Blog post header image with text saying Career Stories: Clinical Psychologist. Posted by Charlotte Whitehead, Career Coach at Career Practic.

Moving from Law to Clinical Psychology

Having been a member of the British Psychological Society for a few years, I had heard a number of stories of people who had succeeded in becoming clinical psychologists or were in the midst of shifting into that specialist area of work. Often, the people making those moves had already had interesting career trajectories. Here’s one example. Serdar Arslan explains how his interest in clinical psychology emerged and where he is now in his journey.

What are you doing now?

Aspiring Clinical Psychologist.

What were you doing before?

I was always fascinated about psychology or mental health (whether it be watching a movie about psychic people being admitted to a psychiatric unit and assessed by a psychiatrist) or simply a documentary on a range of mental health disorders). 

However, I initially became interested in Law since I always had the personality of defending the rights of people and helping people to access justice. 

I completed my legal studies at University level and pursued my career further to become a Solicitor. I worked at few law firms dealing with immigration cases. 

How did you make the change?

In 2010, a career change was necessary since I felt that the legal world was not me. I was more interested in human stories and human interaction. 

In the same year, I started working as a Manager for Great Chapel Street Medical Centre (a specialist GP for homeless people in Westminster). 

This was my dream job. Helping homeless people has been a revelation and a process of self-discovery for me. I have witnessed the psychological and physical impact of traumas on mental well-being for homeless people. I worked with people who suffered from depression, psychosis, bipolar and personality disorder and carried out a range of assessment, planned treatment goals and therapy sessions. 

In 2011, I completed a graduate course and then my Masters in Psychology in 2014. During this time, I have presented and published articles on trauma therapy, homelessness and personality disorder. 

I will continue to pursue my aspiration to become a Clinical Psychologist. By working for a Clinic, helping the vulnerable, needy and socially excluded populations, I aim to develop my clinical experience of working with the homeless and build my skills in a range of therapies, such as CBT, DBT, CFT, Schema therapy, Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment and Single Session therapy.

What Serdar’s story illustrates

Interests: One of the things that stands out from Serdar’s story is how he often found himself watching TV programmes and films relating to psychology.

Our interests – the things that engage our attention, oftentimes outside work – can be a valuable source of insight into what we should be doing inside work.  All too often, people discount their ‘hobbies’ and personal interests and assume that real work simply doesn’t allow that sort of self-indulgence. But in actual fact, our personal interests and the things we do for free outside of work can provide valuable pointers to roles and to sectors that we could explore, if we just give ourselves permission to do so.

Test & Learn: Serdar’s story also illustrates the importance of getting work experience.

Getting hands-on experience enables one to gain insight into which areas of work really appeal, and develop new skills, and build new knowledge. There is only so much self-reflection that can be done in career change; action in the real world is also needed to get a fuller picture.

What tips can you share for making the shift to clinical psychology?

Here are Serdar’s top tips:

Tip #1: My suggestion to anyone wishing to make a career change is to focus on their dream job and research extensively.

Tip #2: No change is easy. It requires sacrifice, goals and full commitment.

Serdar’s LinkedIn profile is here. If you’d like to get in touch with him directly, he’d be delighted to hear from you.

If you have a story you’d be willing to share on this blog in order to help others who are shifting career, I’d love to hear it. Alternatively, if Serdar’s story has got you thinking about your own career, book an initial discussion to see if career coaching would be helpful.

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