Age & experience before getting on the DClinPsy

Discuss the content and style of the different clinical psychology doctoral training courses, the differences between them, placements, teaching, chat to other trainees and connect with other people who have places on the same course
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Age & experience before getting on the DClinPsy

Post by singing-in-the-rain » Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:21 pm

I managed to get a place on the doctorate for 2009 entry on my first year of applying. I'm in my late 20s and wanted to get a number of years of clinical and research experience under my belt to equip me with the skills and maturity for the course.

I am worried by comments made by people who think it's such a wonderful, amazing achievement for them to get on the course when they have little experience. I know somebody who got on the doctorate at age 22, and had only 1 relevant previous post. She admitted she found the course extremely hard to cope with due to her lack of experience in every area and wishes she had gained more experience prior to clinical training.

I knew it was right for me to apply for the doctorate when I could answer 'yes' to the question 'would I be happy for 1 of my family/friends to be referred for therapy to someone with my experience & skills'
If you can't give a definite 'yes' to this question then I don't think it's right you should expect other people's family/friends to come to you for assessment/treatment.

I just think certain people should consider vulnerable client's welfare a bit more, rather than focusing on their own self-interests e.g. "I want to qualify before I'm 30"

Any comments?

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Post by Peach » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:23 am

Since clinical psychology is so competitive, I think it is a wonderful achievement for anyone to get a place irrespective of how much prior experience they have. In particular I personally find it even more impressive for someone to get on the course when they’ve had fewer posts as they have clearly been able to demonstrate effectively that they can apply their knowledge and skills to a range of settings, despite not necessarily having worked in a variety of settings.

As there is so much uncertainty in the route to clinical psychology it is not unreasonable for people to set a personal time limit on which they want to qualify/get on the course. I don’t think this means that such people care less about the clients welfare at all. We are human after all, it would be unfair to expect us to not to be thinking of our self interests. Ultimately although I do care about clients welfare, my own personal welfare comes first and there’s only so many years I’m prepared to follow this uncertain path. If i don’t get on the course by my own personal time frame then I will consider other options because I want to get on with my life and wouldn’t be able to live the life I want if i constantly have to change jobs every year or two for x amount of years.

Also no matter how much experience I had pre-docterate I would still always answer no to your question because I would want my family/friends to referred to someone for therapy who was fully qualified and had extensive experience delivering therapy to several clients. When you start clinical training, it is not expected that you should have the skills, experience and knowledge of someone who is fully qualified....otherwise what would be the point of training? Therefore I think that question is best reserved for someone who has just completed the course, not contemplating applying for it

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Post by Moonlight » Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:20 am

I agree with the comment made my Peach, that I would expect a family member or friend be referred to someone with the necessary training and skills (i.e. already qualified).

I waited to apply to the course until I felt 'ready', which was for 2009 entry and I've been lucky enough to get a place. However, my 'readiness' probably had little to do with the 'referring family/friends' situation, but more to do with me feeling as though I had gained enough experience to have a chance at getting a place. I still feel largely unprepared for the course in some aspects e.g. I have had no experience whatsoever of any therapeutic/direct clinical psychological work with service-users, and so I would struggle to fulfil the criteria of having a friend or family member referred to someone like me. But on the other hand, I do feel ready for training.

I also agree with Peach's comments regarding the uncertainty of getting on the course, and setting your own personal limits of when you might try something else and move away from CP. I think this is fairly common, and I had put quite a lot of thought into this myself.

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Post by that_guy_ » Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:02 am

I'm also starting the doctorate this year and would probably be considered relatively young (23). I agree with Peach's post, particularly in relation to the point that you don't need to be operating at the level of a fully qualified to enter training.

Firstly, I think what seems to be happening here is a bit of confusion between a persons age and/or experience and their level of competence. While the two might be related, I don't believe that one is always entirely dependant on the other. In fact I would say it's more to do with how you learn/reflect from/on your experiences and the quality of those experiences rather than the quantity.

Secondly, I think you're assuming that applying to a course when it "feels right" means that it is right. It might be the case that someone who has many years of experience and "feels" this is their year will turn out to be a lousy psychologist. On the other hand, someone who might be a little anxious or unsure of how they will do could very well turn out to be an excellent therapist. For example, your friend who entered the course at 22, although she struggled, may well be an excellent psychologist now. In short I don't think that percieved self-competence?? is equal to objective competence (whatever that is).

Sometimes I do wonder whether all this talk of it being the "right time" for me/you/them to get on the course isn't an effort to apply some rationale/logic/control to a seemingly random process.

p.s. I happen to think that a little bit of self-doubt is healthy and keeps you on your toes - but that's my personal assumption.

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Post by urmaserendipity85 » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:01 pm

I would echo that_guy_ in that I am also 23 and have gained a place on the course, and do not feel I am any less "ready" now than I would be in a few more years time. I have had a number of experiences where I feel that I have had to prove myself because of my age, and definitely feel that I have been underestimated in the past. I think age has nothing to do with the quality of your experience, and would agree with others that it depends what you take from it that counts. Obviously the courses are well-practised in identifying people most likely to cope with training and make good CPs, so I would trust their judgement, not the age of the trainee.
With regards to the family/friends comment, I don't know that you ever really reach the point where you would be totally comfortable with that, and that's why we continue with our learning and reflection.
If people choose to gain more experience before applying for the course, that's a personal choice, but please don't judge others for wanting to apply sooner. As far as I'm concerned, getting on the course is a great achievement whatever your age and we all deserve a great big pat on the back.

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Post by ilikeblueskies » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:34 pm

the last two posts resonate with me quite a bit. I started the course just after turning 23 and while I definitely had less clinical experience than some of the others in my class, I dont think that disadvantaged me. I think if you are willing to put in the hard work, reflect on your experiences and make full use of supervision then you are doing as much as you can. I started my first placement a bit of a quivering wreck since I didnt have any AMH experience at all but I compensated by working extra hard and most of my clients achieved really good outcomes for themselves. obviously there are lots of factors that contribute to a "good" outcome but I certainly dont think my lack of experience impeded their progress.

I also wanted to finish the course before I was 30 but not because I dont have the welfare of clients in mind but because life is there to be lived and the course (for me anyway) has put life on hold a little bit...So i dont think its unreasonable to have certain time points in mind to achieve things by...a lot of people do this with all sorts of things in life... Much waffling. x

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Post by MissB » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:58 pm

I think that this is just down to personal preference. Like singing-in-the-rain, I waited for several years after graduating until I applied and got a place on the doctorate. However, this was a personal decision as I was lucky enough to be employed in jobs that I really enjoyed and that I felt I was learning a lot from. I didn't feel the need to move onto the course and as a result have quite an extensive and varied background of experience.

However, I certainly don't think that this means everyone should do this and I really admire people who get on the course 1/2 years after graduating. Different routes suit different people and this will hopefully lead to a diverse trainee cohort, which I believe is beneficial to the profession.

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Post by urmaserendipity85 » Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:08 pm

hear hear MissB!
I wholeheartedly agree, I think the point of a diverse cohort is that we can learn from each other's varied experiences, there are many ways and backgrounds to approach training from and no way is more "right" than the other. I for one will be looking forward to benefitting from the experience of those slightly older than myself on the course, but also hope that I can bring something from my own experience to help them.

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Post by katja » Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:07 pm

I had an interesting discussion about this very topic with a guy at one of the assistant groups. He was only 26ish and was of the opinion that people shouldn't apply under 25 for similar reasons, they are not ready emotionally or experience wise. Like singing-in-the-rain. I preferred to wait to apply until I felt ready. Reflecting on my life, I could not have done what I am doing now just after graduating, I don't think I would have the patience or experience to cope. However, I don't only believe this is age related. I can only go from my experience of fellow potential trainees; I have met some 22 year olds who are fantastic at their jobs and a real inspiration. I would be happy for them to be my or friends/family therapist.

However, I admit I have been shocked by some posts I have read on this or maybe it was the 'other' site, from younger trainees who I would be worried about in a therapeutic situation with vulnerable people. On the other hand yes, this is why we have supervison and I guess there is no difference to experiencing this very steep learning curve as an assistant to as a trainee. But I do wonder if on reflection these people will look back and wonder if their ambition to 'achieve' in such a short space of time was all it was cracked up to be.

On another issue, a diverse cohort is not (only) about age, but culture, background, spirituality, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and class... Clinical psychology should not discriminate and would benefit in diversity in all areas to benefit the profession.

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Post by miriam » Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:25 pm

I think you can be a good or a bad psychologist whatever your age or level of experience! In fact, there could be an argument that the longer it takes you to get on training the less suitable you are, as it becomes about ticked boxes rather than 'innate potential'. I've always liked the way our profession has looked at competencies and personal style rather than time served.

On a slight tangent, one interesting thing I picked up reading this thread is that people wouldn't be comfortable with a trainee seeing a friend or relative. I think a trainee can often be the best part of the service as they are still enthusiastic (rather than burnt out) with enough time to read around each case, and have supervision from an experienced CP about every case. Besides, many people offering MH services are less experienced than trainees, or on lower bands. Made me wonder if people's lack of confidence in their own competence is causing this bias...

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Post by helloimnew » Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:57 pm

I find the suggestion that people under 25 are somehow not psychologically mature enough to work with vulnerable people both shocking and ageist. Of course there are many young trainees who have entered the profession for what might be the wrong reasons but that brush should not tarnish every young trainee. There are plenty of young adults who have matured far beyond their years for personal experiential reasons. In fact I would argue that the 22 year old who had faced adversity (and entered therapy) is much more self-aware and insightful than the 30 year old who had never truly looked at themselves critically and psychologically.

The process is designed to select people who are able to take on such an emotionally demanding course and I think we should put our trust in this process. Unfortunately, there will always be individuals who learn the right things to say and the right image to get across in the interview and who have relevant experience but don’t really understand what is important in the therapeutic relationship. I think it is these people who will struggle on the course – whether they are 22 or 32.

I am 23 and starting the course this year on my first attempt. Does that automatically mean I’ll be a terrible therapist? No. Do my individual personal and professional psychological experiences mean I’m guaranteed to become a great therapist? No. We are all individuals and what we take from the course and use in our future careers is up to us alone. The age, race, experience, family background, disability or mental health status of the trainee does not dictate the kind of therapist s/he will be. The competitive (and at times vicious) nature of the process nearly put me off this career altogether. After all are we not all trying to do a good thing? Enter the helping profession and do something meaningful?

I think we all need to get a grip on what’s important and let go of the competition and the constant need I seem to see to drag others down and insist that they are not ‘mature’ enough or ‘experienced’ enough to become a good therapist. This, only time will tell.

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Post by charley » Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:37 am

This thought is only off the top of my head so i'm willing to be shot down in flames for it - Firstly, i wonder if the breeding ground for the usual cohorts of trainees is one that really lends itself at a young age (or maybe any age) to having diverse life experiences to reflect on, being that most cohorts are white, female, heterosexual, middle class, academically inclined etc etc. My concern is less to do with age of trainees but the incredibly restricted profiles that make up training courses. i think our profession should be less concerned with the age of trainees and more concerned about how our selection process is increasing the stereotyped profile of psychologists and how our clients relate to this. Secondly, I think as a profession we get far too defensive about discussing these issues and see being challenged for being too young, white, middle class etc etc as being a personal attack instead of accepting and exploring how who we are affects colleagues and clients.

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Post by Moonlight » Wed Jul 08, 2009 10:57 am

miriam wrote:On a slight tangent, one interesting thing I picked up reading this thread is that people wouldn't be comfortable with a trainee seeing a friend or relative.
I think it's more to do with not yet being a trainee. Once I am a trainee I hope to have picked up some relevant skills and knowledge in order to carry out effective therapeutic work. But at my current level of experience and knowledge, I would not be able to answer 'yes' to the question 'would I want a friend/family member to be referred to someone with my experience and skills?' Which would mean that I would not yet have applied to the course, if I chose to stick to that as the standard of whether or not I am 'ready' for training, as the OP stated.

And charely, I think you make a great point about thinking about diversity and how this effects colleagues and clients. This is much more the key issue than whether someone is under 25/'inexperienced'/'immature' etc.

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Post by Tangram » Wed Jul 08, 2009 1:31 pm

And so what about the Hull course where there are places to go straight from undergraduate to the doctorate then? People would be graduating there as clinical psychologists aged 24 or something (I think that’s right? Someone correct me if not). How do they select people? If they have a certain number of places will they offer to fill them no matter what the calibre of the current undergrads? The younger people that get on must have great potential and something about their application to get through to the interview stage and I'm not sure there are that many 'younger' applicants offered places - but these people shine through out of 100s of applicants. At Hull they would be limited to their current undergrads so I wonder what goes on there, who is selected, the impact of training on their trainees?

In response to the possible argument Miriam put forward about the longer it takes you to get on the less suitable you are – this is difficult, I felt quite defensive when I read that! A difficult thing for me was getting to the interview stage and then after my 3rd interview I finally got a place. I had one interview last year, then two this year. The first one was not good but it was a good practice. I would say it’s difficult to comment because people are not always offered interviews when they apply, the first two times I applied I got nothing back but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the potential to be a good clinical psychologist – no one gave me the opportunity to show this potential in person and it’s difficult to compete with a form when you have little experience and an average degree from an average university.

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Post by parmaviolet » Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:52 pm

:shock: I'll be 35 (eeeek!!) at the end of this month & I'm only just starting to (maybe) feel ready to (possibly) make an application for 2010. Some days I feel ready & confident but then there a other days when I launch into panic mode & feel like I need to gain so much more experience before I even attempt it. I start wondering how much is enough. I could go on forever like this. I have a plan B and sometimes I get so anxious about the DClin application process that I try to convince myself to go for the plan B without trying for the plan A!!!!!!!!! I'm so ridiculous.

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