Is clinical psychology for you? Get an insight to help you decide
I was on maternity leave and had started reviewing my career opportunities. I was familiar with the hospital environment as my mum is a nurse. Having read up on clinical psychology, I saw it as preferable to medicine; not as intense and without the gory bits(!). After some research I attended an open day at a local college and it just didn’t feel like the right place for me. I looked at the OU website and there was loads of information there; I knew I could do just one course and could choose somewhere else if it didn’t work out, but I just clicked with the OU.
I decided on a degree from the start. My first course was child psychology, which was great because it coincided with my first child and I was really able to understand the stages of development. I had very supportive tutors and six months into my study decided that psychology was definitely for me.
I knew I had to get plenty of experience so as I was in the States, having relocated with my husband’s work, I worked with families affected by drug abuse, finding practical solutions for them to improve their lives.
In my second year, returning to the UK, I applied for a teaching assistant post which I got and did for six months. The OU had a good reputation with the school. After that I became a family support worker for NCH working with a diverse range of families, and responsible for helping them to get the support that they needed.
I graduated last October - not long after my third child - and around that time, while I was still on maternity leave, I managed to get a place volunteering with my local child and mental health unit. It took me at least 20 emails to different arms of the NHS offering my services as a volunteer before someone agreed to see me. Soon after this in November I was offered a permanent post, and I am currently working as a child, adolescent and mental health coordinator. I deliver one-to-one therapy under the supervision of a clinical psychologist, and offer a range of support to families. I was unsure whether to apply at that stage to a clinical psychology course, but my supervisor encouraged me and I applied, getting interviews at two places.
Obviously it’s not the same at every university. I felt very nervous, but was met by a friendly year-one trainee. I had three interviews with different people over half a day - one each on research, personal and clinical issues. Not everywhere is the same - some places are over a whole day and involve group exercises.
It was a bit like studying for an exam as I had to revise a lot to make sure I remembered things I had studied several years before. Although I became nervous, I decided I had to just do my best, and I think that having studied on my own with the OU made me more confident in myself. However I came away feeling that I had just been in a very different world.
Even if you are in your first year of your OU studies and getting into clinical psychology is a long term aim, you need to start getting some experience. Contact your local mental health charities and see how you can help - you have to show that you are willing to get in there and get involved.
My advice from these experiences would be that, although statistically its hard to get a place, don’t listen to all the hype, its not as daunting as you think it’s going to be. You can find possible questions about what you might be asked from psyclick.org.uk.