FOLLOWING discussions on these pages about careers for psychology
graduates, I was inspired to share with you my experience of working in
an area that I never really considered as a student – the voluntary
sector.I currently work for the children’s charity Barnardo’s in the policy and research team as a graduate researcher.
We have 35 research staff in the UK team from a variety of backgrounds including psychology, education, and social policy. My post involves assisting the research team (both locally in Scotland and nationally) in a wide range of research for the benefit of children, young people, their families and the community. Our research is commissioned both internally and externally through a wide range of funding partners. Barnardo’s has a wide service base of over 360 services UK-wide, working with children and young people in a variety of areas, including leaving care, youth justice, sexual exploitation, substance misuse and disability. This service base directs our work towards making the links between research, policy and practice. Since coming here, I have been very impressed with the diversity and quality of the work Barnardo’s does, and the increasing influence we have on policy makers in Scotland.
As a psychology graduate, I was a bit unsure about what I could bring to such
a huge organisation. However, after only a few months in post I found myself presenting to a room of practitioners the advantages of using relevant standardised tests to monitor the outcomes of their work with vulnerable children and young people. One of my upcoming roles will be to promote the Evidence Guide, part of a move towards encouraging evidence-based practice and self-evaluation in our services.
Another aspect of my work so far has been to coordinate the Barnardo’s UK Agenda Mental Health and Emotional Well Being consultation in Scotland. (Try explaining that to an overworked service manager!) I was faced with the daunting task of contacting all 60 services in Scotland to persuade them to run a consultation group with their children and young people. We wanted to find out what children and young people want from Barnardo’s in terms of support for their emotional well-being and mental health,
in order to inform future funding applications and service development.
One of the snags was the fact that there was no budget providing incentives to participate, and I was fully reliant on the goodwill of services. I became very fluent in promoting the ‘non-material benefits of taking part’! Even though telephoning people I don’t know terrifies me, I confronted my fear, and found that the personal touch was infinitely more successful than any number of polite e-mail reminders.
It was a challenge explaining to service staff that this consultation was different to the many that had come before it on other various topics. We wanted to get the voices of the children and young people using the services, to find out what they wanted, rather than asking staff what they do and what they think is best. An additional challenge was reminding staff of the importance of consent and confidentiality in participating, and upholding this.
The consultation aside, I have had many other experiences and challenges since joining Barnardo’s. I have been involved in the development of a major resource for teachers on promoting the inclusion of children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in schools (funded by the Scottish Executive). When I joined I also took on responsibility for a major piece of research for one of our services in Glasgow about community perceptions of young people. Through this I found myself one day in
a primary school class in Easterhouse asking the children what they thought of the ‘big uns’ whilst trying to stop them putting ink stamps on each other!
As a graduate, I have brought psychological skills to this job, such as a strong research base, analytical thinking and a critical mind. In turn, the post has provided me with significant development opportunities, and I have been given responsibilities that I might not have had in other research assistant jobs. I have also had the chance to develop my research skills through working collaboratively in a multidisciplinary team.
But I have learnt infinitely more from meeting the children and young people who have experienced significant adversity and need our services. I have been struck by the dedicated project staff and the impressed by the innovative interventions they use to support children to cope, grow and develop.
So, look out for jobs in the voluntary sector, it has certainly given me great experiences, developed my skills and opened my eyes.
- Susie Warden is in the Policy and Research Unit at Barnardo’s Scottish headquarters in Edinburgh.
Behind the name
by Peter Basile
HermanN rorschach was born in Switzerland on 8 November 1884. He read geology, botany and French before entering medical school in 1904. He studied psychiatry in Berlin, Berne and Zurich and graduated in 1909.
In 1921 Psychodiagnostik outlined the method now known as the Rorschach Test. Images seen in films, magazines and on television tend to merely approximate Rorschach’s original 10 inkblots, and rightly so; psychologists administering the test need spontaneous reactions to first sightings of the blots in order to make meaningful assessments of personality. Genuine Rorschach inkblots are printed on separate cards and are handed to the subject in a fixed order.
Hermann Rorschach died at the age of 37, leaving a widow and two small children.
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