Lessons learned on placement

I’ve now passed the half way mark of my first placement as a trainee psychologist. So, it’s time to pull together the threads of all the lessons I’m learning.

  • The unexpected is challenging. While it goes without saying that the unfamiliar is  challenging, I’ve also learned that a number of little things I never anticipated being difficult are deceptively tricky. For example, my placement’s EFTPOS machine and I are not yet friends nor is calculating ‘age at testing’ on the Wechsler Scales intuitive for me yet. 
  • Everything is heightened. My four years of undergraduate training taught me about psychological theory, writing, statistics, critical thinking and gave me an appreciation that while I know more now than before, there is always so much more to learn. My first forays into becoming a trainee psychologist have brought me right back to the beginning again as I develop another set of skills. With this return to being a complete novice  comes the heightened frustration and excitement. On the one hand, I can clearly see the gap between where my skills are now and where I would like them to be when I’m a fully fledged psychologist, but on the other hand I have the excitement of slowly watching this gap become smaller and realising that I’m now achieving the milestones in my learning that just a month ago seemed daunting.
  • You need a balanced picture. Picture for me if you will a see-saw. On one side is your sense of competence and on the other your awareness of  the things you can’t yet do, or not as well as you would like. Reviewing therapy sessions with my supervisor has helped me gain a balanced picture of areas for improvement and my current competence.
  • I’m really enjoying this. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, it’s a lot of work. And yes, I’ve had to dive right out of my comfort zone, but I am really enjoying my placement. There are so many positives: the camaraderie with my fellow students and supervisors, working with parents and children, schools and other health professionals and those moments when I can see myself, one day not so far from now, as a registered psychologist. I’m still adamant that for me this picture will also involve research/lecturing, but I would like to incorporate practising as a psychologist too.

For anyone out there about to dive into their own placement adventures, I thought I’d finish off by sharing what a wise person said to me before I started placement: you’re going to love it!


thread (Photo credit: *Sally M*)



Filed under Clinical Phd, placement, Practice

2 responses to “Lessons learned on placement

  1. HM – your comments, especially the picture of the see-saw reminds me of my latest post (Strong Spine, Humble Chin). It is hard to accept that you know so much, yet so little. Being a 3rd year PhD, I still find myself anxious from time to time, and even when I’m confident, I try to remind my self that no two cases are the same.

    My advise to you:

    Supervision, supervision, SUPERVISION….ask your supervisor, ask you colleagues, share ideas and hypotheses. Not only will you realize how much you know through these discussions, but you’ll find out gaps in your knowledge.

    document, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! Be diligent and detailed in your note taking. It will save you time and trouble later.

    Finally, one of the best things I learned was through a Padesky workhop: everything someone does has a function. When you’re stuck about a client’s behaviour ask yourself: what function does it have?

    Good luck, I hope you keep loving it! 😉

    the candidate

    • Thanks for the advice TC. I enjoyed the “Strong Spine, Humble Chin” post. You’re right, you never know quite where things will go in therapy because no two clients are alike, but it’s also half the fun. All the best 🙂

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