Case study

Clinical psychologist — Dr Will Toomey

After nine years of study and work, Will has recently qualified as a clinical psychologist. Find out more about his journey and his top tips for success

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a BSc Psychology in 2012 from the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2019 from Bangor University.

How did you get your job?

I've worked in the NHS for seven years in the roles of healthcare assistant, assistant therapist, assistant clinical psychologist and trainee clinical psychologist. My current role required a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and experience in undertaking therapy and neuropsychological assessment with older adults.

What's a typical working day like?

This varies greatly between different clinical psychologists and from day-to-day. I work within older adult services for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (NHS) in North Wales. As part of my role I undertake psychological interventions to improve the lives of the older adults I work with.

In memory services I often undertake neuropsychological assessment; these help the multidisciplinary team better understand which areas of someone's cognition (memory/language/attention, etc) may be impacted and how this might inform diagnostic decision-making.

I also participate in and consume research to further develop my knowledge and skills.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I most enjoy hearing the stories of an older generation, learning from their experiences in life and helping them to make choices that best suit their values and circumstances.

I also enjoy working with and supporting teams to undertake service improvements and develop clinical skills.

What are the challenges?

Individuals may have high levels of emotional distress, which can require considerable compassion, patience and care. They may be upset, confused and/or angry. In some cases, the amount of distress experienced may lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. This can mean having to have difficult conversations and taking appropriate action to manage and reduce the risks people may pose to themselves or others.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Clinical psychologists have undertaken a minimum of six years in higher education and are therefore well-placed to provide supervision to peers, develop bespoke interventions for a wide range of clinical presentations and undertake high-quality research to build upon the existing evidence-base.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Over the years I have developed from providing personal care and emotional support on inpatient wards to undertaking assessment of complex cases, group therapy, neuropsychological assessment, teaching at the universities of Aberystwyth and Bangor, training staff teams in therapeutic skills and providing consultation for practising clinicians.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

Clinical psychology course providers often look for a Masters in research methods. Otherwise, I recommend a Masters as closely linked to the field of clinical psychology as possible.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into clinical psychology

  • Work hard as clinical psychology is a competitive field. The minimum entry requirement is a 2:1, with most applicants having got a first at undergraduate level. A-level results are often taken into consideration as well.
  • Be patient because it’s a long journey to become a clinical psychologist. If you take this journey on, try to strike a healthy balance between your career ambitions and personal life.
  • Be reflective as there are strengths and weaknesses to each of us. Clinical psychology seeks reflective individuals who will practise within the limits of their competency.

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