Recently, we at PsychAssist have received a large number of messages, particularly from new Assistant Psychologists, asking for our advice on what they need to know as AP’s. This sparked an idea for an article as every Psychology Graduates dreams of landing an Assistant Psychologist job; however once they achieve this, they develop a sudden onset of Imposter Syndrome. Within this post we aim to explore the 4 things every new Assistant Psychologists should know before they begin this chapter of their lives. Hopefully you pick up some tips that will help you develop into the clinician we know you’re capable of being.
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How to Work Autonomously
This is an absolute fundamental for new Assistant Psychologists, however is rarely spoken about. The ability to organise your own time and take the initiative is often a must when employers are looking for AP’s. Put it this way, your supervisor is more than likely too busy to even manage their own time, let alone to worry about if you have enough work to do. I’ll give you an example of how I felt once I started my first Assistant post. I remember walking in on my first day, excited yet nervous and being greeted by my manager. My first task was to sort out my I.T login details and get set up on the system. Naturally my eagerness took control and I completed the task in about 30 minutes. After completing the task, I sat there, waiting for my manager to come back to give me another task. I waited for 4 hours before she returned. Months later, I reflected on this with my manager and she told me that she honestly expected me to fill my own time, even on the first day (which I eventually did). This is something that needs to be taught or at least spoken about at Undergraduate level as we believe that most Psychology Students aren’t equipped for this and therefore struggle to adapt after graduation.
PsychAssist Tip: Have a daily to-do list. Believe me this has helped many Assistant Psychologists not only to develop their time management skills, but how to organise and prioritise their workload which is essential in this line of work. I have even taken this one step further and developed a digital to-do list that my colleagues can access and add in anything they need me to do; which also helps with being transparent in the workplace.
In a nutshell, there will be a time when you need to raise a safeguarding concern; however I’ll let you in on a little secret. When you’re a support worker/HealthCare Assistant, there is generally a consensus that your role within this process is to inform your supervisor, manager or a senior member of the team; however as an Assistant Psychologists, you’re expected to take on a little bit more responsibility and should therefore at least be aware of your services safeguarding procedures. Now this isn’t to be misunderstood; EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW THE SAFEGAURDING PROCEDURES, however there are times where you could be the only clinician in the building or the most senior person in the building. This is never a comfortable situation and you should always consult with your services safeguarding team for advice on what you should do. Nevertheless, you should be open to the possibility of taking charge in this situation (if you’re the most senior clinician) as you’re most likely going to be asked a similar question during clinical doctorate interviews.
PsychAssist Tip: What seems to help a lot of Assistant Psychologists is to role play scenarios with their supervisors and to actively go through the process. This not only teaches a person what to do in certain situations, it also gives you the confidence to act quickly if this situation ever occurs. It’s also helpful to utilise supervision if you ever find yourself in this situation to help process what has happened.
Being Comfortable in Limbo
This has to be one of the most challenging balancing acts any Assistant Psychologist goes through. As you may know, many services vary on how they view AP’s. Some services see Assistants as glorified admin staff, whereas others view Assistants as full-fledged Dr’s. As you can tell this can be a very difficult position to be in as (on many occasions) there are times where you’re the only clinician in the building. Nevertheless, this is something you must deal with as knowing your clinical limits are just as important as taking the initiative.
PsychAssist Tip: The biggest advice we could give you is to have that open and honest conversation with the team and wider teams. This will hopefully alleviate any confusion people may have on your clinical capabilities.
We have probably mentioned this in around 90% of our articles. REFLECTIVITY is key to gaining the most out of being an Assistant Psychologist. I often ask myself questions such as “what are you learning from this?” Or “How does this apply to me?” and I can honestly say that my development has sky rocketed. This will undoubtedly trickle into your clinical practice and you WILL see a massive improvement in your psychological thinking and any intervention you conduct.
PsychAssist Tip: Try this for the next month. Every time you encounter a new experience (however small that may be), think about how this affects you? And also what skills are you learning from this? This will help you in more ways than you think and you’ll be able to track your development over the month. It’s also a good indicator to let you know if you’ve learnt all you can from your post and how it might be time to move on.