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The 3 essential qualities you need for success in Clinical Psychology

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

By: Evan Flynn for Good Thinking Psychological Services

Clinical Psychology is a difficult profession - there is no doubt about that. Typically, one must carefully navigate the intricacies of an approved undergraduate degree, relevant work experience, the DClinPsy application process, clinical placements, and doctoral defence all before getting a first job as a fully qualified clinician. However, this is just one of the many routes into the profession. There is no one size fits all approach in this field and there’s a lot of variation in terms of previous experience, education, and time to qualify. This diversity is beautifully depicted in each story contained in the book, “The Clinical Psychologist Collective: Advice and Guidance for Aspiring Clinical Psychologists” in which trainee and qualified clinical psychologists reflect on their own career journey and offer their advice to the next generation. So, there are certainly many twists and turns on the road to becoming a clinical psychologist. But what unites the diverse range of individuals on this journey? This article will discuss some of the common personal qualities which underpin common themes of success across the profession as discussed within ‘The Clinical Psychologist Collective’

I think that popular strategy game “Jenga” mirrors the dynamics of a career in clinical psychology really well. Jenga reminds us of the instability of our plans at times, and the need to routinely fail, reflect and rebuild before we reach our full potential. This brings us to the first quality I’d like to discuss: Resilience.

In ‘The Clinical Psych Collective’, this aspect of resilience is highlighted. In each story, there is an incredible adaptable strength and perseverance on display. Despite multiple rejections from various psych-related jobs and DClinPsy programmes, these individuals kept trying year after year until they achieved their goal. Moreover, they also faced personal challenges on the way and had to manage this added pressure in addition to the demands of pursuing a career in Clinical Psychology.

We all know that it takes a lot of strength and courage to get back up after failing to meet a goal. And even more to miss the mark on multiple occasions and yet continue to try. But when the goal is really important and meaningful to the person, such as gaining a place on a clinical psychology doctorate, this seems like a worthy price to pay, albeit temporarily! This capacity for resilience echoes the famous words of Nietzsche that suggests that ‘he who has a why can bear almost any how’. Many of us understand that the possibility to study and practice clinical psychology is worth the effort exerted and we are prepared to do what is needed to get there, even sometimes going above and beyond our capabilities such as taking on additional unpaid volunteer experiences. Thus, resilience is a key personal quality underlining success in clinical psychology training and practice.

Another important quality which stands out from the accounts in the book is that of reflection and reflexivity. With this being the ability to examine one’s feelings, reactions, and motivations and how this influences what action is taken in any given situation. Gaining a place on a clinical psychology doctorate program requires someone to explore their own mind and to integrate their personality more cohesively. In other words, authenticity, and a matured personality arising out of the ability to be reflexive is a key quality leading to success in clinical psychology. In each individual account in the book, the individual’s journey is that of both professional and personal development. We learn of people, who over time, discover what matters to them, what fears are holding them back and what past influences or traumas are influencing their present. As many of you are aware, reflexivity is also used in therapy and in certain types of psychological research further highlighting the utility of this quality in clinical psychology practice. Thus, this is a very important personal quality impacting success in clinical psychology and requires continuous development.

The final theme to emerge from the accounts is tenacity which drastically impacts on the likelihood of success in clinical psychology. In each story we see a sort of “I will find a way or make a way” attitude. Tenacious people like this have a solid conviction not only that their goal is possible to achieve but that it will be achieved one way or another. Thus, the ability to keep going when giving up seems the easiest thing to do is crucial to success in gaining entry to and maintaining a successful career in clinical psychology.

In conclusion, the qualities of Resilience, Reflexivity and Tenacity are some of the many personal qualities impacting success in Clinical Psychology. Resilience builds brilliance! If you are interested in reading how these qualities are played out in action, please do check out “The Clinical Psychologist Collective: Advice and Guidance for Aspiring Clinical Psychologists” by Dr. Marianne Trent. As a final thought, I would just like to ask you: If you were to imagine all that you could be, and aim single mindedly at that, who would that person be and what will you do to get there? Whatever your chosen path, I wish you the very best of luck on your journey!

Evan Flynn (MBPsS, MSc.) is an aspiring Clinical Psychologist with an interest in psychodynamic and meaning-centred/existential therapeutic approaches. He is currently building up psychology-related work experience in preparation for applying to doctorate programs and preparing a Psychobiography publication on the songwriter Elliott Smith.
To grab your copy of The Clinical Psychologist Collective or to read more information or reviews click here.


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