Be persistent on diversity

A letter from our March edition.

I have always been inquisitive about mental health and how it affects people. Add this to my passion to help others find solutions that meet their specific needs, and psychology was the outcome. Now that I’ve been to university and finished my psychology degree, I have taken the first step towards my goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. My degree was great at developing my skills of collecting, entering and managing data with SPSS. It was also great at providing me with knowledge about appropriate assessments, therapies and treatments and their applications to psychological disorders. However, what it failed to mention was how competitive it is to be a clinical psychologist. There is currently a 16 per cent success rate. This means approximately one in six people get on to training. They also failed to explain the gender and ethnicity dynamics of the clinical world. At present, the great majority of the UK clinical psychology workforces are women (Baker & Nash, 2013). The strong gender bias, with 80 per cent of psychology undergraduates being women, has been widely recognised for many years as a characteristic of the discipline (Turpin & Fensom, 2004). However, not only are clinical psychologists more likely to be female, but they are predominately white. While this is not a problem, it was presumed that a subject such as clinical psychology would have tended to become multicultural like its client base.

These gender and ethnicity dynamics are reflected in the applicants that are accepted on to the clinical psychology doctorate. This can be observed in the equal opportunities from the Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology (2014). In the 2014 entry there were 3681 applicants, of which 578 were successful in getting on to training. Accepted candidates were 83 per cent female, whilst only 98 males nationwide received a place on training; and 91 per cent were white with 6 per cent from black minority ethnicity (BME) backgrounds.

I believe it is essential that a discipline such as psychology makes itself accessible and relevant to students across a range of cultures and ethnic backgrounds in order to achieve a more diverse professional base. It should also be appealing to both males and females. The discipline has to ensure that it is capable of explaining human behaviour across a wide range of cultural groups other than the traditional white euro-centric approach with which it has been traditionally associated (Williams et al., 2006). From the perspective of psychology as an applied science, it is also essential that practitioners can relate to and are representative of the clients in receipt of the psychological services that they provide. This is particularly relevant to public service applications of psychology, especially in the delivery of psychology in healthcare and counselling settings. This is why programmes such as the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology’s BME mentoring scheme are so important. It is a scheme that has been set up to introduce more people from BME backgrounds within the profession. The scheme demonstrates how we can actively attempt to make a change within clinical psychology.

What I want to say is that you should not be put off, whether you are male, female, white or from a BME community. If you are passionate and want to pursue a career in clinical psychology, there is absolutely nothing stopping you. Take these statistics as an opportunity to make a difference. Aim to provide input from a different cultural perspective in order to benefit the discipline in the long run. Be persistent and in time, clinical psychology will get to the place in which it should be; a discipline producing a culturally diverse workforce with equality in gender.

Ronald Dodzro
Wandsworth, London

References
Baker, M. & Nash, J. (2013). Women entering clinical psychology: Q‐sort narratives of career attraction of female clinical psychology trainees in the UK. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 20(3), 246–253.
Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology (2014). Equal opportunities numbers: 2014 entry – NHS funded. Retrieved from www.leeds.ac.uk/chpccp/BasicEqualopps2014.html
Turpin, G. & Fensom, P. (2004). Widening access within undergraduate psychology education and its implications for professional psychology: Gender, disability and ethnic diversity. Leicester: British Psychological Society.
Williams, P.E., Turpin, G. & Hardy, G. (2006). Clinical psychology service provision and ethnic diversity within the UK: A review of the literature. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 13, 324–338.

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