Overrated?

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J1mmy
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Overrated?

Post by J1mmy » Tue Mar 08, 2011 1:02 am

People who know a thing or two about ClinPsy know its one of the most competitive arms of the psychology discipline, and whilst I've been browsing this forum for the past 2-3 years, and currently doing an MSc in ClinPsy I've learnt a lot about the holy grail - the Doctrate course everyone is trying to get on to.

Over the past few months I've begun to realise that people are sacrificing a lot of their time, effort and money in an attempt to get on a course which perhaps doesn't really offer much more in terms of career prospects than most other professional routes. I hear people doing PhD's, 2 masters, 3 or 4 years of experience for this course, and I don't quite understand what they see in this doctorate programme that will justify spending 5+ years of slogging to try and make it. I mean, it's not even this difficult to get onto graduate medicine for example, and that's about life or death.

I think the course has evoled, through the competition, to only accept the best applicants and over the years the bar has risen, but people don't seem to take a step back and realise that they need to really spend more time proving themselves over a number years that doesn't even equate to the number of years one spends in clinical training here.

I'd like to start a discussion about this, and welcome your thoughts.

lingua_franca
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Re: Overrated?

Post by lingua_franca » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:38 am

J1mmy wrote:Over the past few months I've begun to realise that people are sacrificing a lot of their time, effort and money in an attempt to get on a course which perhaps doesn't really offer much more in terms of career prospects than most other professional routes. I hear people doing PhD's, 2 masters, 3 or 4 years of experience for this course, and I don't quite understand what they see in this doctorate programme that will justify spending 5+ years of slogging to try and make it.
What do you mean by career prospects? If you're talking about a good salary, opportunities for promotion, job security, and other practical benefits like that, they didn't figure very largely in my own considerations when I decided to pursue CP. I've worked as an LD support worker on a salary not much above the minimum wage, and after my rent and bills were paid I barely had enough to scrape by, but it was one of the most engaging and rewarding jobs I've ever had. That is what I want - a career that engages me both intellectually and emotionally. I'm prepared to work hard and sacrifice a lot in order to get it. It's not a place on the doctorate programme that I'm after - it's the work that comes afterwards, which appeals to me for its own sake.

Of course, if I don't make it, it's not the end of the world. There are other things I would enjoy doing. I haven't set a time limit for getting onto training, but if I feel that it's turned into a dead end, I think I'll know when to shift my focus and concentrate on one of the other things that I enjoy doing and could turn into a long-term job. I also don't really see my current career path as a slog to get onto training - everything I've done has been enjoyable in and of itself, and even if I never become a CP I will always be glad that I've had these experiences.
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"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
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astra
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Re: Overrated?

Post by astra » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:26 am

I'm not quite sure what your point is tbh. I worked quite hard after my degree to get experience in the field, first as a volunteer then as an AP for a few years in very enjoyable jobs that helped me understand the role I was aiming for and paid me quite nicely in the process (compared to accountants and lawyers who virtually have to work for free, or not much more than minimum wage, as interns to get experience to take professional exams). I got onto the doctorate, studied/trained quite hard for 3 years, on a decent salary, and qualified. I'm not aware of having sacrificed much or slogged for an inordinate amount of time. I certainly don't think my training was as hard as doing medicine, say, - just for comparison's sake I did my training with a young child in nursery, I don't think I could have realistically done medicine with a young child because of the hours demanded. Since then I've had a very enjoyable and well paid job in Adult Psychological Therapy, which is challenging and enormously rewarding, I get good holidays and benefits and have more job security than many people right now. The early stages of this career path are a little fraught at times as it's hard to see how things will turn out and the frustration of trying to get the right job to get experience is tough, but the way J1mmy paints it sounds like slave labour with no discernible reward at the end and that's not my experience, having gone through it.
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just looking
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Re: Overrated?

Post by just looking » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:38 am

astra wrote:I'm not quite sure what your point is tbh.

I think I can see what Jimmy's getting at. Basically, is it worth it? I think the answer is obviously different for different people.

Whenever anyone asks about pay, etc. I tend to say "I don't work in the NHS for money". In a career, to stay content, you either need enough money to do away the stress and hard work, or enough reward (job satisfaction) to make it feel worth it. At the moment, I'm feeling the second part (but it's fading a little in this particular post). I know I'm never going to be very wealthy as a CP, but hopefully I know I will want to turn up to work every morning.

I DO think it's unnecessarily hard getting on to the course, I DO think the application process is flawed, I do wonder if a large number of us persue MScs, PhDs, etc. just to 'prove our worth'. But in the end, yes I do think it would be worth it.

J1mmy
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Re: Overrated?

Post by J1mmy » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:37 pm

Firstly, I think the only thing that people can defend themselves with when asked this type of question is the fact they are 'happy' with what they do, but aren't they happy with the other 100s of things that could get them a similar lifestyle? For example, I am as passionate about psychology as I am about business and management, two very different things, and I know for a fact that business has career prospects incomparable than most other professional positions. Of course you like doing it, that why you've spent the best part of 4 or 5 years working for it, but as the phrase goes, it is milking a dead cow? Is all your 'desire' and happiness for slogging for 4 years as an AP or whatever really going to be justified *if* you get onto a doc where the promotional prospects include less of therapy, and more of management? Have you really put your blood and sweat into a position which is soon going to seek your advice on which room to put in the new underfunded eating disorders clinic in a hospital?

And no, can you really say this is career that engages you intellectionally when you have the idea of research is a luxary for most ClinPsyc's. Or the prospect of pioneering new research and intervention is extremely unlikely. These are the kind of things you see in a personal statement for medicine for example, which I can understand because there is an element of real challenge. I've been in university education for the psat 4 years, and I can say I've only been intellectually challenged when I did my A-Level Chemistry. Nothing else has come close.
I DO think it's unnecessarily hard getting on to the course, I DO think the application process is flawed, I do wonder if a large number of us persue MScs, PhDs, etc. just to 'prove our worth'. But in the end, yes I do think it would be worth it.
From what I understand, a decade back, or even 5 years back doing a PhD wasn't required and was probably considered an overkill and may have guaranteed entry as it might have been considered an ultimate representation of academic capability. However, in 2011 more and more peope are doing PhD's and not getting places, even after committing so much of time and money. Based on this, can one say that those who gradauted 10 years ago and got onto the course with a 2.2 probably 3 years of AP experience is a better clinician than someone who did a PhD 3 years as an AP and an MSc? If no, then you can probably see my argument as things are becoming ridiculous for a course which is questionnable in not only personal career progression, but perhaps even unpredictable as a profession and disicipline. Just look at how CP's are now beginning to take more responsibilities of psychiatrists, soon they'll be able to prescribe drugs etc, and they'll become the new psychistrists only with a different name.

This discussion isn't only about the financial rewards, although that's an issue with some. It's a discussion about journey and requirements which have emerged and changed over the past 5-7 years which have made entry unrealistic only due to the competition, where at the end isn't questionnable as to whether it was all worth it.

It's like a business which pumps millions into a new project which gives them good returns, but when that project begins to lose money for the company funding is restricted, and eventually and despite the returns, all funding the pulled and the project and terminated. (The company being the individual, and the project being the job or the work need to the reward, or the 'return on investment')

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Tiggerman
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Re: Overrated?

Post by Tiggerman » Tue Mar 08, 2011 1:17 pm

To be honest, I don't think the road to clinical training is as difficult as some people make it out to be. Nowhere does it say we have to get 2 MSc's and a phd, those qualififcations are not required, and do not really make your chances of getting on much higher, in my experience, (and to be fair, from reading some people's posts on this forum, having more qualifications might apppear intimidating and might spell an overachiever). A good degree grade and one MSc is enough, and a few years support worker and AP experience (which are most likely paid) and you have a good chance of securing an interview. After that it is down to how your perform, which is like any other job. I used to think I would never get an interview for AP jobs, never mind the doctorate, and after working, not slaving away for years, I was rewarded. From what I see of friends and family persuing jobs in law, accountancy, media, science etc, in my opinion all career paths demand just as much hard work. Thats just my experience so I do not mean to offend people and/or their efforts.
Last edited by Tiggerman on Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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LaLeonessa
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Re: Overrated?

Post by LaLeonessa » Tue Mar 08, 2011 1:36 pm

Although "Is it worth it?" is a very fair and necessary question to ask, but I think J1mmy you are coming to this question with a number of assumptions (not to say they're baseless). You may also be passionate about business and management, which is on the face of it a very different beast, but for a lot of people something within the psychology field *is* what makes them happiest. Now, I view careers as I do love in the sense that I don't think there's "the one" and one shouldn't go searching for a holy grail that may never be found and forsake all others in the meantime, but using a sample of n=1, I would be miserable working in business and have known this for a very long time!

I think you raise very interesting questions about the reality of the CP career path esp. as one progresses - that promotion can take one away from clinical practice and more towards management (or clinical teaching). But that is probably the case in all professions and so is not specific to CP. I would say, as I teach psychology undergrads, that often students aim for CP when they would also be happy doing occupational therapy, SEN teaching, mental health nursing, research, charity working, medicine, nutrition... a variety of things, and this is maybe because CP is the most prototypic psychology-helping-profession.

I think everyone has their own path, and it's always a good idea to question whether the ultimate goal is (1) worth it in the end (2) still something you want to do (3) could be met through other means (4) representative of needs which could be met in other ways. But is it worth it? Look I'm talking as someone who thought I'd pursue CP but has now gone the research route (yet still hangs around here, until someone kicks me out!) so I'm an example of flexibility in the journey, but I wouldn't be doing this if it was just killing time for something else. I should think most people have a realistic view of what might or might not happen, what their other options may be, and will not close down an opportunity or career path that would actually make them happier.

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ell
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Re: Overrated?

Post by ell » Tue Mar 08, 2011 1:52 pm

I think it's a good idea to challenge your own motivations for pursuing Clinical Psychology, every-so-often. This is also something my supervisors have advised me to do on a regular basis. I think a lot of people get so caught up in the race/competition/process/system that the actual end goal of working as a clinical psychologist gets lost. I'm the first to admit that the whole process is kind of exciting and fun in an odd, masochistic way - why else would a lot of us be checking the progress thread so often? However, I know for certain that I am not just in it for the race, I know what I want to do with my clinical psychology qualification. I also feel that I know what CP is. I don't expect (or want!) to be a full-time therapist, and I welcome management, teaching and supervision opportunities.

Tiggerman made a good point, that the process is not always so hard. A lot of people get on the course without MScs, Phds, or mountains of experience. Yes, the process is flawed (aren't all selection processes where you are rejecting large numbers of extremely promising candidates?), but at the same time, selectors aren't stupid - the content of your form and performance at interview does make a difference, and it's not just about how many qualifications or AP jobs you have had. If it was just about those numbers, I would not have been rejected by 4 universities last year with 6 years of experience working in mental health services and being midway through an MSc, while a friend with fewer years' experience and no better a degree class than mine got several interviews and subsequently a place on training. I could look back on the last 8 years since I graduated and say 'oh, I've wasted my time chasing this impossible dream of CP and I've still not got anywhere, woe is me, I'm almost 30 with nothing to show for it', but I don't (well, most of the time anyway). I look back and think 'wow, I've developed so many skills in the last few years since I graduated, my work ethic is improved, I've developed critical thinking skills, I actually understand the role of research now, I'm so much more confident, I've got a lot to offer clinical psychology now'. I sure as heck had very little to offer 8 years ago!

I also put a lot of stock in qualified clinical psychologists saying positive things about their role and work (for example, astra's post). If all CPs said 'it's not worth it' (and I have heard that from at least one CP in my time) then I would rethink my goals - but the overall consensus from CPs I have spoken with is that it is a good career, with great opportunities.

I don't think you can say that CP is overrated or not overrated. It suits some people and doesn't suit others. This then affects whether or not you think it is overrated. It would certainly be overrated for Mr ell, for example, who would not see the point in volunteering time, completing an MSc or taking a relatively low paid job, just to go into a career where you have to listen to people's problems. That's an extreme example, but I still think it's important to remember that the 'worth' of pursuing CP is completely individual. It may not be worth it for the OP, and that's their point of view based on their experiences and desires for how they want to live their life, so is valid for them. However, for ME it certainly is worth it at the present time.

L

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Spatch
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Re: Overrated?

Post by Spatch » Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:07 pm

I would follow on from Tiggerman and some of the others, in that not everyone finds it hard to get onto training or sacrifices endlessly for it - well no more than any other graduate job. I personally didn't find it that hard, and the shift from doing what I was doing before to getting onto a clinical training course took less than 12 months- hardly an epic struggle.
For others, they were doing something they loved doing and would have done anyway, and clinical psychology was a natural potential extension but certainly not a holy grail they had in mind from the start. The truth about most aspects of life is you will get some people who find it easy, some who struggle but eventually get what they want, and others who try and try and never get anywhere. I always feel it's dangerous to portray the latter group as either representative of all, or if it becomes the dominant narrative.

However, I do think that a proportion do imbue the "course" with more than what it is. For some it is clearly a validation of other issues ("If I get on a DClinPsy, I will REALLY show those people who doubted me..."), others see it as ticket to a comfortable, stable middleclass lifestyle (which it may used to be but is probably not any longer thanks to the forthcoming NHS changes) and others have sunk so much into it that they don't really know what else they can do. For all of those the course is definitely overrated, because its just a form of training, not the answer to every fear/need you may have.
And no, can you really say this is career that engages you intellectionally when you have the idea of research is a luxary for most ClinPsyc's. Or the prospect of pioneering new research and intervention is extremely unlikely. These are the kind of things you see in a personal statement for medicine for example, which I can understand because there is an element of real challenge. I've been in university education for the psat 4 years, and I can say I've only been intellectually challenged when I did my A-Level Chemistry. Nothing else has come close.
Not all CPs want to do research, or even be that intellectually challenged. Some may prefer being challenged emotionally, others may want to be more hands on in leadership and challenged in a business way. As for you not being challenged in university thats more of a reflection on one's approach. I agree that at undergrad level the basic core material is relatively easy, but those that were driven were publishing work, going after awards and prizes or getting involved in other aspects of psychology research. At that level its really about what you make challenging for yourself (with the added bonus that pushing yourself usually ends up helping you either professionally, socially or in fulfilling another aspect of your life).

I think an interesting aspect of your question addresses the issue of competition and our relationship to this. Its given me something to think about.

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maven
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Re: Overrated?

Post by maven » Tue Mar 08, 2011 4:39 pm

Yeah, just to add to this there are lots of wrong assumptions in your post. I'm another one of the people who enjoyed the process, progressed without too much hassle, and enjoy (most of) my job. Its relatively well paid, interesting, varied, autonomous and the therapeutic work can be really satisfying. Postgraduate qualifications are not essential to get onto training (last figures I read said 1/3 of successful applicants had a post-grad qualification, and very few of those were PhDs) and even a decade ago it was not possible to get onto clinical psychology training with a 2:2 and no post-grad qualification, or without experience. Yeah, there are more psychology graduates now, and the degree grades awarded are higher, but I'd not see it as the bar rising: the people who get on now are pretty similar in intellect and skills to the people who got on a decade ago. If what you are doing feels like 'slogging' or 'milking a dead cow' then you are in the wrong business. You need to enjoy the process, not see the destination as the be all and end all.
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NeoPsych
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Re: Overrated?

Post by NeoPsych » Tue Mar 08, 2011 5:10 pm

As others have mentioned, I think it is important to keep apart issues within the NHS
role of clinical psychologists and those concerning the training courses. For instance,
because higher-grade CP roles involve more management, doesn't mean that people
with the aspirations to get into training are misguided.

As for my personal path, I want to go into clinical developmental neuropsychology (NP).
It is simply essential for me to become HPC-registered and all the rest of it in order
to be allowed to do my job (beyond an AP role anyway). I believe this is an important
point that hasn't been mentioned previously. What I'm trying to say is, I've learned
that preparing for DClinPsych training and actually being on the course can be very
useful and rewarding even if a lot of courses are not directly linked in with NP (as
has been discussed elsewhere on this forum). But if there was an alternative route,
I might not be making the effort at this point.

[Some of you will know that it is possible to get into NP through the educational
doctorate. However, this is not an option for me, as the course funding is currently
up in the air, the studies are self-funded - so therefore unattainable for me -, and
I want to keep my options open, clinically speaking.]
NeoPsych
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BlueCat
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Re: Overrated?

Post by BlueCat » Tue Mar 08, 2011 5:17 pm

I would also like to add to this - I think the perception of clinical training being so hard is popular, and helpful to an extent for those people who have not progressed. However, I would like to flag something - we don't hear much from the people who are successful after one or two years, because they are busy on training, and then afterwards, busy as clinicians. We do, however, hear a lot from people who are repeatedly unsuccessful, thus fuelling the idea that it really is very difficult indeed to get onto clinical training. I would say it would be quite inadvisable to do a PhD purely with the thought of "getting on the course", I think (correct me if I'm wrong guys) that most of the people who start training with a PhD in hand have done the PhD for its own sake, and then (or at some point during the PhD) have decided to pursue a clinical career.

As to "never being wealthy" as a CP - I think we are quite handsomely paid as a profession! I feel priviliged to be able to earn my money the way I do, and I think the career prospects are at least clear, with clear progression within bands, and a clear idea of what you need to do to move up.

I am with you, though, J1mmy, that some people throw an awful lot of time and money into the pursuit of a place on training, and in some cases this is not necessary. However, most things that are worth having are worth working for and require a degree of sacrifice/prioritisation of career over other aspects of life. However, I don't think CP is that different from medicine, law, vetinary practice, or architecture in overall balance of investment/gain (and I don't just mean monetary). Friends that I waas at school with are just now getting substantive positions as barristers, just buying their first vetinary practice, beginning to work autonomously as architects, are still doing their specialty training in medicine. I am a qualified CP. I think we are all much of a muchness in our respective career fields, and probably with an overall equal-ish balance of effort/gain (although I think my legal friends had the hardest deal as juniors - extremely long hours, having a baby would have put them TOTALLY out of the running, poor/no pay/paying for the privilege of tutellage)
There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Billy Connolly.

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h2eau
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Re: Overrated?

Post by h2eau » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:08 pm

I echo the points BlueCat has made and as somebody who got onto training painlessly two years after graduating from undergrad when I was 23 (with an almost completed masters, 2 AP posts and a few other bits and bobs of experience), I believe that (like with most things) you hear much more about the horror stories and tales of how difficult it is than those who get on relatively straightforwardly.

I know this wont be true for everyone, but I sometimes wonder if the perception that clinical psychology is so hard to get into fosters a belief that 'only the best get in' and that this then leads people to work towards this as some sort of validation that they are 'good enough' because they have 'made it' onto clinical training.
We deem those happy who from experience of life have learnt to bear its ills without being overcome by them ~ C.G. Jung

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baa
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Re: Overrated?

Post by baa » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:17 pm

LaLeonessa wrote:
I think everyone has their own path, and it's always a good idea to question whether the ultimate goal is (1) worth it in the end (2) still something you want to do (3) could be met through other means (4) representative of needs which could be met in other ways. But is it worth it? Look I'm talking as someone who thought I'd pursue CP but has now gone the research route (yet still hangs around here, until someone kicks me out!) so I'm an example of flexibility in the journey, but I wouldn't be doing this if it was just killing time for something else. I should think most people have a realistic view of what might or might not happen, what their other options may be, and will not close down an opportunity or career path that would actually make them happier.
Yay! Me too! I went down the usual RA/AP route after graduating, applied a few times (very unsuccessfully, I think my form was bobbins). BUT, I wouldn't change it, because all that experience :waves: has helped me get to where I am now. That said, I was getting raaaather bored in AP jobs, so I figured a change was worth a punt, so I moved to PWP and then HIW work.

We also don't get to hear much from the people who start the process and then say "naahhhhhh" and change direction, it's possible, some of us prefer it, and it means that not everyone slogs away til they keel over. I keep mulling over starting a thread about "the ones who got away" to show that there is a life outside of CP :D I might do that tonight.
At least I'm not as mad as that one!

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miriam
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Re: Overrated?

Post by miriam » Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:12 pm

Indeed, well said many people above. These kinds of forums (and AP groups and the like) don't get to hear the voices of people who change direction, or people who get onto training, so they are by nature skewed to hearing more about unsuccessful but persistent applicants.

However, as I always say, enjoy the journey. Then wherever you end up it won't be time wasted. No matter how frustrated I am with my current post in my current trust, I love my profession. I love the variety and the opportunity to do something worthwhile, and the colleagues I work with and being part of something bigger (and not just making money for some corporation). I have said before that my earnings have always been respectable by comparison with friends and relatives, even those who have chosen other professions or business, and they are generous by comparison with my colleagues in other professional groups (eg nursing, social work, teaching). The public sector is tightening its belt, but I don't think the picture is generally bleak - I think the new commissioning ideas might allow CPs to show what they can do and rise out of the crowd a bit :)
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com

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