WHAT’S IT LIKE TO TRAIN TO BE A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST?
We talk to Hari Parekh, a trainee clinical psychologist, studying for a PhD with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, about his job and journey into the role.
Hari is training to become a clinical psychologist on a three year postgraduate Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme at the University of Liverpool. When he completes his course, he will be a fully qualified Clinical Psychologist. As part of this training programme, he works closely with a senior clinical psychologist mentor and supervisor to develop and hone his skills. The training programme includes attending teaching, professional research and clinical work placements with the NHS.
What skill sets do you need to be a Clinical Psychologist and how did Hari decide to become one?
The main skills and qualities Hari uses in his role are communication, interpersonal skills, empathy, and being open to learning new ideas. That’s because a large part of Hari’s job is listening to and understanding people. He talks to them about their life, supporting them to manage a wide range of mental or physical health problems.
At school Hari studied English, Maths and Biology. English helped develop his communication skills while Maths and Biology gave him an understanding of statistics, the human body and scientific research. Hari went on to take A-levels in Psychology and Sociology. This helped him understand how people think and behave. At university during his degree in Psychology and Criminology he discovered that clinical psychology was a career option he would enjoy. He completed a Masters degree in Forensic and Criminological Psychology before beginning his Doctorate training. During Hari’s studies, he volunteered and worked as a healthcare assistant in hospitals to get relevant experience.
Hari’s training programme is a full-time role paid for by the NHS that earns him around £35,000 a year.
When he qualifies, he can practice as a Clinical Psychologist within the NHS and his salary will increase to around £44,000. His qualification will also allow him to specialise in an area of work and apply for clinical psychologist jobs, either in the NHS or in the private sector.
“I love my job because I find people fascinating and I get to help them in a caring way,” Hari tells us. “I’m currently working in a Mental team that requires you working with adults that come along with various degrees of psychological stress, so things like anxiety, depression, stress. My day to day work can involve attending meetings, carrying out one to one therapy work and writing reports.”
The training programme includes placements to provide a wide range of experience. “As part of the doctorate in psychology, I’ve got to go on placements to make sure that I can work psychologically and therapeutically across the lifespan of people. What that means is, I’ve worked in adult mental health, in older adults, and I’ve worked with children,” explains Hari.
“To be a good clinical psychologist you need to be a good listener and communicator. In addition to that it’s about wanting to learn, wanting to progress on that learning. All of those skills are quite unique, but they add to what they bring to Clinical Psychology or even the training programme,” Hari reveals.
“What I love about my job is I’m in a great position to affect change. That change is done on behalf of the client. The people that we see, the people that we work with and we put them right at the front of everything we do. You’ve got be able to listen and talk to people. In addition to that it’s not a robotic communication, it’s an empathic one. So can you really put yourself in other person’s shoes and another person’s world whilst living your own.”
What qualifications do you need to be a clinical psychologist?
You could get into this role via a university course or an apprenticeship. You’ll need a 2:1 degree in psychology accredited by The British Psychological Society. If you have a degree in a subject other than psychology, you can apply for an accredited conversion course. After your first degree, you’ll need a postgraduate doctorate in clinical psychology. Alternatively, you could study for a clinical associate in psychology degree apprenticeship, apply for graduate membership and then hunt for jobs as a Clinical Psychologist.
To be a clinical psychologist you need to study hard, but, as Hari will tell you it will be well worth it in the end.