More about Sandy
Job title: Assistant Psychologist in a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
"After leaving NTU, I spent the summer working. I knew that I was eager to become a clinical psychologist, but also knew that I desperately needed a break after three years of studying. After a summer of saving up, I went on a three-month independent backpacking trip around South East Asia. While travelling, volunteered at an orphanage in Vietnam for children living with HIV or AIDS. It became one of the most poignant, formative experiences of my career. It made me determined to be part of the workforce to evolve and strengthen psychological understanding and equal access to healthcare.
"When I returned, I spent a few months working as a support worker in a secure inpatient unit for service users with a Personality Disorder or a Learning Disability diagnosis. After this role, I was able to secure my first Assistant Psychologist job in an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service. Here, I learned how to assess, formulate, and deliver appropriate interventions in a person-cantered and evidence-based way, working with clients experiencing anxiety or depression. At this time, I found out about a brilliant group, the Pre-Qualification Group, who are part of the Division of Clinical Psychology in the British Psychological Society (BPS). I applied for a role as the CPD / Conference Officer, which I did voluntarily alongside my full-time job. After almost two years at IAPT, I felt ready to expand my experience, this was when I started my current job as an Assistant Psychologist in a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). My role in the BPS has also evolved, and I’m now the Co-Chair of the Pre-Qualification Group.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced since graduating?
"It’s been tricky at times to get Assistant Psychologist roles. What I've learnt is the importance of tailoring your application form to the exact job you’re applying to, and how to be reflective and show your learning, as well as your willingness to continue this learning. The importance is to persevere with the path you feel passionate for, and you’ll find that all the right experiences will come to you. An Assistant Psychologist job isn’t the only way to develop and gain experience. My main piece of advice is to be creative, pursue your interests, and focus more on what you’ll get out of each experience as opposed to ‘titles’ or ‘positions’. There are plenty of other job roles and experiences that will give you similar (sometimes even more experience!) than you would get in some Assistant Psychologist posts. I would always encourage you to get direct contact and supervision from a psychologist in the profession you’re interested in. Working with and being supervised by clinical psychologist hugely informed my learning.
"It’s also been a challenge applying for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, which is the crucial three-year doctorate training course that any aspiring clinical psychologist is required to complete and is quite competitive. This is my third year applying for the course, and throughout the process I had to manage a lot of challenges around failure, rejection, and knowing I need more experience. Looking back now, I’m glad that I didn’t get a place that early on! I wouldn’t have had enough skills or knowledge to carry myself through. Now, I feel much more prepared and ready, as well has having real life experience and a working knowledge of what clinical psychology is and what it looks like in practice.
"I recently found out that I have been accepted onto the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology training at the University of Oxford!
Did the support offered at NTU help you?
"Absolutely! I would regularly meet up with the careers advisor linked with Social Sciences, looking over my application form, how I made sense and reflected on my experiences and learning, and core interview skills. It acted as a very smooth bridge and transition from undergraduate to the big world of ‘careers’.
"My main piece of advice is to be creative, pursue your interests, and focus more on what you’ll get out of each experience as opposed to ‘titles’ or ‘positions’. There are plenty of other job roles and experiences that will give you similar (sometimes even more experience!) than you would get in some Assistant Psychologist posts. I would always encourage you to get direct contact and supervision from a psychologist in the profession you’re interested in. Working with and being supervised by clinical psychologist hugely informed my learning.
What does your current role involve?
"My role is heavily clinical. A typical day may involve delivering one-to-one psychological interventions to support children and young people with psychological difficulties; or running psycho-education and therapeutic groups for children, young people, and parents. I'm also involved in delivering neuropsychological assessments, like cognitive assessments, looking at cognitive function and attention difficulties. The results of these are then used inform a diagnosis for disorders like ADHD, or which can be used to make recommendations to schools about the child’s learning style and required support dependent on their needs. As an Assistant Psychologist, it’s my responsibility to develop my own learning, so I make sure I have plenty of supervision, attend CPDs and conferences, and do relevant reading of evidence-based practice and protocol.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
"Definitely the clinical experience. Learning how to work with someone effectively and ethically gives me so much joy, it's challenging but hugely rewarding.
Why did you choose your course and what did you enjoy most about it?
"Although NTU wasn’t a university I’d originally looked into (I got my place by going through Clearing), I couldn’t have asked for a better university to study psychology at. The quality and level of teaching is exceptional. The resources the psychology department has is brilliant, and the opportunities and range for learning and doing research are plenty. I mostly enjoyed learning about psychological theories and doing psychological experiments.
How have your studies contributed to your career / current successes?
"Content wise, an undergraduate degree in psychology gives you a broad and detailed understanding of everything to do with humans, their experiences, and how we process and navigate our world. It’s been the pinpoint and foundations in the psychological work I now do every day. Theories and models from the course are also always being used in the work applied psychologists do, so are very useful. Studying sociology alongside psychology also taught me to have a broader perspective of the issues and trends which affect human life, and to not only look at the individual, but at their wider system. More than anything, my degree gave me discipline and passion, and fine-tuned my understanding and love for certain areas of psychology, acting like a guiding compass pointing me to the career path that I’m now on!"