Experiences of Personal and Professional Identities during Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training
Woodward, Natasha Sian
This study explored newly qualified Clinical Psychologists’ (CPs) experiences of personal professional development (PPD) during doctoral training. In particular there was a focus on their experiences of their personal and professional identities. Within literature relevant to PPD in Clinical Psychology training, personal and professional development were largely conceptualised as separate processes. Yet models of reflective practice would suggest that an awareness of the personal self is necessary for effective clinical work. The research questions were ‘How do newly qualified CPs experience their personal and professional identities during doctoral training? and ‘How do they experience the boundary between their personal and professional development?’. To respond to these questions seven newly qualified CPs were interviewed regarding their experiences of their personal and professional identities during training. A qualitative research design was employed and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse the data. Three superordinate themes were identified within the data: Developing self-acceptance; Enhancing awareness of self and others; Taking risks and managing uncertainty. Within these results there was a strong message of an inextricable link between personal and professional identities. It seemed that participants started from a position of being themselves, and during training negotiated the dilemmas of learning a professional role. In order to do this they would often look to others for how to negotiate this process. Yet this process could create challenges, as bringing one’s personal self into the professional arena was not always seen as acceptable. If participants were able to show personal aspects of themselves this could make them feel vulnerable and, therefore, these processes held an element of uncertainty. Where participants were able to show their personal selves and felt validated, this allowed for developing self-acceptance. The implications for clinical training and the clients with whom CPs work are discussed.