“Taking a firm step onto a shaky foundation that is publicly talking about mental illness and psychology”
I’ve decided to start a blog and take a firm step onto a shaky foundation that is publicly talking about mental illness/health and psychology. My name is Amy Glover, I’m a Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Cape Town, South Africa. This first post is an introductory one; why I chose psychology, why I’m writing a psychology blog and a bit about me.
What led up to studying psychology?
I’m from Cape Town in South Africa, and I’ve spent most of my life there; with some time spent in Stellenbosch and the Garden Route. While growing up, it was always my dream to study but my circumstances did not yet include the opportunity to study. A bursary from Stellenbosch University kick-started this whole journey for me, and it was a significant head start to where I am now.
From there on, my plan to become a psychologist developed during my studies and as I grew into the field, my self-awareness continued to grow to a point where I reflected more on the reasons I really studied psychology. To be brief, these reasons relate to my own personal experiences and that of my family; and my hope was that these experiences would one day have meaning. That led me to want to understand mental illness and understand people more. I have always had a hunger for learning and once I started studying a BA Humanities, I was not entirely sure that psychology would be the correct social science. Once I reached my second year of study, the idea of becoming a psychologist solidified for me.
Psychology offered me answers, guidance, an avenue to give back. It gave me access to the many fields that already interested me, culture, language, education, social justice. It is a discipline and practice that continually challenges me and it allows me to live out my passion of giving, serving and helping, and so much more!
The seen and unseen journey to becoming a Clinical Psychologist
The path to becoming a psychologist is certainly a challenging one, my most challenging path yet. I completed a BA degree in Humanities and an Honours degree in Psychology at Stellenbosch University (SU). The honours course at SU is primarily an academic course with little to no practical training, i.e. it does not train you to work as a psychologist (they don’t usually tell you that).
A Masters degree is required to be a psychologist in South Africa, however across the country, all the training institutions that offer the course have very limited space. For example, SU accepts 10 candidates a year. I was fortunate enough to be accepted at SU and was a part of the 2016 class. It is a 1 year course with intense academic and practical training in the format of seminars in the mornings, and then in the afternoons we worked at Welgevallen Community Psychology Clinic in Stellenbosch; which offers free psychological services to the community (a valuable resource for those interested).
After my masters training, I was required to do an internship which can only be completed at accredited institutions due to the supervision that is required. I completed this at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital (VBH) in Cape Town which allowed me to do 3 x four month rotations. These were at the Forensic Unit at VBH, then at the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (DCAP) at Red Cross Hospital; and lastly at Ward 1 which is a voluntary adult psychiatric unit at VBH. During my internship year, I needed to complete my research project which concluded my Masters studies at SU.
At this point with my internship and Masters complete, I could apply to write a board exam with the HPCSA, which I passed in June 2018. I then needed to complete my compulsory community service year which according to the Health Professionals Act 56 of 1974, requires that I “shall perform remunerated community service in health care for a period of one year and shall, on the completion of such service, be entitled to practice the profession.” Thereafter I could register as an independent practitioner of Clinical Psychology (effective February 2019).
This is just a brief look at the process in training to become a Clinical Psychologist.
What is a Clinical Psychologist and how does it differ from other psychologists and professionals?
This is a common and a very important question so as to know which professional to consult in which circumstance to get the appropriate support. There are 5 different professional registrations of psychology (HPCSA, 2018) and each have different training, which equips us for different environments, treatment/focus, clients, and scope of practice. I’ll briefly explain Clinical Psychology as one of the five professional registrations in psychology below and further information can be found under FAQs.
Clinical Psychologists: They assess, clinically diagnose and provide treatment (in the form of psychotherapy) for more serious forms of psychopathology, psychiatric disorders and psychological conditions or problems. They primarily work in clinical settings or private practices; and they are also trained in psychometric testing. Psychologists do not and cannot typically prescribe medication.
Psychiatrist: Another common question is the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is not a psychologist and is rather a qualified medical doctor who has done further training to specialize in psychiatry. They then treat mental illness primarily with psychotropic medication and have training in psychotherapy but are not primarily trained as psychologists.
I believe that mental health services in South Africa need to be more accessible, the vision of this blog will be in line with that belief. In my opinion, a lack of public knowledge surrounding mental illness can result in poor awareness, less support in seeking assistance and increased stigma. I want to share knowledge through this platform to ultimately bring about greater social awareness and fight stigma. I feel accessibility and awareness of mental health services is in the interest of public health and social justice. I too have been afraid to speak up about my experiences, even within the field due to fear of stigma, so I hope to now use my voice and my training to advocate for mental health users and for the reduction of stigma.
Why a psychology blog?
Finally I am answering to the blog title! This blog represents an online platform to communicate about mental illness and psychology in a modern arena. My hope is that this can challenge the stereotype of a mysterious and vague field of psychology. It is certainly not a new idea and there are many blogs relating to this internationally, but I have found very few of these within South Africa. I hope to contribute more to a South African dialogue of mental health.
What this is.
The plan is to post on this blog focusing on topics related to mental health and awareness. The posts will be a combination of professional knowledge, my experience and opinions, and I will as far as possible back this with appropriate literature and evidence. This content is for anyone who is curious and interested in mental health, for themselves, for their family, for a loved one or friend, for their community or just for general knowledge. The hope is that if one person is able to take something that can positively direct them to appropriate support, this will be worth it. If one person can share this with a family member in the interest of showing their care and support, it will have been worth it. Social media presence: I have made myself available (within limits) on other online platforms that will all work within the same vision.
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This is a place where I’m aware of the power that I could hold but this is not the place where I profess to be an expert. I’m a believer that clients are their own expert and I hope for this to never be a top down process but rather a collaborative space and one of constant sharing, growing and learning. Further, psychology remains a contentious issue and discussions of this nature and ones that may follow could open up the space for debate and disagreement and I wish to state up front here that I am by no means the holder of truth but only a contributor to this body of knowledge. My pure intention is of spreading awareness. Many psychologists do not speak publicly and there are valid reasons for this so I will be available in a limited way whilst on these platforms. I will always maintain and work within my ethical and professional codes which guide my work. My contribution may not always align with others and I strive to always respect and value others opinions and suggestions.