School of Psychology News & events

Cardiff University Psychology Students Venture Overseas For Much Desired Experience

Around 20,000 Psychology Graduates will apply for a Clinical Psychology Doctorate in 2015. There are only 550 spaces. This means under 4% of applicants will be successful and, in many cases, this will not be the first year that they have applied.

Cardiff University students; Amber Iszatt and Jessica Morris, know first-hand how difficult gaining a place on the Clinical Psychology doctorate course can be. With such fierce competition in Clinical Psychology, work experience carries as much weight as academic achievement, if not more.

The problem is that finding hands-on Psychology Work experience is not always easy, Amber and Jessica decided to venture further afield to gain the crucial experience they needed, travelling to the Island of Sri Lanka to participate in a Mental Health Placement. For 12 weeks last year these young adults shared their skills at Psychiatric Hospitals and ran therapeutic activity sessions at centres for individuals with various specific needs. This placement was organised by SLV, a volunteer organisation founded in 2010 by Psychology Graduates in a similar position to Amber and Jessica.

Mental Health Care in Sri Lanka is in its infancy. The stigma for those with Mental Health issues is still widespread, and with just one Psychiatrist for every 500,000 people, there is still a long way to go.  In the past 5 years, over 1000 Psychology students have joined SLV to dedicate their time to supporting people with mental health issues in Sri Lanka to reduce the care deficit by boosting the existing resources in place, and offering stimulating therapeutic activity sessions for service users during all stages of their recovery.

The SLV Mental Health Placement is partnered with the King’s College London Resource Centre for Trauma, Displacement and Mental Health. Amber and Jessica were trained and supported by Sri Lankan Mental Health professionals to help equip them with the skills to work sensitively within the Sri Lankan culture, and in thoroughly under-resourced facilities and challenging environments.

Jessica Morris - "My time with SLV was definitely an eye-opener. I'm pretty well travelled and had volunteered before but Sri Lanka was a whole different ball game - 12 weeks living and working abroad with a load of strangers was daunting but I'd still put it down as one of the best things I've ever done. Working with SLV meant we had support from incredibly experienced staff if we encountered any problems either on placement or at the homestays, but we also had a great deal of freedom when it came to running sessions with service users or planning lessons in schools. The placements were challenging, there's no two ways about that, (everyone regularly came home looking a bit drained and worse for wear) but they were also immensely rewarding and I loved every minute of it. As for the weekends, they were unbelievable! For such a small country there is so much to see and do in Sri Lanka I still feel like I've barely seen any of what it has to offer. My volunteering experience with SLV was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it was an amazing addition to my CV and helped me gain a place on the Clinical Doctorate, which I'll be starting in September."

Amber Iszatt - "I would recommend this placement to anyone, whether you have experience in mental health or not. I had quite a bit of experience before heading to Sri Lanka and the placement adds something invaluable to your skill set and understanding. If you put a lot into the projects you can get a lot out of it. I had a great time at the homestay and the weekends were incredible. It will give you adventures, memories, stories and friendships that are truly ineffable!"

SLV are recruiting new team members for Mental Health, Teaching and Special Needs Placements in 2016. Get in touch!