Graduating as a Counselling Psychologist | Starie Naomi Uwins

Starie Naomi Uwins, a final year PsychD Counselling Psychology student, about to graduate and start her career as a Counselling Psychologist, spoke with us about her experience at Roehampton and her future aspirations.

Why did you choose to become a Counselling Psychologist?

My dream job since I was young has always centred around working in a role where I could talk to people every day, but I never really knew what type of role that would be until I worked as an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) practitioner in a London prison. I’d studied Criminology and Psychology for my undergraduate degree which developed my interests in understanding why people do the things they do. I was really drawn to the idea that there were multiple explanations to understanding behaviour and emotions and I liked that I could have a career which aligned with my personality and curiosity about people and the world. I can’t imagine being suited to a different type of profession!  

Why did you want to study at Roehampton?

What I liked about Roehampton when I was looking at where to study was its relational ethos and the focus they give to promoting individual empowerment and working towards creating positive social change. Giving importance to relationships feels really integral to the Counselling Psychology profession and is aligned with my own personal outlook on life in both a personal and professional capacity, so I felt that studying at a university that fits with my own value base was really important. I’d also heard a lot of good things about Roehampton and the quality of the teaching so it felt like it would be a good choice.

What types of work placements did you go on?

During my training I wanted to get a range of experience across different settings, so I ensured I applied to work in different types of placements including an addiction charity and a charity providing low-cost, long-term psychodynamic therapy to people living in my local area. I also worked for a bereavement service and continued my work in the prison service where I had worked before starting this doctorate. My current placement is in the NHS working in a mental health crisis home resolution treatment team which works to treat people in the community to reduce hospital admissions as best as possible. Working in these different settings has given me such a range of experience and insight to how each organisation is run and what can be provided to service users as a result. Having a variety of different supervision styles has also been a great learning experience.

What were your classes/ lectures like?

Lectures have often been really gripping and have led me to learn a lot not only in terms of professional development of understanding how to apply theory to practice, but also in terms of applying the learning to myself. I think a massive element of the Counselling Psychology doctorate is the personal journey it takes you on to understanding and exploring yourself, which at times has been an intensely challenging experience, but one I’ve always seen as incredibly worthwhile and meaningful. So many of the lecturers on the course are Counselling Psychologists themselves and have had years of experience and clinical work that they bring to help us learn, which I’ve really valued throughout the course. I’ve really valued the experiential group which is part of the course in the second and third year; it was daunting at first, but all my supervisors always spoke really highly about the value of the group process on personal learning and development. 

Could you tell us about your research interests, and final doctoral study?

For my doctoral study I am researching the experiences of operational staff working in prison who have engaged in guided reflective practice. I became really interested in what support is available to prison staff when I was working in that environment myself and decided to look into what it was like for operational staff to attend these sessions at work. I’ve interviewed five members of staff so far which has been really interesting and exciting! My research is an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study, so I’m really interested in each person’s experience of guided reflective practice. 

What advice would you give to students who would like to join the Counselling Psychology programme?

I’d say reflect on what types of clinical experience they’d like to gain whilst on placement and whether there are any placements that might link to the research topic they choose; I chose to work in different settings to what I was used to before starting the doctorate so that I could widen my clinical experience. Also, take some time to think about what research topics interest them because it all starts off quite quickly in first year! 

What job are you going on to?

I’m going to be working in a Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team (CRHTT) with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust where I’ll have a clinical caseload of working with people who are facing a mental health crisis. The focus of a CRHTT is to reduce hospital admissions and provide support in the community for people struggling with their mental health.

What are you excited about in this new role?

I’m really excited to be providing clinical supervision to the Assistant Psychologists within the team as I’ve always really enjoyed and valued the supervision I’ve been given. I’m going to attend training to develop my supervision skills which further is a really exciting opportunity as it further supports my development as a Counselling Psychologist.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your profession?

I really value that the profession promotes personal reflection and development and I see it as a real strength that personal therapy is a prerequisite to graduating as a Counselling Psychologist. I think that working on myself has been such an important part of the work and I can see how my professional work has benefitted from my resilience strengthening; as a result of personal therapy, I have a stronger capacity to hold client experiences which ultimately serves the client better whilst also developing my understanding of myself and have been able to work through some of my own difficult life experiences.

The University of Roehampton changes lives by helping our students to develop the confidence, knowledge and values they need for a successful and fulfilling life. We produce world-class research that helps us understand the world and change it for the better.

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