getting more from work experience - before conversion MSc

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Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:12 am

getting more from work experience - before conversion MSc

Post by tapircareerchange » Thu Sep 14, 2017 11:06 am


I would like advice about work experience. I have not yet started a conversion course as I'm at the stage of working out if psychology is the right career change for me and because I'm about to go on maternity leave. I'm 39 and have worked so far as a university researcher and lecturer (in a subject with no significant overlap with clinical psychology). I am thinking about careers like clinical psychology and the various jobs that people who start out aiming at that career but don't complete that career path diverge off into.

For the last 2 months I've been volunteering one day a week at a charity that provides recovery therapy through gardening and crafts for a variety of mental health conditions. The therapy is aimed at people who've already made progress with psychological treatment. Referrals are from clinical teams but the therapy at the charity is run without supervision by or input from any psychologists or mental health nurses or counsellors. The role was suggested by the people working at Mind when I asked them if they had any voluntary positions available.

I would like advice on
a) how to get the most from this experience
b) what work experience would be more valuable,
c) how to get it.

a) In my current voluntary role I sometimes feel the person in charge of the branch where I volunteer fails to empathize with or properly understand mental health problems. He sometimes seems to regard service users as lazy, manipulative and gaming the system. He also sometimes seems to forget that producing plants/cards/gifts/decorations that will sell in our shop is merely means to the end of helping service users; we are not a small business. Accordingly I don't think I'm learning from him. The charity also seems disorganised - their official proceedures mention support plans, for example and yet there do not seem to be any written records of support plans for individuals in place. So I find it very hard to know how I should be supporting a particular service user - is the priority to help them socialize more, concentrate for longer periods of time, boost their self-esteem and mastery, increase their enjoyment and relaxation or what? What strategies have worked for this service user in the past? What does the service user expect and want? What does their community psychological team hope for from therapy? Volunteers provide knowledge of sewing and craft, cleaning, cooking and tidying. I find it hard to believe this is making me or the psychology student that works here a better candidate for psychology doctorate. It's also work that I'm not very good at - when a service user asks for help with blanket stitch, I have no idea what that is; and my skills at cooking for a large group are abysmal. We are also providing compassion and calm, which is a more useful skill but one I already think I have experience providing in my teaching work.

Is this work experience useful to me? Willingness to give up a day a week for no pay does show commitment. Is that all that typical work experience at my stage does? Am I missing ways in which this position can make me a good psychologist? Or am I just in the wrong place?

b) Is there some voluntary work that I would be better equipped to do and that would give me a better idea of what clinical psychology involves and how to be a good psychologist?

Adverts for paid NHS and social work positions tend to require formal training which I don't have - counselling qualifications or nursing experience.

Is there something I can do related to education - whether tertiary or school age? I wondered about whether I should try to do the kind of work undergraduates take up supporting fellow students with ASD, which is paid at 15ph? (I do have experience teaching one-to-one university tutorials to an ASD student already though.)

c) Is it worth investing time and money in counselling training so that I can get more relevant and higher skilled work experience? Or should I just go straight for the conversion course and hope they can help with finding work experience? I can't start any course that requires substantial hours outside the home until Sept 2018 because I will be on maternity leave mid-October to end March. I can't expect realistically do anything other than take of our new baby Nov-Feb. I should be able to do part-time, particularly online courses Feb-June and full-time courses Sept 2018 onwards, provided they don't involve commuting.

Thanks for any help or advice

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