Classism in Clinical Psychology

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Karategirl
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Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by Karategirl » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:49 pm

I was reading another thread about the lack of representation of BME in the Clinical course, and I got thinking about my own experiences.
I would actually argue that it is not just a race, but a class issue.

I am expected to gain experience through honorary posts, or 0.5 working week patterns. I can't afford that! I have been working part time since the age of 11. I worked abroad during my undergrad ( no taking summer placements because I needed money.) I have self funded myself through a MSc, and I have been living independently since graduation, as I was forced out of my home due to lack of space. I continue to visit and support my family from time to time. How can I take a job that is only for a few days of the week, yet will limit my availability for other jobs alongside?

I have had to make several choices about taking less "experience" jobs, for the sake of jobs which pay the bills. When I spoke to some clinical psychologists, they have family friends who gave them jobs, or families that could support them to volunteer. For those of us who can't work for free, how are we supposed to get on?

Until there can be more support and better wages in Doctorate appropriate jobs, I fear that the discrimination is going to continue.

Offering jobs for 1 or 2 days a week is laughable! I appreciate that funding within the NHS is limited, but the back lash on the applications is an issue.

We are less qualified/ less experienced than our wealthier counterparts, but we have worked much harder to get to where we are. We are a better representation of the client group, yet we are being kept out of the selection process.

Thoughts?

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persephone56
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by persephone56 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:18 am

I think there is a real difficulty, as you highlight. Honourary posts are only available to those that can afford them - living at home, subsidised by parents, generally speaking. It's certainly the only way I could manage an honourary post in my day - it was within a 15 minute walk from my parents' house where I was living. Nor could I afford to live on the wages of a support worker or similar, unless I continued to live with my parents indefinitely (which, while available, was not a viable option for my mental health!).

With regards to how this can be managed, I would suggest thinking outside of the box. It's often recommended here to apply for non-NHS AP jobs, as they're often at an equivalent salary and are much less competitive. Additionally, I have found that research assistant posts are easier to obtain. And lastly, if it's feasible, consider working abroad for a while. I got a two-year visa for Canada and spent two joyful years working in mental health services in Vancouver, where jobs are plentiful and relatively easy to come by. There's obviously an initial investment required for such a move, but for me, it paid off in dividends. I actually took a pay cut when I came back to start on training. Vancouver is an expensive place to live in, but many parts of Canada are much more affordable and wages may even be higher there.

I appreciate that my suggestions don't actually address the issue of honourary AP posts. I disagree with them on principle and I find them hard to justify. I'd be interested in the thoughts of others.

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firegal
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by firegal » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:50 am

I do totally agree, it is an issue. My parents certainly wouldn't have been able to fund me for an honorary post and coming from fairly rural area there weren't a lot of them going where my parents lived so staying at home and doing one wasn't an option I ever explored. Luckily for me, honorary posts are not a necessity for training. There are ways of getting on to the course through full time paid employement. I've never done a shift for free or taken a part time post and I'm only a second year now so we're not talking a million years ago.
Plenty of people do manage to live on support worker wages, though it depends on the hours available and the cost of living where you are. Most residential services are crying out for support workers and that's how I got my step into work. It doesn't have to be mental health either, I worked in a service for adults with physical disabilities, and a large portion of the clients had LD so that got me a lot of experience working with communication impairments, sometimes challenging behaviours, and more generally insight into team working and care services. Worked there full time for a year until I started my undergrad and ongoing as a bank worker during every holiday through uni. From that experience went into a non-NHS AP role, again in a residential service, this time specifically for adults with LD. The non-NHS bit was key for me I think, only ever got one interview out of the many many applications for NHS posts and that was a 2 day a week thing that I was unsuccessful for. Non-NHS applications tended to have better outcomes in my experience (even 9 months before finally getting on training I was getting rejected for NHS AP jobs!).
From there I did an RA job (better pay but pricey area to live so that evened out), and then a mental health support worker role, and on to training. The biggest issue in getting those roles was moving. Literally had to move to different areas of the country for each one, which I know is not an option for everyone.
That's not me saying that because I managed things the issue doesn't exist, class will be an issue throughout the career path as it currently stands - even now that I'm on training I find myself not quite in the same place as the majority of my cohort, many of whom have somehow managed to get mortgages and houses which is definitely many years off for me given that I couldn't afford to save much while I was packing up house and home every 12 months for a new post.
I'm with persephone regarding honorary AP posts, it's not the same as volunteering and I've seen some person specs with incredibly high requirements, one I recall was full time, required not only a psychology degree but specifically experience working with children, and carrying out and analysing childhood assessments! It's completely unethical to recruit to those high standards and then not pay someone for their time and experience. I think ensuring fair pay for all AP posts is probably one of the first steps, it won't eliminate competition for the posts but will at least shift some of the emphasis from who can afford it to who will be good at it.

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maven
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by maven » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:59 am

I agree there is an issue, but as firegal says unpaid work is absolutely not a requirement to progress in the profession, and plenty of people get onto the doctorate without it - in my experience the majority. Voluntary work is less expensive than doing an MSc, which costs money as well as time, so it can be the right choice for some people. But neither is necessary. It is perfectly possible to get paid jobs that fulfil all the requirements of gaining experience before the more prestigious posts, whether that's residential care work, ABA therapist, rehab assistant, care assistant, support worker, and then perhaps a private AP post or research post or a job in IAPT. And NEVER pay for work experience like those holidays to Sri Lanka that are sold as relevant experience, but are an example of voluntourism. Total waste of money.

As to whether you can afford the cost of living, that's isn't an issue to do with psychology, that's a universal political issue in this country at the moment - that it is expensive to live in major cities and the south east, and young people are struggling to reach independence because costs have risen faster than wages during austerity politics. So you've got a choice to make - move to somewhere with a lower cost of living (I'd suggest that Scotland and the north east are good places to start, but anywhere in the Midlands and north outside of city centres is much cheaper, whilst salaries are similar). Live as a lodger or in a room in a house in multiple occupancy. Or take a career development loan. Or take extra hours - bar work in the evening, or weekend/night shifts. Lots of us have done multiple jobs to get past those early hurdles.

Classism suggests that there is prejudice against lower class applicants for posts or training. I've seen no evidence that is the case. I'd agree that increased tuition fees, especially for part-time courses, have made much more impact on people from lower socio-economic groups, and that we definitely don't want to become a profession where voluntary work is an expectation or norm on top of this. But I'm not persuaded that ordinary middle-class people are funded by their parents into their adult life and can therefore work for free, or have marvellous nepotistic networks that serve up everything on a plate (although they probably do have less financial burdens from existing debt, caring responsibilities or contributing to household costs, and perhaps more space to move back to if they need it). I think they are probably better at creating and using their extended networks, and are weighing up the same choices differently, because have expectations that they can succeed, and ways of presenting themselves that are favourably construed by employers. Perhaps they also feel more able to take short-term pain for long-term gain financially.

So some of the barrier is in the mindset and expectations, in which you both think things that are happening on a small scale are now expected to progress in the career, and in the way you have already narrowed your range of choices, and in the pessimism you feel as a result. Stop listening to the myths about what other people do, and start focusing on opening up the widest range of options for yourself. If you are creative and resourceful you will find something you enjoy doing that is relevant AND pays the bills.
Maven.

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The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

hawke
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by hawke » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:25 pm

maven wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:59 am
Classism suggests that there is prejudice against lower class applicants for posts or training. I've seen no evidence that is the case.
I would question whether there is indirect indiscrimination at play here, though, rather than direct prejudice. While we all work hard and make sacrifices for the training, it is much easier if you have a supportive family/partner and financial/location freedom.

Lancaster seem to have given real consideration to their recruitment procedures, recognising that short-listing based on qualifications and experience favours those with the means to obtain these more easily.

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maven
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by maven » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:58 pm

That isn't discrimination. I don't think you do these genuine systemic issues justice by using the wrong terms to describe them.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

hawke
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by hawke » Wed Aug 22, 2018 3:39 pm

Fair enough, I should not be using a term with a specific legal meaning to describe this. Is there better terminology to describe these systemic issues?

Using the word discrimination in a looser non-legal sense though, my concern remains the same though - that there is a systemic problem with recruitment policies offering equal opportunities in theory, but in practice resulting in particular types of people being more favoured for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job.

I'd agree that many of the issues are much broader than psychology itself , but I do (naively) expect psychology to hold itself to a higher standard and be more pro-active than other professions at trying to counter some of the genuine systemic issues.

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maven
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by maven » Sun Aug 26, 2018 7:24 pm

I'd just call them systemic barriers.

And clinical courses have worked hard to develop selection processes that are as free of bias as possible and assessment days that draw on knowledge and skills, rather than the prestige of your experiences, so it is being actively looked at in terms of selection. But the wider issues of increasing inequality and barriers to higher education do need to be recognised and addressed - even if that means writing to MPs and voting both locally and nationally for those who have made plausible pledges to reduce this.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

ChrisGaskell
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by ChrisGaskell » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:29 am

I feel like this thread should be titled 'Classism within recruitment in Clinical Psychology'

I was excited reading the title... thought there might be some discussion of the influence of social class upon psychologists (and pre-qualified) during the every day practice of clinical psychology. Barriers to working in Clinical Psychology is obviously an important issue, that I too feel strongly about, but it is generally already well discussed (within ClinPsy forums for that matter).

Does anyone have any experiences of how Classism affects their own clinical work or PPD?
For example:
- I personally have struggled with the perceptions I think people have of me when I tell them I work in Psychology (being assumed as being privileged, highly educated, affluent) which for some people within the profession is not accurate. And also how journeying through a career in clinical psychology has challenged me to question how I identify with my own social class, how it may have changed, and how it may influence my long lasting relationships.

Anyone else have any relevant experiences or reflections? :D

latelifechanger
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by latelifechanger » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:51 pm

I can't call myself an expert on clinical psychology, since I am just at the start of a career change. However, having come from a first career in journalism/communication, including an early stint in magazines, and having many friends working in the arts and heritage sector, I would say that sadly a) there are few highly desirable careers out there where it doesn't help to be independently minted and able to work for free b) that although it is obviously gutting, this hugely fortunate group is probably smaller than it feels c) there are lots of sectors, including some parts of the arts/journalism which are genuinely discriminatory - where being well-heeled and well-connected and looking the part is what gets you the job (which I am assuming is not the case for clinical psychology).

At least with clinical psychology, you get a decently paid job in the end, with a wage which you can very comfortably live from - and you aren't limited by opportunity to living in London. For instance, I have two friends from poorer backgrounds who had to leave the arts sector because they just could not live on their wages once they had children. Given both were in arts outreach roles, it is a touch depressing to think of the end users who might have been inspired by these really passionate, educated, not-at-all-privileged individuals who could demonstrate by their very being that the nation's arts and heritage holdings were indeed for everyone.

Anyway, I suppose what I'm saying is that it isn't fair, but it could be even worse....probably not the most inspiring message :oops:

lingua_franca
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by lingua_franca » Fri Sep 07, 2018 12:10 am

firegal wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:50 am
I'm with persephone regarding honorary AP posts, it's not the same as volunteering and I've seen some person specs with incredibly high requirements, one I recall was full time, required not only a psychology degree but specifically experience working with children, and carrying out and analysing childhood assessments! It's completely unethical to recruit to those high standards and then not pay someone for their time and experience. I think ensuring fair pay for all AP posts is probably one of the first steps, it won't eliminate competition for the posts but will at least shift some of the emphasis from who can afford it to who will be good at it.
Another thing I've noticed about such posts is that the selection process is often unreasonably lengthy. Several years ago I was invited to attend a two-stage interview that was spread out over two consecutive days - a group task on day one, and then, if you were successful, an invitation to come back for an individual interview on day two. They didn't specify whether the interviews on day two would be morning or afternoon, so basically the candidates would have to take the whole day off work on the off-chance they might be selected. At that time I was supporting myself through a Master's degree with bank HCA work. I simply couldn't afford to miss two days of shifts for the sake of a job I might not even get, a job that might be valuable CP-supervised experience but that couldn't even pay me what I was earning as a band 2. I needed my rent for that month, and two shifts represented a lot of money to me at the time. I declined the invitation. Back then I thought the whole interview process was very odd and I didn't think many candidates would take kindly to having to devote two days of their week to it (especially at the short notice we were given). Since then I have learned that there are so many psych grads out there hungry for experience that there will always be people who are willing to do exactly that. With so many candidates who are only too desperate to work for free I wonder if there is any practical incentive for employers to focus on equality in their recruitment. :?
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
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ChrisCross
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by ChrisCross » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:40 pm

ChrisGaskell wrote:
Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:29 am
I feel like this thread should be titled 'Classism within recruitment in Clinical Psychology'

I was excited reading the title... thought there might be some discussion of the influence of social class upon psychologists (and pre-qualified) during the every day practice of clinical psychology. Barriers to working in Clinical Psychology is obviously an important issue, that I too feel strongly about, but it is generally already well discussed (within ClinPsy forums for that matter).

Does anyone have any experiences of how Classism affects their own clinical work or PPD?
For example:
- I personally have struggled with the perceptions I think people have of me when I tell them I work in Psychology (being assumed as being privileged, highly educated, affluent) which for some people within the profession is not accurate. And also how journeying through a career in clinical psychology has challenged me to question how I identify with my own social class, how it may have changed, and how it may influence my long lasting relationships.

Anyone else have any relevant experiences or reflections? :D
It's interesting that you mention those perceptions from other people about the profession and it's something that I feel I can relate to. People tend to be surprised to hear about my background and occasionally have commented on it (most cringe-worthy example was a previous supervisor who told me how "nice" it was that "people like me" can get onto training, in a very patronising way); less so in the cohort itself though and we're a relatively diverse bunch. I'm also finding myself in a weird position, where I feel as though I don't really 'fit in' to any social class now. Back home there seems to be a perception that I'm 'moving on to better things,' and I feel somehow culturally more cut-off, but still I don't feel comfortable identifying as anything other than 'working class.' Kind of leaves you in limbo a bit.

In terms of the OP, I do agree that more still needs to be done to widen representation. Echoing some of the previous posts though, there are ways to get into training without unpaid work (and without AP experience for that matter). Some courses in particular are actively considering these factors in their selection & recruitment processes.

NotReally
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Re: Classism in Clinical Psychology

Post by NotReally » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:17 am

ChrisCross wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:40 pm
(most cringe-worthy example was a previous supervisor who told me how "nice" it was that "people like me" can get onto training, in a very patronising way);
Normally, that would be reprehensible. But given their position, it's even more so. Pathetic.

Its why diversity is so important. I remember hearing from the governing body of the NFL as to why the Rooney rule is so important (for those not familiar, the rooney rule stipulates that one person of BME background must be interviewed for every management position within the NFL). It's actually changed my stance from "people should get a chance if they're good enough" to "people should get a chance" (obviously within reason, factoring in credentials etc). For the sake of progressive thinking within the profession, we should understand how people of different backgrounds do things differently. By adding "if they're good enough", you automatically measure them by the standards of the majority. That results in just picking people who might tick a few diversity boxes, but essentially have the same background in terms of experience and train of thought etc.

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