Psychology4Graduates 2014

Ella Rhodes went to hear about career opportunities at this BPS event in London

More than 600 psychology graduates and students gathered at Kensington Town Hall in December to hear from academics and psychologists about the massive range of career options available to them. The event included several presentations and panel discussions from people who have pursued varied careers, from forensic psychology to becoming psychological well-being practitioners.

First to give a presentation on her career path was Dr Estelle Moore, a forensic psychologist who works at Broadmoor Hospital. She said that enthusiasm was enormously important and gave a list of people who had inspired her along her career path, including Peter Fonagy, Claudia Herbert and James Blair. Moore also said that working alongside psychiatrists, both at Broadmoor and the Bethlem Royal, had taught her many important things.

She also highlighted several of the points that help in becoming a forensic psychologist: ‘Psychology in forensic terms will always be about sharing and collaborating with nurse therapists and occupational therapy teams. It helps if you understand people over a long period of time, understand their psychosocial environment. You should also be challenging stigma all the time and including people in their own recovery.’

Counselling psychologist Kevin Wright was next to speak about his career. Dr Wright said he started off as a social worker and as a result became interested in family therapy. After completing a master’s in psychotherapy, he began his career working for businesses in London and now works screening patients who are waiting for psychological therapy as well as in private practice. Ingrid Collins, an educational psychologist who now has her own private practice, said she first trained as a teacher but went on to have an extensive career in educational psychology, Collins concluded: ‘Educational psychology is an area of the profession you can always find something new, intriguing and relevant to learn about.’

Dr Carolyn Mair was next to speak briefly about her fascinating career path, which now sees her leading the only course in the world that looks into the role of psychology in fashion (see our ‘Big Picture’, September 2013). Mair’s first role was as a graphic designer and she came to psychology in her late 30s, completing a degree in psychology and computing at Bournemouth and later an MSc at Portsmouth. Her new course at the London School of Fashion looks at how psychology impacts the fashion industry and the people who buy into the industry.

Moira Lafferty, University of Chester, was the last speaker before lunch, telling the gathered audience about her work as a sports psychologist. Dr Lafferty gave the graduates some sound advice: ‘If you don’t know what you want to do, keep your options open. One of the best bits of advice I was given was to never turn an opportunity down. If you’re engaging in psychology and have a go, you never have to do that thing again but you’ll learn from it.’

Following the lunch break clinical psychologist Dr Abigael San gave a presentation about the role of clinical psychologists and her own career. She said that before graduation from her psychology degree she had already gained much experience in a clinical setting, which would be a useful thing for the gathered students and graduates to consider. Dr David Dean, a neuropsychologist, then explained his work with patients who have suffered brain injury or stroke. He said: ‘I can’t imagine how devastating it must be to have a head injury, psychology is vital in helping people to rebuild their lives using some therapies such as mindfulness and CBT.’ Dean said he started off with a psychology degree and had two years’ work experience working with older adults and in a psychiatric day unit then underwent his clinical psychology training.

Health and education psychologist Dr Sheena Ashford said after studying psychology and economics at university she realised both had very different models of human behaviour and that the economics view of humans was too simplistic. She said her interest in well-being and education drew her initially into research for 10 years, then into educational psychology. Philip Wilson, an occupational psychologist working for the Civil Service, explained that much of occupational psychology work is around development and assessment using psychometric tests. He said that when compared with educational or clinical psychology, occupational psychology could offer a slightly more varied career path.

Finally Tafara Kunorubwe spoke about his role as a psychological well-being practitioner (PWP), providing low-intensity interventions based on CBT as part of the government’s IAPT programme. Kunorubwe began his career with an interest in mental health nursing and substance misuse. He said: ‘As a PWP you can still have specialist interests, such as using CBT for insomnia or CBT for carers of people with dementia.’ He also said there was a lot of further training and development available for people working as PWPs.

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