Preparing for clinical doctorate interviews

Briony Brownless reflects on how she prepared for interviews through changing how she felt about herself and using metacognition.

I am an Assistant Psychologist and soon to be Trainee Clinical Psychologist, following the recent acquisition of a training post after my first and last year of applications. I want to reflect on Dr Samantha Hartley’s recent piece on securing an assistant psychologist or clinical research assistant post. It was great to see some solid guidance from an interviewer on how to prepare for NHS Assistant Psychologist interviews. I had a few knockbacks, not because I was not right for the job, but because I was lacking in awareness of what I needed to show in the interviews. 

I believe that experience is critical for the knowledge required for the next big step – Clinical Psychologist trainee interviews. However, two specific elements that Dr Hartley touches on really helped me prepare for the interview: changing how I feel about myself and using my metacognition.

Changing how I feel about myself

I feel OK about myself, I don’t mind looking in the mirror, I enjoy time with my family and friends and have plenty of great hobbies – so what do I mean by this? I realised that over the past 10 years I was holding myself back in a career that I have worked tremendously hard for by not believing I was good enoughI realised this when I started to notice fleeting thoughts about myself when jobs higher up the ranks came up. When I became aware of this, I noticed how it came across in interviews through my posture, my weak tone of voice, the way I finished sentences without much impact and sounding unsure of myself.

I also had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to read and learn every model and theory written in the Clinical Psychologist book for dummies. In the first few weeks of prep, I fell into this cycle, which only resulted in fatigue, resentment, feeling extremely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work to do and a feeling that my goal was unattainable. This fed into my negative belief that I was not good enough for the interview or to be a Clinical Psychologist. 

Metacognition

I changed tactics by resetting my expectations about what I needed to demonstrate during the interview. It was not about showing what I know, but showing exactly what I do with what I know. I spent time channelling my awareness towards what I have taken from the experiences I have had so far. Metacognition – thinking about thinking – became my friend. The two components of metacognition are knowing about cognition and regulation of cognition.

I dealt with the first part by reflecting on clinical cases and developing my awareness of the wider issues in Psychology such as leadership, diversity, Covid-19 and how my own experiences and my supervision developed my understanding. I developed skills in regulating cognitions through immersing myself in mock interviews. Mimicking the exact interview environment at home desensitised me to the anxiety of the interview, and allowed my thinking brain to move flexibly between thoughts and ideas under pressure. As my anxiety reduced and my confidence increased, I felt my tone of voice improving, my posture becoming more upright and my responses having much greater impact. Mock interviewing also allowed me to get good at answering questions I was not expecting or had not written a pre-scripted answer to. In total, I had six mock interviews – two with family members, two with a current trainee and two with a qualified Clinical Psychologist. 

I was lucky that I was preparing within a lockdown and the environment at home was mostly within my own control (barring technical issues). How will the next generation of interviewees feel, and how will they prepare for potential face-to-face interviews following two years of virtual communication? 

Briony Brownless, MBPsP
Assistant Psychologist (NHS) and Associate Lecturer (Open University)
Darlington
[email protected]

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