends (which no doubt is making my situation worse haha). I've brought up how I feel to my friends before but none of them can relate and they just end up giving some classic advice like "just try not to be so shy"... I think if it was as simple as that I'd be over it by now
:P

Thanks for sharing your experience - it really is very helpful and gives me hope.

jessmorton
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon May 01, 2017 9:13 pm

Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by jessmorton » Tue May 09, 2017 11:57 pm

lozzyhickers wrote:I can relate to this. I used to suffer from really bad social anxiety. I got a research post after finishing my MSc, and although recruiting and assessing patients at first terrified me (especially being observed!), I learnt that as my knowledge and confidence in my area grew, so did my confidence in social situations. There are still times when I feel my anxiety growing, but I stop, notice what I am feeling, try to identify why, and tackle it. If I was scared of making a difficult phone call, I thought about what I would say, and before the anxiety takes its peak, make the call, and I would notice how it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But find someone to talk to about this too. Even if it is just a friend. To be able to tackle it, you need support there, and it can be difficult to support yourself if you're having a bad day.

There are so many people working in the NHS with lived experience, and in my opinion, it wouldn't be as good as an institution without it! But remember that anxiety is normal to an extent. It's your body trying to tell you something, so listen to what it has to say, and react appropriately.
Thanks for the reply and for sharing your experience! That's encouraging to hear your confidence gradually increased with time and experience. I can relate to what you're saying about taking action before anxiety reaches its peak - the less anticipation and build-up the easier the whole thing is for me!

I don't really have anyone I can talk to about it or anything. I'm strongly considering seeking CBT in the near future though.

And yeah, I know lived experience is such a valuable thing. I just can't help but feel like it's slightly different for social anxiety though. I feel like if I ever admitted it to someone in the workplace or an employer or anything they wouldn't view it in a positive light since good people skills are so key to the clinical psychologist role.

jessmorton
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon May 01, 2017 9:13 pm

Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by jessmorton » Wed May 10, 2017 12:06 am

BlueCat wrote:A couple of thoughts.....

Why do you think research would be any less centred around interactions? Particularly if the research is social/psychological in nature? Thinking back to my own research assistant posts, I don't think I've ever done so much ringing around and interacting - recruiting, screening, assessing etc participants.....ethics committees etc......
jessmorton wrote:So yeah, I don't have anyone to discuss this with in real life. So I just wanted to hear your guys' thoughts and whether you think I'm being ridiculous for even considering clinical psychology as an option.
Find someone. You're still at Uni and so probably have fairly easy access to free counselling support? Use it! Social anxiety can get in the way, but it can also be improved. It isn't something you just have to sit with as it is now for the rest of your life.
Thanks for the reply! It's given me food for thought.

I guess social interaction is pretty central in most jobs. The more I think about it the more I feel like I'm not cut out for anything. I just feel very conflicted about everything at the moment.

I'll think I'll try and look into university counselling or IAPT or something.

jessmorton
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon May 01, 2017 9:13 pm

Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by jessmorton » Wed May 10, 2017 12:10 am

Hockeygirl wrote:I can't see why not. Presentations and things are a part of the job (I'm only an assistant BTW), but they definitely get easier as you carry on. My voice still shakes at the start, and I still go BRIGHT RED, but they get easier. I can become quite avoidant if I'm anxious (which normally escalates to panic attacks), however my supervisor recently told me that she has noticed if she throws me in without warning, I don't have time to become anxious.

Dealing with people in different ways is most of the job, but the more you do it, the less anxiety provoking it becomes, it can also lead to valuable reflections on your own vulnerabilities and experiences. I still HATE role play and being observed, and I get REALLY flustered when someone observes my sessions, but you do learn to cope with it, especially if you have a good supervisor!

Give it a go :) You can't know for sure until you try.
Thanks for the reply. Hearing about your experience gives me some hope! I'm hoping things become easier for me with time too. Haha, I know the struggle of going bright red and having a shaky voice all too well. I've also found that these situations are much easier to manage when there's less of an anticipatory build-up to them.

Role play would definitely come at the top of my anxiety hierarchy haha.

I guess there's no harm in giving it a go and re-evaluating things a little later into things. Thanks!

lozzyhickers
Posts: 55
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:41 pm

Re: I have social anxiety - could I be a clinical psychologi

Post by lozzyhickers » Wed May 10, 2017 9:35 am

jessmorton wrote:
lozzyhickers wrote: And yeah, I know lived experience is such a valuable thing. I just can't help but feel like it's slightly different for social anxiety though. I feel like if I ever admitted it to someone in the workplace or an employer or anything they wouldn't view it in a positive light since good people skills are so key to the clinical psychologist role.
Of course what you disclose is up to you. But noticing that it's a problem for you and starting to make steps towards change is seen as an important step, and they would praise you for that. If you go down the CBT route, with lots of practice (and maintenance!) of skills, you could see quite an improvement before you even got on the doctorate :)

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