Scrambled Eggs

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aufbau83
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Scrambled Eggs

Post by aufbau83 » Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:14 pm

Dear all,

I'm writing to relate my situation and to get some feedback on it. Because it is, I fear, a bit weird, from the point of view of getting onto a clinical psychology doctorate.

I'm a British male who currently lives in Germany and works as a lecturer at a German University. I completed a PhD in history at a British university several years ago and I have what you might describe as a burgeoning academic career (a long list of publications, conference papers and teaching experience). However, I've long harboured designs on eventually moving back to the UK and training as a clinical psychologist. To that end, I trained and started volunteering at a local crisis hotline (the German equivalent of the Samaritans), and I've also just started an MSc Psychology conversion course, via distance learning, which is BPS accredited. All being well, I should get BPS accreditation early next year.

What am I asking here? I'm not entirely sure. I suppose my main concern is that I'm currently too old to be accepted onto the clinical doctorate (I'm currently 35, and even if I were accepted at the first opportunity, I'd be closer to 37 when I started the doctorate - I think). Second, in many respects, I'm not exactly an outstanding candidate - my only real mental health experience is with the crisis hotline, and I imagine that my career in academic history would count for very little at a clinical interview. The possibilities for acquiring more and varied mental health experience are also limited - I'm in a foreign country, knee-deep in university teaching and research, and with a young family that I'm (partly) responsible for supporting. And even in the unlikely event that I were successful at interview, my family and I would likely have to relocate to a country in the throes of Brexit (and there are three months between acceptance and the beginning of the course, with no possibility of deferral, right?)

So, as you can see, this post is born out of a mixture of disorientation, uncertainty and ignorance, and the questions that I'm asking aren't even clear to me. To those of you with some experience or knowledge in this area, I would ask; Is there much point preceding with this, given the curious nature of my background and predicament? Or should I stick to the books, so to speak?

Thanks in advance,
Aufbau83

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Geishawife
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by Geishawife » Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:58 pm

First of all, slow down and take a deeo breath! I sense that you are getting a little "knotted up" with all your questions and you're almost talking yourself out of things before you've even started getting into them! So, relax a little bit and you'll make more sense of things.

First of all, your age. You are nowhere near too old to start on this new journey. I have known of many CPs start training in their early 40s, so you have plenty of time to get the requisite experience and development to enable you to get on to training. So, put that worry to bed - it is not a worry!

Secondly, your experience. Whilst your academic career to date will probably not count for much in terms of clinical experience, it demonstrates quite clearly that you are capable of high level academic work, which is very improtant to selectors. The clinical doctorate is very academically demanding and the fact you have a PhD (albeit in History rather than Psychology) will add wieght to to your application. I would advise you to focus on getting as good a grade as possible in your MSc conversion. Merit or Distinction will be important, a pass will not really help you. So, use all that academic experience to do your absolute best in your MSc.

As far as practical/clinical experience goes, you have made a good start in helping out on the crisis line, but you are correct that this will not be enough. I'm not familiar with how services are organised in Germany, but I would suggest you make enquiries as to whether or not roles such as support worker or health care assistant exist and whether you can join a bank system that would enable you to work shifts alongside your university commitments. Doing a few bank shifts a week would give you a good start in developing clinically relevant skills and experience.

If your plan is to return to the UK to train, I would recommend (if it's possible) that you return to the UK after you complete your MSc and apply for clinically relevant jobs here and work here for a while before applying for the doctorate. I'm suggesting this as a) it will enable you to re-familiarise yourself with the NHS and how it operates and b) it would enable you to seek some supervision/guidance from a qualified CP which can only add to your application.

I hope all that makes sense and gives you a clearer perspective on things. Yes, your position is a little unusual, but living and working abroad will have also given you skills and experiences that you could turn to your advantage come doctorate application time. Feel free to post any other questions. There will be many people on this site who have taken similarly unusual routes into training and that's a good thing because it adds to the heterogeneity of the CP population!

Good luck with the journey.

aufbau83
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by aufbau83 » Sun Feb 17, 2019 12:22 pm

Dear Geishawife, first, I am taken aback by the swiftness, thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and, if I might say, eloquence of your response. I appreciate it a lot.

The age question; a non-issue, in my case. Very good to know.

My academic experience; I found your comments about the importance of my academic record very encouraging. I should add, though, that this really brings home to me how difficult CP training actually is. The range of skills and capacities a candidate is required to demonstrate - academic, managerial, social, practical - is quite dizzying.

My clinical experience; this is where it perhaps gets murkier. Coming back to the UK before I start clinical training could prove challenging. I could probably only inflict a relocation on my family if I were relatively certain of a long career in the UK as a CP – which probably means getting on one of the training courses first. In the absence of that, I’m not sure I could sell it to them, or, indeed, justify the risk of turning my back on my current job. So obtaining more and varied experience in Germany seems to be the only way forward here.

In all honesty, I suppose what this comes down to – and what I realised while reading your response – is that there are limits to the sacrifices I’m prepared to make for this (or, in fact, any) career. I do get a slight sense, from various sources, that, for some aspiring CPs, the route to qualifying has become somewhat all-consuming. Maybe this is understandable, given the increasingly (and in my view, excessively) competitive, perceivably zero-sum nature of the job market for university educated young people in the west. But it’s a little dangerous, in my opinion. And I say that in the full knowledge that I myself am in danger of succumbing to this way of thinking. The protestant work ethic...

Anyway, let me thank you again for your advice, and I’ll try to take it where I can.

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Spatch
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by Spatch » Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:56 pm

One of the things that may be useful to reflect upon is why you want to shift from academic history to clinical psychology. Understanding your motivation will play a significant part in whether or not you will be attractive as a candidate for clinical training courses.

From their perspective, courses tend to like "safe bets": bright, resilient, flexible, mobile, highly motivated individuals who have a consistent track record and are likely to pass all aspects of the course with minimal extra burden on course staff. This would account for the strong constant trends seen in selection. Beyond that, I guess there is something about spotting people who can make a significant future contribution - a future Freud or Beck.

I don't know what the links and cross overs with academic history and clinical psychology are, but being able to research/ publish, push forward a field, bring in substantial money, build and sustain high performing psychology teams, are all attributes the profession needs. Those are also skills your average assistant psychologist will not have, so are potentially sellable. The drawback is without the "basic hygiene" factors of varied relevant psychology experience and some knowledge of the local system you will be at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to selling those "extras".

Depending on your motivation, there may be other ways to gather relevant experience or get you to a role closer to what you will want in the future. Some universities have academics doing more and more mental health championing or pastoral support roles, which may be an option. Others are making explicit links from their field to mental health and psychology. Understanding what draws you to Clinical Psychology may help consider your next steps.
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aufbau83
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by aufbau83 » Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:31 pm

Spatch, thanks for your thought-provoking post. I considered this in some depth while in the bath, I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear.

Ultimately, my motivation can be broken down into two separate (though related) factors. First, there's the intellectual element; that I find these "technologies of change" that we've come to call "psychotherapies" (like CBT, psychoanalysis, person centred etc.) to be fascinating. Maybe because they are, in effect, implicit (or in some cases explicit) statements about what kind of "animal" human beings are, how they change, even if they are capable of change etc. These are compelling and fundamental philosophical questions. The process of therapy, to me, almost serves as a unique opportunity to empirically test the assumptions that underpin these philosophies (if we agree that's what they are, ultimately).

Maybe that sounds excessively, bloodlessly "academic" (whatever that means). So, swiftly on to the second element of my motivation. From my (admittedly, limited) experience of being in a "helping role" at the crisis line, I find it very rewarding, even enjoyable, though occasionally a little harrowing, to talk to and try to help people in psychological distress. Of course, on such helplines, there's no programmatic therapy taking place. This is understandable, but it's something I find a little frustrating, because I think callers could be helped more with a more structured approach - even in the limited time available. I would like to do this in a more advanced, systematic way, basically. I really like the applied element - I'm reluctant for my working life to become too, well, bloodlessly academic...

So there it is - a combination of intellectual curiosity, and also a conviction (possibly misguided) that I have a certain aptitude for building relationships with people in distress.

I hear what you're saying about (a) the need to tick certain boxes in terms of "relevant experience" and knowledge of the system I might be absorbed into, and (b) the potential saleability of my experience in academic history. I do think there's some congruity here - in terms of building relationships, pastoral work with students, and some of the other stuff you mentioned about attracting funding or managing teams.

Ah well. Time to start massaging the old CV...

PS. Your book looks interesting. I might have to part with my cash.

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maven
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by maven » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:04 am

Being realistic, it seems unlikely to me that you'd gain a clinical training post from Germany. The posts are sponsored by the nhs, and designed to staff the nhs with clinical psychologists. When there are 20 or more applicants per place, they will be selecting people with a clear understanding of how clinical psychology is practised in the uk, and with a commitment to stay in the nhs, as well as with substantive relevant experience. I can't imagine that being someone who had never worked in the uk, no matter how many transferable skills you bring. I'm not even sure what the residence and funding rules will be post brexit (assuming we do manage to stab ourselves in the foot to give a tax haven to the uber rich by fueling the xenophobia of those they've exploited at the other end of the income spectrum), but I thought that even now you had to be resident with right to remain at the point of application.

Conversely, I can't see how it would make career sense for you. Unless you want to go back to a sub £20k salary, and have five or more years of learning before you come close to your current salary. And on top of that you'd be moving your family into the brexit mess. Why not explore the options for a clinical psychology career in Germany?
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

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persephone56
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by persephone56 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:08 am

It sounds to me that your primary interest in therapy? While that's a large part of what we do as CPs, things are shifting and CPs are moving more towards leadership and service development roles. I'm a final year trainee and there's a tremendous push towards learning leadership skills, doing leadership placements and pieces of work etc. It seems to me that a lot of CPs are getting fed up with the way the NHS is pushing them, and I'm hearing about vacancies being harder to fill etc.

The reason I mention this is that, if therapy is your primary interest, then there are plenty of other ways to pursue that professionally that aren't as demanding, competitive or gruelling as the DClinPsych. Equally, there's a big difference between 'distress' and 'mental health'. CPs typically work at the more serious and severe end of mental health. Is that in line with your interests?

Brexit is very real, as well. I'm Irish and even though it shouldn't affect me in the same way it does others, it's a significant concern. The conversation has become "When I leave the UK" rather than "If I leave the UK". At this stage in the game, I just can't see how it can end well.

I'd suggest exploring your options in Germany first, rather than committing to the UK Doctorate straight away. As has been mentioned, you're very unlikely to get a place without hands-on clinical experience (preferably in the UK, but it's not a deal-breaker either in my experience), getting that clinical work is hard and the path is full of uncertainty. You have no guarantees of jobs or course places being available in your preferred place of living, so you could end up having to move around and uproot your family more than once.

Best of luck with it :)

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mungle
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by mungle » Wed Feb 20, 2019 5:53 pm

Other people above have given you the information and considerations for career path and by now you probably realise such a career is likely to take some time and gaining some more relevant experience. Also, you might enjoy other allied careers or find ways to change and develop your current career to meet your motivations.

One of your strengths will be the research side and the ability to write and publish. The BPS has a History of Psychology Section and holds an annual Stories of Psychology day in London each Autumn. They are also co-organising the QMIP biannual conference this summer - the Qualitative Methods in Psychology conference. You might find it useful, and that it plays to your strengths, to present at such events and publish in their journals.

aufbau83
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by aufbau83 » Fri Feb 22, 2019 7:23 am

“When there are 20 or more applicants per place, they will be selecting people with a clear understanding of how clinical psychology is practised in the uk, and with a commitment to stay in the nhs, as well as with substantive relevant experience. I can't imagine that being someone who had never worked in the uk, no matter how many transferable skills you bring.”

I could probably guarantee a long-term commitment to working in the NHS. Uprooting my entire family back to the UK for the purpose of this role would, to my mind, indicate that I see this as my career until I eventually kick the bucket. Also, maybe it doesn't count for much, but I’m not wholly unacquainted with the inner workings of the NHS, or even of how clinical psychology is practised in the UK. I lived there for 30 years before I bailed, and I saw a CP during the first six torrid months of my PhD, when I was considering amassing all of my notes and books into a bonfire on the East Fife coast and torching the whole thing while looking on impassively and sipping a glass of brandy. She talked me out of it. Just about. Those first six months can be testing…

The question you raise around residency is trickier, though. Especially because of what you rather excellently call “giving a tax haven to the uber rich by fueling the xenophobia of those they've exploited at the other end of the income spectrum”, otherwise known as Brexit. Truthfully, I have no answer to this, or to the concerns raised by Persephone (who does? certainly not the British government!) Even if the legal implications were settled in favour of people in my position, I’d still have misgivings about raising a kid in the UK, if indeed it is going to be transformed into the Singapore of Western Europe.

So you're right. And I'm lost for words. But the salary reduction wouldn’t be a concern… because sub-20K is pretty much what I’m on anyway. In Germany, they only roll out the red carpet salary wise for the Professors… ::makes sign of the cross::

“It sounds to me that your primary interest is in therapy? While that's a large part of what we do as CPs, things are shifting and CPs are moving more towards leadership and service development roles. I'm a final year trainee and there's a tremendous push towards learning leadership skills, doing leadership placements and pieces of work etc. It seems to me that a lot of CPs are getting fed up with the way the NHS is pushing them, and I'm hearing about vacancies being harder to fill etc.”

This is intriguing. But I don’t really know what it means. You mean they’re increasingly taking you out of one on one therapy situations with those in distress and training you to be miniature CEOs? It sounds kind of interesting – but as you observe, I am predominantly interested in therapy. It’s just what excites me, intellectually. Maybe that will change as I get older and more bitter, though.

“The BPS has a History of Psychology Section and holds an annual Stories of Psychology day in London each Autumn. They are also co-organising the QMIP biannual conference this summer - the Qualitative Methods in Psychology conference. You might find it useful, and that it plays to your strengths, to present at such events and publish in their journals.”

This is a fantastic idea. You know, I probably shouldn’t ramble about this here, but I had a great idea for my MSc dissertation. There’s a German psychology journal, the Zeitschrift fur Psychologie, founded in 1890. It existed during the Kaiserreich, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, Communist East Germany, and a united Germany from 1989. That means it was published under regimes embodying, variously, conservative monarchism, liberalism, fascism, communism, then liberal-democratic capitalism once again. Looking at its editorials is a great opportunity to test the constructivist claim that psychological knowledge (and perhaps even the process of therapy itself) is culturally and politically determined. Sounds like something the conference could – could – be interested in hearing about. I’ll look into it.

Maven, Persephone, Mungle, let me thank you again for your help, penetrating and challenging questions, and general willingness to think about and consider my predicament. I was not expecting such intelligent and extensive feedback.

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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by RJParker » Fri Feb 22, 2019 4:17 pm

We would not be worried about a trainee living in the EU at the point of application. We've taken EU citizens onto the programme previously direct from their home country and interview several each year. We also regularly choose trainees with no NHS experience over those with that experience because they have demonstrated greater potential.

aufbau83
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by aufbau83 » Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:06 am

Hello Rob. This is extremely encouraging, so thanks. My only concern is that I won't have GBC for the BPS ::spits out mouthful of alphabet soup:: until January 2020, so I'd first be in a position to apply in (I think) November 2020, with the earliest conceivable start being autumn 2021. Fingers crossed that the entire legal framework of NHS recruitment - and indeed, UK residency - haven't been overhauled by then in favour of something Boris Johnson wrote on the back of a receipt for vintage port. Ultimately, I guess, I'm still a British national, so maybe none of this will effect me much anyway. But perhaps these aren't really questions for a clinical psychology forum.

I took a look at some of your other posts, and I know we've discussed this before, but I do have a question about what you call the "commitment to social justice" that defines the DClinPsy at Lancaster. Is this something that you (a) see as knitted primarily into the process of recruitment - that is, with the aim of widening participation in the field, and not necessarily privileging those who, because of their advantageous circumstances, can afford to amass "relevant experience" that the less well-positioned simply cannot? Or is it (b) something that flavours the course content and training process itself - i.e. a midlands psychology group-style scepticism toward traditional approaches to psychotherapy, and a basic conviction that the causes of "mental distress" are mainly to be found in the social and material conditions acting on the individual, rather than in some faulty aspect of their "cognition" (/superego/self-schema etc.)?

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maven
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by maven » Mon Feb 25, 2019 1:15 am

aufbau83 wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 7:23 am
“It sounds to me that your primary interest is in therapy? While that's a large part of what we do as CPs, things are shifting and CPs are moving more towards leadership and service development roles. I'm a final year trainee and there's a tremendous push towards learning leadership skills, doing leadership placements and pieces of work etc. It seems to me that a lot of CPs are getting fed up with the way the NHS is pushing them, and I'm hearing about vacancies being harder to fill etc.”

This is intriguing. But I don’t really know what it means. You mean they’re increasingly taking you out of one on one therapy situations with those in distress and training you to be miniature CEOs? It sounds kind of interesting – but as you observe, I am predominantly interested in therapy. It’s just what excites me, intellectually. Maybe that will change as I get older and more bitter, though.
It means that there are many professions that deliver therapy, of which clinical psychology is one. But it is one where that is far from the only component of the job, and for some CPs isn't a component at all (see this blog, for example). You'll certainly find it hard to progress in your career without many other components, such as supervision, consultancy, training, service development, management, team leadership, research, etc. And there are many faster/easier/less competitive professions in which to train as a therapist.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

aufbau83
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Re: Scrambled Eggs

Post by aufbau83 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:25 pm

It means that there are many professions that deliver therapy, of which clinical psychology is one. But it is one where that is far from the only component of the job, and for some CPs isn't a component at all (see this blog, for example). You'll certainly find it hard to progress in your career without many other components, such as supervision, consultancy, training, service development, management, team leadership, research, etc. And there are many faster/easier/less competitive professions in which to train as a therapist.
Thanks for the clarification, Maven. Like an MBA meets a Dclinpsy, perhaps? Sounds kind of interesting. Though potentially exhausting...

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