Division of Counselling Psychology


It’s been quite an eventful summer for me, that’s for sure. Still, as I return to some kind of routine I’m grateful that, all in all, it’s been good. And I got stuff done: Data collection complete, and just recently I have begun the write-up. So I’m pleased to report that I’m moving ahead.

But it feels that I’m doing so at a glacial pace. Why does this take so long, and how come I seem to be so busy yet have so little to show for it? Tutors warn you that this stage always takes longer than you expect. But to experience it for myself is quite disturbing. I suspect this is due to a mixture of factors: my status as a novice researcher, a touch of perfectionism, the nature of my topic perhaps, and that life keeps interfering, rather rudely, with my progress.

Still, I try to put my trust in the process. Just do the work to the best of your abilities, ask for advice if you need to. The rest is out of your control. Frankly, easier said than done, but right now it’s what helps me stay on an even keel.

Well… truth be told, I have had my moments where I was so thoroughly, utterly fed up with the whole thing that just chucking it in seemed appealing. I know that I never do ‘chuck it in’, but I certainly wasn’t enjoying myself.

What has helped is sterling support from my loved ones, personal therapy, getting a little more exercise, bit of meditation, and watching the classic cartoons on Youtube that I grew up with. Uhm. Not sure I should have admitted to that latter one, come to think of it. But come on: does anybody else like to go back and comfort binge-watch childhood programmes when under pressure? Yes? Here you go.

Sun, 18/11/2018 - 18:42

The “independent route” to the qualification in counselling psychology: Accessing reading for use in work to be submitted

G. Manya Merodoulaki



The aim of this article is to provide candidates on the “independent route” to the qualification in counselling psychology (and other readers) with some ideas about where to find sources of knowledge for their essays and other assessment units to improve and enrich the work they submit and to help them improve their clinical skills by reading up to date research and other academic works.


There are several university courses awarding the doctoral qualification in counselling psychology. However, throughout its existence, the Division of Counselling Psychology has also provided a route towards the qualification that is independent of universities. This “independent route” follows the Regulations for the Society’s Postgraduate Qualifications (2018) and is described in detail in the Qualification in Counselling Psychology Candidate Handbook (British Psychological Society, 2017). Candidates for the qualification register for it and submit the various assessment units as they complete them. This flexibility allows people who need to prioritise other commitments over studying to work at their pace towards qualifying. The Division selects and trains a number of qualified counselling psychologists as assessors of this work, and I have the privilege to have been an assessor since 2008.

This article is the result of my experience that many candidates appear to rely on older references at the expense of recent material. Although this is understandable in view of the length of the process of qualifying as a counselling psychologist through the independent route, it does not demonstrate the element of being up to date and, I believe, may be associated with the limitations to the quality and quantity of critical analysis and evaluation (required by most assessments) that my co-assessors and I have found consistently in recent submissions.


The Candidate Handbook lists several suggested references. The qualification is awarded as equivalent to a university’s award of a doctoral qualification, therefore independent route candidates need to read items on the suggestion list but also several more, especially recent material, to demonstrate up to date knowledge and to help them give robust critical analyses and evaluations of their sources. These can be purchased or accessed through libraries or online. Some professional associations, including the BPS, have free access to online journals. Here is a (not exhaustive) list of possible sources of reading materials:

- The British Psychological Society makes its online journals available for free to its members. Candidates need to complete the procedure for online registration and they gain access to a variety of “British Journal of…” relevant to psychology.

Website: www.bps.org.uk

- Local libraries offer a range of helpful services. Apart from their own collections, readers can ask for loans of books stocked in other libraries across the country. It is worth checking what is on offer, as they may also offer quiet study spaces and free internet.

- Some university libraries offer “external reader” types of memberships. These allow readers to use their material in situ or/and to borrow them. The psychology collection of Senate House Library, University of London, is open to all members of the British Psychological Society with proof of BPS membership.

Website: www.senatehouselibrary.ac.uk

- The esteemed British Medical Journal and The Lancet are freely available after the reader registers. These may seem unlikely sources for articles related to psychology, but be prepared to have that belief challenged.

Websites: www.bmj.com and www.thelancet.com

Google scholar is an excellent resource for searching for academic material and provides email alerts for articles that cite a key reference of interest to a reader/ user who sets it up (staying up to date).

Website: https://scholar.google.co.uk

- Academic networking sites may contain articles that are valuable to the papers candidates are preparing. Some such sites are:

www.academia.edu academics share their published papers, lecture notes, things they seek consultation on, and a wealth of other material. There are subject areas to join, an option to follow researchers whose work matches the user’s interests, and more. Basic registration is free (it also offers upgrades but at a fee).

www.mendeley.com allows users to add papers directly from their browser or computer and create their own “library” and reference lists. There are subject areas to join, where there are papers and other resources.

www.researchgate.net connects researchers, NGOs, etc, and makes papers accessible on researchers’ profiles. Functions similar to the previous.

- Several authors have their own website with papers they have written or they upload their papers on their university’s page from where they can be downloaded.

- Some journals operate from an open system from where readers download articles for free. https://journals.plos.org

Critical analysis and evaluation

This tends to be the least well-fulfilled requirement in the papers assessors mark. This may be due to lack of exposure to more academic discussions about the quality of published works that candidates of the independent route may experience by comparison to candidates on university doctoral courses. In 2013, a special edition of Counselling Psychology Review was published on systematic reviews (volume 28, number 4). As it has been produced by counselling psychologists, this may be a good starting point to begin developing skills in analyzing and evaluating the literature that candidates intend for use in the papers they will send for assessment.

Other resources to help develop skills in critically analysing and evaluating published research:

Greenhalgh, T (2014) How to read a paper, 5th ed., Wiley Blackwell BMJ Books

Although from a medical background, this is a well-written book the ideas in which are applicable beyond medicine.

Centre for Reviews and Dissemination: Systematic Reviews: CRD’s guidance for undertaking reviews in healthcare www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd

Although candidates are not required to produce systematic reviews, this resource is useful in providing guidance of how to critique a paper and contains a useful lists of reference to follow up out of interest.

Always remember that ultimately the level of qualification is doctoral (although some of the assessments are set at Master level). The work that is submitted for assessment needs to demonstrate that it is of such standard. The distinction between Masters and doctoral levels can be found in the Candidate Handbook. Appendix 2, p. 46. The Handbook also contains much useful guidance about creating your assessment work, including the specific criteria that assessors will look for to pass your submitted work.

It is my hope that this information will help all counselling psychologists in training to create great work for assessment towards the qualification.



British Psychological Society (2018) Regulations for the Society’s Postgraduate Qualifications (www.bps.org.uk/qualifications)

British Psychological Society, Division of Counselling Psychology (2017) Qualification in Counselling Psychology Candidate Handbook. The British Psychological Society

Centre for Reviews and Dissemination: Systematic Reviews: CRD’s guidance for undertaking reviews in healthcare www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd

Greenhalgh, T (2014) How to read a paper, 5th ed., Wiley Blackwell BMJ Books

Sun, 18/11/2018 - 18:35

Counselling psychology training involves multiple placements in various organisations and settings. Counselling psychology is unique in the area that trainees are often expected to find their own clinical placements, which is often looked favourably by those who have special interests and would like to further their knowledge and experience. It also opens up opportunities to challenge yourself and learn from attending interviews as well as making contacts with various organisations. Counselling psychologists in training often find placements in third sector organisations which allow them to understand better local resources and support available outside the statutory organisations such as the NHS. Although, counselling psychologists are valued more and more in the NHS, which proved important in bringing unique professional identity and values to the service.

Due to the nature of changing placements, it is inevitable to experience many endings with clients and organisations alike whilst in training. At this stage of my development, I am ending two of my placements where I have been working for the past year. There is something unique about ending a placement. Such endings often feel unnatural and too soon, initiated by the therapist rather than a client who is ready to leave. I am carrying a feeling that my work with some of my clients is not over, plans we have made have not been fulfilled, and relationships have not been developed. At the start of my professional journey, oh… I was bad at endings! How could I end with someone that I know so much about? I needed to know what will happen to them! How will I know how that party they are planning to go in a month will go? I can’t say goodbye to someone who shared all their deepest feelings with me! Practice makes everything easier. I gained a better understanding about professional boundaries, about my role, opportunities, and made new discoveries with each ending I experienced.

Laughton- Brown (2010) wrote that therapeutic relationship and understanding attachment issues helps therapists in their endings with clients. The relationship I have built with each of my clients and the understanding I gained from working together has definitely impacted on the endings, each one of them being completely different from another, unique, and remarkable in their own right. Each one of them reminded me how privileged I am to have had an opportunity to accompany these incredible individuals in their life’s journey. Journey that made us cry and laugh, hate and love, admit and deny, and sit in silence when words were missing…



Laughton- Brown, H. (2010). Trust in the therapeutic relationship: Psychodynamic contributions to counselling psychology practice. Counselling Psychology Review, 25, 6- 12.

Sun, 04/11/2018 - 19:57

Recently I had an opportunity to attend the Division of Counselling Psychology annual conference in Newcastle. As well as attending various talks and workshops, I also presented a poster on my own research. It was a great opportunity to discuss my interests with fellow trainees and amazing counselling psychologists who shared their own training stories and passions. The discussions and conversations I had were extremely valuable in my development, and the support I received was just remarkable. Further, this was my first conference and I had many suggestions and tips from friends prior to attending the event. I was warned of difficulties in presenting your own work. I was told that qualified and highly accomplished counselling psychologists are intimidating. I was also warned that as a trainee I might experience exclusion from discussions and networking opportunities. I can safely say, that all the warnings were challenged, and I had a better time than I could ever imagine. I was pleasantly surprised to find friendly and approachable practitioners, and the support and encouragement I received as a trainee was astounding! As a trainee attending a conference, it helped me to locate myself and my university in this vast professional field. I am still trying to figure out what counselling psychologists do, and where our professional boundaries lie. I met people working in research, universities, charities, private practices, NHS, forensic, schools, and many more areas. The topics covered and explored were vast, and not only highlighted my lack of knowledge, but also showed that the sky is the limit in counselling psychology! Talking with fellow trainees from various academic institutions across the country showed me that differences and variety not only exists in individual practitioners, but also training institutions. I was surprised and excited to hear how different courses organise learning experiences for trainees, and where they place priorities in nurturing counselling psychologists-to-be.

A message from the (now past) Chair of Division of Counselling Psychology, Maureen McIntosh about this year’s conference, suggested that attending a conference will provide everyone with rich conversations, and stimulating presentations, but also a sense of being together. Well, I certainly felt all of that, but most importantly, I felt being a part of something bigger, something more important than myself, and something that is worth undertaking a long and intensive training for. If I can say one word to summarise the whole experience of the conference, it would have to be “inspiring”. I can’t wait to see how next year’s conference in Cardiff can top this!


Zivile Jackunaite

Trainee Counselling Psychologist

Tue, 07/08/2018 - 11:38

I am on the train to my placement. Beautiful day outside. But, I have a blog to write. When I noticed the possibility to write about my training journey I was very excited! I love my training, and I love my chosen path towards becoming a qualified Counselling Psychologist. But, the problem is: I am not ready to write! Not yet! What should I write!? What people want to read?! Scrolling on twitter (as I usually do) I noticed “The Readiness Myth”. It suggest that You Have to Write Before You Feel Ready. So here I am. Writing.

Easter is coming. Many people are joyful and making plans how they are going to spend a few days off from their work. Different from them, I had a few stressful weeks in my training as a second year trainee Counselling Psychologist, which can only mean one thing: catching up on my academic work during the Easter break. This time of the year brings research project into my everyday living, and jointly with my clinical practice in placements, it creates a varied routine consisting of reading many research articles and developing ideas how to contribute to the field, as well as seeing clients in a therapy room. I realized that many people are not aware how important research is in Counselling Psychology. But, over the few years of my training I realised the importance of well conducted research that can inform practice and offer new perspectives. Unfortunately, My Not Readiness also transfers very well into my research. I find myself changing topics and coming up with new even more exciting ideas that I wish I could do as part of my research project, but then remembering the potential of a lifelong career that presents many opportunities to pursue such dreams.

Research has always been a daunting part of psychology for me. Even now I feel my heart beat faster when I remember statistics lectures as part of my undergraduate degree in psychology. But, my understanding shifted, seeing research as a great opportunity to study very interesting phenomenon, gain better understanding about ourselves as well as the world we live in. Also, my course provides a stage to discuss research with my colleagues who are as passionate about their subjects as much as I am, which teaches me a great deal about the process of research as much as inspires to keep going on when it all just gets a bit too much…

My current task is to write a methodological proposal, in which I aim to provide my rationale for the study and explain how I am planning to conduct my study. This work will inform my ethics proposal that needs to be submitted to my university’s ethics committee. Once they decide that my study is adhering to ethical standards, I get “a green light” to start my data collection that next year (hopefully) will result in a research study that will inform and contribute to Counselling Psychology practice. And, speaking of research, I believe many researchers were Not Ready to Write. Let’s get to work then and see where the process takes me.

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 19:09



Share page with AddThis