Tell us why you chose
the MPsych Advanced Psychology course.
Adam: I saw the MPsych course as a fantastic
opportunity to build on the research skills and knowledge of clinical
psychology that I had developed during my time studying with Plymouth
University and on my placement year. Jobs in
clinical psychology and academic research positions are very competitive so
I wanted something extra that would help me stand
out from the crowd. The MPsych course offered a range of modules that I knew would put
me that extra step ahead of those students with a standard psychology BSc. Getting all the additional perks of a masters while
still being eligible for student loans really helped make my life easier
financially, and is a really big bonus of the MPsych that is not offered via a
normal MSc route.
Sophie: In all honesty, I was sceptical at first about whether I needed to do the MPsych year before doing a PhD, and what it would teach me that I didn’t already know from my undergraduate degree. Looking back, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I couldn’t be happier that I decided to do the MPsych – it was hands down the best year of my degree.
How did this course help you win a PhD place?
Adam: I’m pretty confident that I would have
struggled to get through to the interview stage for the PhD without having done
the MPsych course. I really believe it helps you stand out.
Furthermore, the masters year provided me with a more advanced knowledge of
research design and statistical techniques, so that when it came to having my
own research ideas scrutinised during interview, I was much more confident and
effective at answering quite difficult questions. Lastly I will say that an
extra year studying on the MPsych course also helped me to develop a more professional
demeanour. You get to work much more interactively with academic staff in the
masters year, with small group teaching, and also get the opportunity to
collaborate with external organisations, such as the service user groups in the
case of the MPsych clinical pathway. A developed sense of professionalism goes
a long way in whatever career direction you want to take; academic or other.
Sophie: The specialised clinical psychological modules I had done during the MPsych really made me stand out as a suitable and capable candidate. During the MPsych year I had my first research paper accepted for publication, I felt like I really got to know my area of research including its strengths and weaknesses, and my confidence in myself and my abilities increased massively. Looking back, I’m extremely glad that I didn’t start a PhD without having done the MPsych as I wouldn’t feel half as prepared as I do now.
What advice would you give anyone who is
thinking about doing a PhD?
a clear idea of what it is you want to investigate and how you could go about
researching the topic. This sounds obvious but many people will apply for PhD
positions and hinder themselves by not having a strong rationale or plan for
their research. Interviewers are much more impressed when someone
has obvious goals in mind and ideas of how to achieve them. This doesn’t mean
knowing in advance the exact designs and methods of experiments you could run, but more a decent knowledge of what is missing from
our current understanding of an issue/phenomenon and what feasible routes could
be taken to further this understanding.
Sophie: If you know it’s what you want to do, don’t give up. I was incredibly lucky to win a PhD place straight after my degree, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. There are a lot of factors affecting who places are given to and for what areas of research, so remember that a rejection is no reflection on you as a person and don’t get disheartened. Keep trying. Before an interview, prepare as much as possible and really think about how you can put across all of your relevant experience – interviewers want to know that you are capable of conducting independent research at PhD level.
What are you studying for your PhD?
Adam: How and why making eye movements, or completing other cognitive
tasks, during the recall of emotional memories can help to reduce their
emotional impact. This question is relevant to the treatment of Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD) using a therapy known as Eye Movement Desensitisation
and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Recalling a distressing event while making
left-right eye movements is a core component of EMDR, but no-one fully
understands exactly why this procedure should help to improve clinical
Sophie: I’m investigating the underlying mechanisms of social anxiety, particularly with regards to recurrent and intrusive negative self-imagery. I’m hoping to gain a deeper theoretical understanding of the phenomenon and use this to develop and test cognitive interventions. Thanks to the issues in clinical psychology module and working with trainee clinical psychologists during the MPsych, I have a really good working knowledge of current issues affecting mental health services, particularly the shortage of therapists and funding. Because of this, I am particularly interested in developing and investigating the efficacy of self-help, computerised interventions.
How did studying with
Plymouth help you?
Sophie: For psychology in particular, Plymouth really stands out from other universities. I believe that Plymouth helped me to develop myself both personally and professionally. The School of Psychology has modern, top-class research labs including a video recording suite, a virtual reality laboratory and several laboratories for brain imaging and brain stimulation. We also have our own tech office who can order in specialist equipment and design and produce custom software for use in experiments. Finally, the level of teaching and supervision at Plymouth has been exceptional, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.