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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Post by miriam » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:47 pm

In response to Tangram - I trained in Hull and qualified at 26. They feel that taking people in young gives a longer working life, and the course meets the same standards and turns out CPs who are as competent as any other. I've discussed what I think are the pros and cons of their system here, and there is more comment here.

WRT the comment about the longer it takes to get on, I was playing devil's advocate a little bit. I don't want this to feel like a personal dig, but when you say "it’s difficult to compete with a form when you have little experience and an average degree from an average university" that is true. However, the people who get on training quickly are usually exceptional in showing academic excellence and making the most of their experience. Standing out academically and picking up some experience before/during your degree helps to get straight into more relevant jobs, and then onto training more quickly. I don't think its the only way, and plenty of good CPs didn't have that amount of foresight that this was the career they wanted when they were 18, but it is a legitimate 'shortcut' to training. And I do think that the people I've known who have got on training young for this reason have made good CPs.

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Post by that_guy_ » Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:43 pm

I might be interesting to know if there was any research looking at the relationship between the age of trainees/qualifieds and their level of competence. Had a quick look but couldn't see anything?

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Post by escapee » Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:33 am

I think that generally there is very little research looking at level of competence in any situation, so I am not surprised you couldn't find any looking at age too.

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Post by Spatch » Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:30 am

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...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"

Curious about the motives of the OP. They must have been aware what they were writing would elicit subsequent defensive comments, (which it has done). Its natural that this would become a polarised issue with those that are on the younger side taking issue with sweeping generalisations around age, whilst the more experienced applicants almost feeling the need to justify their accruing of experience.

My instinct is to urge trainees not to justify themselves at any age. There is enough to feed your imposter syndrome without this added. You have been selected by a rigorous method, and you wouldn't be there if several people did not think you could be an asset to the profession.

I would also ask about medics and nurses, who in their early 20s take far more life and death decisions than your average newly qualified CP. Should we extend the age of all healthcare professions into their 30s? If so, may this not be too young? Why not 40s or 50s?

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Post by helloimnew » Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:59 am

Some very good points Spatch!

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Post by vars » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:24 am

totally agree with Spatch!

Have to say posts about age always ruffle a few feathers! I'll be 25 when I start this year and always feel the need to defend myself (qualifications, experience, life experience, maturity etc!) which a lot of younger applicants also seem to feel the need to do. However, often it then seems like younger applicants are saying they are better as got on quicker so they are more able etc which I dont think is necessarily the case either.

The people who are older or take a bit longer then feel the need to justify why they have taken a longer or alternative pathway and why this makes them better!

I think we all have our strenghts and weaknesses and that we all bring different things to CP which can only be a good thing!

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Post by that_guy_ » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:16 pm

escapee wrote:I think that generally there is very little research looking at level of competence in any situation, so I am not surprised you couldn't find any looking at age too.
I might diasgree with you there. I think there's quite a bit of literature surrounding specific competencies. For example, in cognitive therapy using the CTS-R. I don't know about the relationship between this and age/experience though.

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Post by Gnome » Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:37 am

I think this is a really interesting debate and it's healthy when people start these slightly contentious threads. I think discussing these ideas and hearing other people's points of view is good for all of us as it encourages us to be good on singing-in-the-rain for starting it!

My opinion on this is the 'everyone's different' perspective I think - I'm 28 and have just got a place on training - there is no way I was mature enough to cope with the demands of training in my early 20's, even if I did have the motivation to gain the relevant experience back then, which I didnt. But now I feel very ready, and the growing up I've done during my 20's and the different things I've done and experienced are things which I think will help make me a good psychologist.

But I think the people who do start training in there early 20's - good on you for knowing youself, what you want to do and being motivated and organised enough to achieve it, as well as being able to show you are competent despite not having years of experience behind you.

I think that maybe the different routes that people have taken and the different ages and experience we all have will mean that we will bring different things to the profession, have skills in different areas and hopefully learn from each other and complement each other.

In an ideal world, anyway :wink:

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Post by eponymous85 » Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:08 am

Thank you, Gnome :D I feel all warm and fuzzy inside now... and a lot less like my future coursemates will hate me :P
The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many layered thing.

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Post by tinkerbella » Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:29 pm

I personally believe that the amount of clinical experience you have had before training is fairly irrelevant. I think you need a certain degree of academic competence but more than anything I think you require a certain level of maturity, some life experience and skills in communication and being with people.

Before training I had virtually no clinical experience and whilst this made it a steep learning curve, I think on the whole my lack of experience in formulation and psychological intervention was compensated for by my experience in working with people in a variety of settings (eg youth work, tenancy support and some voluntary work). Clinical skills can be learnt but natural warmth, empathy and an ability to communicate with people are much harder to develop.

I think it is doubtful that many people in their early 20s have the life experience and maturity necessary to empathise with their clients and understand many of the social problems that contribute to mental health issues in many cases. That said, everyone is an individual and by 20 I was married and a mother so probably did have some degree of life experience. In many cases people will have personal experiences that they can draw on in their clinical training/practice, but I do think that on the whole those with more life experience will find it easier to empathise with and relate to clients. Even though I could maybe have coped with training at 22/23 I think that as I didn't apply or get onto training until I was 30 and a mother of 2 I am now a better clinician than I would have been when I was younger and less mature.

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Post by lakeland » Sun Jul 19, 2009 9:40 am

I don't know why people assume a young trainee wouldn't have life experience. By that age, you could have experienced bereavement, marriage, having children, mental health issues in family or self, divorce, you may have older adults in your family with dementia etc.

Most of us probably won't have experienced the same life as the people we see so I don't know why age would affect that. I think people are confusing age with maturity.

I start the course in September at age 25 - who knows if I would have been ready at 21 or if I'm ready now or if I'd be "better" at 35? I hope the courses are skilled at picking people who are ready to be trainees and we just have to trust their judgement!

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Post by mungle » Sun Jul 19, 2009 12:13 pm

Although I am a bit older as I have changed careers, younger people can have a lot of life experience and communication skills. We keep talking about whether CPs should be a certain age or have had a range of life experiences and Spatch points out that we don't demand this of other health professionals but what about for other voluntary work.
Does someone working on a helpline need to be a certain age/have experienced more? There often isn't someone to hand a call over to at 3am and even if you did, the handing over would need to be very skilled. Can you not take that call because you haven't experienced the same thing? I know Samaritans put volunteers through selection processes and there will be some young adults who are taken on and others who might be asked to come back in a few years.

In any job, part of it is how you are perceived by the person you are providing a service to or the people you are working with. I've seen some 21 -year-old management trainees inspire confidence while other 21 year olds can't make a cup of tea. I don't think this issue is unique to CP.

On a different note, a friend of mine did get sessions with a trainee CP and found them fantastic. I would be very happy for a friend of mine (or me) to go to a trainee CP. I would be reassured that the person had been rigourously selected and was receiving appropriate supervision.

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Post by tinkerbella » Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:40 am

I don't think I said that young trainees necessarily wouldn't have any life experience. I myself was 19 when I got married, 20 when I became a Mum!

In some cases, however, I think the selection process employed by certain institutions focusses a bit too much on knowledge (eg. of research methods, theoretical models etc) and professional experience and not enough on personal experience and interpersonal skills. I think some understanding of what life is like for people in many different circumstances is important as well - this may not come simply from personal life experience, but from the variety of job roles or voluntary roles people have held, through travelling etc.

Trainees on my course range from 24 to 45 years and I think most are so far coping with the demands of the course clinically and academically, so I agree age is not by any means the only or most important factor in whether or not a person will make a good clinician.

Of course you are never going to have experienced everything your clients have - I was not trying to suggest that, it would be ridiculous, but I do believe that the wider the range of your personal and professional experience the more aware you will be of some of the types of issues that can affect people. In particular in my case I think having had job roles which involved me with the benefits system and housing/homelessness issues was beneficial. I have also, through the roles I have had, received prior training in issues such as incest and sexual abuse, substance misuse etc, all of which have been helpful in broadening my understanding of different issues and client groups.

I agree there are some younger people who are very mature and who have had a range of life experiences/work experiences. I also know, from having spoken to qualified people and trainees on other courses, that a minority of trainees who are selected by courses have come from a very narrow background. They may have ticked all the selection boxes but may be a little too focussed on their own academic and professional ambitions as opposed to being able to recognise and reflect on their own limitations and the impact their background may have on the position from which they approach their client work. It is ok to lack experience/knowledge in certain areas (after all, that is what training is for and ongoing CPD) as long as you recognise what this and are willing and open to new learning experiences.

I have probably expressed myself badly and will no doubt offend somebody with these comments but that was not my intention. The same is probably true of many professions - not simply CP. I suppose no selection process can ever be 100% perfect, I just think maybe courses should look a little deeper at how effectively potential CPs can develop a therapeutic relationship with a client rather than how much they know about a particular model or research method because these things can be learnt from a book!

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Post by lakeland » Mon Jul 20, 2009 8:41 am

tinkerbella wrote: I just think maybe courses should look a little deeper at how effectively potential CPs can develop a therapeutic relationship with a client rather than how much they know about a particular model or research method because these things can be learnt from a book!
I agree a lot with this - I felt like I needed to 'revise' for my interview, reading up on theories and stats from undergrad. This is why I like the idea of different interview panels, you get the opportunity to demonstrate more of your strengths and reflect on your weaknesses.

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