Psychology conversion or psychotherapy?

The place to ask about degree courses, conversion courses, masters, PhD or other qualifications. Discuss specific courses, their pros and cons, the content, the application process, different institutions, how to fund them, etc. Includes advice if you have a 2:2 and questions on transcripts
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Psychology conversion or psychotherapy?

Post by Amusicum » Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:29 am

Hello all,

I'm at the crucial point where I'm deciding what exactly I need to do next to get me where I want to be career-wise. I have an undergraduate in Music (First Class Honours) and an MA in Psychosocial Studies from Birkbeck, University of London (Distinction). I am really interested in working with adolescents and adults, on issues related to eating disorders/body image and depression/anxiety. Basically, I have a few options for further study:

(a) I have just applied for a Psychology conversion GradDip in London South Bank University. (Does anybody have any experience of this course, by the way?!) At the moment I think I would be doing this course in order to go down the clinical psychology route. I know how incredibly competitive it is but it could be very worthwhile. There are a few things that would put me off this. I suppose I don't consider myself to be a very 'scientific' person, but more a reflective practitioner. I know that working as a clinical psychologist, I would probably have to endorse the scientific practitioner role more, which sometimes makes me think that qualifying in Psychotherapy/arts therapy would be better for me. I also get the feeling that I don't want to deal with more severe mental disorders, which may make me unsuited to some contexts within clinical psychology. I am also strongly considering Counselling psychology for that reason, if I go down the Psychology conversion route. I think I would perhaps be better suited to this because it focuses more on therapeutic relationships (from what I have read anyway), although I think there is also a discrepancy between the description of the programme and what is expected for a counselling psychologist to be able to do in the reality of working in the NHS. For instance, I think there is a considerable overlap between the role expectations of a clinical and counselling psychologist. However, I am being put off the Counselling Psychology route, simply because the training is so incredibly expensive, and as a clinical psychologist you are (at the moment anyway!) still paid to do the training. Again, I know how competitive it is to get on Clinical Psychology training but I wouldn't let this be a deterrent. However, I know I also shouldn't go for it just because it is paid for.

(b) A course I have been interested in for a while is the MA in Integrative Arts Psychotherapy at IATE (validated by London Met University). As I have a background in Music and I enjoy many other artforms, then this course could be very good for me. As this course works with adults rather than children (you choose either), I think perhaps it is more directed towards the client groups I want to work with (eating disorders and body image, in particular). However, this method of working may not benefit people with anxiety/depression so much, so I would need further training in other interventions (eg. - CBT). Sometimes, I get the feeling that Psychotherapy is not evidence based enough for me though. I think there are possible advantages to training as an arts therapist rather than a psychotherapist, simply because as far as I know art therapy is a state-regulated profession, whilst Psychotherapy still hasn't gotten this accreditation (although it is on its way). What is steering me away from the MA at the moment is that I feel very young to undertake it. At 25, I feel that I need to do a little more work on a personal level before undertaking such an emotional journey, which can churn up the past etc.!

(c) The third option for now would be to try and get a paid role with IATE, which would train me in CBT-based interventions. So, I would gain good experience for either Psychotherapy training, or else for the Graduate DIp conversion, if I decided to do it in the future.

So basically, there are a few things I need to think about and which maybe some of you here may be able to advise me on:

(i) Would I be better off going for the conversion course and the professional Psychology route rather than just gaining different Psychotherapy/CBT qualifications? All of these would be covered in a single doctorate psychologist training programme and whilst working as a psychologist, there would opportunities, I'm sure, to continue professional development through doing part-time further qualifications, to enhance your skills. E.g. - part-time MSc in Family therapy or the MA in integrative Arts Psychotherapy (which is 3-4 years part-time), whilst working as a chartered psychologist. I have been speaking to a clinical psychologist recently and she said that although clinical psychology is a rewarding career, she is not sure that it is worth the it to take the training nowadays, simply because of cutbacks in the NHS. She advised to identify the client groups I want to work with (which I have) and to do various psychotherapy/CBT qualifications that would enable me to devise interventions, without necessarily going down the clinical doctorate route. What do you think though?

(ii) Since I know I really want to work with adolescents and adults, rather than with children, should I take that as a warning sign not to go down the Psychology route. I know that for clinical psychology you have to do placements with certain populations, which includes children and older people. As I previously said, the things I really want to work with are eating disorders/body image issues (using relational and creative psychotherapy, family systems and CBT-based interventions) and anxiety/depression (mainly using CBT). I know there is more flexibility in how counselling psychology placements are devised but again I'm sure you would have to do placements with children. I am also thinking about my professional status and I know that as a psychologist I would perhaps have better opportunities for getting employment within the NHS, for instance, rather than if I did an art therapy/psychotherapy qualification. Maybe some of you have thoughts on this.

Sorry for such a long post. I just thought I would describe exactly all the elements that are a bit at conflict in my mind at the moment!!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Re: Psychology conversion or psychotherapy?

Post by Borrowed Cone » Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:56 pm

Hello, and welcome to the forum.

Just some quick points, as I'm afraid I don't have as much time as I would like to address your post in detail right now:

1) If there are age-groups you absolutely don't want to work with, then clinical psychology is not for you.

2) Counselling psychology also requires a research component now, so you will need to consider whether this is something you want to embark upon.

3) I would say that anyone entering psychology roles would benefit from a GBC accredited psychology degree/conversion, because of the key basics of human developmental and behavioural theory that you learn. However, if psychotherapy training doesn't require this, then it will be up to you to decide whether it is something you want to invest in.

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Re: Psychology conversion or psychotherapy?

Post by alexh » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:02 pm

I did a conversion course at staffordshire, having previously done a introduction to counselling, because I thought I would benefit from a broader base of knowledge. I am glad I did it.

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Re: Psychology conversion or psychotherapy?

Post by miriam » Sun Apr 28, 2013 3:35 pm

I think that you need to work out whether your preference is for creative therapies (with their limited evidence base) or CBT (with its big evidence base, but fairly restrictive methodology) or for a broader training in psychological therapies (where you learn lots of therapies and individualise them according to need, but it takes a much longer time to qualify and is either very expensive or very competitive). If you have decided your client group and preferred therapeutic modality and don't want a broad training which includes research and exposure to a wide range of client groups then your CP colleague is correct - that a doctorate in psychology is not the right route. However, psychotherapy and arts therapies are most often private as there are very few NHS posts available.

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Re: Psychology conversion or psychotherapy?

Post by Amusicum » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:27 am

Thank you all for your replies. It's a tough one for me. On the one hand, I think a full Psychology training is more thorough and that perhaps I would be limiting myself if I just go down the Psychotherapy route. On the other hand, I do know my preferences (although I suppose psychologists may eventually specialise in working with certain clinical populations during their career). I do feel I want to do research as part of my work,for as I learned from my MA studies, i do enjoy this aspect also. So that makes me think also that a Psychology training would be good for me. However, I do also know that within the creative arts therapies, more evidence-based research is growing. For instance: the International Centre for Research in Arts Therapies was established in Imperial College London in 2009 and there is an arts and healthcare research cluster in Canterbury Christchurch University. I suppose as you suggested, Miriam, I just really need to assess my motivations. It'll be a tough decision!

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Re: Psychology conversion or psychotherapy?

Post by mr_tippy » Sun May 12, 2013 8:27 pm

Hey there,

I completed a degree in drama and had a very similar choice to make as you. Eventually I decided to do a psychology conversion course. As Miriam pointed out, the provision for full-time art therapists is quite low, and as such I decided I'd rather invest my energy and money into something with more prospects and at least an achievable end goal of stability.

I am also nervous about the prospect of becoming more scientific, and I'm hoping I can hack it, but I'm excited by this prospect too, and look forward to introducing some rigour and methodology into my studies!

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