Working as an Australian psychologist in the UK: Statement of Equivalence etc

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

Eric Morris

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!!

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12 Comments

Filed under Clinical Psychology, United Kingdom

12 responses to “Working as an Australian psychologist in the UK: Statement of Equivalence etc

  1. Angela

    Hello,
    I am currently considering working in the UK. I am wondering if you could please contact me.
    hope tohear from you soon
    Angela

  2. Cláudia da Silva Martins

    Hi Eric!
    I’m a portuguese Clinical Psychologist and, 2 years ago, as you I thought that mooving to UK was the best oportunity to my career… but it was just the start of “nightmare”.

    I was on the internet, searching for stuff about getting new ideas about therapeutic letters for my placement work and guess what??? I got into your blog.
    Strange and very good coincidence… Is the blog of someone that knows quite well what I’m feeling right now.

    The best thing about finding you is to realise that there are survivors out there…
    I’m finishing my first placement (OA) and I’ll be starting my second (LD) in two weeks and my main question is:
    “Is all this effort and “professional suffering” worth?”

    I’m asking this because all this process made me fell humiliate and many times I question my value as a professional.
    Besides being persistent and get all the possible motivation ,which I think are main keys to do the SoE what you advice me??

    • Tania

      Olá Cláudia,

      Eu sou psicóloga licenciada pela Faculdade de Psicologia e Ciências da Educação da Universidade do Porto, pré-bolonha.
      Estou a pensar seriamente em mudar-me para Inglaterra e trabalhar como psicóloga, até porque estudei aí Psicologia durante 2 anos, não tendo concluído o curso.
      Tenho tentado descobrir colegas que tenham ido para o Reino Unido trabalhar como psicólogos, de forma a tentar perceber a dificuldade em conseguir equivalências e de arranjar emprego, em vão. Quando me deparei com este blog, fiquei contentíssima em descobrir-te!

      Será que podias dar-me algumas indicações relativamente ao teu processo e alguns conselhos?

      Fico a aguardar uma resposta tua e obrigada!

      Tania Barros

    • Carla

      Olá Cláudia,

      Não sei se este mail ainda estará actualizado mas encontro-me na situação de muitos psicologos no momento em Portugal, no desemprego, como todos da área bem sabemos, a nossa profissão em Portugal não tem qualquer reconhecimento ou oportunidade de carreira. Como sou fluente em inglês tenho andado a ver o processo necessário para poder trabalhar no uk, sou licenciada (pré bolonha – 5 anos) em Psicologia Clinica, com Pós graduação em Educação Especial, e gostaria de saber mais sobre o processo de reconhecimento, se me puderes responder agradecia.

      Carla

    • Míriam

      Olá Cláudia,
      Sei que este post já tem vários anos, mas tenho tido dificuldade em encontrar alguém que tenha passado por este processo! Tal como a maioria das pessoas aqui, sou psicóloga e tenho em mente mudar-me para o UK. No entanto, as coisas mudaram e eu já tirei o curso em Bolonha (portanto tenho um “Mestrado”). Fazes alguma ideia se o processo de aceitação pela BPS continua igual, ou se o facto de ser em Bolonha facilita alguma coisa o processo (afinal a intenção de Bolonha era uma maior facilidade de movimentação de profissionais entre países europeus…!)?
      Agradeço a ajuda e atenção!

      Thank you for your help/enlightment Eric Morris, it’s a very usefull article for all of us that secretly think UK is the dream land of psychologist!!!

  3. Hi Cláudia,

    thanks for your response to my post. As a SoE survivor I would say that the answer to whether it is worth the effort and professional suffer is: it depends.

    If you are planning to work in the UK for a long period then the SoE is worth it – it should help with registration and gaining promotion in the NHS.

    If you are only here for a short period and planning to never return to work in the UK then it is definitely not worth it. I know of plenty of Aussie/Kiwi/South African psychologists who did not bother to complete the SoE as they were only going to be in the UK for a couple of years. Plenty of NHS Trusts were happy to employ them without being Chartered by the BPS. (that may all change now with registration coming in)

    Despite what the BPS say, the process can feel humiliating and a tough introduction to a British culture of examinations etc. It tends to help to find others in the same boat to support each other, commiserate, make jokes about the stuffiness and bloody-mindedness of the BPS etc.!

  4. mina

    Hello,
    I am currently considering a change in career and looking to take on graduate studies in psychology. I also am looking to move to the UK in the next few years. I am yet to embark upon these studies and was wondering if you had any advice as to how I should go about my studies. I am living in Australia and am working full time, so I am planning to study by distance education. Is there any benefit in potentially studying a UK course instead?
    Many Thanks

  5. antonella

    Hi

    I was just wondering if you are still in the uk or not and if you have heard about the news as regards to the SOE. I am currently in the middle of it.

  6. Jennifer Threader

    Hello!

    I am a Canadian currently undergoing my Masters in Clinical Psychology at the Australian National University. I have been given the opportunity to complete my PhD here as well, but am very concerned as to how my Australian qualifications would transfer back to Canada. Does anyone have any experience, or can comment about this issue?

    Many thanks in advance!
    Jenn

    • Jamie

      Hi Jenn,

      I’m considering the opposite! I will be completing my Masters in Psychology in Aus but wish to work for a few years in Canada. Have you received any answers/replies to your question?
      If so please share!!

      Thank you =)
      Jamie

  7. a

    I lived in canada in 2010 and have an Australian combined Masters / Phd in clin psych. Every canadian province has a different psych board and you need to sit an exam in each in order to practice there. contact the board corresponding to the province in which you wish to work. I couldn’t be bothered, and made a good living off employment that paid me ‘tips’.

  8. T.

    I haven’t had much luck finding my answer online so sorry if my question is misplaced here but if I have a UK Masters in psychology (which means I can’t practice in the UK as I need a doctorate according to the British Psychology Society), can I practise in Oz?

    Thanks to anyone who can point me in the right direction!

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