Behind the PBL Mask: Narratives of Identity Change Amongst Clinical Psychologists Engaged in Problem-Based Learning
Clinical psychologists’ experiences of training are under-represented in the research area, particularly in the field of transformational and experiential learning and its influence on trainees during their training. Yet, it is a growing topic of interest for training providers and commissioners. Understanding whether the current method of training, using problem-based learning at the University of Hertfordshire (UH), is effective in preparing trainees to work in the NHS as clinical psychologists may have wider implications for clinical psychology training and practice. This thesis aimed at exploring clinical psychologists’ narratives of identity changes through problem-based learning (PBL). For this purpose, I chose to explore their reflective PBL written accounts using a narrative analysis to identify plots and sub-plots of identity changes within their PBL stories. I knowingly took a social constructionist stance to frame this project as it reflects my constructions of clinical psychology and the epistemological choice of the UH course. This means that this research situates itself within a particular context and does not claim any truth, but proposes a constructed view on identity changes during training and their implications for clinical practice. The analysis enabled me to identity three main plots: ‘identity changes through the PBL group’, ‘experimenting with alternative roles and identities’ and ‘Identity changes through PBL & training’. The first plot was characterised by anxiety, vulnerability, tensions between individualism and collectivism and the impact of differences. The second plot was characterised by trainee psychologists finding the balance between process, task and reflections, sharing and connecting with others, changing their relationship with theories; and working to empower themselves. The third plot highlighted the demands of PBL and training and PBL’s place in training. These factors seemed to have influenced and contributed to identity changes in clinical psychologists engaged in PBL during their training at UH. The discussion highlighted which aspects of PBL relate to identity changes and their implications for training and clinical practice. To conclude, I shared my growing interest for further exploration. I also highlighted the ever-evolving nature of PBL and the importance of exploring its use in training and its implications for the professional development of trainee clinical psychologists. Finally, the project ends with reflections about the research process and epistemological considerations.