Hello and WELCOME to PsychAssist. This week’s article is a complete REALITY CHECK for all you aspiring psychologists. Previously, we wrote the worst thing about being an assistant psychologist back when I was an AP. This time around, we explore the worst things about being a trainee along with things that you can do to make trainee life that little bit easier. Hopefully, this article will show psychology graduates that the grass isn’t greener on the other side!
Just graduated? check out: 6 Jobs for A Psychology Graduate straight out of university?
Thinking of completing a doctorate? check out: What They Don’t Tell You About Getting Onto A Doctorate
Think you might need to do a masters? check out: 5 Reasons why you should have a Masters in Psychology
Missed the last PsychAssist article? check out: Mixing Acting With My Psychology Degree? Serkan’s Story (part 4)
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Being Treated Like An Undergraduate
This has to be THE worst thing about being a trainee. Yes, even at this level in your career, some disciplines will hear the word “student” and think that you’ve never seen a patient in your life. Even when you tell them that you’re a DOCTORAL student, it still appears to go over their heads. It’s very frustrating and can bring down your training experience. I’ve lost count the number of times someone has said to me“yes but you’re a student” as if my many years of experience was for nothing. Sadly, this is the experience of some trainees who work within a service with little psychological input. Now, we’re not saying that this is to be expected as many people recognise the difficulties of getting onto a psychology doctorate; however, it does take some time to almost prove yourself within your placement.
PsychAssist Tip: This phase WILL pass when people start recognising your competencies. This is usually the initial misconception but once you actually explain to them your journey, many are shocked at how difficult it is and start to trust you more. This is also an opportunity to speak with as many people at your workplace from other disciplines to raise awareness of the difference between a doctoral student and an undergraduate.
“…sorry to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t get any easier!”
How many times have you thought “life will be different once I get onto training! The grass will be greener.” Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but it doesn’t get any easier! In fact, one of the hardest things about training is the constant juggling act that many trainees have to do on a weekly basis. You’re not only a full-time employee, but you’re also a full-time student which includes all the assignments. In a typical week, I will work 4 days a week and have 1 alternative day a week for studying and university. As you can imagine, there isn’t enough time to do everything that needs to be done so weekends are needed to play catch up. This is something that Psychology Graduates probably haven’t taken into consideration.
PsychAssist Tip: By the end of training, you’ll be a master of managing your time however there are some tips that I have developed that work for me. Currently, I use my study day to catch up on Uni work and also a few hours on a Saturday as overspill. This has helped me massively as I don’t feel as guilty for not doing the work of an evening time as I’ve protected my work time to those days. Not only has this relaxed me but it has allowed me to really focus during work times to get things done.
“…it would be very difficult (he used the words nearly impossible) to buy a home”
Uncertainty of Future
So, the final difficulty of being a trainee is the uncertainty of your future. Personally, I thought that once I got onto training, I would then have enough earnings to buy a house which is a theory shared by a lot of trainees. Well, imagine my face when the bank told me that due to not technically having a permanent contract and still being in training, it would be very difficult (he used the words nearly impossible) to buy a home at this time. This really got me thinking about my future. Technically, the bank is right as there is no guarantee of a job at the end of training. You might train in a specific area but then find that there aren’t any psychologist positions available when you complete your training. Also, unless you have solid roots to a particular area (which I don’t), you never know where you will end up so is it wise to settle down during training?
PsychAssist Tip: There isn’t actually a tip we can give you as everyone’s situation is different. Personally, I’m a free spirit that openly states that I would love to do some psychological humanitarian work abroad for a while to both help people and also travel the world (luckily my partner is the same as me). For me, it wouldn’t be wise to fully commit to settling down as there is so much more I want to do beforehand! I just want future trainees to know that it’s ok to get onto training and to still not know where you will end up as no one knows even at this stage!
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