A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis, Director of Studies for Bath’s professional Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She shared some valuable insights, application tips and vital resources for aspiring clinical psychologists. Below is a summary of our conversation.
What kind of experience do you need?
This is very much dependent on which clinical psychology programme/university you apply for and students are advised to research every programme’s entry requirements in depth. You will generally need several years’ experience, starting as early as possible. This can even be before you start your university degree, if possible, and can include a wide variety of experience.
As a starting point, volunteering is highly valued, for example in a youth club, including those with young people with challenging behaviour. In addition, there are many charities where you can get relevant experience whether that is within mental health, or with client groups that have increased risk of mental health difficulties such as within bereavement, homelessness, addiction, brain injury, or volunteering in hospitals or hospices. In addition, help lines such as Samaritans, Nightline (on campus) or Childline can be good experience, and also getting involved with befriending charities which support people with mental health difficulties. This can be done before, during and after you finish your University degree. Any volunteering with a psychological element would be looked at favourably and if there is any chance of supervision or collaboration with a clinical psychologist, even better!
Successful applicants may also have clinical support worker positions and healthcare assistant work, which is paid work, or have some experience working within NHS in other roles. Anywhere where you can apply psychological theory would be beneficial.
For many institutions, the best experience is seen as Assistant Psychologist posts and/or Research Assistant posts, but often you need quite a lot of volunteering / support worker positions before you are successful in applying to an AP post.
Overseas clinical psychology internships are not necessarily the best type of experience and may not have the in-depth experience you hoped for. It would be classed as volunteer experience, so it may be a good place to start, but is unlikely to be enough on its own.
Many institutions use scoring with regards to what experience is more valuable; this differs between courses – so it is important to research this before applying!
Top tip: Research programmes and their approaches within clinical psychology before applying
Different universities have emphasis on different approaches within clinical psychology e.g. research, CBT, systemic therapy, psychodynamic approach. When applying to universities, you only have one personal statement to write that goes to all universities so students should think about what approach would work for them. For example, if you are applying to mostly CBT oriented programmes but highlight a strong interest in psychodynamic in your statement that would suggest your selections might not fit well with your interests.
It is a good idea for applicants to attend Open Day and/or University webinars before applying to learn more about entry requirements for that institution and more in-depth information about what type of candidate they are looking for.
Finally, consider the competitiveness of the different programmes and locations. Don’t just think about the approach you would like to focus on, but also the location. If you are happy to move, you may have higher chance in getting in to some programmes than others.
Final Application Tips
For Bath specifically, in addition to tailoring the application to the focus of the programme, any application/statement needs to be reflective. Not just what you have done, but what you have learnt, how supervision was useful and how will it help your practice? It is important to show awareness of what clinical psychology is and also awareness of NHS values. Evidence of good statistical knowledge and use of research methods will be useful, and a Masters may be beneficial (but isn’t essential).
As with most courses, the University of Bath values diversity and welcomes applications from people with a variety of experiences.
There are three key resources that students need to research in depth before applying:
- University programme websites - will include key information on the programme, what kind of candidate they are looking for and entry requirements
- University of Leeds Clearing House page - contains key information about each university plus have great sections on relevant experience and other resources
- BPS Alternative Handbook (edition 2018) - contains key information about each University and programme, how competitive each programme are, the background of applicants and applicants’ feedback. 2019 edition is also available on BPS website.
Would you like further information about how to become a Clinical Psychologist? Have a read through these resources:
- Prospects job profile - Clinical Psychologist
- BPS Careers - Clinical Psychologist and other Psychologists career pathways
- NHS Health Careers - Clinical Psychologist
Careers Service would like to thank Catherine for her support, edits and feedback!