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Challenges and changes in psychologist development experience: Links to extant literature

Johnson, TM 2013 , 'Challenges and changes in psychologist development experience: Links to extant literature', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This research aimed to examine and understand the processes by which student psychologists develop into practitioners during the transition from university to workplace. Previous research has identified stages of change within this developmental process, however this work has been predominantly descriptive and has failed to link with the broader organisational and career development literatures required to place this work on a sound theoretical footing.
Given the limited prior work, a qualitative grounded theory approach was adopted in order to understand the processes and experiences of psychologists in training and develop this into a model “from the ground up” which could then be compared to extant literature. Three groups of participants were interviewed. Interviews focussed on participants’ experiences and observations of the clinical training process and the challenges, changes, helps and hindrances experienced within this. Study 1 consisted of interviews with a sample of participants (10 participants) who were either in a clinical psychology training program at the University of Tasmania, or were within five years of obtaining completing training and achieving full registration. Study 2 consisted of a subsample of three participants from Study 1 re-interviewed after gaining further experience, thereby assessing change over time. Study 3 consisted of interviews with a second sample of students (four participants) in order to confirm or refute Study 1 findings and address potential cohort effects. Study 4 consisted of interviews with supervisors (two participants) in order to triangulate data. Study 5 consisted of a comparison between experience levels in the student participants. A synthesis of results from studies 1 through 5 was then analysed and discussed. Results demonstrated an overarching theme of change, consistent with the career development literature. This finding was further linked to broader literatures. Six stages were identified: pre-training, training, readiness to practice, entering the workforce, professional and experienced. Within these stages students engaged in tasks of: selecting a career, developing confidence, competence and a professional identity, changes in beliefs about the self, the profession and others and changes in professional and personal behaviours, and development of autonomous practice. These tasks were influenced by previous experiences, beliefs/values, coursework, experiences on placement and levels of support. From the results a model of psychologist development was developed.
These support a variety of theoretical models from multiple research domains including general career choice, career and cognitive development, self-efficacy and socialisation literatures, enabling links to be drawn between disparate fields, and locating the developing psychologists’ experience within broader psychological theory. By locating psychology training processes within broader theoretical frameworks, this research provides the foundation for constructing rigorous intervention and therapeutic techniques to manage this transition in ways that facilitate well-being and effective performance. Limitations were noted in the cross sectional design and inability (for ethical reasons) to evaluate individual competencies. Recommendations have been made to test links with other literatures suggested in the current research and to examine changes with a longitudinal design.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Johnson, TM
Keywords: psychologist, training, development, grounded theory
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