Exploring postgraduate study options
She began exploring master’s degrees, and came across the University of Reading’s MSc Theory and Practice in Clinical Psychology course. The degree enhances students’ employability with the opportunity to undertake an extended placement in a clinical or research setting.
“What was really different about Reading was that they offered a guaranteed placement. Having done quite a theoretical bachelor's degree, I was really eager to gain hands-on clinical experience.”
Hands-on placement in the NHS
Students on the programme work closely with their supervisor to identify a suitable placement that matches their talents and ambitions. For Anna, she was offered the chance to carry out her extended placement at NHS Berkshire’s Eating Disorders Service.
The service runs a wide variety of invaluable programmes and services, such as group sessions for people with anorexia and bulimia, as well as outpatient visits to people’s homes.
“I loved my placement from the first day. During the first few weeks I had lots of questions, but by the time I had my first supervision session I was already feeling quite settled in.
"I was provided with lots of support from my colleagues within the Unit, and became resilient working with people facing severe mental health challenges.”
Working closely with patients
Initially observing before being able to provide more hands-on support, Anna worked in the Unit’s day programme to help facilitate therapeutic group sessions. Anna found that seeing people make gradual but persistent changes was inspiring:
“Eating disorders are difficult and it is easy to be pessimistic about treatment. However, after a few weeks of working closely with patients you begin to see changes.
"Improvements can seem small at the beginning, but over a long period of time you watch patients make significant changes to their behaviour.
"One of the biggest causes for optimism was watching a previous patient come in to answer questions from current patients about recovery.”
Undertaking research on placement
While students on our MSc Theory and Practice in Clinical Psychology degree normally undertake an extended placement in either a clinical or research environment, there are opportunities for crossover between the two areas.
Connected to her placement, Anna was able to carry out a research project with Dr Paul Jenkins looking to develop new measures for eating disorders. This measure will help assess severity as well as track patients during their recovery.
“Research experience in a clinical setting is a valuable reminder of the importance of research for practice, not just academia. It is also rewarding to carry out research when this has direct relevance to the service and its patients.”
Preparation for career success
For Anna, one of the most valuable aspects of carrying out a placement within the NHS was that it gave her first-hand experience of what skills are needed to succeed for a career in clinical psychology.
“Having not had any experience working in a clinical setting, my placement helped me understand how teams work together and what the work environment is like.
"It has provided me with a realistic, thought-provoking perspective of mental health and how we can best treat and support people.”
Anna’s placement also gave her an unexpected step forward in her ambitions to become a clinical psychologist. At the end of her placement, she accepted a role within the Unit as an assistant psychologist, where she has the chance to continue to develop her skills and advance in her career.