My journey to becoming a qualified Clinical Psychologist

Posted on: 26 August 2022 by Richard Finch in Graduate stories


Bethany Blackford-Jones is a Class of 2021 Psychology graduate. Here she talks about her career so far and journey to become a qualified Clinical Psychologist.

Describe your current role and who you work for.

I currently work in the NHS as an Assistant Psychologist within a Community Learning Disability Team for adults. I’ve worked with a broad range of people with learning disabilities, and provided different types of support including gathering developmental histories, formulation work, and interventions to support both clients and their wider support systems with behavioural and mental health difficulties.

I’m soon to be leaving my current role to begin my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at The University of Manchester. This means that after three years of studying/placements within the NHS, I’ll be a fully qualified Clinical Psychologist!

How did you find the role and the recruitment process?

I applied to around 30 Assistant Psychologist roles before getting my first interview (which happened to be for my current role!). It is a very competitive field, and I found that many roles close their applications early due to demand. I worked out that the best way to do this was to have three draft applications ready (one for general mental health roles, one for learning disability team roles, and one that could be quickly tailored to a specialist service e.g. an eating disorders service!). The interview for my role was so friendly, and felt I was really given a chance to show off my strengths. I got brilliant feedback and the rest is history!

The recruitment process for the DClin was incredibly stressful. This year was my first time applying, and I was fortunate to get 2 interviews in this cycle. I interviewed at Bangor University and Manchester. Both interviews were very different, and Bangor felt a lot more relaxed. I also had to sit a deductive reasoning exam for Manchester. It helped me so much having a current Trainee Clinical Psychologist, as well as my supervisor at work as my mentors. Having people who understand how stressful the process can be is so crucial!

How have you progressed in your role? Could you descibe your favourite moment and biggest challenge.

I think my biggest progression has absolutely been my confidence! I started my job as an Assistant Psychologist in June 2021, and now I’m leaving and reflecting on all I’ve achieved, I’m noticing how different I am. I’ve learned so much about learning disabilities, legal frameworks and therapeutic modalities in this job.

This time last year I vividly remember having a supervision session with the Consultant Clinical Psychologist, and explicitly stating that I was not ready to apply for the Doctorate programme. She suggested I try this application cycle just to get a ‘feel’ for the application process, and I got a place and feel so ready for training now. My confidence in working directly with clients, as well as working within a multidisciplinary team has grown so much, and I feel really proud of myself for it.

What are your 3 top tips for any other students or graduates?  

Be authentic! It’s so easy to get caught up in the process, and trying to fit into what you think jobs and courses want. The truth is that it is so valuable to have people who are passionate about their own morals, values and their own backgrounds!

Don’t rush. It’s easy to say this, but it is a tough process, and a very competitive field of work. It can be easy to feel you should be at a certain place at a certain time, but definitely try and enjoy the journey.

Don’t underestimate the value of jobs such as support work roles. I was a support worker during my gap year, and working with service users was invaluable. I now work so well with staff teams because I can empathise, and have first handed experienced the challenges of these roles.