I hear a lot of Psychology Graduates and Students speak about what it takes to be an Assistant Psychologist. You hear so many different answers to this question; however not a lot about the mind-set you develop as an Assistant Psychologist. Most Assistant Psychologists find it difficult to acknowledge that their thought processes and thinking has changed considerably since they first took on the role as an Assistant. This gave us the idea of researching the main mental paradigm shifts nearly all Assistant Psychologists go through to give Students & Graduates an idea of what’s to come.
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This is by far the biggest mental shift majority of Assistant Psychologists spoke about. Many came from roles that were micro managed every minute of the day; so, to all of a sudden be thrown into a role with some creative freedom, came as a shock. I remember my first day of being an Assistant Psychologist. I had the standard first day meeting with the service manager and my supervisor. I remember after that meeting asking “ok so what am I doing today?” I’ll never forget my managers face when he had to think on the spot of what I could do. I quickly learnt that no one will tell you what to do; you just have to just find something and do it.
Top Tip: Now before you start panicking and thinking “I wouldn’t know what to do!” remember, there’s always stuff that needs to be done. My tip is to firstly try to shadow as many clinicians as possible (as this will guarantee work for you to do) and to also look for the problems within your department. Don’t be afraid of shaking things up. Use your initiative and if there’s something that you notice isn’t quite right, try to resolve it and make it better.
This may be a new concept to you, especially if you’re a recent Graduate. What this basically means is that whenever you are speaking with a client or in connection to a client; you are constantly formulating and adding to your mental picture. This is something that develops during your time as an Assistant Psychologist and will become sharper with experience. Before you know it, it’ll become second nature (which will really annoy your family/spouse) which will really help when considering interventions.
Top Tip: Read up on the different models that will best inform your formulation. This is something I learnt after about a year in my AP role. There’s nothing worse than having lots of ideas in your head and not being able to link them to psychological theory (as in essence they will become useless!) I recommend reading this book as a potential starter (put in the formulation book that were reading).
Solution Focused Responses
This is also something that will come after becoming an Assistant Psychologist. What this means is that you will develop the skills needed to take in what the client is saying, cognitively manipulating the information, to produce an answer that will hopefully benefit the client. Now before you think “oh that sounds super hard!” This is something that even Qualified Psychologists struggle with. Surprisingly it does get easier with experience as you figure out that some of the advice you give to one client, is helpful to other clients.
Top Tip: Remember, we’re not here to instantly solve all our clients’ dilemmas. It’s ok to say “I don’t know” once in a while and the client will respect that as long as you try to find an answer later on. My top tip here is to gain as much knowledge of the local services and what they offer. You never know you may need to refer someone to them in the future.
Now this one is by far the hardest technique to learn and even then, you don’t always get it right. What this means is, developing the ability to prioritize accordingly. This can be quite tricky at times as you may be in a situation where you have 3 things that urgently need doing at that precise moment and it’s down to you to figure out which one is the most urgent. I personally have been in the situation where I’ve had a client on the phone talking about his difficulties, which I was about to take; whilst receiving an email from my manager about a very serious incident relating to one of our clients; whilst being 15 minutes late to a very important meeting. You may think this is extreme, but this does happen more often than not (@Psych_Assist and let me know what you would have done in this situation and to find out what I did).
Top Tip: Have a checklist on what you perceive as an immediate priority and keep that within reach. You can also discuss this with your manager/supervisor so you have an idea of what you should be prioritising. All in all, use your common sense. If something is important to you morally, then go with your gut; it’ll never steer you wrong.
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