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A Black Woman’s Journey to Clinical Doctorate in Psychology in the UK

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The Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) is a professional training course for clinical psychologists in the UK. The training leads to a doctoral qualification, which is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). To qualify as an applicant, you are required to hold a bachelor of science (BSc) undergraduate degree in psychology or a conversion degree if your first degree is not in psychology. Some universities also require a master of science (MSc) degree in psychology or a research-based subject. In addition to a degree in psychology, you must have up to 12 months of clinical experience, preferably in mental health or research.

The pursuit of a clinical doctorate in psychology is both challenging and rewarding – requiring dedication, resilience, and a passion for the field. For Black women in the UK, this journey can be even more complex due to various social, cultural, and institutional barriers. Despite these challenges, Black women have shown remarkable strength and determination, breaking down barriers for future generations. 

Representation and diversity are crucial in shaping any profession, including clinical psychology. Historically, Black women have been underrepresented, hindering my own progress during my first application process. During application season, typically between September and November, many universities and aspiring psychologists organise events, talks, and workshops. One recurring theme was the added difficulty for applicants from minoritised backgrounds, especially those who are Black. This constant reminder, along with multiple articles about stereotypes and prejudices, was demoralising.

But as awareness of the importance of diversity grows, efforts are underway to increase representation. Universities are expanding their ethos to incorporate sociopolitical awareness, and many professionals offer mentoring to assist with applications and interviews. Those who helped me were often from minority backgrounds themselves, rising above the barriers to make invaluable contributions to the field.

The importance of supportive networks and mentorship is significant. Relationships with mentors who understand our unique challenges are instrumental in fostering growth. Peer support networks are also important, providing a space to share experiences, seek guidance, and celebrate achievements. Self-care during this process is equally vital, including knowing when and what to disclose about your experiences.

Navigating the UK’s education system is especially challenging for Black women due to socioeconomic disparities, lack of access to resources, and discriminatory practices. Understanding these challenges – and juggling responsibilities like family and work – are factors to consider. Using these experiences to your advantage highlights your perseverance and determination.

Pursuing a clinical doctorate in psychology is not just about my journey, but also about paving the way for future generations. Diversity in the field is essential for comprehensive mental health care. I bring unique perspectives that can enhance therapeutic approaches and contribute to more culturally competent care.

My first attempt at attaining a doctorate in clinical psychology was not easy. Remaining focused on my goal, rising above the challenges, and valuing community and solidarity were crucial as I continue in my pursuit.

Naomi Seidu is an aspiring neuropsychologist. You can connect with her on X @cher_nai

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