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Q&A: Being an assistant EP at Applied Psychologies

Olivia, our assistant in Teesside last year took some time out with her supervisor Laura, to reflect on her year as she moved on to the Newcastle doctorate course. Thanks Olivia and good luck in year 1!

Laura: You’ve worked with us for a full year now. What first attracted you to apply for the Assistant Psychologist position?

Olivia: I’d had an interest in being an EP since doing my undergraduate degree in psychology but at that time, going straight from Uni, I wanted to work in schools so I went on to do my PGCE. When I applied for this role, I had been working as primary school teacher for five years.

I was always interested in applying psychology in my role as a teacher. I applied for the EP doctorate in Autumn 21 and

had an interview in Spring 22. When I came out of the interview, I just knew I wasn’t ready. After discovering that I hadn’t secured a place, I was determined to do something different to gain more experience of directly applying psychology. Soon after that, I saw the advert for this role when it was shared online by an assistant who was working with Applied Psychologies at the time.

I was excited about the idea of a job where I could learn more about psychology and start applying it directly. I had been talking to EPs when I was a teacher, but the opportunity to be part of a team of psychologists seemed like a really good one to help me gain an extra level of experience and insight into the EP role.

What have you enjoyed most about your role this year?

Lots of things! I’ve really enjoyed having a dedicated patch of schools to work with, and building relationships with staff in those settings.

I’ve really enjoyed the review meeting stage of the casework process. It’s lovely to see the real impact my work is having for children and staff.

It’s also been great participating in group supervision with other psychologists. I’ve learnt so much from those conversations. Developing working relationships with the other assistants in the team has also been brilliant. We’ve had that peer support as we’ve learnt about the role and gone through the doctorate application process together. I’ve also really appreciated how helpful and supportive everyone has been. The whole team has been brilliant at answering questions, sharing resources, and just supporting me on my journey.

What have been the challenges?

There’s been a lot to learn. I’ve had to be ready to work really hard to take everything on board. I’ve also had to have some difficult conversations in some schools. I’ve had to develop the confidence to recognise and say when something has been beyond my level of experience. It can be hard not to give an answer in the moment and say I need to go away and seek advice, but I think people have appreciated that honesty.

It can also be overwhelming at times with so much to learn and think about. But carving out time for CPD and extra reading has helped me to feel more comfortable and to understand things better.

What has been the biggest piece of learning or development you have gained this year?

Looking at psychological frameworks and using them in my work has been completely new for me but really useful. I’ve enjoyed looking at different areas of psychology and using things like COMOIRA and the Interactive Factors Framework. It’s those explicit ways of applying psychology that I didn’t know about previously. I’ve also had so much CPD time this year and it’s been brilliant having the autonomy to use that however I felt was best. I did a Dynamic Assessment course, which was really beneficial. Internal CPD within the team has also been great. I learnt loads from the Early Years session we did, which was all about supporting pre-verbal children and using the principles of intensive interaction.

Actually, the whole year has been learning! Everything about this role has been new learning, as I’ve never done anything similar before.

What advice would you give to anyone who might be thinking about applying for an Assistant Psychologist position in the future?

I’d say start thinking about how you are applying psychology in your role already. How does psychology influence what you do? Build in time for reflection on your work; teachers don’t normally have time for this so you just need to create it for yourself.

Also, if you’re working in school already, try to meet your school EP and speak to them about their work, just to get some insight.

Join some online forums, e.g. on Twitter and Facebook. There are groups and communities for people applying for the EP doctorate. I also found loads of free CPD that way, and lots of recommendations for reading and resources.

You’re due to start your doctorate next week. What are you most looking forward to?

I can’t believe it’s here already! I’m excited to start connecting with other individuals who are embarking on the same journey as me, but coming from different backgrounds and experiences. I’m looking forward to having time to learn from each other, as well as from the course tutors. Also having dedicated time for further reading, extending my knowledge. Just learning and gaining different experiences.

Thanks to Olivia for sharing her reflections, we hope it's helpful for other aspiring EPs! For more thoughts on the doctorate journey read our previous blog from now qualified Dr Louise Rodgers here.

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