The Alternative Handbook 2024
A trainee's guide to postgraduate clinical psychology courses.
Dear prospective clinical psychologists
Choosing which courses to apply for to undertake your professional clinical training is one of the most important decisions in your journey towards becoming a clinical psychologist.
There are many factors which may influence this decision - including the course ethos, content, and location, selection procedures, placement opportunities, research topics and the support structures available - all of which will shape your experiences as a trainee clinical psychologist, and the clinician you will become.
The DCP Pre-Qualification Group (PQG) represents those before training (pre-training) and in-training (i.e. current trainees) within the Division of Clinical Psychology.
To join the DCP Pre-qualification Group, you’ll need to also be a member of BPS and add the Division of Clinical Psychology.
Learn about DCP member benefits - including access to written and video resources alongside a list of national aspiring psychologist support groups
Find out more about the DCP's activities - including information on upcoming events and recordings of previous webinars
A trainee’s guide to postgraduate clinical psychology courses
In this publication, we have asked the current trainees from every course, across all year groups to tell us what it is like to be a trainee on their course. Overall, the information provided here aims to give you a flavour of what it is really like to be a trainee at the courses which interest you.
While the survey encourages open and honest feedback, the BPS holds the right to remove comments that may be libellous, contain prejudiced language, or identify particular individuals.
Each year we strive to gain a realistic account of trainees’ perspectives on the different courses and we could not do that without the time taken by current trainees to respond to our questions. We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all respondents of this year’s survey and thank each trainee for their input. We are sure that the comments provided will be invaluable in helping you, as aspiring clinical psychologists, to consider and plan your application for training.
Furthermore, this publication would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our colleagues on the DCP Pre-Qualification Group Committee and the BPS staff (Research and Evaluation, Data Analytics, Digital Communications, and Design and Production teams) working behind the scenes – a huge thank you to all our colleagues who have worked diligently to produce this publication.
From the 2022-2023 Division of Clinical Psychology Pre-Qualification Group Committee, we wish you the best of luck with all of your career developments.
Get in touch
Please use the links below to explore the findings from the Alternative Handbook 2024 survey.
Each survey question can be filtered by course using the dropdowns at the top of the page. Please be mindful of this filtering when exploring the survey data, particularly when looking between different survey questions. To navigate between the survey questions within each section, please use the ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ arrows at the bottom of each page.
About the trainees
Findings about the trainees, including their current year of training, whether they or on a full-time or part-time course, the age trainees began their training, and how many times they applied for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
Trainees' academic experience
Whether trainees completed a BPS accredited undergraduate degree and if so, the classification of this, the classification of their BPS accredited conversion course (if applicable), and any other additional academic qualifications obtained.
Trainees' work experience
The number of years of relevant and other work experience trainees had prior to starting their training and roles previously held by trainees.
The selection process experience
Findings about the process of applying and interviewing as a trainee - what support trainees had with their application, and experiences of the interview process.
About the course
Views of how long the course gives to different models of therapy and different areas, the emphasis of the course on research and clinical training, and the emphasis of the course on qualitative and quantitative methods.
About the teaching
Views of the quality of teaching on the course, overall and on different subjects and methodologies, and views on whether the course supports diverse experiences, backgrounds and individuality.
About your thesis
Experiences of completing the thesis - whether the course provided pre-determined topics for this, views of different aspects of the thesis, the type of research methods involved, and experience of finding and accessing supervisors.
Challenges and support during training
Views of different aspects of the course and what has been challenging, awareness of different support systems provided by the course and how helpful these have been, and satisfaction with support from the course/university/NHS Trust/s.
About your placement
Experience of clinical placements and support with these, how long it took trainees to commute to their placement and whether or not they needed to stay in temporary accommodation during their placements.
Overall views of the course, including common words and phrases capturing the course experience, favourite aspects of the course, suggested improvements to the course, likelihood of recommending the course to others and reasons for this, and one piece of advice trainees would give new clinical psychology applicants.
Request PDF Report
If you are a course leader and would like the 2023 Alternative Handbook in a PDF format, please contact the Research and Evaluation team.
The views and opinions expressed by the trainees surveyed for The Alternative Handbook 2024 and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the BPS or any Trustee or employee thereof.
The BPS is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the trainees surveyed and has replicated trainees’ comments in good faith. All trainees who submitted feedback for the purpose of this handbook did so knowingly, having given any necessary consents.
Trainee response rates
Explore the trainee response rates year on year and by location.
- We recommend that the Alternative Handbook be used in conjunction with information produced by the Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology and the individual course websites. The Hull course and Queen’s University Belfast course have their own application process and are not part of the Clearing House scheme.
- There are many issues to consider before applying to a clinical psychology course. We suggest that, as you read through this publication, that it may be helpful to make a list of what seem to be the most important issues for you. Courses are usually happy to be contacted by applicants who need further information and most have websites you can access.
- If you are not successful in your application this year, it may be helpful to contact the courses to request individual feedback on your application or interview. Although not all courses provide this, it is worth trying as this feedback may help maximise your chances of success in the future.
- We have generally tried to include verbatim responses where respondents have provided comments. Unfortunately, some responses, or parts of responses, have had to be removed because the content was deemed inappropriate (e.g. comments that were libellous, those that could have been considered a defamation of character, etc.), where there was a repetition of information already stated (e.g. amounts for funding, areas trainees live, etc.), or where a comment could potentially have meant that the respondent (or someone else) was personally identifiable. In instances where a comment has been edited for these reasons, a ‘[…]’ is shown in the text.
- You should ensure that you take note of the number of trainees who have responded and numbers within year groups. It is also important to remember that processes may have changed since year groups started, e.g. interviews, and this may be why different views are expressed.
- All information is based on the experiences and reports of current trainees. Although the DCP Pre-Qualification Group committee endeavours to bring you up-to-date information, we cannot vouch for the accuracy of the data provided.
- With regards to the section on Support for trainees with disabilities, respondents used the Equality Act 2010 definition: ‘A person (P) has a disability if – (a) P has a physical or mental impairment; and (b) The impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.
About the Pre-Qualification Group
The Pre-Qualification Group (PQG) is here to support and represent you in your journey to becoming a qualified clinical psychologist, ensuring your views and needs are integrated into the activities of the BPS and Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP).
Membership of the Pre-Qualification Group is open to Graduate members of the society who are either in a ‘Pre-Training’ role (i.e. anyone who has completed an accredited psychology degree and is an aspiring clinical psychologists) or are ‘In-Training’ (i.e. individuals who are on an accredited clinical psychology doctorate course).
Further information about the Pre-Qualification Group
The Pre-Qualification Group is part of the society’s Division of Clinical Psychology. You automatically become a member of the Pre-Qualification Group when you join the DCP at either the General (Pre-Training) or In-Training grades at no extra cost. If you are unsure as to whether you are registered with the Pre-Qualification Group, please email the Member Network Services team and ask to be added to our mailing list.
Please email the DCP Pre-Qual Group Committee to discuss becoming a PQG committee member.
Discover a world of benefits
Opportunity awaits when you take out DCP Pre-Qualification membership. Explore all of the perks.
Products and services
- Reduced rates for PQG and DCP conferences and workshops.
- Regular email updates with important information, events and activities.
- Monthly edition of Clinical Psychology Forum.
- Discounted rates and free access to insightful documents produced by the division.
- Join our DCP online community and share knowledge, ask questions and network with other trainees and practicing clinical psychologists.
- Be acknowledged for your innovative research and practice through the Pre-Qualification Group Award.
- Enjoy funded local events and activities, exclusively for members.
- Find your local pre-training support group, or ‘assistant group’ to help you gain a place on specific training courses.
- Join the PQG committee and be a representative on faculty and local branch committees.
- Shaping your future by taking part in consultations.
- Take part in national working groups as well as a host of other DCP committees.
- Disseminate your work and write about hot topics by submitting an article or topic for inclusion in the Clinical Psychology Forum.
DCP Pre-Qualification Group Committee 2022-23
Co-Chair (In-training) - Nadia Ernst
Co-Chair (Pre-training) - Ken Cheung
Treasurer - Vacant
Membership Engagement Co-Lead - Vacant
Membership Engagement Co-Lead - Vacant
Co-Events Lead - Vacant
Co-Events Lead - Vacant
Co-Publicity Lead - Ashleigh Cullen
Co-Publicity Lead - Vacant
Trainee Rep - Vacant
DCP Workforce and Training Rep - Maisie Stafford
DCP Minorities Rep - Vacant
DCP Publications and Research Rep - Vacant
Division of Neuropsychology Rep - Vacant
Committee Member - Vacant
Committee Member - Vacant
Nations Co-ordinator - Rosie Sibley
England Rep - Vacant
Northern Ireland Rep - Vacant
Scotland Rep - Laura Williams
DCP London Rep - Vacant
Wales Rep - Jack Griffiths
Faculties Co-ordinator - Vacant
Addictions Faculty Rep - Callum Gray
Clinical Health Rep - Vacant
Children, Young People & their Families (CYPF) Faculty Rep - Kate Cudmore
Eating Disorders Rep - Chloe Morris and Elena Coria
Forensic Faculty Rep - Vacant
Faculty for People with Intellectual Disabilities (FPID) Rep - Luke Yates
Faculty of the Psychology of Older People (FPOP) Rep - Vacant
HIV & Sexual Health Faculty Rep - Vacant
Holistic Rep - Vacant
Leadership & Management Rep - Melissa McRae
Oncology & Palliative Care Rep - Vacant
Faculty of Psychosis & Complex Mental Health (PCMH) Rep - Vacant
Perinatal Faculty Rep - Laura Waring
Equality, diversity and inclusion
In total, 1070 (35%) of trainees completed the survey for the Alternative Handbook. Below is a summary of their demographics. You can also view the full breakdown of demographics.
Roughly two thirds of respondents (63 per cent) were aged between 25–29 years old when they started their training. This is similar to last year (65 per cent) and greater than national data, with less than a third (29 per cent) of full-time postgraduates across subjects enrolling in this age group (HESA, 2021-22). Compared to all full-time postgraduates, respondents started their training at a slightly older age.
The majority (84 per cent) of respondents described their gender as female and only 12 per cent as male. This is similar to last year (85 per cent and 11 per cent respectively). This is slightly greater than the national figure, where 81 per cent of full-time psychology postgraduates were female (HESA, 2021-22). Figures also reflect findings from The Right Track (2021) commissioned by The Nuffield Trust on behalf of the BPS, which showed that one in six (16.7 per cent) of the NHS psychological workforce are male. Respondents were provided with the opportunity to self-identify their preferred gender identity, with less than 1 per cent self-identifying. One per cent described themselves as non-binary and two per cent preferred not to say; this remains unchanged from last year. Eleven per cent of respondents responded that they lived and worked/studied in a gender role different from their sex registered at birth, slightly higher than the nine per cent who said this last year.
The majority (81 per cent) of respondents described their ethnicity as White, which is the same as last year. Sixteen per cent described themselves as being from a minoritised ethnic group, with the highest proportion (6 per cent) of those identifying as Asian. These figures are higher than those reported nationally where 76 per cent of full-time postgraduates studying psychology describe themselves as White and 21 per cent as from a minoritised ethnic group (HESA, 2021-2022). The Right Track (2021) research findings also showed disparities, with certain minoritised ethnic groups less likely to progress in their career, having entered the NHS workforce post study. For instance, 9 per cent of applicants with Black and Asian ethnicities were accepted onto clinical psychology training courses compared with 17 per cent who applied.
Just under three quarters of respondents (72 per cent) described their sexual orientation as Heterosexual/Straight, a similar proportion to last year (75 per cent). Twenty per cent identified as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual, also a similar proportion to last year (18 per cent).
Seventy per cent of respondents described themselves as having no religion or belief, which is similar to last year (71 per cent). This is greater than the national figure of 42 per cent for all full-time postgraduates (HESA, 2021-22).
Just under half (48 per cent) of respondents reported that the highest qualifications achieved by their parents(s) /guardian(s) by the time they were 18 was a degree level (compared with 50 per cent last year). Over one in five (22 per cent) respondents reported that the type of work that the main/highest income earner in their household did when they were aged around 14 was a modern professional occupation (e.g. teacher/ lecturer, nurse, and physiotherapist).
Just over a quarter (28 per cent) of respondents reported having a disability, impairment, learning difference or long-term condition, which is slightly higher than last year (25 per cent) and the year before (22 per cent). This is much greater than the national figure, where 9 per cent of full-time postgraduates reported having a disability (HESA, 2021-22).
Trainees who reported having a disability, impairment, learning difference or long-term condition were asked some further questions about reasonable adjustments. Sixty-three per cent of these students reported that they had disclosed their disability, impairment, learning difference or long-term condition to their university prior to starting their course, and 24 per cent disclosed this during the course. When asked if a member of staff at their university had discussed reasonable adjustments with them, around a quarter (24 per cent) said they had done so prior to starting the course, and 50 per cent said they had done so during the course. Of those who disclosed they had a disability, impairment, learning difference or long-term condition to their university, 17 per cent said they did not discuss reasonable adjustments with staff prior to starting or during the course.
When asked if reasonable adjustments were put in place at different stages of the selection process (i.e. at the interview or prior to this), 61 per cent of trainees reported that they were not put in place because they did not need them. Eight per cent reported that reasonable adjustments were put in place both before the interview and at the interview, while 8 per cent reported they were put in place at the interview only, and 6 per cent reported they were put in place prior to the interview only.
Roughly half (51 per cent) of trainees reported that reasonable adjustments had been maintained and adapted as needed during their course. Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) reported that they had not been maintained because they did not need them, and almost a quarter (24 per cent) reported that reasonable adjustments had not been maintained and adapted, but they would have liked them to be.
Sixteen per cent of respondents reported that they had caring responsibilities, a similar proportion to last year (15 per cent). The most reported caring responsibility among carers (48 per cent) was being a primary carer of a child/ children (under 18 years), or being a secondary carer (37 per cent).
Trainees who reported that they had caring responsibilities were asked some further questions about reasonable adjustments.
Prior to starting their course, just over half (51 per cent) of trainees with caring responsibilities did not discuss these with staff at their university, while 42 per cent did discuss their caring responsibilities. When asked if their course had offered and supported them with reasonable adjustments, over half (58 per cent) reported that their course had offered them with reasonable adjustments and over a quarter (29 per cent) reported that their course had not.
When asked to what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement: ‘I feel able to manage both my caring and course responsibilities’, just under half (48 per cent) of respondents strongly agreed or agreed, just over a quarter (26 per cent) strongly disagreed or disagreed and 26 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.
Message from DCP and the Group of Trainers in Clinical Psychology (GTiCP)
Statement from DCP
We recognise there is a longstanding lack of diversity in clinical psychology, and that there are barriers to access for people from minoritised groups. There is a commitment to action and change across the profession which has been strengthened over the last year.
Many have highlighted concerns about whiteness, marginalisation and racism in clinical psychology, and we recognise the need to address this as a systemic and structural issue. While members from minoritised ethnic groups are key to this work, it will also encompass other minoritised groups such as those with disabilities, with a focus on intersectionality. To achieve this, the DCP has been guided by the work of the DCP Minorities Clinical Psychology Subcommittee.
In 2021, DCP established a Task and Finish Group on Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Antiracism to guide work across the Division (in conjunction with the BPS Presidential Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion). The DCP Task and Finish Group made a number of recommendations to establish and embed EDI and Anti-Racist practice across the DCP including recruiting an EDI lead to sit in the DCP Executive. We successfully recruited to this position in July 2022. The DCP EDI lead, Sidrah Muntaha has formed a very active and engaged EDI sub-committee to lead on this work.
The DCP remains committed to upholding the values of equality, diversity and inclusion and to continuing to develop our anti-racist stance. We recognise that we still have much work to do in implementing these values and creating lasting change.
Our aim is to promote and advocate for diversity and inclusion within the discipline and profession of psychology and work to eradicate discriminatory practice. We welcome the significant efforts made across the training community to take an active anti-racism stance and adopt more inclusive practices in selection of trainees.
We want to see the clinical psychologist workforce reflecting the communities that we work with, and we welcome a diverse range of aspiring psychologists applying and becoming trainees and joining our profession.
Statement from the GTiCP
The profession of clinical psychology continues to go through a process of rapid and sustained change, with expanding trainee numbers; more attention for inclusive practices in selection of trainees and in engaging with service users and services; critically questioning our roots in colonial and oppressive practices and ideologies, and fostering an active anti-racism stance. Health Education England has played a major role in these developments, and the other nations too are considering expansion and inclusive practices in response to their Government’s instructions.
We are also facing challenges in understanding the opportunities and threats posed to training and the profession by the rising influence of artificial intelligence in our society and academic communities. In addition, Planetary Health remains a critical consideration, not only in addressing the sustainability of our training and professional practice, but also considering the wider impact of the climate crisis on our communities in terms of mental health, well-being, forced migration and food shortages. This impact also highlights the vast inequalities still present in our societies, and the need to address these as part of our commitment to positive mental health. These are therefore exciting and testing times to join the profession.
All UK programmes have their own ethos and emphasise different ways of thinking about how we support people in distress – some of our programmes, broadly, take a more systemic view and consider human rights throughout training, and the impact of inequality and structural barriers on the experiences of communities, families and individuals.
Other courses emphasise individual service user experiences, and highlight specific skills building in one-to-one therapies, some with an option for further accreditation in a specific modality (usually CBT or systemic). Many courses are a combination or hybrid of these. The plurality of clinical psychology is what makes it a vibrant community, with colleagues drawing on different types of evidence to support the work they do, and integrating theory and practice in their work in multiple different ways. It also means that you, as a potential applicant, can look for a good fit between you as a practitioner and your values and interests, and the offers of the courses.
We are pleased that you are reading this handbook and we hope that you find in here some answers to your questions about clinical psychology training. We need people from all walks of life to apply, to reflect the needs in local communities. We need people to apply who might have thought of themselves as not typical clinical psychology material – if you have a genuine interest in people and communities experiencing distress, trauma or change, and if you have personal experience to fall back on that helps you empathise and support people, then please consider joining our profession.
Every year we train people with disabilities, people with various ethnic and religious affiliations, people with lived experience of health and mental health issues, people with neurodiversity, people who have experienced very challenging family systems, people who have lived in poverty, people who sit outside the cis/het majority, people who have lost loved ones, people who are inspired to improve services after having experienced them as service users, people who care and passionately want to change. We can all transform our energies for the good of people requiring our services.
Do join us on your training journey. We look forward to welcoming you in our community.
Anna and Annette
About the BPS accreditation process
Accreditation through partnership is the process by which the BPS works with education providers to ensure that quality standards in psychology education and training are met by all accredited programmes on an ongoing basis.
Our approach to accreditation is based on partnership rather than regulation, and we emphasise working collaboratively with programme providers through open, constructive dialogue that allows space for exploration, development and quality enhancement.
On an ongoing basis our Committee for Training in Clinical Psychology members, who are also programme reviewers, work alongside the society’s Partnership and Accreditation Team to assure and enhance standards in postgraduate professional training in clinical psychology.
A key part of the work involves reviewing specific provision against the society’s Standards for the accreditation of Doctoral programmes in clinical psychology, as well as identifying and promoting best practice across the education and training community.
The Partnership and Accreditation team oversee all of the accreditation standards and also the review cycle for all accredited programmes including Doctoral programmes in Clinical Psychology. Training Committee reviewers are ambassadors for BPS, advocating the work that the society does to improve psychology education and training, and the discipline as a whole. Reviewers develop their understanding of the society’s accreditation standards and policies and assist with programme reviews and accreditation visits.
During the visits to accredited programmes reviewers meet directly with trainees, programme teams, senior management, supervisors, services users, and commissioners to assess the programme in operation against the set accreditation standards, and this better understanding of the programme in operation feeds directly into the ongoing quality improvement cycle.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
This table shows a breakdown of overall survey respondents by different demographic characteristics.
Survey questions and base descriptions
This table lists all of the questions asked in the Alternative Handbook 2024 survey and gives a description of which participants were asked each question.
View the list of survey questions.
For the first time this year, we have changed the format of the Alternative Handbook from static PDF reports to an interactive online format.
We are interested in hearing your views about this new format – whether there are any elements you like about it, or if you have any suggestions and improvements for next year.
If you have any feedback about the Alternative Handbook 2024, please contact the Research and Evaluation team.
Request PDF Report
If you are a course leader and would like the 2023 Alternative Handbook in a PDF format, please contact the Research and Evaluation team.