Mature student considering clinical/counselling psychology

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hettie
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Re: Mature student considering clinical/counselling psycholo

Post by hettie » Tue May 14, 2013 10:03 pm

I'm not sure Msrisotto.... quite a few people I know have come from a completely different place...It seems that many clinical psychology trainees have been planning to get onto training since undergrad...Lots of counselling psychology trainees have had completely different careers (or similar/related careers- but certainly not with the objective of clinical/counselling training in mind). One route (work in quite a well paid job for 10 years and then pay to retrain) might look more expensive than the other (work for free/v.low wage for ages in order to gain experiences/then get paid to train), but actually overall might look financially similar.....You have to be quite well of (relatively) for both options tbh.... I mean honestly without parental support who can work for free/"honorary contracts"/do free internships in the summer hols etc..... Similarly unless you've been in/are in a well paid job there is no way you'll be able to afford the £3-5k a year for counselling psych fees.....(unless you've got wealthy/helpful parents of course)

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minesacupoftea
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Re: Mature student considering clinical/counselling psycholo

Post by minesacupoftea » Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:58 pm

Hello cappuccinomonkey...don't suppose there is any chance of getting an update as to how you're doing and where you are now? I'm an undergrad and the whole thread is fascinating! I've been fortunate to come across it. It would be terrific to hear how you're doing now and what reflections you would now have?

SouthSaxon
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Re: Mature student considering clinical/counselling psycholo

Post by SouthSaxon » Sat Jun 10, 2017 6:38 pm

Hello cappuccinomonkey...don't suppose there is any chance of getting an update as to how you're doing and where you are now? I'm an undergrad and the whole thread is fascinating! I've been fortunate to come across it. It would be terrific to hear how you're doing now and what reflections you would now have?
Seconded! I posted a few months ago about 'do I have enough experience for a shot at ClinPsy', but should point out that my passion was always CounsPsy. I looked away from it because of cost BUT - PhD loans are available from September 2018 and these are supposed to cover professional docs. This makes CounsPsy a valid option for me again.

I'm already a qualified counsellor (BSc level, BACP Accred.) and just finishing MSc Psychology conversion this autumn. Would really enjoy any further updates on where you're at now mate!

Best wishes to all

cappuccinomonkey
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Re: Mature student considering clinical/counselling psycholo

Post by cappuccinomonkey » Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:39 pm

SouthSaxon wrote:
Hello cappuccinomonkey...don't suppose there is any chance of getting an update as to how you're doing and where you are now? I'm an undergrad and the whole thread is fascinating! I've been fortunate to come across it. It would be terrific to hear how you're doing now and what reflections you would now have?
Seconded! I posted a few months ago about 'do I have enough experience for a shot at ClinPsy', but should point out that my passion was always CounsPsy. I looked away from it because of cost BUT - PhD loans are available from September 2018 and these are supposed to cover professional docs. This makes CounsPsy a valid option for me again.

I'm already a qualified counsellor (BSc level, BACP Accred.) and just finishing MSc Psychology conversion this autumn. Would really enjoy any further updates on where you're at now mate!

Best wishes to all

I'm happy to provide a final update.

I finished the doctorate last year. I still regret starting that programme at that specific university. However, I have made peace with myself that at the time it was the best possible decision with the information available. It was beyond my control that the university misled me about the structure and philosophy of their course. Having said that, I'm happy with what I achieved during the doctorate in respect of my clinical work, personal & academic development, and research outputs. The university itself contributed to none of this and indeed only hindered it. The credit belongs with my friends and family, professional support (external supervisors, personal therapist, work colleagues), and of course myself.

Since finishing, I have returned to self-employment, undertaking a variety of projects & activities. I don't use the title 'counselling psychologist' as I find that this term personally limiting and misleading, both as a person and as a professional. However, I'm happy to have a doctorate, and happy to call myself a practitioner psychologist, applied psychologist or some such. The reasons I stuck with the practitioner doctorate are still valid and on balance just about compensate me for the personal cost. They're mostly practical, such as marketing (prestige of title), financial (higher billing rate) and security (knowing that there are more jobs for counselling psychologists rather than counsellors). On an existential level, the doctorate was as fulfilling as a bucket of sick.

I did pursue some academic opportunities post-doctorate, but soon discovered that the lack of Higher Education teaching experience - which one would usually accumulate while doing a research PhD - was killing me off. In any event, I realised that universities' public sector ethos (e.g. process more important than product) would be a struggle for me anyway. As a result, I am channelling my research and teaching energies in other ways.

If I were doing it all again, I would have accepted one of the offers of a research PhD, and subsequently undertaken registration as a counselling psychologist through the 'independent route'. This would have allowed me to properly scratch my 'academic itch', while leaving open the doors to being both a practitioner psychologist and an academic.

As for the profession of counselling psychology, I have no interest in it at all now. As Shakespeare once wrote, "I have drunk, and seen the spider". It's a profession that lacks the integrity, coherence, passion, breadth and depth I need. I did try to put forward a different vision for the profession, in vain, and I'm now happy to walk away and along my own unique path. I don't feel like I belong there and I don't want to belong there. What it offers might be enough for other people, but it's not enough for me.

If you are already a counsellor and thinking about counselling psychology, you may find that, compared with counselling, counselling psychology pays more attention to the theoretical and technical dimensions, and less to the emotional, experiential and relational. Some counselling psychologists have argued this point with me, but those individuals had not undertaken prior training in counselling and therefore had no point of reference. Those that had tended to agree with me.

I know my updates make for quite pessimistic reading. However, if you are reading this because you want to do clinical psychology but are considering undertaking counselling psychology training instead, I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm sad that counselling psychology has been parasitised by clinical psychology, but I don't see the point in prescribing antibiotics when the organism has already been consumed. Counselling psychology is becoming clinical psychology by another name, in the UK at least, and the two will surely merge at some point in the future. This is part of the reason the profession is dead to me, but may be the reason it comes alive for you. A doctorate in counselling psychology will open the door to the NHS just as well as clinical psychology. It's for you to decide whether the cost of the training is worth it for the accelerated journey to employment.

However, please be aware that the counselling psychology doctorates are not as 'polished' as clinical psychology. They have a certain 'part time' or amateurish feel to them. You'll likely have to organise your own placements, for example, and the staff may be part-time and sometimes hard to reach. They are also variable in terms of quality, structure and philosophy. This means that my or your experience of one particular programme will be very different to the next person's experience at a different university. Only you can say if a particular programme will be the right fit for you.

To figure this out, try thinking about what you want to get from training. Begin with the end in mind. Approach it like a consumer: after all, you're spending 3-4 years and £30-50k on it. Would you buy a new car without asking lots of difficult questions and taking it for a long test drive? Go to open days, speak to or email programme directors, and ask the questions you need to ask. The 'right' programme should be pleased that you do. Rather than being defensive or offended, they should take it as a sign that you are a thoughtful, reflective and self-aware person.

If you can, find someone who has completed the programme you are interested in. You can do this most easily by attending a major event like the annual BPS divisional conference (which is a wise investment if you want to make sure this is the right direction for you). Most if not all of the programmes are represented there, in terms of staff, current students, and graduates. I can't think of a better 'showroom' for you to decide on your purchase. If you can't make it to an event like this, don't be shy about cold calling/emailing counselling psychologists who have completed the programme in question: Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn are your friends.

Perhaps most importantly, be prepared to move for the 'right' programme. IMHO, it's better to apply for a programme that's a good personal fit than a good geographical fit. I know very well how much inconvenience this can cause. But if you're 'stuck' with the wrong programme just because of where you happen to live, oh wow that hurts like hell. Trust me.

I'd also recommend not picking a programme based on cost. It's understandably tempting, but I fail to see the point in saving a few thousand pounds if it means you suffer with a programme that doesn't suit you, or which offers substandard training. For instance, I know some graduates of my programme who've decided to do subsequent training to make up for the huge gaps in their doctorate.

As I reflect on my experiences, here's some of the questions I'd suggest you consider - and indeed ask - about any programme you're interested in.

- Do the teaching methods match your needs? Ask them about the specific methods they use: e.g. lectures (which, in 2017, means death by Powerpoint), workshops & seminars (often lectures by another name, meaning Powerpoint with tokenistic group discussion/exercises), group work etc.

- Can they provide the placements you want? For instance, you may want to work with a particular age group (children, older adults), presenting issue (anxiety, depression, PTSD), modality (couples, families), or in a particular setting (prison, hospice, school) or sector (private, public).

- Does it prioritise research the way you want? Some programmes make a big deal of research. Others treat it as an annoying thing that has to be 'got through' to tick the HCPC/BPS box. Someone who isn't interested in research would probably be very annoyed to have regular meetings about it, lots of lectures on research methods, and a 70k thesis to write at the end of it. Equally, somebody who cares about developing their research will be stymied by a research supervisor with limited expertise in the research topic/methodology or with little time/desire to help you publish or present your work. Find out if the programme can support you both in the direction you want to go and the distance you want to travel.

- What is the typical profile of trainees on the programme? For instance, some programmes have a high percentage of mature students. For others, the opposite is true. Think about what would be important to you here in terms of age, professional experience, personal background and so on.

- How is this programme different to the other programmes on offer? The counselling psychology community is small, and the programme teams are quite familiar with one another and their work. So I think this question can help you to figure out the 'goodness of fit' between you and the programme. Each of the programmes has its own culture, theoretical leanings, and areas of emphasis. It's almost impossible to tell this from their typically poor marketing. It seems unfair to me that you should have to get as far as an interview, or begin the course itself, before you can answer this question. For me, it is the most important question.


I hesitated to post this because, frankly, I'd rather forget about this chapter of my life and I wish I could delete this entire forum thread. I'm not even sure if what I've written is likely to be helpful. But I decided to put it out there in case it helps even one person.

Good luck to all of you.
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Spatch
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Re: Mature student considering clinical/counselling psycholo

Post by Spatch » Mon Jun 12, 2017 2:49 pm

I hesitated to post this because, frankly, I'd rather forget about this chapter of my life and I wish I could delete this entire forum thread. I'm not even sure if what I've written is likely to be helpful. But I decided to put it out there in case it helps even one person.
I am really sorry that this has been your experience, but I can't stress enough how useful it is to have your reflections about this process as much of this sort of thing typically is discussed behind closed doors. I am sure it will be really useful to people considering the route that you took. I agree with you that even if it has given another person in your shoes something to consider I would say the thread has been worth it. Or even if another counselling psych reads it and feels less alone.

Regardless of your experiences on training you write reflectively and thoughtfully, and are clearly passionate about developing you version of psychology, and I for one am happy that you are amongst the ranks of practitoner psychologists. (Granted, your actual training programme may not have contributed greatly to this, or been downright obstructive, but you are still applying what you took from the field.)
I'm sad that counselling psychology has been parasitised by clinical psychology, but I don't see the point in prescribing antibiotics when the organism has already been consumed. Counselling psychology is becoming clinical psychology by another name, in the UK at least, and the two will surely merge at some point in the future. This is part of the reason the profession is dead to me, but may be the reason it comes alive for you.
This is something that I share concerns about and feel that this development shortchanges both clinical and counselling psychology as disciplines. When I reflect on it, I think the scope of counselling psychology is probably greater in many respects than clinical and has a wider potential application, but while the clinical psych hegemony dominates it can't flourish. The two could be mutually reinforcing and help develop each other, but not if the current imbalance continues as it is. Unfortunately, the usual result is that people who think like you isolated and marginalised, so are ultimately driven out (or bludgeoned into compliance), and this in turn reinforces the "Clinical=Best" narrative.

I can see how changes could occur though. I think greater "professionalisation" of CounPsy courses (organised full time dedicated staff, defined placements, stronger industry links with stakeholders and business skills) would go some way in building in more certainty and giving the impression that CounsPsy Trainee matter. I think having impassioned and inspiring Couns Psychs trainers teaching on those courses would help develop that alternative strong identity (maybe you could be one of them?). Sure some aspirants will follow the "clinical by other name" path, but if it was framed as a pragmatic compromise rather than optimal choice that would be a good start at addressing the problem? Building strong supportive counselling psychologist networks would help, both internationally and nationally, and the small numbers of practitioners could help with this. Probably outside the BPS though, as that buys into the clinical hegemony at many levels.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts.
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mungle
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Re: Mature student considering clinical/counselling psycholo

Post by mungle » Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:37 am

What a great shame that Counselling Psychology might be regarded simply as a back-up to another option rather than fro its own strengths. I have valued working with Counselling Psychologists who have added a humanistic, phenomenological and relational aspect to the work and from whom I have learned more about the therapy side of our work.

Posts such as yours are very helpful in updating from previous posts and showing development of careers over years. As someone who joined this forum around the same year in a position with some similarities I was drawn to and recognised some of your disappointments with training (mine was a clinical psychology course). Often it felt like an obstacle course with far too many hurdles that impeded time and space for learning, exploring and reflecting and maintaining basic wellbeing or health. However, this has made me more focussed on developing this myself now I am post-training. I did not have to pay (apart from for a second undergraduate degree) or end up in debt to train although there were significant pay cuts and personal sacrifices involved.

I have some examples of how to move into the teaching/academic word without having a been a PHD student doing teaching/Graduate Teaching Assistant. Do get in touch if you want to talk about this.

minesacupoftea
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Re: Mature student considering clinical/counselling psycholo

Post by minesacupoftea » Tue Aug 29, 2017 2:11 pm

Wow, how very honest of you. It's your experience and extremely valid and I for one am very grateful for your post and posts. I don't regret you shared. There is good reflection there and good questions to ask of a course post degree. Like you say it's such an important and expensive step, it should be carefully considered.

Knowing what you know now you'd personally like to delete this tread and forget about that chapter of your life. You're making your own path. Maybe therein lies another lesson, don't think that the doctorate will get you to where you visualise you'll be, look into it more and get a bit of proof that it is an actual possibility. You sound so disappointed with the course you did but it sounds like it wasn't just the course in the end that you didn't particularly like, it's the whole Counselling Psychology profession and their approach and you articulated that very well.

Overall I think it's a pretty honest, raw account of how you feel about what you've done and very balanced too. Thank you for sharing.

I wish you every success cappuccinomonkey and if you're willing please let us know how you get on, on your independent route.

Thanks again for your very useful feedback. I'm in the undergrad stage, and I'll apply your reasoning ahead of planning my next steps.

Take care

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