2023 is a great time to be planning a career as a psychological professional! I first published my ten top tips for aspiring Clinical Psychologists in 2019, but the landscape has vastly improved since then. In fact, it is twice as good. In 2018, there were 593 places to train as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK, and 1 in 6 applicants were successful. In 2022, this number had nearly doubled to 1155 places. That year, 1 in 4 applicants were successful! While my previous top tips still stand, I wanted to add on some updates for 2023.
1. Consider training opportunities within NHS Talking Therapies (previously known as IAPT, the Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies Initiative). NHS Talking Therapies employs two core roles, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs) and the High Intensity Therapists (HITs). These professionals are paid to train and have good employment prospects after qualifying. Their work also equips them with the skills and experiences which can make them competitive for the Clinical Psychology Doctorate.
I suggested NHS Talking Therapies in my previous top tips blog, but I think it is an even better prospect in 2023. This is because the range of opportunities within NHS Talking Therapies has expanded. They are now piloting the funded training and employment of counsellors, and planning to train existing PWPs and HITs in more evidence-based interventions. These include treatments for people with long covid and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) Therapy for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). I always encourage aspiring psychologists to continuously expand their skillset, and in 2023, NHS Talking Therapies looks like a great context in which to do this.
2. Consider training as a psychological practitioner. For a long time, the Assistant Psychologist role was pretty much the only job which sat in the gap between undergraduate psychology degrees and the Clinical Psychology Doctorate course. This first changed with the introduction of the NHS Talking Therapies and the PWP and HIT roles. However, this whole landscape has now changed for the better. In 2019, Health Education England laid out plans to expand the psychological professions workforce by 60% by 2024. An important part of this was the creation of several psychological practitioner roles. These are roles for graduates which pay them to train and provide them with a qualification.
Five of these roles train candidates on a Band 4 and offer qualified roles at a Band 5. One of these roles, the Clinical Associate Psychologist (CAP), trains candidates on a Band 5 and offers qualified roles at a Band 6. The CAP role is specifically for psychology graduates and sits between the Assistant Psychologist role and the Clinical Psychology Doctorate. I provide some info about each of these roles below in bullet points and you can also use the Psychological Professions Network map to find out more. Keep an eye on NHS jobs for opportunities to train in all these roles.
- Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner. Involves care planning and delivering psychologically informed interventions to people with severe mental health problems. Open to all graduates, provides training on a Band 4 and qualified roles at Band 5.
- Associate Psychological Practitioners. Delivers psychologically informed interventions in adult community teams and primary care. Open to psychology graduates only, provides training on a Band 4 and qualified roles at Band 5.
- Graduate Mental Health Practitioners. Provides care co-ordination and brief psychologically informed interventions. Open to all graduates, provides training on a Band 4 and qualified roles at Band 5.
- Education Mental Health Practitioners. Provides psychologically informed interventions in schools and college and helps support whole school approaches to mental wellbeing. Open to all graduates, provides training on a Band 4 and qualified roles at Band 5.
- Children’s Wellbeing Practitioner. Provides psychologically informed interventions in mental health services for children and young people. Open to all graduates, provides training on a Band 4 and qualified roles at Band 5.
- Clinical Associate in Psychology. Delivers formulations, psychologically informed interventions and service-based research. Open to psychology graduates only, provides training on a Band 5 and qualified roles at Band 6.
3. Know about the new rules on funding. Training opportunities for aspiring psychologists have proliferated, but rules around funding have tightened. Since April 2022, anyone taking one of these opportunities will be unable to take further funded training opportunities until two years after they have graduated from their previous opportunity. What this means is that if you train and qualify as a psychological practitioner in either NHS Talking Therapies or any other role, you will need to work in that role (or elsewhere!) for 2 years before you can start the Clinical Psychology Doctorate. In practice, you will only need to work for about a year before you can apply to the doctorate, since the application process lasts a year in itself! However, it’s important for any aspiring psychologist to factor this into their career planning.
4. Do the maths on self-funding. At this point, you may be wondering about whether you can self-fund your training. As I write, there are seven Clinical Psychology Doctorate courses which provide self-funded places for international students, and only one which offers self-funded places to UK students. These places are expensive, coming in at £20k+ per year in fees, with placement fees and travel expenses on top. An alternative self-funded option is the ForenClinPsyD at the University of Birmingham, a four-year Doctorate Course which qualifies graduates to register as both Forensic and Clinical Psychologists. The fees are currently £14.5k per year for UK students and £24k per year for international students.
It is also important to note that all Counselling Psychology Doctorate places are self-funded, and Counselling Psychology opens up similar opportunities in adult mental health to Clinical Psychology. The fees for some of these courses are slightly lower. For example, the University of Manchester currently charges UK students £8.5k per year and international students £20k per year. With all these courses, I would strongly encourage applicants to consider the cost in real terms. It may be hard to maintain any kind of part-time job alongside a full-time doctorate. How much debt will be accrued to fund this training, and what is your likely income in the years after qualifying? How much of this income will you be able to set aside to pay off loans? It is important that the numbers add up.
It also now possible to self-fund CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) training, which is shorter, at one year. At Surrey, the fees are currently £10k for the whole course. This also qualifies candidates to work in the NHS at a Band 7, the same as qualifying psychology doctorate professionals, and may be a good option for self-funders.
5. Beware the issue of accreditation. Many mental health roles now require registration with a professional organisation. For example, High Intensity Therapists (HITs) need to be registered as CBT therapists with the BABCP. Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs) also need to be registered with the BABCP. All Practitioner Psychologists (Clinical, Forensic, Counselling, Health) need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and Counsellors need to be registered with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). If you are self-funding training in any of these professions, check that your course is accredited by the relevant body and will enable you to register with them afterwards. Many of the new psychology practitioner roles are not yet accredited and do not need to be registered, but this issue may arise over time as roles become more established. Before you launch into any training, be sure to check whether the role you are expecting to work in requires registration and if it does, make sure your course is accredited.
This update is not all-inclusive and is designed to be an add-on to my previous top tips blog. There is much good news for aspiring psychologists in 2023: there are now more jobs and more opportunities! Navigating this landscape can be bewildering, but I hope these tips help you on your next steps. Life is a journey, and life in psychology can be exciting. Enjoy your adventure!
Please note, I cannot provide individualised career advice.