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#NewFaceofPsychology - Applying for Assistant Psychologist Posts Q&A with Dr Kiran Bains

Dr Kiran Bains is a qualified Health Psychologist who works within the NHS’ Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative. Dr Bains has experience interviewing and recruiting aspiring psychologists for Assistant Psychologist positions.

Check out her invaluable advice and answers to questions on this topic below:


What made you choose Health Psychology and how did you put this across in your application?

I'll answer in relation to getting on my Stage 1 training. I was a support worker and interested in applying it to my work with people with learning disabilities as their physical health needs were overlooked. I also liked that health psychology was new and felt re inequalities. And I liked the idea of working with health promotion and chronic illness. I took a module in it as an undergraduate so it was easy to show enthusiasm for that and talk about my aspirations.

I also looked at specific modules of interest and mentioned my dissertation result (I got a first for that and universities love that). I also did a bit of volunteering re LGBT health (once a week) so drew on quite a few things really around my interests.

Regardless of whether you do or don't do well in your research project by the way, think about relevant experience (or elements of it that are) and evidence to show your abilities as we are all different.

Beyond an undergraduate degree, how else can one demonstrate psychological experience and knowledge relevant for AP roles - this is providing they have not sought experience during their studies.

Through your university-based learning, especially relevant modules and soft skills. Additional training courses help and some of them (e.g. future learn) are free and relevant.

AP positions are so competitive, how do you stand out from the crowd in applications & interviews?

It is really difficult, but tailoring and having a well prepped application helps. During interviews the people that stood out to me had good awareness of current social issues, understood the nature of the service, showed enthusiasm, good reflective practice, good attention to detail, willingness to learn and seek help, as well as showing they were proactive in doing things and general approachability (from the time they came in to reception, not unusual for an interviewer to ask a receptionist re impressions).

I would love to know what the differences between what a chartered health psychologist and what a chartered clinical psychologist do once qualified?

In some ways we overlap in others we really don't. Where we do so most in my opinion is working with people with chronic illness in therapy contexts. However a health psychologist may also work in physical health promotion, public health (physical), doctor patient relationship, help-seeking, access to health services, medication adherence. Whereas clinical psychologists tend to be pigeonholed as therapists, though I do know some that work in public health (with a mental health focus generally).

Do you have any advice or tips on tackling the trust values section of the application? Is it wise to make some links to personal life?

Ooh a good question. Concrete examples of how you demonstrate values are key, whether personal or professional. Would suggest using at least one or two clinically relevant, work/study examples if possible as easier to for an interviewer to see you in the role.

What sort of questions can be expected in the interview for Assistant Psychologist roles?

Generally, why you want the role and what you bring to it. But can depend on service and what they need. Likely a scenario question to test competencies, lone-working if that's involved, career plans? in ours we ask re ethics, attention to detail, accuracy, working across sites

How was your 1st Assistant Psychologist role and what did you do to secure it?

I actually did not have one. I recruit Assistant Psychologists in my current role and have been an application advisor. I had a Research Assistant role but got into health psychology where it wasn't as crucial. However, as many ethnic minorities do I worked as a support worker instead.

How does one practice psychological formulations?

Role-play using models can help and training if possible, to understand them and why you are asking what you are asking.

You need to have a clear understanding of models you are using and why I often combine Leventhal’s self-regulatory model with CBT/ACT to guide my questions (socratically) and formulation, 5Ps model can also be useful framework to guide questions and responding to client presentation.

Do's and Dont's of applying for Assistant Psychologist?


- Read the person specification particularly carefully and where the role is based (i.e. type of service)

- Use the person specification headings to guide your answers in supporting statement

- Use examples (clinically relevant where possible) to show how you demonstrate a skill

- Check STAR Framework for guiding answers, also useful for competency based questions)

- Mention relevant modules and any extra courses you may have taken (Futurelearn has free ones)

- Have short blurbs ready for different types of services you are interested in working in

- Be enthusiastic

- Mention any additional languages you know

- Be reflective about your learning (look up models e.g. Gibbs)

- Oh and definitely get your content proofread! And read it aloud to yourself, or paragraphs not in order as our brains fill the gaps when we read linearly, easier to spot mistakes

- Learn from interviews

- Re additional experience, do mention what you have and think about soft skills you have learned

- Re working with marginalised groups, this is often unpaid and someone like me will look for that and take that into account, but worth also including any paid work you've had too.


- Make spelling mistakes

- Ramble

- Send a haphazard application.

- You may not get much time but this is why a template and planning are important

- Give up

Also, everyone is different & this is where guidance gets tricky. I am actively looking to be affirmative in employing minorities, I don't care about your A level results. If a job description states wanting people who are multilingual or experience with a minority group that may be a good sign.

Does what grade you got for BSc or MSc matter when you are applying for Assistant Psychologist posts?

Unfortunately it matters more than it should just because it is more competitive. I would consider highlighting grades for modules you did particularly well with (especially if relevant to post). I am not allowed to consider people with 2:2s generally. However, experience also matters.

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