Studying psychology is really one of the most interesting things I have ever done.
I love psychology, I love learning about people, what makes them tick, what makes them wonder, what makes them afraid, what makes them happy.
The more I learn about psychology, and therapy, the more I want to get involved with what others are doing in the field.
From my own personal experience, I have found that the single best way to do this is via networking.
This is for a number of different reasons.
I realised that networking holds with it a huge amount of power in psychology.
Psychology is a field of individuals who care about the wellbeing and desires of others.
As a result, when I have tried to network, I have often been met with great advice and people willing to help.
Another reason why networking is so effective in psychology is that few do it!
This could be for many reasons
Perhaps people are afraid, perhaps they don’t want to step out of line, perhaps they don’t know what they are doing or who to content.
I want to give you a bit of insight into my story regarding networking, how I did it, and still do it, and the impact I have experienced as a result.
So, why should we network in psychology?
You may very well be starting out on your journey in the field, perhaps in your undergrad, or postgrad or doctorate, or perhaps you have just recently qualified.
Regardless, what needs to be realised is so many others are in the same position.
What differentiates you from the field?
Research shows that less than 10% of psychology undergraduates actually pursue a career in psychology
This could do with the challenges of continual study, or that some are just no longer interested in the area.
I actually think it has a lot to do with guidance and with knowing your path
If you are studying in psychology then you need to network!
Networking has opened so many doors for me, given me the opportunity and desire to develop online content and work with numerous individuals and organisations.
I have been given the opportunity to keynote speak at conferences, attend and present at international conference across the world, been offered job opportunities on the spot and connected with some very prominent psychologists.
All through networking.
So, here’s how I did it…
I would make a point of collecting all the contact information of the psychology centres and prominent psychologists in my area
I created bulk emails and sent them out, customising them where appropriate.
I would express my interest in their work and that I wanted to learn more.
What’s key here is that I tried to add value for them where ever I could.
If that meant volunteering for them in their centre, developing a workshop for them or writing content for social media campaigns, then I suggested it.
No matter what the situation, organisation or individual, I also made a point of adding value to them first before anything else.
I attended free events, and at times paid to attend conferences if I had the money.
This was a brilliant opportunity for me to meet face to face with people that were in attendance.
Often at events in psychology, you can get an idea of who might be attending, via social media and guides of who will be speaking.
I made sure that those attending were in line with my interests.
When I went, I would ensure I managed to get a couple of minutes with people I wanted to network with.
I created business cards and discussed my interests, work and my availability to add value to them.
I’ll be honest, networking at conferences had limited results.
Largely because people are there to either speak or listen.
I found conference attending helpful, but not as helpful as calling or emailing organisations directly.
One of the keys to networking effectively is that you have to create the opportunity for yourself.
More often than not, the opportunity that you desire and want to go after will not be an option right now.
You have to create the opportunity for yourself.
During my studies in counselling psychology, I was really struggling with workload, commitments, studies, placement and making enough money to live off.
There were no opportunities for trainees to learn directly about counselling psychology on the job, whilst earning a living.
So, I decided to try and change this, I reached out to one of the biggest private practices in the country and managed to arrange a meeting with the CEO.
I stuck with the principles of adding value and pitched the idea of why hiring counselling psychology trainees for placement on a paid basis would be a great idea for him and his organisation.
He loved it.
So much so that he and I created multiple job opportunities for counselling psychologists in training to take on placement at his organisation on a paid progression programme format.
In doing so, I had created a job for myself, whilst also developing my experience working with one of the most premier psychologists in the country.
All because I reached out, added value and was aware that the opportunities I wanted were limited.
Now, you might think that networking is just consistent of reaching out to people and asking if they will help you out.
In truth, networking can be so much more than this.
I have found that some of the best networking opportunities that have come my way have actually not been from me reaching out to people, but people reaching out to me.
How has this happened?
Through developing content.
I create a lot of content for social media, my written blog here and my YouTube channel GetPsyched.
People who read my content and what my videos sometimes reach out to me and want to know more.
This was how I managed to get some opportunities speaking at international conferences.
People saw my content and connected with me and asked if I would like to do some work with them.
My advice would be to start your networking in psychology by reaching out to people via email, telephone and attending conferences, but if you are really keen to develop your networking opportunities further then developing content could be one of the best things you do.
Networking is powerful.
In psychology, it is so underdone that it opens opportunities for those willing to take advantage of the opportunities available.
I hope this post has given you a little insight into the potential of networking and some of the key steps you can take to networking in psychology for yourself.
What is visualisation?
It’s a term that’s used to help people realise and achieve goals and dreams, but what do we mean exactly by visualisation and what impact can it actually have?
Well, fundamentally visualisation is a cognitive tool used to picture exactly what you want to happen.
In doing so we are creating all aspects of the scenario that we to experience or obtain. Now, I mean everything, so that could be sounds, sights, smells, feelings.
The more realistic the visualisation you take part in and the more it stimulates you, the more impact it will have in you realising and moving closer to what you want to achieve.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter gives a fantastic explanation of what visualisation is and its power:
“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more”
So, with this depiction, we can start to understand that visualisation is an opportunity for us to try and control what we are struggling to control.
It is a tool that helps us create what we want to see and achieve.
This all sounds great, ideal, give me some visualisation!
Well, hold on for a second. What is important when thinking about concepts that talk about how they are the key to success, is to look at the research.
What does psychology say about visualisation?
Well, often in psychological services, visualisation boards are used to help illustrate what the client is seeking.
These external tools can help in keeping the client focussed on visualisation.
Visualisation boards are often used for people that want a better future, a healthier lifestyle and even for those attempting to overcome addiction.
In psychological services, concrete objects are often utilised to help with the process of visualisation.
This is often used with patients with depression to visualise a better future and used to great effect.
These concrete objects can include things such as pictures in wallets for example, or mementoes that the individual carries with them.
Visualisation is also used in psychological and therapeutic services for patients with severe anxiety to create mental holidays to retreat to a calmer environment.
This might sound abstract but it has been shown to have incredible effects.
So, it’s clear then that visualisation techniques can be used to incredible effect in therapeutic and psychological contests but where else is visualisation used?
Where else is visualisation used?
Well the easiest one to appreciate perhaps is in the world of sports
Athletes will spend huge amounts of time visualising good performances.
Recent research has in fact inferred that spending time visualising performances and potential different outcomes and responses in sports settings have as much a role to play in how well an athlete performs the practice itself.
I watched the Winter Olympics earlier in the year and saw bob slay team captains pretending to go through the motions of the full course in their minds.
They would turn in ways that they would expect when they go down the track, all to ensure that they fully utilise the power of visualisation.
Visualisation can also be really effectively utilised in a studying context.
For example, you might visualise exams and coursework that you have due. Visualising what questions, you might get asked and best to answer them are all really powerful ways of utilising visualisation in studying.
The trick here, with regards to anything in visualisation, is to go through the entire process.
Don’t just focus on one questions in an exam or one move on the sports field. Visualise the full thing in its entirety.
That means, from waking up that day, to what you have for breakfast, to walking to school or the gym, to entering the room and sitting down and opening the paper…you get the idea.
The important thing is that you go through as many different scenarios in your head in as much detail as possible.
This way, you teach yourself not to expect anything unpredictable. You also reassure yourself of the different outcomes that could happen and how you might react as a result.
How can you use visualisation to great effect in your everyday life?
Well, you might to create your own visualisation board and keep it somewhere that you will see it every day. Whenever you walk past it, take some time to visualise what it is you desire as you look at the pictures.
When I was studying for exams, I used to pin my notes and mind maps around my house and when I went to the fridge for milk, there would be some notes there, I would take my time and read them through and visualise how I might use them in a potential question in an exam.
When I went to go out the front door, there would be another page of notes and I would do the same.
I was utilising visualisation to improve my upcoming performances.
Fundamentally guys, visualisation is seriously powerful, it’s not just a generic term thrown around by people who think they know what they are talking about, it has real psychological backing and is a toll that you can use every day to achieve and progress more in whatever you want to do.
Interested in learning more about visualisation? The check out the recent video I did about the psychology of visualisation on my YouTube channel GetPsyched by clicking the link here.
Part of the reason why I love psychology so much is that it’s not just for professors and academics.
Psychological principles can be used by anyone who has a little understanding to great effect.
I once had a psychology tutor who told me that as psychology students, we were at an extreme advantage with regards to studying for classes, assignments and exams.
We already knew what worked and what didn’t work.
We were learning the very techniques and principles that other fields tried to apply to their study patterns and regimes.
Learning new things is one of those concepts that we all wish we could be better at.
We might here new and interesting information, yet struggle to retain it and access it when we need it most.
Psychology and psychological principles can help with this though. There are numerous ways in which psychology can help us learn new things better.
You can find out so much more information on how psychology can help you learn new things better by checking out a video I did on this subject on my YouTube channel GetPsyched. Check out the video by clicking here.
In this article, I am going to give you a number of psychologically backed principles and interventions you can use to learn new things better.
So, let’s get to it.
STATE DEPENDENT RECALL
This basically means you have a place where you learn stuff.
A secluded and quiet location where you do your most profound thinking and learning.
Use this place often and make it your environment to absorb new information.
For me personally, that would be my back bedroom that has a desk in it, I can sit on my office chair and feel comfortable in that environment to give my full attention to what I am learning.
It’s peaceful, has natural light, and is simplistic and minimalistic enough to the point where I won’t get distracted.
What’s more is that when the door is shut, others know that I’m really busy or invested in a task and don’t want to be disturbed.
Put it this way, you’re not going to learn new stuff best if you keep changing the environment, at a bar or watching TV for example.
THE FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR
This sound fancy but it basically means holding yourself accountable for your own learning.
If you think others learn stuff better because they are just smarter than you, then your suffering from the fundamental attribution error.
Holding yourself accountable for your learning and thinking about what you can do to improve it will always assist in learning new things.
Now, this is a technique often used in classrooms by teachers.
It basically means extending the amount of time before trying to recall something you have learned.
By increased the time between recall, you improve our ability to learn the new information
You can try this out yourself pretty easily actually. Learn something new and give yourself 5 minutes to then recall it by memory. If you get it then extend that 5 minutes to 30 minutes, then an hour, 6 hours, a day, 3 days and so on.
To the point where you can recall the information over a large amount of time.
By extending the period of time between recalling new information, we stretch our brain and memory continually to the point where it is forced to keep responding to new and challenging circumstances.
As a result, we not only learn new things better, but we also retain them at an improved rate.
This basically means you should try and learn new things via more than one method.
If you simply read something new and leave it at that, then your limiting yourself and your ability to learn and retain new information.
You could try some of the following examples as learning tools that could be used together. Draw a picture of what you are trying to learn, create a mind map, or speak it out to yourself.
By increasing the number of learning tools and format’s, you learn much faster.
THE METHOD OF LOCI
This sounds a bit weird but it’s a form of mnemonics that help you remember new information better.
Used by the ancient Greeks, you remember new information by the location that you place them in in your mind.
In the modern day, people have been able to memorise thousands of pieces of new information via this method.
They didn’t start out like this, but what they do is actually construct full cities in their head and place each piece of new information in different areas, locations and buildings around this city in order to memorise this new and vastly complex information very quickly and effectively.
There are ways that you can use this tool for yourself. For example, remembering items or pieces of information by storing them in different rooms in a house you have created in your mind has been shown to have incredible effects for learning new things.
This is a technique that you really need to try out for yourself!
UNDERSTAND YOUR WORKING MEMORIES CAPACITY
Your working memory, which is your ability to retain different pieces of useful information, has a limit.
This limit usually is capped at around 7 pieces of new information in most circumstances.
By understanding this better, you can schedule your breaks better that we spoke about earlier and retain more accurate new information more effectively and over longer and more sustained periods of time.
UNDERSTAND YOUR METACOGNITION
Firstly, what is metacognition?
Its fundamentally our ability to assess and understand our own skills and learning capabilities.
By understanding your own metacognition you’ll begin to see that you perhaps aren’t taking enough time to learn new information.
Cognitive psychologists have time and time again found that a lack of understanding of metacognition has led to poor retention of new information.
Basically, you need a level of self-awareness for what your needs are when learning new information and how you learn new information best. That way, things should start to make more sense.
So, those are my top tips on how to learn new information better. These tips are really effective but they don’t come overnight. What I suggest is that you give them all a try, see what ones, and what combination, works best for you and practice them a lot!
Al the best with learning all that new info brainiac!!!
Deciding to undertake a massive course like the doctorate in counselling psychology is a huge step.
For me, it was a journey I wasn’t sure I would ever get the opportunity to be a part of at one time. Starting the counselling psychology doctorate meant I had to conduct a graduate diploma in psychology and gain enough experience in the therapeutic and psychological field to be considered for the course.
When I was accepted onto the doctorate in 2016 it was an overwhelming sense of relief, excitement and apprehension. I would experience these to even greater degrees as the course began.
I’ve come to realise a number of things after being on the counselling psychology course for a year and a half, that I think are worth sharing. Firstly, it is a fantastic course. Studying a subject that is your passion is exhilarating at times, I feel like I am a working cog in the course and not just a ‘student’ listening to a ‘teacher’.
Although this, in theory, is true, I feel that because I enjoy learning so much about counselling psychology, I feel fully involved in my learning experience.
Secondly, there are a massive amount of opportunities that present themselves during the course and after graduation. Attending annual conferences, presenting workshops at universities, connecting with larger psychology organisation, and developing networking connection are just some of the fantastic opportunities I have realised come with undertaking the doctorate.
My advice here is that these opportunities really only present themselves to people who go out to find them. The extra work is well worth it though.
Thirdly, success on this course is dependent on a number of things rather than just intelligence. The ability to juggle multiple things at once is something you have to get used to very early on and get better at as the course develops.
Class work, reflective work, assignments, placements, personal therapy, and your own external work are just some of the things going on for me right now. Staying organised and accepting that the juggling act is just part of the course is vital.
At times for me, it feels like working on coursework is something I spend less of my time on than everything else. Placement takes up a large amount of time, as do additional reading and reflective practices. I’ve learned not to be worried about this though and have seen the value in investing time in these exercises.
Reflection and learning from practical work are extremely valuable when it comes to writing assignments and feeling more confident in the therapeutic work you facilitate. One key point I have learned so far is that your ‘intelligence’ might get you on the course, but your resourcefulness and determination will keep you on it.
One of the most challenging aspects of training for me has been juggling it with employment. Making enough money per month whilst studying can be stressful and has become a challenge I have had to accept on a monthly basis. I have been fortunate enough to work part-time as a research assistant and seminar tutor, which has allowed me to earn a living whilst studying. However, financial assistance for the course is something I feel needs improving. Especially when compared to our clinical counterparts. This, of course, is an issue externally to my course, my university and my governing bodies, but it is an issue that I feel needs consideration by those about to start the counselling psychology doctorate.
The course has been a pleasure and a real honour to be a part of. Studying my passion has kept me motivated and focussed on progressing further. I have learned that there are huge opportunities in the field of counselling psychology. I have also learned that whilst continual independent reading is vital, the practical experience that we gain in classes and on placement is invaluable. Practically implementing theory and research into actual therapeutic work is exciting to be a part of.
Interested in learning about the day in the life of a psychology doctoral trainee? Then click here.
Why not stay up to date on my YouTube channel ‘GetPsyched’ too. Youll find weekly videos on topics in psychology and study tricks also. Check out the channel by clicking here.
I first went into therapy when I was 14 years old. I had been self-harming; my mum found out and she took me to the GP who referred me to the local CAMHS. There I saw a Psychotherapist for a year but whilst seeing her for self-harm, I developed anorexia and subsequently got referred to the eating disorder service. I saw a Clinical Psychologist who offered CBT and alongside this, I also had family therapy with my parents. Eventually, after reaching rock bottom, things improved and I began to recover. However, when it came to my 18th birthday the ‘not so smooth’ transition from CAMHS to adult services left me falling through the net and I was left feeling alone and rejected at a time I very much still needed that support.
Over the years, and various moves, I continued in and out of the different mental health services and private therapy. Over the last 13 years, I have definitely seen my fair share of mental health professionals from counsellors to Psychiatrists. This, coupled with the fact I have a degree in Psychology, taught me how therapy worked; especially CBT. I learnt to give them exactly what they wanted to hear. I answered all their questionnaires and did all the homework like the perfect service user and when they discharged me, a few months down the line I was back to square one. Whenever I presented to my GP with various degrees of anxiety and depression, they would either increase my tablets or refer me to yet another 6 sessions of CBT. I learnt two things: CBT doesn’t work for everyone and GP’s hand out anti-depressants like they are sweets.
I have always struggled to talk about my feelings or to bring up anything sensitive that I couldn’t bring myself to say but so needed to. In adult services, no one really bothered to ask. CBT focused on changing negative thought patterns and the therapist would get me to do tasks like applying for that job I wanted but thought I might not get. Any mindfulness techniques left me feeling more anxious than before because I was suddenly noticing and feeling emotions I had pushed away for so long. And then they told me that I was too closed off and not willing to open up, to try harder or come back when I’m willing to emotionally bare all.
Counselling and trauma-informed care
Up until a few months ago, I was seeking help from an alcohol service to tackle my drinking. Over the year or so that I was there I had been passed around a few different key workers and every time I saw them it felt rushed and I felt like a burden. They even gave me anti-craving medication which I took for a few weeks then stopped. Again, like the perfect service user, I told them I had cut down on my alcohol intake and it was no longer a problem. I would leave the appointment feeling worse, often going straight to the shop to buy alcohol. Then I was passed onto a different key worker for my remaining time in the service and for the first time it felt like I was being listened to. I stopped lying and I started to open up more because I felt like I somehow mattered. He taught me what compassion really was and I realised that it was something I lacked in my life; I needed to learn how to be kind to myself and I needed the space to explore my thoughts and feelings and to discover who I am. And so I found counselling.
I’ve had a few sessions now with a counsellor and some days it’s harder to open up than others but I’m getting there. It can be a struggle to be ‘me’ when for so long I have given therapists what they want; the perfect, compliant patient all neatly boxed off. I’ve been able to talk about things I haven’t ever spoken about and it’s completed person-centred. I can talk as much or as little about anything I want to. It’s taught me to not over-analyse everything. That sometimes things just happen beyond our control and you just have to ride the wave and talk through the feelings that brings up. It’s not structured, there’s no right or wrong answers, no homework and no questionnaires to ace. She understands that my self-destructive behaviour is, and has been, a reaction to certain events in my life or things that have happened to me. I’m no longer seen as a set of symptoms or, as my GP once called me when I told him I felt suicidal, ‘highly strung.’ For the first time, I feel validated and understood.
If you are seeking therapy then know that it is different for everyone, what works for one doesn’t always work for another. It’s important to find what’s right for you at that time. But if something doesn’t feel right then don’t be afraid to try something else or to ask for a different therapist. Often, the relationship you have with your therapist can have a greater impact than the therapy itself. When you do find what works for you then stick with it. It can be incredibly difficult but so worth it. It’s not a magic cure, you do have to put work into it and talking about unpleasant things can be extremely difficult. But a good therapist will guide you through it and offer a safe space to explore your feelings. Always keep yourself safe and practice self-care. Do things that you enjoy. Treat yourself after every therapy session, whether that’s retail therapy, gaming, coffee with a friend, a Netflix binge or journaling. I find that a bubble bath, a good book and then a binge of ‘The Blacklist’ in my onesie works wonders for me.
Presenting at a conference of any kind, and in any format, can be a daunting prospect but one full of opportunities. If your presentation is in a poster format then it can be challenging to know how best to present your study and/or findings. Recently I won first place for my poster presentation at the BPS annual counselling psychology conference. As a result, I have come up with my top tips that helped me deliver a poster presentation that was engaging and interesting.
Tip #1 – Ensure the message is clear and concise:
- On average an individual only looks at a poster at a conference for anywhere between 40 seconds to 60 seconds.
- The last thing they want to do is read scrolls and scrolls of text to get the point.
- Make sure to be clear, succinct and to the point with all the relevant information you require.
Tip #2 – Make the poster stand out from the rest:
- At any conference, it is easy to get lost in the group of posters presented.
- You could be at a conference that has in excess of 50 posters, so it is vital that yours stands out from the crowd.
- I have always found that when people anticipate this, they want to add lots of colour and be as bold as possible. This is not always the best idea.
- Your poster might stand out more if it has some white space or a white background. Something to think about here as the majority of people will think to add bold colours in order to stand out.
- We will get to a few additional point that will help you stand out at your conference later.
Tip #3 – Why use words when you can use diagrams?:
- As we have already been saying, people don’t spend long on average looking at posters.
- Therefore, why say something with words that can be said in even greater detail, and more manageable, in a diagram or picture?
- If you have conceptualised a theory or want to report some interesting findings then charts and graphs could be a good option.
- In the poster I won first place for recently, I was sure to have a diagram that stood centre stage of the poster. It was very basic but stood out and got my points across for what I did, why I did it and what I took from what was discovered.
Tip #4 – Include participant and paper information:
- One of the key pieces of feedback I received from my poster was that I included the number of papers that were relevant to my study, where I found them and how I reduced my search.
- This is something that is apparently overlooked and you really should consider adding this information to your poster.
- Likewise, if you had participants etc then the information of number etc should be included at some point.
- Beleive me, those judging your poster really do look out for these things!
Tip #5 – Have available handouts:
- One of the best tips I learned when working on my poster was to have available handouts for those interested in your work.
- This could include a summary of what you have in your poster and perhaps some additional information.
- However, one of the best reason for doing this is networking.
- You can have your contact details on this for people to get in touch with you. Conferences are a fantastic opportunity to network in psychology. Having something that people can take away with them that has a means of getting in touch with you is a very smart move!
Tip #6 – Make it flow:
- There are a number of things to juggle when creating and delivering an effective poster at a conference.
- One of the key things often overlooked is how it flows.
- The information you provide in your poster will be very brief at points and very direct, therefore its important that your whole poster has a flow to it. It should be easy to read and follow.
- One easy way to help with this is to have a title of each section of information you have, this should also be numbered so the reader knows where to look next.
- For example:
- Implications for Practice.
- This is very basic but maybe gives you an idea of what is expected regarding the flow of your poster.
Poster presenting, and attending a conference in general, is a really good way to network and develop your own knowledge and skills. With these steps, you will be well on your way to making your poster stand out from the rest and deliver clear and concise information that the reader will enjoy.