Tāmaki Innovation Campus

Hot contest for places in clinical psychology

Psychology Clinic Director, Nigel George, with Sean McArdle (right) who is one of eleven second year doctoral trainees to have a placement at the Clinic this year.

It’s business as usual for the time being, at the University of Auckland Clinic’s Psychology Services. Psychology, a long-time resident at the Tāmaki Campus, will re-join the main psychology department on the City Campus in the new Science building later this year.

It’s a move Clinic Director Nigel George hails as exciting. The move will bring a change for the clinic which began on Campus a decade ago, to ensure amongst other things, sufficient top quality placement for students. Part of its role as a teaching clinic is to provide student psychologists with the best possible learning environment.

The eleven successful doctoral level students undertake three placements throughout the course, with 200 hours spent in each placement over a two year period. Areas covered in these placements include adult mental health, child and family, forensics, as well as the Psychology Clinic. A further year’s internship in a DHB finishes off the training programme.

Overall, Nigel says, the Clinic hopes to demonstrate what clinical psychology should look and be like in the wider community context. While the Clinic covers greater Auckland, many referrals come from maternal mental health at Green Lane, particularly for clients whose needs are for longer intervention for post-natal issues. Part of its attraction is that mothers may bring children or babies along, creating a casual, rather than strictly clinical atmosphere; helped also by easy and available parking.

For Nigel and colleagues, the highlights have been many over the years, but he says a major joy has been the individual rhythm and achievements brought about by each semester. “For the first 3-4 weeks, it’s a bit of a struggle for everyone – clients and trainees - but by about week six or so, the whole thing is humming, from the people coming in, to the therapists. That’s the essence of what we do – to see everyone in the Clinic grow and develop.”

Their work includes a range of empirically supported therapies from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy which includes the widely-practiced mindfulness, through to the next wave of compassion-focussed therapies.

Psychology is the victim of its own success, becoming one of the most popular courses in the University; a popularity due mainly through a high profile on TV and in magazines. He calls it the ‘recession-proof degree’, with the flexibility to change focus across careers and countries – the ultimate adaptable degree. More than 100 applicants vie for the eleven placements at Tāmaki each year.