Assistant Psychologist roles – How do you land one?

Assistant Psychologist (AP) positions are known as gold dust in the psychology field, particularly for recent graduates. Why? Because they allow budding psychologists to work directly with clients, and similar experience to fully qualified psychologists and therapists. This is great experience, which helps you to progress on to further training, whilst giving you great insight into whether this field is right for you.

What does an Assistant Psychologist role entail?

I speak from experience of several AP roles over 4 years (in IAPT, an inpatient hospital and private practice), but the roles really can vary. The BPS practice guidelines suggests the following activities:

  • “research, audit, and service evaluation”
  • “literature searches, developing and maintaining training packs, information leaflets, libraries of equipment, and other tasks necessary to the efficient running of the service”
  • “assessment of individuals and groups, for example, direct observations, formal psychometric testing, semi-structured interviews, and writing appropriate reports”
  • “delivery of interventions with individuals, groups and organisations”
  • “undertaking supportive work with carers, family members, employers, human resources professionals, team members, health staff and other professionals”
  • “delivering training for other professionals (if and when competent to do so)”
  • “promoting applied psychology services by providing relevant information to referrers, commissioners and others”

Throughout my three AP roles, I was involved in the majority of these tasks. However, there are also stories of AP roles being mainly admin-based, which the BPS discourage. It’s worth checking the job descriptions on job adverts to ensure the role looks exciting and varied.

Furthermore, you will be supervised by a clinical psychologist, although the exact levels of supervision may vary. It’s very common to have weekly supervision meetings. 

How do you land an Assistant Psychologist role?

Get your foot in the door!

It’s unlikely you’ll get an AP role straight after graduating (trust me, I tried!). So look for roles such as Support Worker or Healthcare Assistant. There are often roles going in inpatient hospitals for positions like this, which is where I started out.

Once you have a year or so experience under your belt, you are then usually in a better position to apply for AP jobs.

It can also help to be working in a service that has AP roles, even if that’s not the role you’re doing. Having your foot in the door can lead to better chances of obtaining an AP role if they know you. Sometimes, they only look internally to fill these positions too, so your odds are even better.

Part time or full time?

Don’t be afraid to take part time roles and build them up. I was doing three part time roles at a time (two of which were AP positions) to get the experience. I was then in a better position to apply for a full time role when it was available. Based on feedback, it was made clear they liked that I had prior AP experience.

Further qualifications?

You can also look into further qualifications like a masters. Not all AP positions require this, but as competition is fierce, it can be worth having an extra qualification to pip your way to the top. However, it’s worth noting that I did not have a Masters and was still able to obtain three different AP roles. You could also look into smaller and less expensive options like a postgraduate certificate in CBT.

Applying for roles?

When applying for roles, look on NHS jobs websites for listings. You can set alerts so that any AP roles that come up are emailed to you. Be quick in applying though, as these can be shut down early. Positions closing as quickly as 4 hours after being live is not unheard of.

You can also look on places like Indeed or doing google searches. I also recommend looking into non-NHS providers such as The Huntercombe Group, The Priory Group and Elysium Healthcare, which are usually for jobs within inpatient setting.

To speed up your applications, have a rough personal statement ready. With each new job advert, check the person specification to see what they require. Recruiters will be using this to ensure you meet their ‘essential’ (and possibly ‘desirable’) criteria. To stand the best chance of being picked for an interview, amend your personal statement to make it very clear how you meet the criteria.

Where can and AP role lead to?

Assistant Psychologist roles can lead to many different positions in the psychology field, such as Clinical Psychologist, Clinical Associate Psychologists, Counselling Psychologists, and CBT Therapists (like myself). There are many roles out there, so take the time to explore your options and choose the one that suits you best. It’s ok to keep your options open and change your mind as you go.

Most importantly though, enjoy the ride. It can feel like a race to complete further training, but I’m so glad I spent the time to work on different projects within different services. It made me a better practitioner for it.

Here at Brighter Life Therapy we offer CBT mentoring. This can be one-off or several sessions, and usually takes place via zoom or phone. Read more about it here.

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