Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

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Lilly
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by Lilly » Mon Jun 13, 2016 7:04 pm

Hi all, this thread is really interesting, and thank you ell and working mama for the honesty, so much of what you have said resonates, not specifically to training (as I am not on training) but just generally..
Beryl I am also starting training this year and as a single parent, I have been quite apprehensive about the practicalities of managing this, particularly as I have been working part time since my daughter was born. I am under no illusions that training will be demanding and especially so when juggling childcare, academic demands, placements and trying (haha) to have some kind of time for myself. So It is thoroughly heartening to hear from other people who are, will be and have trained with kids in tow! Beryl I completely agree, children do put things into perspective and personally and emotionally I feel much more ready for training than I did several years ago (again this perspective may change after I have started!)

Ell I think a thread on the trainee section for parents is a great idea.
Lilly :)

(Apologies for any typos, I have just written this on my phone)
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Spatch
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by Spatch » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:57 am

Parent here, but only post qualification.

Previously I held the belief that having a child during a DClinPsy (or having any significant dependents) is the videogame "hard mode" of clinical training. Yeah, its the technically the same game, but a qualitiatively different experience. Competing demands, academic pressure and the impact the course has on relationships are all things I could empathise with. Much of clinical training an internal battle where you are often competing against yourself much of the time (hitting deadlines, learning a range of subjects, clearing academic work, dealing with feedback and growth), so to add another significant life change was basically just adding more to the treadmill, right?

"It's tough," I would say in my typical po-faced way, "but X is very capable and I'm sure that..."

I was such an idiot. If I could go back I would slap myself and demand that I treat parents on training with a lot more respect than I gave them at the time.

It's not just the competing demands and time management (which there is), but there are also the additional structural burdens that are easy to overlook. Turning up to placement with only a few hours of sleep/no sleep because the little one shrieked the night away. The emotional burden of labour in mental health within an overstretched NHS where people don't have enough time to nurture the patients let alone the staff. The looks on people's faces when you tell them your child is sick and have to stay home. Courses that have fixed schedules that don't neatly fit with the needs of your child. The sheer flexibility that the non dependents have to hang around after lectures to go to that after hours talk, to go to that interesting BPS event. Watching friendships blossom at work where you don't have the time or energy to even check the facebook photos of all the fun you are missing out on. The feeling that you are trying your best to be a competent professional and parent, but feeling that you are failing at both. That you are "just scraping through" and selling everyone short.

Then comes the guilt. Bath time or the essay plan? Outing to the park or dissertation? Does your long suffering other half deserve the hour off or do you? Do we deserve a family holiday? Can we afford one because childcare is stupidly expensive? Is it right to spend more time focussing on a research project that you have dwindling interest in than your child's dietary intake. Is it morally justifiable to plonk the little one down in front of Peppa Pig for several hours while you make headway on that audit destined to remain unread on some managers shelf? Competing demands are gym vs housework, or fitting in a foodshop where there is little time; a weighing up to maximise benefit of outcome. This is often more of a case of "who is going to lose out, and by how much are we talking?"

That stuff is hard enough as a qualified, but as a trainee I can't begin to imagine how I would have coped. Knowing myself, I don't think I could have had a child and got through clinical training without a lot of concessions and support (which I didn't necessarily have at the time). I know I wouldn't have been able to do the wider reading that I still rely on in my clinical practice, or publish the research, or write, or spend the additional time with the people that critically influenced my development, or attend conferences or CPD opportunities that my university practically laid at my feet (that I would never get again in the NHS). I would be a different psychologist. But for me it was never "just a job". I would feel lesser.

I do feel lesser.

People will quickly jump in "Ah, but it's worth it though" "They are their own reward" or other similar platitudes. It may be for some, but not everyone. Am I being unduly negative? Possibly as I can see many things can ease the burden. Placements that mimimise commutes and aren't rigid in timings. Courses and supervisors that are sympathetic. A helpful partner with a complimentary career willing to do their fair share and more beside. Abundant financial resources. Decent housing. Affordable flexible local nurseries Family members that can provide childcare at a pinch. A strong network of friends who can rally around when the chips are down. Working for an NHS trust that doesn't view its parenting workforce as inconvenient HR problem. A societal culture that doesn't see children as a source of anxiety or projects of self improvement. A willingness and ability to drawn firm, inviolable boundaries around work and home life with a healthy scoop of self compassion. All these things are nice, but are definetly not a given.

Everything I have written above is opinion and probably reflective of my own personal flaws. Ignore it. Parents do get on and get through training every year intact. That is a fact.
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by HWoody » Thu Jun 16, 2016 11:53 am

Wow, thanks to all of you for such detailed responses, especially when you are short of time, as you're busy on your courses!

This has given me genuine food for thought, thank you. I'm not going to lie, I feel daunted, as I'm definitely not some sort of superwoman. But this thread has opened my eyes to the realities of training, which I will give serious consideration to. I'm more than happy to sacrifice everything else in my life (ie no gym, saying to my friends 'see you in 3 years') but can I justify putting my kids and husband (who also has a very demanding job) through it...

Beryl and Lilley, congrats on starting your courses soon. Did you find that being a parent was focused on during your interviews? Did they ask how you would cope with the demands of the course with the demands of parenthood? Did you feel it counted against you? As Spatch said, it's unlikely that many parents (though maybe some do!) would be able to undertake any of the extra / optional opportunities whilst on the course so I wondered whether the courses pick up on that and it counts against you on application?

But I agree my child is a big part of my decision to take this path, it will undoubtedly make me personally better at the job, as well as having a great deal of exposure to mental health services through another family member.

Answeringbell I agree that finding a more family-tolerant course would be ideal, though I am geographically limited to where I will be able to apply (basically Surrey + London). Does anyone have any insight on the most (and least!) parent friendly courses?

Thanks for answering my questions on school holidays. Rookie question here - so do you have term time and "holiday" (I'm sure this is not a break in the true sense of the word!) like any other University course? And is the annual leave you get taken within non term time? What is the length of each term (realising that each course will differ here somewhat).

Ell thanks for your honest account. I'm glad to hear that some concessions are made in terms of location of placements and being able to leave on time to pick up your child etc. As you say it's not a fun 'card' to play and hopefully no one sees it like that, at the end of the day there is a human being that is completely reliant on you.

Also appreciate where you're coming from when you say however organised with your time you are, there is always the potential for a spanner in the works, whether you're ill, your kids are ill, and when that happens, making up for it will eat in to your family time. Totally get where you're coming from on finding material more distressing, I find this much more difficult too now.

Thanks Spatch for your insights, I feel I am already experiencing that guilt by even contemplating doing this, which is ultimately a selfish pursuit of a career I would find more fulfilling at the expense of my family, when I could continue what I'm doing and have more time and money (but feel slightly dead inside :-) ha ha). But seriously I know it is not all or nothing, there are other avenues I could pursue in mental health, it is a case of how much I wish to compromise.

MarkM, perhaps the way I phrased my original post was too flippant in regard to the demands the course places on all students whether or not they're a parent, only that being a parent places an additional demand on that student, which some of the other posters have articulated better than me.

Thanks again all for your posts and advice, I'm glad it's ended up being useful for more than just me :-)

endedupageek
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by endedupageek » Thu Jun 16, 2016 12:09 pm

Hi All,

Such an interesting thread, and I echo the sentiments of others in saying yes please, a parenting thread would be really helpful. To try and keep this reply to a reasonable length I won't comment on some of the themes here around how hard it is being a parent and doing anything else (it is) but will give you a potted history of where I am as it might be useful to the OP.
I am 43 with 2 children aged 5 and 10 and about to start training in September. I am a career changer, having started my working life in Marketing, then moved into public sector communications and project management (maybe not so different from you OP?).

it has taken me a long time to change careers, this has largely been because I had to keep my day job and fit studying and work experience around it rather than being able to chuck it in and just go for the work experience.

I started my OU psychology degree in 2005, whilst working 3-4 days per week and with a new baby! It took me 4 years to get the degree, then I qualified as a counsellor as Ithought that would help me get some relevant experience. I built up work experience where I could, generally doing no more than 1 day a week, although sometimes fitting in evening hours as well.
On my application form it showed me that all my bits of part-time work experience added up to about a year and a half of full time working! (It felt a lot longer then that!). However, I also wrote about how skills from my 'day job' were equally relevant to CP. Things like being able to adapt the way I communicate based on who I'm communicating with, working in a high pressure environment, juggling priorities. All of these are relevant to CP.

So, it's taken me 10 years from starting my psychology degree to getting a place on training. If I'd have known it would take that long I might have been a bit daunted, but I've enjoyed the journey. I may now be one of the oldest trainees in the country, but no-one on the selection panel seemed to mind and I think there are a lot of advantages to being older as well :-). I personally could not have done this in my twenties, I hadn't figured out who I was at that stage.

In terms of starting training with kids, I know it's going to be a challenge. My husband works long hours and so isn't around to help with childcare much. The logistics of being in lectures (an hour away from home) from 9-5 for 4 or 5 days a week, and also getting the kids to/from school, to/from after school activities, fed (!) are going to be interesting. I'm lucky that I have family and friends around who can help and really good childcare facilities, but it's still going to be tough. Having said that working 4 days per week, looking after children, volunteering evenings and studying for psychology and counselling qualifications all at the same time wasn't exactly a walk in the park either, so I'm pretty confident I can do it.

A purely personal experience for me has been that I think becoming a parent has made me a better (trainee) psychologist and the process of learning to become a psychologist has made me a better parent (when I'm actually parenting of course and not dumping them in childcare!).

OP - if any of this sounds useful to you and you want to ask anything, please feel free to PM me.

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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by astra » Fri Jun 17, 2016 9:30 am

I trained with a toddler in tow. Said toddler is now 15 and remarkably unscathed by the experience (given my lack of success with houseplants over the years it's a wonder I've kept a human being alive this long!!) it was tough and nearly broke me at times, but my course was supportive (when I finally asked them) and I was able to do some of my training part-time.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

HWoody
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by HWoody » Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:22 pm

Endedupageek, it sounds like there are alot of similarities between where you were 10 years ago and where I am now, so I'm very inspired to hear your experience, it demonstrates that if can be done and I'm not wasting time on a pipe dream! Thank you for sharing your experience on this thread and congratulations on getting a place, it sounds like you deserve it after all the years you've put in!

I will PM you with a few specific questions if you don't mind as you have been in such a similar position.

Astra I'm glad your experiences of training with a toddler were mainly positive, it's great that you were able to do some of the course part time. It's a shame that isn't an option (that I know of, certainly where I'd be able to apply), although it woukd rake even longer to qualify I'd feel at least I could do more if the extra bits so many parents say they've had to compromise on.

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MarkM
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by MarkM » Fri Jun 17, 2016 9:33 pm

Thanks for the honest reflections, everyone o:
HWoody wrote:Answeringbell I agree that finding a more family-tolerant course would be ideal, though I am geographically limited to where I will be able to apply (basically Surrey + London). Does anyone have any insight on the most (and least!) parent friendly courses?

Thanks for answering my questions on school holidays. Rookie question here - so do you have term time and "holiday" (I'm sure this is not a break in the true sense of the word!) like any other University course? And is the annual leave you get taken within non term time? What is the length of each term (realising that each course will differ here somewhat).
According to the parents in my cohort, staff at Salomons have been quite supportive and understanding so far... but the catchment area is quite huge (basically South London, and pretty much all of Kent), so there's a relatively high chance you'd end up having to travel extensively at some point during the doctorate...

As for holidays and terms, I'd say it's quite different from taught degrees (or at least from my undergrad). I suspect this differs a little between courses, though. We're usually on placement three days per week, two days at uni. Every other week or so we get a study day, so we can try to catch up with things from home... Term/teaching finishes July-ish, and placement goes up to four days per week; the fifth day is study. The academic year ends in August/September, and from October it goes back to the 'normal' 3/2 pattern. In the winter break there were two days we had to take as mandatory leave (Christmas/New Years), but apart from that you get to allocate your leave as you wish... well, taking into account teaching days (you can only take a limited number of those off). I know there are some differences between courses, though, so it's always worth double-checking with current trainees for courses you are interested in...or even asking admin staff. Pretty sure Surrey and Salomons are quite similar, I remember talking to one of their trainees a while ago. Also, I've worked with trainees from three of the London courses (UEL, RHUL, UCL) and most of them seemed to have a structure roughly similar to the one I described above, just different days (there was some overlap between RHUL and UCL if I remember correctly), and some differences with teaching blocks (where you're just based at uni for a whole week or longer).
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by BlueCat » Fri Jun 17, 2016 9:45 pm

Just to put a cheerier slant on this...... if you've already found a way to make full time work for around being a parent, you're part way there. Kids are awesome but they do make life logistics more complicated!
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maven
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by maven » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:55 pm

Indeed. Parents in my cohort appeared remarkably unscathed by juggling the various demands. And, as a general rule, I found I only ended up doing work on evenings and weekends as much as I procrastinated or did my shopping on study days :oops:
Maven.

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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by hettie » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:48 pm

I can’t comment on clinical training as I am a counselling psychologist. But… one of the reasons I chose to train via this route was about my existing family commitments and my plans to have another baby. I started my Doctoral training when my youngest was about 2 years old and had another baby 1 year into training. I really wanted the ability to train part-time and since no Dclin course offered that I looked at Counselling psychology. I then found that counselling psychology held a lot of appeal (appealed to my non-conformist self and the relational/ non-medicalisation approach appealed too)
In answer to some of your original questions. I too was a career changer (I didn’t even have an original psychology degree so had to go a back and do the conversion). It took about 2.5 years to get the relevant experience to get onto the course (I also competed some other relevant training alongside my conversion course). I have to say it has been a very tough journey. I echo much of what others have said. My second was a terrible sleeper and I went back into a full on year of placements/learning about CBT/research proposals/endless assignments. It was just completely relentless. I had thought part time would help, but the truth was that I was continually feeling crap at both ‘jobs’. I was cramming studying into evenings and weekends. One minute I was doing circle time and singing wind the bobbin up, the next morning I’d be trying to assess the meaning of my clients’ suicidal voices. The placement in CAMHS was an absolute killer, I had thought that that would be where I would end up specialising, but found that with young children at home it was just all a bit too much.
I agree with previous posters regarding opportunities for extra CPD, time for specialist interests (relentlessly pursuing the specialist whose field you are interested in!), time for bonding with fellow trainees. I felt a bit disadvantaged and unable to ‘prove myself’ if that makes sense. This may have been compounded by sometimes coming up against an odd attitude to CoP’s (who have been confused with glorified counsellors in some trusts)… I don’t know… My fellow trainees are now working in forensics, specialists in psychosis services, PICU (I myself work in complex needs service) and several of them have children (a fair few whilst on the course), so you could possibly argue that it’s made us more robust/accepting of being good enough?
For what its worth my top tips would be:
Make sure your partner is totally signed up and be prepared to put in the hours/step up
Don’t attempt any other change (eg move house etc)
Accept (even embrace) being ‘good enough’ at assignments/parenting etc – eg make sure your research idea is achievable/will pass with the simplest design possible and an easy recruitment strategy.
Embrace mess/get a cleaner

hettie
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by hettie » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:57 pm

Oh and I should add, I am now in a great service which allows me to be flexible with working hours (I work part time), in a fantastically interesting and fulfilling role.... I much much prefer being a psychologist to my old career AND it works well for our family :D

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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by bob1 » Sat Jun 25, 2016 10:07 pm

Just wanted to say, I agree with everyone!! Particularly around guilt, fitting everything in, etc etc!!! But, I've Just finished training and wanted to say it is definitely possible to be a trainee and a mummy! :D I had one kid when I started and another during the course! It's hard at times but totally doable too!! It can be fun watching peppa pig with your thesis on your lap and sticky fingers covering the pages! It can be fun driving to placement singing along to nursery rhymes without even noticing (and without even having the kids in the car!!!) and it can be fun starting the evening with Bob the builder and ending it with Freud! And, when u r stressed on placement, and reach in your bag for your diary to fit in yet another impossible task, when you accidentally find a stray dummy or kinder egg toy, it puts a smile on your face and puts everything into perspective!!!I've made it to the other side! And recommend it 100% !! It's not that bad!!! Actually, it's pretty good !

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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by HWoody » Mon Jun 27, 2016 5:07 pm

Hi all, thanks so much for your useful replies.

MarkM thanks for your reply about holidays, that does make sense, it does sound more like you're just working then with a normal amount of annual leave, which is what I expected.

BlueCat agree with that about full time work and having a child, I guess the difference is that however challenging your work is (and my industry definitely is!) at least once you're finished for the day, that is it, where as with study there is always something more you can do / should be doing!

Maven, that's good to know and puts the work load in to perspective, to a certain extent :-) !

Hettie, thanks for sharing your experiences of counselling psychology, it sounds like another very interesteing route to take, I feel like I need to look at other routes as well as CP given that I'm not going to be able to apply lots and lots of times to get on.

Bob1 thanks for such a positive perspective on being a mum and CP trainee, I hope if I ever get there I will take it in my stride as much as you!

Thanks all of you for your useful insights x

bob1
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by bob1 » Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:20 pm

Good luck with it all HWoody :) x I really hope it all works out for you! (By the way, you are not as old as you might feel you are!!!) :D

HWoody
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Re: Advice for mature applicant / parent starting out

Post by HWoody » Sun Jul 03, 2016 11:15 am

Thanks for your words of encouragement, Bob1, it is a long road but it's also great to feel excited about the direction my life is taking :-) x

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