In 1998 I wrote a little article (below) for the West Australian branch of the AACBT about the process of getting work in the UK as a clinical psychologist. Mostly this article was about the process of applying for membership with the British Psychological Society and, in particular, the scrutiny of Australian clinical psychology qualifications to determine equivalence to the UK training.
Reading this article again makes me think about how optimistic I was about moving to the UK to work as a clinical psychologist, and how I still had a somewhat-ironic sense of the process of getting Chartered through the Statement of Equivalence that was mandated by the British Psychological Society (see below, again). My ironic detachment did not protect me from becoming frustrated with the process when I did move to the UK, but that is another story (and one I share with a number of other foreign-trained clinical psychologists)…
“Baseline”, April 1998
Working as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK
Every year a number of intrepid clinical psychologists from WA travel to the UK and extend their stay by seeking employment to ply their trade. Aside from the advantage of having overseas experience on the resume, the UK offers other delights for clinical psychologists in terms of more attractive working conditions, strong psychology departments, greater prestige and training opportunities. Moreover being “where the action is, psychologically” (i.e., the Northern Hemisphere) ensures an intellectually stimulating environment in which to further develop your skills and attend world-class conferences. The UK is also the natural choice for West Australian Clinical Psychologists as the qualification and training model is closest to our own, compared to other English-speaking countries (namely the USA and Canada).
So how do you get to work in this mythical land of opportunity and what will it be like when you get there? Over the next couple of issues of “Baseline” we will be featuring a number articles about the UK experience and providing some advice about what to expect if you decide to go. This first article is concerned with the process of getting your qualifications accepted for employment in the UK.
Getting there: Your Qualifications
In the UK the British Psychological Society (BPS) is responsible for the regulation of professional psychologists and maintain a Charter of Clinical Psychologists. To practice independently a person must achieve “Chartered Clinical Psychologist” status, which involves acceptance of your qualifications and experience by the BPS through the Committee for Scrutiny of Individual Qualifications.
It is best not to be complacent about getting your training and experience accepted as this Committee is notoriously pedantic, and some would say bloody-minded, in their scrutiny of your qualifications. A number of people have discovered this to their detriment over the years as the dreaded Committee have requested that they do further placements, essays and/ or even another Masters-level research project before they can achieve Chartered status. Thankfully there is an appeals process if you feel that the Committee have not considered your case fairly.
The following comments about the scrutiny process are based upon the experiences of an unashamedly-biased sample of 5 Clinical Psychologists who have braved the rigours of the Committee. View these comments with your obviously-formidable skills of detecting histrionic exaggerations and blatant irrationalities (a la CBT), and if you do better than previous applicants, more power to you!
The process of becoming Chartered
The first thing to do is to contact the BPS and inform them of your intention to work in the UK (this can be done by post or email). This will be replied with a pile of information about the BPS and the process to achieve Chartered status (Statement of Equivalence in Clinical Psychology). To engage in this process you must join the BPS (filling out their general membership form), nominate academic and clinical referees, and complete a form regarding your training and experience. Do not be fooled by the simplicity of this form and its usual presentation of being a photocopied sheet that does not need to be taken seriously. Your life hangs upon the balance of filling out this form correctly, and if this sounds deliberately Kafka-esque just wait until you get the reply from the Committee.
The best thing to do when faced with The Form is to read the accompanying guidebook regarding the Statement of Equivalence in Clinical Psychology and use this carefully structure the answers to the questions. This will probably make the decision regarding your Equivalence easier for the Committee and possibly save you a lot of trouble. The Committee do have the unfortunate tendency to send requests back for further information (sometimes for what seem like piddly little details, like the unit specs for that postmodern feminist theory course that you did 10 years ago when you held the outmoded idea of getting an education for its own sake). This frustrating tendency does result in the process taking longer than expected, and a good rule of thumb expect that a final decision will not be made in any shorter period than six months (rumour has it that the longest period for a final decision has been twelve months). The length of time is not helped by the infrequent meetings of the Committee, which means that your swift reply to their query still results in a two month wait before you find out your status.
A review of my sample suggests that unless you are incredibly experienced expect at the very least to be asked to do a supervised placement and the odd essay or two before gaining your Chartered status. It is important to consider also the kind of experience that is required, as the BPS requires experience in the areas of Adult Mental Health, Older Adults, Child and Adolescent, and Disability at the very least. This experience has to be 65 days minimum and can be made up of a combination of course placements and work post-qualification. It does pay to move around a bit in your career if you ever want to work in the UK!
At the time you get the final decision you will be informed that the required further training, essays etc. will need to be completed in the UK rather than addressing the requirements in Terra Australis. This will require finding a Chartered Clinical Psychologist that will supervise you and this can be negotiated as part of your employment over there. Supervised placements are usually organised as part of your paid employment, as the shortage of clinical psychologists in the UK works to your advantage.
Finally as part of this process you will be cursing our pitiful currency’s exchange rate as you pay for the membership of the BPS and the “processing fee” for the Committee, which lately has cost in excess of A$500!!