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The profession of clinical psychology is currently
predominately white, female and middle class. What can be done to ensure that we become a more diverse and inclusive profession?
– can be made more diverse and inclusive – is one that has been much in the clinical psychology community in Britain as well as in other countries.
This essay will examine strategies and initiatives previously put in place in order to recruit clinical psychologists from a wider pool of applicants, and look at how successful such initiatives have been.
Finally, the discussion will focus on what seems to be the best way forward for the profession in its efforts to more closely reflect the disparate communities of which it serves.
The demographics of the profession might be at least partly responsible for the low usage rates of clinical psychology services by black, ethnic minority and male UK citizens.
An influential BPS report entitled “Widening access within undergraduate psychology education and its implications for professional psychology: Gender, disability and ethnic diversity” was
published in recent years (Turpin & Fensom, 2004). The report revealed that only 5.8% of UK clinical psychologists were recruited from ethnic minorities, and that a mere 23% were men.
called for greater efforts to increase the number of recruits from black and other ethnic minority (BME) and disabled communities.
The report referred to the work of Davenhill et al. (1989) who made a number of recommendations to widen access BME groups
into clinical psychology training. Unfortunately little progress was made.[RZ2]
The BPS has, however, demonstrated an ongoing commitment to deal with this complex matter, such as the setting up of ‘Race and Culture Special Interest Group’. Amongst the Group’s aims and objectives is a stated commitment to “promote strategies that increase Black and Minority Ethnic Communities to the profession of Clinical Psychology ”
; [RZ3]and to “promote the view that training in clinical psychology should reflect the needs of people from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities” (Reference!!!).[RZ4]
A notable contribution has also been made by the BPS ‘s ‘Standing Committee for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities’, which amongst other valuable functions, monitors levels of minority representation within the BPS. According to the most recent available figures, these BPS initiatives have not as yet had significant impact on diversity and inclusiveness, but it is perhaps too early to condemn them as inadequate and ineffectual.
Turpin and Fensom’s report
(2004) give interesting figures, showing that psychology is hugely popular as an undergraduate discipline with approximately 80,000 applicants a year, of which 79 percent are female. In the field of psychology, BME students are more highly represented at 12 percent compared with the rest of the population studying other subjects.
The same study also found that out of those from a BME background, only 1.4 percent are successful in their clinical training applications, compared with 3.95 percent of those who are white, and 3.5 percent who are male.
With regard to clinical training, approximately 9.4 percent of students are of a BME background, whereas only 6.2 percent of these are successful. Of the 90.6 percent who consider themselves to be white however, the success rate is 93 percent.
These data point towards highly complex reasons for a profession dominated by white females of a middleclass background. Gender bias in psychology has been recognised for many years (Morris et.al, 1992) It is likely that the nature of the discipline appeals more to females than men. [RZ5]But it might also be influenced by lack of knowledge of the true nature of psychology as well as that of future career possibilities. Amongst the practical measures announced in the BPS report mentioned above
, were a recruitment video to be used in schools, and an initiative to make careers advisors more aware of the employment opportunities offered by clinical psychology. [RZ6]
It can be argued that the mere process of undertaking clinical training in itself is likely to exclude certain social groups. [RZ7]The ratio of applicants far outweighs the places available, 29.3 per cent in 2002 (Turpin and Fensom, 2004) and this in itself is likely to deter some people. In addition to high academic entrance requirements
several years of relevant experience is required, Working as an assistant psychologist does not in itself necessarily give opportunities for a career, and even years of experience do not always guarantee acceptance into clinical training. This can give an impression of uncertainty in addition to the likelihood of eventually being in substantial financial debt. [RZ8]
All these factors could partly explain the reduction in applications from students from a BME background. Little is known about the perception of psychology as a vocation within or across different ethnic groups and culture. Darr (1998) found that ethnic applicants to higher education undervalued allied health professions as career choice and chose more traditional careers instead.[RZ9]
It is tempting to hypothesise, building on knowledge from social psychology, that applicants from minority backgrounds may encounter greater difficulties in conveying their knowledge and personal abilities.[RZ10]
The important goal of wider diversity within clinical psychology is to ensure that the Mental Health Service can offer adequate therapy for minority and socially excluded groups. More male clinical psychologists from different backgrounds might ensure that the Mental Health Service is accessible to these groups.
More research is needed to give an understanding of the gender differences and how psychology is perceived as a career in different ethnic groups. Research into exactly why, or at what stage
, ethnic minorities fail in the vetting process might be helpful.
“Widening access within undergraduate psychology education and its implications for professional psychology: Gender, disability and ethnic diversity”, (BPS, 2004)
BPS Equal Opportunities Policy
Davenhill R, Hun H, Piallary H M, Harris A & Klein Y (1989). Training and selection issues in clinical psychology for black and minority ethnic groups from an equal opportunities perspective. Clinical Psychology Forum,21 34-36
Darr, A. (1998) Improving the recruitment and retention of Asian students on nursing, midwifery, radiography and physiotherapy courses: A qualitative research study.
Bradford and Airedale Health Related Strategy Group.
Morris,P., Cheung,D. &Smith,H. (1992) How and why applicants choose to study psychology at university.
Pathak,S. (2000) Research report topic, race research for the future ethnicity. In Education, Training and the Labour Market. Department of Education and Employment,UK
Phillips,A.,Hatton,C. &Gray,l. (2001) Which selection methods do clinical psychology courses use? Clinical Psychology,8 19-24
[RZ2]Can you provide a quote from the report here to illustrate why little progress was made? What are the criteria for progress in this area?
[RZ3]What are these strategies?
[RZ4]Yes, don’t forget to reference this quote!
[RZ5]Why? Support this assertion.
[RZ6]You may want to consider moving this explanation of practical measures to the previous page, where the question of strategies is raised initially.
[RZ7]Why? Are certain social groups less demonstrably likely to display the work ethic necessary to complete clinical training?
[RZ9]Does Darr hypothesise why this might be so?
[RZ10]Why is it tempting? Internalized racism?
[RZ11]Miid 2:2 Standard. You should consider spending less time describing the particulars of the problem and more time analyzing why the problem exists and what might be done about it. Otherwise, well-written and well-sourced.
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