Disability and driving in clinical psychology

The discussion continues.

I am grateful to Dr Ilona Singer for articulating so clearly the case for clinical training courses to ditch the requirement to drive a car (Letters, July issue).

I agree that this deters diversity within the profession in terms of: economic status, class, disability, health status, neurodiversity, climate beliefs, and people living in inner city areas who are less likely to own a car. All these groups are likely to be deterred from applying as the driving requirement gives off a powerful message about who is likely to ‘belong’ on the training course. I believe that if we could do one thing today to open up our profession to all, it should be abolishing this outdated requirement.

I did however wince at one of Dr Singer’s arguments, where she states that the driving requirement, ‘...forces someone to disclose a disability during a competitive selection process that may have no relevance whatsoever to the skills of a Psychologist and can expose the candidate to unconscious bias’.

I believe that lived experience of disability is highly relevant to the skills of a psychologist, and that training courses could do more to recognise the added value, wisdom and innovative thinking that people with disabilities bring to the profession. Disability should be seen as hugely valuable lived experience when applying for training, since our clients often live with disabling conditions.

It is also my experience that disability, when positively voiced in terms of how it shapes the skill set required for clinical psychology, can actually help applicants to stand out from the crowd during the competitive application process. Living well with disability is a unique skill set, and you need to be able to sell these skills to selection panels in terms of what you bring to the profession. A person’s ability to do this will depend on their orientation to their own disability, and whether they see it as shameful and needing to be hidden, or whether they feel able to voice both their disability and their accommodation needs in a positive or matter of fact manner.

- Dr Joanna Atkinson
Clinical psychologist, community neurorehabilitation and research, UCL

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