Now, this has to be the most common question I hear when talking to Psychology graduates. It’s actually quite amusing how Graduates put themselves through just short of hell without a clear idea of WHAT it is that these roles entail. Within this post, we will explore the 8 most common duties of an Assistant Psychologist.
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1. Psychometric Testing & Scoring
I remember, back when I was a support worker, I had no idea what Psychometric Tests where (and this scared the life out of me); however the Clinical Psychologist on the team explained this to me beautifully as “Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals’ mental capabilities and behavioural style” (I’m pretty sure she got that from Psychometric Testing Institute). What this basically means is that whenever there is a query of someone’s mental health or ability, there are usually standardized tests used to measure these. There is also a standardised way of scoring these which you will be trained in. Some Psychometric Tests that you may become familiar with are the Connors forms for ADHD, Cambridge Autism Questionnaire etc. Don’t worry they sound scarier than they actually are but you’ll get the hang of them.
2. Facilitating Groups
Now, hopefully, you will have some experience in facilitating groups (even if it is not leading them). This appears to be one of the most common duties of an Assistant Psychologist. This could include Client sessions or Parent/Carers sessions or even both. My (and many Psychologists) advise to you would be to try to prepare for everything that could go wrong whilst also accepting the fact that things will go wrong regardless of planning. This duty will increase your skills of engaging clients along with sharpening your clinical skills so try to enjoy every session and see the hiccups as learning curves (as there will be much more in the future I’m sure).
This duty could comes in all shapes and sizes. You could be asked to observe a child in the classroom to confirm (or even challenge) a formulation query or you could be asked to observe an elderly person in a familiar setting. The objective here is to sharpen your own clinical judgment whilst also providing more information for the clinician that requested the observation. Now before you freak out and think you’ll never be good enough or that’s too much pressure; relax! This is a skill that you will develop over time and the clinician will also understand this.
4. Shadowing Qualified Psychologists
I think this is pretty self-explanatory. Depending on which discipline you decide you would like to pursue a career in, you will most likely have the opportunity to shadow the day to day duties of the Qualified Psychologist. The Advice I received when I started as an Assistant was that they were not expecting someone who had the same clinical knowledge as a Qualified Psychologist! They understood that I was still learning and they expected some mistakes as long as I was able to reflect on the situation.
5. 1 to 1 work
Let’s get one thing clear, NOT ALL ASSISTANT POSTS COME WITH 1 TO 1 WORK! If you have this privilege within your role then understand that you are one of the fortunate ones. Having said that, this may be included within your role as you progress. If you are in this position or about to enter a post that this involves, then don’t forget that your supervisor and other members of your team should be supervising/supporting you with your case load.
Now, this is something that you will encounter as an Assistant. This could range from filing cases to monitoring and inputting data onto a spreadsheet. Don’t get too downhearted by this as spreadsheets and databases are all part of being a Qualified Psychologist as every service needs processes. Nevertheless, if this is a BIG part of your job role then I think it may be time to revise your job plan with your supervisor. A good balance is to use at least half of your week for admin time (which could be clinical admin e.g. Report writing) and the other half for clinical work.
I receive a lot of questions on what I do in supervision (I will soon write another post on how to best utilize supervision) and this is a fundamental part of being an Assistant Psychologist. I cannot stress enough how much supervision is vital especially at an Assistant Psychologist level. As a rule, you should be having at least some form of supervision every week (that could range from peer, group or individual) to help develop your clinical practice.
Now, this stands for “Continued Professional Development”. This could come in all shapes and sizes however, I would suggest to set aside some time each week (maybe an hour or so at the end of the week) for some reading or even shadowing other clinicians to understand how other disciplines work. Personally, I have never learned so much about ADHD during my time observing an Occupational Therapist sensory assessment. CPD also comes in the form of training, so make sure your searching for appropriate training to develop your clinical practice.
For more information and career tips, please check out the other posts on this blog.
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