Life in the labyrinth

Candice Williams and Sarah Beadle, trainee clinical psychologists at the University of Hertfordshire, discuss their podcast series, Life in the Labyrinth, with Associate Editor Chrissie Fitch.

How did your podcast come about?
Candice: The idea came from discussing the commutes into university. As we were both unable to relocate for training, we noticed similarities in our daily routines in doing bits of work after the kids are in bed and thought about how to make use of our travelling time related to psychology in a more informal way. Sarah helpfully directed me to a well-established podcast based in the US called ‘Psychologists off the clock’. I enjoyed listening to the topics covered as they included personal experiences and reflections on their roles as parents and psychologists [Candice is Parenting Lead for the Division of Clinical Psychology’s Minorities in Clinical Psychology Subcommittee]. We joked at the time that this would be something cool to aspire to do when we are qualified, and now, here we are.

Sarah: I noticed that I always felt better after our chats. I felt less alone in the challenges of parenting alongside training. Other people tried to ‘get it’, but unless you are on the course, it is hard to imagine the pressure that comes with training. I messaged Candice saying that we should write a book for parents who are also on DClinPsy training. We laughed because we knew parents wouldn’t have the time to read it. Then we thought about a podcast; something accessible to listen to on the commute or whilst doing other things on the ever-growing to do list.  

We chose ‘Life in the Labyrinth’ because we felt the numerous complex tunnels within a labyrinth symbolised how different people’s experiences of DClinPsy training can be. All of the courses vary slightly, and we would never have thought that we would have to endure a national pandemic during training! Our training journeys may differ in comparison to previous trainees or to trainees on other courses, but we all end training at the same central point of the labyrinth, when we complete training and qualify as Clinical Psychologists.

Have you got a favourite episode from what you have produced so far?  
Candice: The introduction episode – although it took a couple of attempts to record (due to working out tech stuff and laughing at one another), it set the scene for us and tapped into our many shared hopes and goals. It touched upon my personal values and it just felt so motivating to have snippets of this unique journey captured.

Sarah: I love them all, but it would have to be a split between episodes one and three which covers maternity leave on training. Creating connections between trainees who can feel isolated by having a minoritised identity feels really powerful. Most trainees are of child-bearing age, so it felt important to reduce the stigma around taking maternity leave whilst training on a DClinPsy course.

You both mention that you are parents of young children. Have the discussions you have had influenced your parenting in any way?
Candice: Yes, definitely. As the kids are of similar ages, we have found ourselves often sharing experiences and things that have been helpful or unhelpful for each other. It has meant so much to be able to confide in someone who really understands the juggling of commitments and the systems in which we are working including academic and placement duties. In episode two we spoke a lot about points of similarity and difference in navigating schooling and overall wellbeing during the pandemic.

Sarah: Definitely. For me, our discussions feel therapeutic. I find it easier to be more self-compassionate. This helps me to be more present in the moment; to be able to ‘switch-off’ from the course and to be more patient. This has been hard whilst juggling competing pressures in my personal life and from the course, amidst a pandemic. This podcast has helped me through!

Many, like myself, have been going through the process of applying for doctorates or PhDs whilst having to juggle various family commitments. Do you have any tips on this?
Candice: The main tips for me are around owning your position, including points of strength and limitation. I have found that parenting in general unravels you as a person and helps you grow in ways you didn’t know were possible. Before having a family, you can think about all of the things you would want and hope for, but the reality can be very different, and I feel it has prepared me in many ways. I think this is similar for training: enter the process willing to go with the flow and discover things about yourself, ask for help if you need it and be compassionate to yourself. Things may not go to plan but do what you can and be proud no matter what.

Sarah: Push back and challenge the view that having children could hinder your chances. A useful and important reframe is that parents have developed an array of valuable skills that are directly transferable to training and clinical psychology. Be confident and reflect on how parenting will enrich your experiences. Clients, services and cohorts will be richer for having parents as part of their learning journey. Reflect on this in your application and interviews. Choose courses that value diversity. There are so many positives to being both a parent and a trainee (not just challenges!). It is so important that training cohorts reflect the populations that they serve. Over the last 7 years between 5-8 per cent of trainees identified as having dependents when they accepted a training place. It would be great if that figure started to increase!

What do you hope to discuss on the podcast series in future?
Candice: We are hoping to discuss experiences with guest speakers including the DClinPsy part-time training route, perspectives from trainee clinical psychologists who are fathers, our research journeys and hopes for qualified life. But we are also open to hearing and implementing our listeners' views and ideas. It would be great if we can connect with as many people as possible and discuss wider narratives within the profession about parenting, so we really encourage people to get in touch with us!

Sarah: We will also be talking to a single parent with lived experience of mental health difficulties who will reflect on her experiences of re-locating and starting her studies in the midst of the pandemic. Another trainee will be reflecting on how her chronic health condition and faith affects her experiences of parenting whilst studying. We have also been contacted by two clinical psychologists who would like to share their IVF journey. Another episode that we have planned will be focusing on tips for trainees who are single parents.  

It feels important to highlight that we aren’t representing any views from the course or the University. Our experiences are unique to us and our circumstances. Our aim is to continue connecting with other trainees who are parents, which feels so important due to ongoing social distancing, the lack of face to face contact with other people and the uncertainty around provision of childcare and education for our children.

Watch this space…
We’ve started a monthly virtual space for DClinPsy parent trainees: email [email protected] or tweet @DClin_Labyrinth to join. We plan to develop a website to share relevant research, information such as financial support for single-parents, trainee top-tips and podcast links. We hope to start a monthly blog for trainees to share parenting journeys during training. Linked to the podcast, the DCP Minorities in Clinical Psychology Subcommittee have launched a Slack channel to offer peer support for parents: contact us for details or tweet @MinoritiesGroup. Another useful resource for parents is the paper ‘considerations for people from minority groups in the covid-19 pandemic’.

The podcast series, Life in the Labyrinth, in the form of 20-minute episodes, is available on Anchor and Spotify.

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