NHS trust advertises clinical post as unpaid internship

Working for nothing, it seems, is the new having a job. There’s currently an advert on the NHS Jobs website for an “honorary assistant psychologist”, for which the pay scheme is euphemistically described as “other”. [Hat tip: @DrPhilHammond]

We are seeking an enthusiastic and committed individual to join a community service within the Addictions & Offender Care Directorate. You will be based in a Substance Misuse team, a multi-disciplinary team, under the supervision of a Clinical Psychologist. You will need to be able to commit to working in an honorary capacity for at least two days per week for at least 6 months. We would look favourably on individuals who can make a greater commitment.

You must be willing to work with individuals with substance misuse problems, many of whom also have complex mental health needs. You must possess the relevant skills and attributes to facilitate service users to engage in the service. You must have a strong commitment to teamwork and be able to work sensitively within a culturally diverse environment.

The successful applicant will possess a degree in psychology, and be eligible for Graduate Basis for Registration with the British Psychological Society.

We offer regular, high quality, clinical supervision and strong professional support. The psychology department has close links with UCL, UEL and Royal Holloway DClinPsych courses.

Please Note: These are UNPAID positions.

Oh Lord, is this how it begins? The world of unpaid internships, sorry, “honorary” posts migrating over from business and the media into actual clinical roles in the NHS?

It’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s an assistant psychologist post that seems to have attracted this method. There’s lots of keen, bright psychology graduates out there desperately scrabbling about for a few jobs as assistant psychologists, which they hope in turn will make them more appointable to the fiercely competitive doctorate programmes in clinical psychology. Plenty of the nursing assistants and support workers I’ve worked with in mental health are psychology grads trying to get relevant experience. Quite a few of them eventually give up, and go back to university to train as mental health nurses.

In other words, a field where you’ve got a good chance of finding someone of sufficient quality who’ll do it for free.

No doubt it’ll save Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust a bit of cash, but it’s yet another kick in the teeth for social mobility. There’s going to be a lot of psychology graduates who won’t be able to apply for this – not because they aren’t good enough, but because they can’t afford to take two days off a week from stacking shelves at Poundland.  If this turns out to be the shape of things to come, this could be yet another deepening of class divisions where a whole slew of top jobs are simply closed off to everyone except the offspring of the wealthy. Welcome to the new aristocracy.

Enjoy earthy body smells! Meet a homosexual! Make “far out” friends!

While browsing through various assessment scales I came across the Sensation Seeking Scale (Word document), a psychological tool published in 1971 for identifying personality traits that make people prone to risk-taking, experience-seeking or disinhibited behaviour. It asks the individual to choose between two different statements and decide which applies more to them. For example,

1.A I like “wild” uninhibited parties.
B I prefer quiet parties with good conversation.

Oh yes, and there’s lots of quotation marks in the questions, to the point that you feel like putting down the pen at intervals to do air quotes with your fingers.

I’m finding it an absolutely fascinating artefact – not so much for what it’s telling me about psychology, but what it says about how times have changed in what’s considered risky (or risque!) behaviour. Bizarrely, I’m told some professionals still recommend this as an assessment tool. Anyway, let’s delve in and find out whether we’re sensation seekers or not.
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