Lifestyle, Psychology

Jacqui Tiller Sharing a Day in the Life of an Assistant Psychologist

This title is self-explanatory! Many of us aspiring psychologists all head towards the Assistant Psychologist route, but how many of us know what the job really entails? Find out below in Jacqui’s blog!

Hi all, my name is Jacqui and I am currently a Psychology Assistant and Young Person’s Worker for a third sector organisation.

This is my first professional paid job. Prior to this I completed my Undergraduate degree at Cardiff (including a professional placement year) and then my MSc in Abnormal and Clinical Psychology at Swansea University. Mainly, my prior experience has involved working with adults with a range of mental health conditions so needless to say moving to a child focused role was quite a change.

My current role involves being part of two evidence-based Mental Health programmes. The first one is from Canada, designed by a Canadian psychiatrist to improve mental health literacy, reduce stigma surrounding mental health and improve help seeking efficacy. The second one is from the USA and is a CBT based psycho-education programme designed to equipped young adolescents with essential knowledge and skills to help them manage their low mood.

My daily tasks differ between projects. A typical day can vary, but my main roles for the first project consist of liaison with schools, aiding delivery of the Mental Health Literacy Training to teachers (this can be at numerous locations across Wales) and supporting the Randomised Control Trial (RCT) that is being completed alongside the project to evaluate the interventions success across Wales. The role on this project does go in peaks and troughs and there is a lot of admin work not directly utilising my degree skillset. However, my degree knowledge has come in handy, aiding the adaptation process for the materials into a Welsh context. I also use a lot of my research and literature review knowledge to ensure that the information/statistics we use in the training are current and up to date.

The second project I work on utilises the CBT model, and is a more hands on approach in relation to the “traditional” clinical skillset. This project involves liaising with schools as well, with the emphasis being upon identifying pupils who may benefit from some CBT based psycho-education sessions around managing low mood. This project involves the use of a psychometric self-assessment by pupils and then as part of my role I score the forms to see which young people may be eligible to attend. This scheme is self-referral on the pupils’ part (if they meet criteria to attend) and those who choose to attend the group then attend six 1-hour weekly sessions. My main role is co-facilitation of these groups. The project involves a lot of the usual paperwork (attendance etc!) but also involves ensuring any safeguarding issues are dealt with and creation of materials such as mental health first aid packs for students to take away with them.

In total honesty when I took this job, I was quite anxious that I was not following the “traditional” route to clinical training that I assumed I would follow upon completing my degrees (I assumed I would join the fight for an AP post in the NHS).  However, I’ve now been here just over seven months and am fortunate to have found myself on not one but two mental health projects within the organisation. These roles have allowed me to have a broader view of the vital role third sector organisations can play in helping children and young people who are most vulnerable. It is amazing to be part of an organisation where everyone collectively shares the same goal of providing the best that they can for all the children, young people and their families that access their services.

My advice to anyone struggling to get those highly competitive AP posts is to look in to third sector organisations and see what they have to offer – you may be surprised about the range of projects and services you can be involved with that will get you excellent clinical experience.  I am hopeful that these roles will aid my DClin psych application in the future as it will be something to write about in the application process that other applicants will not have. Aside from the professional learning I’ve also learnt a lot personally which will be invaluable for any decisions I make going forward. There are still some days where I worry that I should be an NHS AP or doing what everyone else seems to be doing to work towards a DClin place, but then I try and remind myself that there is still time for an NHS role, and it’s what you make of your experiences along the way that is important.

Thanks for reading.

P/s If anyone else is in a slightly “untraditional” role to the DClin process, and wants some reassurance you can get on a DClin programme without NHS experience then I really suggest checking out Molly’s blog, it really helped me. ->

Thank you so much Jacqui for your insight into clinical psychology. It just goes to show the vast amount of experience that you can gain via a non-NHS route. Good luck to everyone who has / will be applying to the DClinPsy.

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