Becoming a community clinical psychologist: Integration of community and clinical practices in psychologists' training

Gibson K. ; Sandenbergh R. ; Swartz L. (2001)


It has been recognised that South African clinical psychologists need to be trained in more community-oriented forms of practice. Training in this field however seems to involve particular difficulties for students who often struggle with disillusionment and feelings of incompetence that ultimately may in turn deter them from this important work. This article draws from the experience of a clinical psychology training course at the University of Cape Town. Firstly it describes the many sources of anxiety that may confront students in their initial exposure to community work and which might interfere with their capacity to learn. Students' adjustment to the inherent demands of this difficult work is often further hampered by an unproductive division between community work and more conventional forms of psychological practice. In the second part of the article we describe an approach to training which is designed to contain students' anxieties and increase their ability to manage and learn from their experience. This approach has three basic tenets: Firstly it stresses the need to provide students with a limited and carefully structured exposure to community work which matches their developing capacities; secondly it attempts to build bridges between the skills required in conventional psychological practice and those needed for community-oriented work and finally, it emphasises the need for on-going support for both students and their supervisors.

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