Hello and WELCOME to PsychAssist. This week we have another amazing guest article by Dr Ruth Tully who is a Consultant Forensic Psychologist. Ruth has kindly given our readers the insight scoop on what to go for when looking for that elusive “relevant experience”. With her many years’ experience, she has given us a list of the types of roles psychology graduates should be looking for. Dr Tully has also given PsychAssist readers an AMAZING discount on her new book to give you an insight into the world of Forensic Psychology……click the link below and use the discount code BSE19 for 20% off to have something to talk about in interviews.
Just Graduated? Check out 6 Jobs for A Psychology Graduate straight out of university?
Missed Dr Ruth Tully’s First Article? Check out Why A 2:2 Should Never Hold You Back! Against The Odds…
Want to get onto the Doctorate? Check out 3 University Tricks That Got Me To The Doctorate!
Want something to talk about in interviews? CLICK HERE
Follow us on our Social Media:
FOLLOW DR RUTH TULLY HERE: RUTH TULLY
I am a Consultant Forensic Psychologist and work in private practice. It has always struck me that much of the work of forensic psychologists or other registered psychologists in forensic settings takes place behind closed doors and remains unseen. I often get requests for advice on psychology work experience (which will be the focus of this article) and I am frequently asked what I do in practice, because it is assumed that forensic psychology is limited to prisons when in fact the settings we work in are varied.
With that in mind, I have just published a book with my colleagues on ‘Case studies in forensic psychology: clinical assessment and treatment’. If you are interested in evidence-based practice and reading about some of the varied roles of a forensic psychologist, then this will be worth a read for you – you can see the book here https://www.routledge.com/Case-Studies-in-Forensic-Psychology-Clinical-Assessment-and-Treatment/Tully-Bamford/p/book/9781138584822 and use discount code BSE19 for a 20% discount from the full price from Routledge for PsychAssist followers!
The focus of this article is to provide ideas and a starting point for gaining that elusive and ill-defined yet crucial ‘relevant experience’. I often get requests from aspiring psychologists for advice on this and I therefore thought it would be useful to write something to share, in the hope that it helps those wanting to progress in this often very competitive field of work.
I tend to find that people are limiting what they are looking for and therefore disadvantaging themselves. They are looking for ‘assistant psychologist’ posts with direct supervision from a psychologist. Whilst this experience is undoubtedly valuable, often where someone has no experience in psychology the competition is fierce, with 100s of applications for one post. As you may then expect, frequently the job goes to someone who already has this elusive ‘relevant experience’ and it can feel like you might never get the right role to get your foot in the door.
“…use discount code BSE19 for a 20% discount from the full price”
Dr Ruth Tully (2019)
My advice to those in this position is to broaden your horizons by thinking more creatively about what constitutes ‘relevant experience’. Relevant experience is only ever as relevant as you make it – an assistant psychologist who cannot use supervision or reflect on their own and their clients’ progress is not using their opportunity well. If you work with people, this provides a learning and development experience to reflect on and to help you move forward towards reaching your goals in the field of psychology. Therefore, roles that involve supporting or helping people in a variety of ways can be relevant experience.
A list of ideas for thinking about are below – although I am forensic, I have not limited this to forensic experience. Some of these areas/ideas might involve volunteering but I appreciate that not everyone is in the fortunate position to be able to afford to volunteer, whether that’s due to finances or caring commitments for example. Therefore, the following list may relate to volunteering or paid employment.
If you use the experience wisely then these opportunities are relevant to psychology and your career and skill development, but crucially this is all about helping people and making a difference:
- Victim support services
- NSPCC: Childline, school support services, online ‘helpers community’, supporting child witnesses, supporting pregnant women’s wellbeing, working with women whose children have been abused
- University ‘night line’ type phone lines to support the emotional/mental health of students
- Circles of Support and Accountability (a charity that works with people who have committed a sexual offence)
- Criminal Justice or substance misuse services like Change Grow Livewho help prisoners when released into the community, and also have many substance misuse services
- Working with people with addictions / substance misuse / gambling problems – there are lots of services and charities in this field
- Working or volunteering at a Women’s centre helping women who often have a trauma and/or domestic violence history
- Lucy Faithful foundation working with sex offenders e.g. Stopitnowphone line for people worried about unhealthy sexual thinking or risk of offending
- Working with services that support people who are homeless
- Working with services that support the well-being of sex workers
- Being a healthcare assistant or equivalent in a psychiatric hospital whether this if forensic, eating disorder, mental health, or other service – this is great client contact, often with psychologists working in the multidisciplinary team, and ‘bank’ shifts can work well around studying if you are at University.
- Prison visits centres where you will work with families of prisoners
- Various charities that support marginalised groups – often you might find these local to your area e.g. Lincolnshire Action Trust
- Working for the Youth Offending Team
- Any role working with young people, or disadvantaged adults – community centres, youth interventions and so on
- Activity support worker in a hospital or psychiatric unit
- ‘Befriender’for people in hospital
- Citizens Advice – e.g. supporting people with mental health problems
- Housing charities – often direct client work is involved
- Mental health charities like headstogether.org or mind
- Being a ‘personal assistant’ to a person with autism or other condition or being a support worker – this is great direct work with people e.g. Umbrella, Derbyshire Autism Services– you can often find a list of approved providers for different local authorities online to then make enquiries
- Mencap and other similar charities
- Some areas have ‘recovery college’ for service users – helping with groups involves supporting people with mental health problems
- Working as a teaching assistant in a school or alternative provision of education for people excluded or who cannot attend mainstream school opportunities.
- Teaching or classroom assistant in a prison education department.
- Drugs worker in a prison
- Resettlement worker in a prison
- Research assistant posts, sometimes university staff advertise these over the summer for specific projects
- Supervising or being involved in a youth club or local children’s centre
- Working in a child contact centre where parents who can only have supervised access to their children can go to meet their child
- Working in probation services as a case manager or other similar role
- Working in a prison or in probation as an offending behaviour programmes facilitator – these opportunities are often advertised on the civil service jobs page
- Working with veterans, those in the military, families of people in these groups – for example co.ukis a collaboration of charities who support the mental health of the armed forces community including big white wall, combat stress, to name just a couple
- Working with bereavement services, or with charities that support people with health conditions such as cancer or terminal illnesses, or hospices
- Work in a court being in the witness area where people need support and guidance
- Working with organisations who facilitate support and well-being groups for people with a range of illnesses or difficulties e.g. chronic pain, heart conditions, mental health conditions.
- Working for a service that provides visitors for prisoners who would otherwise receive no social visits
- Being an appropriate adult for children or vulnerable adults who need to be interviewed by the police
- Work for an intermediary service – these services assess a person’s communication and understanding needs for court and provide support during trials
- Work supporting people’s well-being in older adult care homes or other types of care homes
- Care assistant in a residential children’s home – some of these are private sector small companies
My best overall advice on this topic is for you not to limit yourself to traditional expectations of relevant experience. The roles you engage in are as relevant as you make them, and those I have listed above can have a huge positive impact on people’s lives. These will help your skill and career development but importantly will help the people you come into contact with, which is what being a psychologist is all about. Good luck!