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Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.
We asked Elaine MacDonald from St. Michael's House to give some advice for people considering this job:
Make sure you are willing to go the full distance in terms of the time needed to train as a Clinical Psychologist – it’s typically at least six years academic study, and invariably this period is interspersed with work in a relevant field.
Do be as confident as you can that you’re happy being a “listener” and “observer”, as you will spend significant amounts of time in your work life as a Clinical Psychologist being in this role, as well as being in the “do-er” role and being in the limelight.
To have a good ‘fit’ with this career you’ll need to be happy working with people – as individuals on a one to one basis, with groups (e.g. families), and as part of a team in the workplace.
You need to have a good attention to detail as the job needs good observation skills, record keeping, and organisation skills.
Be prepared for learning and self-development to be on-going for the whole of your career because, as a Clinical Psychologist, you’ll be learning and using techniques and intervention approaches that are being constantly developed, and be working in accordance with policies and laws that are also constantly evolving.
The last piece of advice I’d give to someone considering this job is to be as sure as you can that you feel comfortable and even excited at the prospect of your career revolving around people and groups with all the varied, diverse, and unpredictable rewards and challenges that this brings!
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Naoise Pye, Social Care Worker
After completing the Leaving Cert, Naoise completed a 1 year course in Early Childhood and Education. She then went to Carlow College and completed a BA Degree in Applied Social Studies and Social Care. Now working in a residential unit in St Michael's House, she works to enhance, develop and support goals for people with an Intellectual disability.
I didn't know what I wanted to do when I left school so actually my choice of subjects only reflected my interests (Art, History, French and Classical Studies).
So if I were to do my Leaving cert again I might choose to do home-economics or biology to increase my medical knowledge as well as my cooking and domestic skills!
I completed Junior and Leaving Certificate. Then I did an Early Childhood and Education course in Sallynoggin College which was part-time over 1 year and was a NCVA Certificate.
I then did a BA Degree in Applied Social Studies in Social Care in Carlow College over 4 years which also included three 8-12 week work placements and a dissertation in the final year.
As part of my degree, the module of Family Studies was relevant as we studied the impact of disability on the family and how to work with the families you come into contact with.
The module of Drama therapy was useful in seeing others ways of communicating and working with clients with different disabilities.
Social Studies and Health Promotion were interesting in learning how society affects us all and how the institutions of society can enable or disable people and especially marginalised people such as those with disabilities and how we can work against this process and help advocate and empower our clients in our service.
Psychology and Counselling also stood out for me in opening up the theories of psychology and of abnormal psychology and the approaches of working within this field. I also learned the importance of good person-skills and the importance of personal awareness in working in any team, as you have to be aware of yourself, your beliefs and values and what you bring to your work.
Of most importance overall was the work placements which you did for 8-12 weeks for three years. These are in any area of social care, community work, residential care etc and provide you with a real taste of the work available and what it's really like.
You can experience 3 different areas of work and find out what you're suited to and what possibilities for your career each area could give, the specific skills you may need to develop for each area and the challenges unique to each one. You have a supervisor throughout these placements and this can be a great support and knowledge base for you.
As part of St Michael's house we are sent on training in various areas relevant to our job. These include First Aid, Manual Handling, Challenging Behaviour Training, Sexual Abuse Training, Training in Individual Personal Plans (which are each clients individual yearly goals) and Health and Safety training.
I personally have an interest in Bereavement Counselling and plan to undertake the course provided by this organisation when possible. Outside of work I am completing a Foundation Certificate in Psychotherapy and Counselling as it continues to be an area of special interest for me.