What do you do for a living?
I am a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, currently with 2 roles. One is a clinical role leading a service for survivors of childhood trauma and secondly a teaching and development role responsible for supporting therapists across Scotland to be able to provide good quality supervision. This is how we try to ensure that the quality of the service is maintained as well as supporting therapists to develop their skills.
How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
When I was a teenager I had a lot of contact with people with learning disabilities and I developed an interest in how we could provide good services for this vulnerable group. As I learned more about what career options were available I realised that the role of clinical psychologist could provide a valuable service to a range of people with different difficulties. When I was at High School I volunteered with a range of agencies and services and was lucky enough to be able to get the opportunity to speak to a few of psychologists.
What was your journey to reach the role you are in today? (talk perhaps about education/choices/university, college, training or apprenticeships/ CPD or professional exams/job progression)
I did a degree in psychology at Edinburgh University, then a year as an assistant psychologist in Paisley. During these years (and even before I went to university) I was involved in a number of charities and had paid jobs providing services to people with a range of needs.
The biggest hurdle in this career path is getting a place on a training course (there is currently 2 in Scotland). I was lucky enough to get one and did a further 3 years to obtain my doctorate in clinical psychology.
Once qualified, I knew I had a real interest in working with people who had survived repeated traumatic events. Following a couple of years in general practice I was able to be involved in setting up a specialist women’s service for survivors of abuse and trauma in Lanarkshire. From there I applied for and was successful in gaining a consultant post.
Talk me through a day in your life... what sorts of things would it involve?
My day is incredibly varied. The role of psychologist in the NHS has changed a lot over the years, when I trained the main emphasis was on providing psychological interventions or therapy to people in distress. The role is much more varied now (although we still do therapy). As a profession, we are expected to be involved with teaching, training and supervision of other staff, research, and leadership of innovation in practice and service development. This month I have presented at a conference, taught at universities, visited a prison to meet people who are trialling a new psychological intervention for female offenders, been involved in the research of this programme, ran clinics for survivors of childhood abuse, supervised a number of staff and discussed training programmes, for a range of professional groups, which need to be developed next.
Was it your planned career when you were 18?
It was. I have been very fortunate that my plans have worked out and I still enjoy it.
What did your mum and dad want you to do?
They were happy to support whatever decisions I made.
What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
The career is very competitive to get into. It is essential you get a good degree and you need to show a long term commitment to the profession, through getting involved in volunteering and ideally research. There are often opportunities to help out with projects in local services and try to get a wide range of experiences.
What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
There are a number of good alternatives, particularly if your main interest is in providing therapy and working with clients. It might be worth having a look at the Clinical Associates in Applied Psychology course and there a couple of these across Scotland. There are also very important roles for staff with nursing backgrounds in mental health who get specialist training and provide a lot of the therapy in a number of settings. This might include mental health, child and adolescent mental health, substance misuse, forensic or older adult services. The Scottish Government has committed to improving access to psychological interventions generally so the opportunities are likely to develop. There is also a course in counselling psychology.
Within wider applied psychology there are a number of other roles including educational psychology and occupational psychology,
If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.
Although it is easy to focus on the therapeutic parts of the work, we describe the way we work as ‘scientist practitioners’. This means there is a strong emphasis on using scientific processes, knowledge and research, so having an interest in this area as well as working with people is a real advantage.