Lifestyle, Psychology

Assistant Psychologist Posts…Have Your Say!

Honorary and Assistant Psychologist post demands have heavily increased in demand with an influx of keen aspiring psychologists wanting to pursue these roles.

As an individual with experience of both unpaid and paid roles, I recently ran a twitter poll to assess how people anonymously felt about the exploitative natures of the roles. Whilst it does seem like a negative outset to have on these roles, the very nature of them can be exploitative if people aren’t supported properly. And I have to say, the results are very interesting!

Before presenting the final figures and thoughts, I wanted to shed light on my true experience and perhaps what influenced me to think about the exploitative nature of the roles. For insight, I’ve been an Honorary Assistant Psychologist across two services for two years, whilst recently becoming a paid Assistant Psychologist for two months. Both of these posts have taught me a lot and have been eye opening…but honestly, I think I learnt more as an Honorary compared to the two months I’ve worked as an Assistant Psychologist. This is hugely dependent on many individual factors such as where you’re working and the level of support, however the stark difference really triggered me to think about the exploitative and hierarchical nature of the roles.

Out of 58 people who voted on Twitter, 71% of people felt that they’d been exploited and felt unworthy in their roles as Honorary / Assistant Psychologists. Seeing these figures half filled me with dread since my honorary roles have taught me a lot, but also resonated with me as to why I didn’t adjust and bode well to my new Assistant Psychologist role which I thought I would love!

One of the main exploitative natures of these roles, especially when they’re Honorary (a fancy word for being unpaid), is that the roles are often elitist or aimed for a certain type of person! Unfortunately, the way that these roles are advertised means that you have to be prepared to start to work for free and have time available to dedicate. In actual fact, I am in no way someone who is elite or top of the hierarchy which allowed me to work for free. The reality is I balanced and sacrificed other paid personal goals in my life for unpaid psychological experience. But this is the harsh reality of the Honorary role. A part of me knows how useful the roles are to not only gain experience but to help support and learn from a variety of teams. However, another part of me sees the exploitative nature and how they contribute to the cycle which can entrap aspiring psychologists in their experiences.

I guess the irony is that unlike a few years back (so I’m told), Honorary Assistant Psychologists are no longer the “shoe in” to get a paid AP role. As a result, once you have some experience, or when you feel ready to have a full-time AP role, you’re then faced with a second hurdle of even trying to get a paid role. From NHS Jobs, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that there are always AP roles, however these are always changing and in oversubscribed areas, are hard to apply for given the competitive nature of the roles. This often means that if you’re not online at the right time, unfortunately you then miss out.

But this is another problem. The fact that AP roles are so in demand means that occasionally people are put into situations which are not in accordance with what the role should be teaching. Unless explicit in the job description, some roles can be deceiving and withhold the clinical experience for an overload of administrative work. Don’t get me wrong, the role of an AP should have administration work, but not an overload where you are unable to reflect on your clinical experiences.

It’s for this reason that people can then be subject to exploitation when it comes to the roles that are on offer. It is always so important to ensure that when you start a role, that you know what you are going in to and what you deserve out of it. It may be hard when you are trying to learn but looking at policies and ensuring that you get what you need to achieve your long-term goals is so important.

The things that I would lookout for when applying and accepting AP roles are:

  • Who is supervising you?
  • How often will you be getting clinical supervision?
  • What are your goals in the role?
  • What will your job plan be?
  • Is there any CPD you can obtain?
  • Will you be supported in your long term psychological goals?

I hope this blog is helpful in providing insight into the way that AP roles can be potentially exploitative – sometimes you may not see or realise this in the moment, but if you realise your role isn’t helping you in the long-term, you have the right the change positions and ask for what you deserve. Don’t get me wrong, I am an aspiring clinical psychologist, but I am devoted to learning in the correct way, not the exploitative way!

Let me know what you think of this blog and what your opinions are on these roles.

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