Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

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Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

Post by ragana »

Dear psychologists and psychology orbiters,

I was wondering if a practising psychologist perhaps cared enough to read the story of my woes and advise whether, based on the info I am providing, clinical psychology seems like it could be a fit for me? Just to clarify, I am not worried whether I am good enough to get the necessary work experience and then be accepted onto a DClinPsy program; if even after my best efforts it does not happen, so be it. What worries me more is that I am perhaps successful but end up hating it. So, if you do not mind sharing, what is in your opinion the absolute worst about being a clinical psychologist and the road to get there? I am asking as I don't want to commit to another career only to become disappointed when I am already far too deep in. I understand it's all highly individual, yada yada. Still, reading the responses/opinions of practising psychologists could help me reach some clarity.

I have trained as a teacher. I became one as I hit a crisis of meaning in my life a few years back. It simply had none. After some thorough soul-searching, I realised I am beyond tired of endlessly pushing papers in offices just to survive. But since none of us mere mortals can help exchanging 8+ hours of our day for food and rent tokens, I wanted to at least invest these 8+ hours into something actually useful to humanity. But what job to pick? My first thought was 'psychologist' - I have been long interested in psychology - but after looking into how to become one, I was quite put off by the amount of time it takes (conversion course, work experience, actual training, you know the drill). I felt so old, time was practically slipping through my hands, and I had to be in a meaningful job helping people right now. Hence I did my PGCE. This was about ten years ago. It is quite hilarious to me today how genuinely I believed I was old then.

Fast forward to now and I have actually only worked as a teacher for two years. I quit, not just due to being overworked and underappreciated, but because I discovered other aspects of the job I did not enjoy but could not have discovered without actually teaching. Also I clearly do a much better job when tutoring privately than when teaching a class, and I enjoy one-on-one teaching a lot more, as this way you can really give someone your undivided attention & see progress almost immediately, which is hugely gratifying.

What I also did not realise about teaching was how much of the job was about pointless bureacracy and CPDs for the sake of CPDs, rather than actual classroom teaching. And that the internal politics of a school as a whole and those of subject departments are way worse than of all the offices I have ever worked in. Strict internal hierarchy, mind games, toxicity and backstabbing - in this one school I have been in, you could practically hear the hissing and the slithering just standing outside the staff room. Parseltongue aside, I could write a thesis if I dared about some of the bullying I experienced during training. Reading some of the trainee posts in this forum, sounds like CP training is worse. Is it worth it? Does one at the end of it get to a place of just helping people, without any of the toxic bs?

Despite my awful teacher training experience, I went on to try and teach as I still believed in 'helping others'. I don't think I do anymore - I have come to realise it is well nigh impossible to help anyone - but for some strange reason, I do believe we have to keep trying anyway.

So I ended up investing my time, my money (took a paycut in becoming a teacher), not to mention my sweat, blood and tears, into a profession that, while having taught me some useful skills, ultimately left me drained and disappointed. Here I am, long since back to an office, reconsidering clinical psychology. As old as I am today, I no longer care about the training 'taking too long' anymore, if only I get to actually enjoy the job itself. But would I? Or would it be more years of hell, in exchange for another disappointment?

Thus I am hoping somebody could share the hidden or not-so-hidden pitfalls of training in clinical psychology. How restrained would you say you feel in your work by rules, conventions, as well as by the judgment of higher-ups & other colleagues? How much of the job is actual work with clients vs bureacracy, CPDs, etc? How often does it make you feel overworked and/or underappreciated? How free are you to be fully yourself - not with clients, of course, but with colleagues? If none of these apply to you specifically, then what would you say were the unexpected negatives for you during your training/after you qualified? What were the unexpected positives? And what was as expected?

I hope the above makes sense & that someone has the time and the will to help me answer these questions. Thanks in advance for any response!
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Re: Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

Post by Geishawife »

Gosh, there's an awful lot to try to address here! I have to be honest, I think you are approaching this from the wrong end. You are asking will it be worth it when I get onto training/qualify, but I get a sense you have not thought through what it is you actually WANT at the end of it. So, let's take first things first, why do you want to be a CP? I get that you have an interest in psychology, but what is it about CP specifically that interests you? Notions of wanting "to help people" are all well and good, but there are so many ways of helping people and I think you really need to nail down what it is about CP as a profession that interests you.

That begs the question, do you actually know what a Clinical Psychologist does? I'm asking this because many people assume that CPs are therapists and do not realise how much more there is to our role and responsibilities (consultation, supervision, service development, teaching and training, staff support, MDT working, running groups, etc). You have spoken about how much you enjoy the 1:1 aspect of teaching, so is that what you seek within CP? If it is 1:1, therapeutic work you are interested in you might be better off exploring training as a therapist or a counsellor. Both of these will be a quicker and more direct route to this. So, before you do anything I would really explore your motivation and be absolutely clear in your mind what you want.

You have been quite scathing of the "pointless bureaucracy" and "CPD for the sake of CPD". I'm obviously unaware which aspects of things you found pointless, but I think you'll find that ALL jobs within the public sector have layers of bureaucracy because we have to be accountable for what we do. Whether specific elements are pointless or not will always be up for debate (and I do agree that sometimes there is unecessary repetition of information or asking of seemingly ridiculous questions) but the same thing applies to any health care profession, not just CP and if you are looking to avoid' bureaucracy completely I'm afraid you can't! I could be talking out of turn with what I say next, but I'm surprised you would think of CPD as pointless! EVERY profession needs people to keep their skills up to scratch and there is A LOT of stat/mand training within health care that, whilst not appearing to be directly linked to our role, is still essential for patient safety. So, if you have struggled with these two aspects whilst working in education, I think you'll possibly have a similar experience within health care.

As for pitfalls and negatives of the role, this is going to be a very individual and personal experience. I was VERY surprised to read that you'd picked up from this forum that trainees tend to backstab and are toxic and play mind games! That was certainly not my experience and I have generally found that trainees are hugely supportive of each other and tend to be encouraging and friendly. I think people need to be aware of just how difficult and demanding training is and it can be hugely stressful, but I would totally refute that trainees are toxic and cruel. Once qualified, there are always going to be elements of office politics that get to you and yes, there are times when the workload feels very heavy for little recognition. But that is true of practically all walks of life and I don't think CP is any better or any worse than any other public sector role. I have never felt I have to hide who I am and have always felt valued by colleagues, both psychology colleagues and those in other professions. There are always going to be times when we seem to be "a lone voice" (both when advocating for patients and when changes are being proposed in services) but, again, that is true in any work setting.

This is obviously only my response to all your questions. Other people may well have different opinions and experiences. As I stated at the very beginning, however, I do think you need to really work out what it is you want from a career change before making any moves.
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Re: Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

Post by ragana »

Hi Geishawife,

First of all, thank you for responding. It is helpful & provided some of the food for thought I was looking for.

The one misunderstanding I wanted to clarify is that I neither said nor intended to imply trainees were toxic. From reading the forum I got the impression that, much like in teacher training, a DClinPsy trainee may have to deal with power abuse and bullying from their superiors. Not from other trainees. I imagine & it is only logical that trainees stick together to survive.
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Re: Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

Post by miriam »

I think you are seeing things I don't see in the forum - and I've read every post made on here for the whole time it has existed. I don't think we've had more than a handful of examples of alleged bullying from superiors (and a handful from peers) whilst we've probably had thousands of members on training over that time. But then, I know plenty of people in teaching who'd not identify with your description there. So maybe we all give more weight to anecdotes that resonate with our own experience, and dismiss the majority that don't.

But I'd broadly agree with Geishawife - there is statutory training and hierarchies and bureacracy in health and care as much as there is in education. And there is also a very long and competitive career path that will start with three or more years of being paid much less than you were as a teacher, let alone compared to your benchmarks. So you really need to figure out what your motivation is, and whether this is about your career, or something broader about your view of life, success or doing something meaningful. After all, 80,000 hours showed me that for many people being a high earner who donates their excess income to an impactful charity will make more impact than them choosing to do a helper job themselves.

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Re: Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

Post by alexh »

I think the issues you describe are neither a teaching problem nor a clinical psychology training problem, they're human being problem and large organisation issues. If you work in large systems then you will experience bureaucracy and some 'toxic' people.
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Re: Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

Post by SnowGem »

Hi Ragana,
I hope that you are well. I am not a CP but your post caught my interest so I thought I would offer a response. The prospect of changing careers can feel quite daunting so I can understand why you might want to put some thought into what actions you might take next. From what you described, it sounds as though your first experiences of teaching within certain environments were quite impactful and possibly not for the "right" reasons. I am sorry to hear that you have had those experiences. I can certainly relate to how working in a dysfunctional setting can leave one feeling depleted, burnt out and a bit disillusioned.

I wondered whether you might have the capacity to try out some volunteering in an area that interests you? Sometimes trying out things can be helpful in expanding our horizons and clarifying what we don't want, as much as helping us to find out our passions. You might also find that some coaching might be helpful in supporting you to work with your strengths, if it is an option to access it. I'm not sure whether you are working as part of a team now but having other experiences of team working may help in gaining some perspective on your past experiences and how working as part of systems feels now, in a different environment?

I noted above that you mentioned not believing it to be possible to help others any longer. I think it's worth bearing in mind that your perspectives of help might be very different to the clients and service users that you may ending up supporting. I mention that as Geishawife had suggested counselling/therapy training as a possible alternative option. I am a qualified counsellor and prior to this I worked across a number of education, health and care settings. Client needs and desires can differ vastly not only according to the setting but also across the duration of time that you might support someone. So it might be worth reflecting on whether you can sit with that uncertainty if you were to consider other supporting roles and/or training for therapeutic work.

Unfortunately, I would concur that sometimes the bureaucracy is inescapable in organisational settings, based on my work experience. With regards CPD, yes I also have statutory things like safeguarding, data protection etc . My professional body (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) requires a minimum of 30 hours per year, for reference. However, I love the flexibility I have to explore areas of interest and to upskill, so I do not see this a pointless. CPD possibly feels less "tokenistic" if that is what you may have meant in your comments above.

If you still think a conversion course is worth doing, find one that looks interesting and where possible go and talk to the staff at the university open days etc. I would say do it because you are interested in psychology, not just because you see it as a means to an end. I am in my first year of a conversion course and it is hard work! So I wouldn't take one on if it is not really where your interests lie. I would imagine by the time you completed a conversion, got relevant experience, got onto and completed training (should that be your path) these experiences alone would change you as a person, so your interests and desires may be very different to how you imagine them now.
Wishing you well whichever path you decide to take.
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Re: Is CP for me? What is the absolute worst about being a CP/training to be a CP?

Post by hs577 »

Hi, Sorry in advance for any typos as I’m on my phone. I did a primary pgce with modern foreign language. The paperwork was largely needless in teaching and although not hard the sheer volume wore me out. I went on to do a doctorate in counselling psychology, a few years later. worked compressed hours at a band 5 at 2 x 10 hour days, 2 days attending teaching and 1 day placement plus 2 afternoon to evening placements from oct-may. Then when we dropped in teaching towards then end of third year did band 6 role at 30 hours paid per week, plus did placement in late afternoon/evenig to finish my 450 therapy hours that you need to complete. (I had supervision etc for every 6 hours then every 10 hours after 150).. I completed my uni work and thesis this and of course there’d be clinical admin including risk assessment and management.

. (I published my thesis and got it down from 30 thousand to under 5 thousand words within a couple of years of qualifying).

The above course/commitments and then qualified was less work than teaching especially in terms of volume and comparatively a doddle. As you realistically spend a third of your time in the classroom (to me and others no one likely minds doing bits like safeguarding that arise and are important). What I did object to bearing in mind it was the early 2000s was doing 2 sides word processed for numeracy, literacy and science and 1 side word processed for foundation subject lesson plans. As you’re already tired from doing your 5 interactive presentations, keeping track of pupils, schemes of work, preparing the materials, resources, display walls, marking in a set way, having to staff related meetings etc. There might be better technology to support you in this role (well I’d hope so).

It was more relaxed in France as they do longer days then wed off, 2 hour lunch break do you had a realistic chance of getting time for lunch and Saturday as sports. you didn’t have to do the needless prep of 1-2 sides word processed (really enjoyed my semester there. So it’s not necessarily a teaching thing but possibly the way it’s done in the uk.

CPD wise you get to do more relevant things to your role if it’s psychology related including therapies, teaching, consultation, innovation, leadership, supervision and leadership stuff etc. all the qualified stuff had been easier than that pgce all those years ago. I also supervise several clinical psychologists and 1st- 3rd year trainee clinical psychologists.

There have been minor things in terms of staff politics which is inevitable anywhere as others had said but think it’s more prevalent in some schools.

Although not clinical psychology hope that helps a little? I'm very glad I didn’t go into teaching (I originally did it as I wanted to be an educational psychologist even though it wasn’t required at the time but that was a recent change. So basically I wanted to follow the established route). I applaud those who did go into teaching as it’s not so much the behaviour management and subject teaching but all the unseen stuff that goes on including through the school holidays.
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