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How to become a clinical associate in applied psychology

You are likely to need at least a 2:1 honours degree from a BPS-accredited psychological degree programme to meet the entry requirements for clinical psychology training.

What is a clinical associate in applied psychology?

Clinical associates in applied psychology (CAAPs) are specialist mental health professionals who work in healthcare. They work either in primary care and adult mental health settings, or in a range of areas involving children, young people and their families. They work under the supervision of a clinical psychologist to reduce psychological distress and promote psychological well-being.

They use psychological methods and research to offer evidence-based help. Their goal is to support people to make a positive change to their lives.

With highly developed research skills, CAAPs carry out evaluation to inform their decisions.

Starting your career as clinical associate in applied psychology

Choosing subjects at school

To become a CAAP, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • Psychology
  • Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies
  • English
  • Human Biology
  • Maths

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

College and university

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

At college, you could do a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) to set you on the right path. These include:

Widening access

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Accessing applied psychology training

In Scotland, you can study for an MSc in Applied Psychology specialising in either primary care and adult mental health, or children, young people and families. These courses take one year to complete. The universities that offer this course are:

To gain access to these courses, your undergraduate degree will need to be accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) for the Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC).

You are likely to need at least a 2:1 Honours degree from a BPS-accredited psychological degree programme to meet the entry requirements for clinical psychology training. If you already have an undergraduate degree in a different subject, you can undertake a conversion course in psychology to gain the GBC.

Course search

Search for college or university programmes on My World of Work.

Get to know the role

As a CAAP, your aim is to reduce the distress and improve the psychological wellbeing of your client under the supervision of a clinical psychologist. You will help patients with a variety of mental and physical health conditions, including:

  • mild to moderate low mood or depression
  • mild to moderate anxiety disorders
  • behavioural difficulties in children
  • adjustment difficulties

Tasks include:

  • complete clinical assessments to help develop an understanding of the patients’ problems and how they came about
  • use psychological models and evidence-based intervention to process these assessments and help address the problems
  • assessing patients and their families through interviews, observations and psychometric tests
  • delivering a programme of intervention, including individual or group therapy or parenting programmes
  • evaluating service provision for clients

You’ll need these skills:

  • active listening
  • compassion
  • empathy
  • planning
  • sense-making
  • teamwork
  • relationship-building

You’ll work with a range of people, including:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • allied health professionals
  • mental health professionals

You could work in:

  • hospitals
  • community health centres
  • schools

Learning and development

As a CAAP, you would be expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). This is in order to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. It can include:

  • post-qualification training courses
  • received professional supervision
  • systematic reflection on practice

Professional bodies

The British Psychological Society (BPS) is the professional body for psychologists in the UK. They offer 3 levels of membership:

  1. Student membership is open to everyone studying on a BPS accredited undergraduate degree or conversion course.
  2. Graduate membership of the society is the starting point to your career as a psychologist. It is a prerequisite for many accredited post-graduate and doctoral programmes.
  3. Chartered membership reflects the highest level of psychological knowledge and expertise.

To find out more visit the BPS website.

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