My MSc Clinical Psychology Placement, By Romany Murray

My MSc Clinical Psychology Placement, By Romany Murray

One of the most attractive things to me about the Royal Holloway MSc Clinical Psychology course was that I would have the opportunity to complete a placement alongside my studies, gaining experience whilst learning theory alongside. In the summer before starting the course, I applied to several work experience opportunities, finding myself most interested in Lifeworks, a private residential rehabilitation centre located in Old Woking that catered to a span of individuals presenting with different diagnoses, including eating disorders, addiction, and mood disorders.

The role was advertised to me via an email from my undergraduate university as a yearlong part-time internship position, where I would be able to work alongside practicing therapists and clients alike. I was invited to interview shortly after applying, the centre itself is an old Georgian manor house made up of marble floors and modern décor. My talk with the team there was informal and brief, focussing largely on why I wanted to intern at Lifeworks, what I knew about the disorders treated at the centre already, and what days of the week I would be available to work. I was offered the role pretty much on the spot, scheduling every Friday as my working day.

I started the placement just before my degree, joining the clinical team, based in a portacabin office just outside the main manor building where the clients stayed. The team was small, made up of only four primary counsellors delivering treatment to clients, generally supported by an intern each day. I was one of three interns, each coming in on a different day. Each Friday, I started work at  9am where a meeting was held between all the departments within Lifeworks, including counsellors, psychiatrists, admissions and nursing staff. Each department communicated the details of their work, including how each client was progressing, incidents that had occurred overnight, changes to medication, and potential new admissions. Having never been to a meeting of this kind before, I found it initially very intimidating to sit in on. I was unsure as to how the teams collaborate to provide services, so this allowed for me to learn what goes into rehabilitative care, as well as ensuring that before the day started, and I went to interact with clients, I understood how each of them was presenting, and any issues to be aware of.

The rest of the day is split into a mixture of client-led presentations and psychoeducation sessions, designed to help individuals explore the underlying mechanisms behind any dysfunctional behaviour, and to survey routes to change. I was able to talk with the clients about what they were experiencing and was given the privilege to witness them disclose personal things within their presentations. Not only did I learn about the process of recovery and general cognitions around addiction, but I could also practice some of the skills I had learnt in my university modules, using various therapeutic techniques to develop strong relationships with the individuals I interacted with.

One of the most rewarding experiences during placement, however, was lunch times. I completed training that allowed me to sit at the table and support the eating disordered clients during meal times, provoking me to be diligent in noticing potential dysfunctional behaviours whilst eating, and taught me how to gently challenge ‘the eating disorder voice’ that would prevent these clients from being comfortable at the table.

My experience of completing a placement was very positive. I was easily able to complete the 35 hours required to meet the demands of the module, enjoying my role so much that I stayed on at Lifeworks until the end of June. I feel that being able to practice therapeutic skills taught at university in a real clinical environment was very beneficial. Moreover, I believe I am more equipped to continue on to my doctorate studies in the confidence that I can be supportive to clients.

by Romany Murray, MSc Clinical Psychology graduate, 2019