Plymouth University

Course Code: 21

Self-funded Course Code: 21 - X

Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
Faculty of Health, Education and Society
9 Kirkby Terrace
Plymouth University
Drake Circus Campus

01752 586701

Programme Director: Dr Jacqui Stedmon
Admission Tutors: Dr Sarah Baldrey and Catherine Collin
Programme Administrator: Michele Thomas


Our course emphasises a reflexive approach to all aspects of clinical psychology. Recent major changes to the course have promoted exciting developments especially in the links between theory and practice and in the variety of learning methods from which trainees are able to benefit. A particular strength of the course is that we offer a depth of experience in a range of psychotherapeutic models; our two main models are the cognitive behavioural and the systemic approaches. A foundation level family therapy training, community psychology and psychodynamic therapy are also taught. Our year-long placement structure promotes an emphasis on locating clinical problems within a variety of social contexts, including family and community contexts. We give trainees the opportunity to engage in small-group work as part of Problem-Based Learning and applied research. Trainees gain competence in teaching, training, supervision and consultation. Trainees also develop competence in psychometric assessment. The course is based in the University of Plymouth. It is run jointly with NHS Trusts and other providers across the Devon and Cornwall Peninsula.

Please see our website for further details and a link to the programme specification.

Programme Philosophy

The course focuses on understanding people within their individual, interpersonal and social contexts. A central emphasis is given to exploring the psychological impact of social inequalities and transitions across life-cycles. In doing so, we draw on a range of conceptual and therapeutic models including Systemic, Cognitive, Social Constructionist, Community perspectives and Psychodynamic, weaving together these diverse approaches, while also encouraging critical reflection on their differences. In exploring these models, we also give attention to the developing evidence base and the contextual complexities of the lives of people we work with clinically. Service user and carer participation in all aspects of the course is central to our delivery, to help trainees and staff remain focused on the core values of collaboration, respect and compassion.

In both conceptual and clinical domains we feel two qualities are particularly important:

  • Reflexivity: the ability to recognise and reflect on the often implicit personal, professional, and cultural values and assumptions within psychological approaches, and our own day-to-day practice, while at the same time being able to develop pragmatic and collaborative approaches to each unique clinical situation.
  • The Adult Learner: the ability of trainees to actively seek out their own developing and particular knowledge and interests, alongside more formal teaching material.

The Course has developed a range of approaches to study that aim to support these qualities, through "problem-based" learning that emphasises links between theory and practice, "distance-based study" modules that require study at home using the internet, email and e-library facilities, e-conversations with clinical psychologists of national standing and small reflective groups.

We promote the involvement of our local Service Receivers and Carers Consultative Group (SRCCG) in recruitment, teaching, assessment and programme committee forums.

Entry Requirements

The entry requirement for our programme is an honours degree in Psychology, a 1st or 2:1, that gives the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) of the British Psychological Society (BPS), or an equivalent qualification that gives GBC. Applicants who have completed a conversion course are required to have obtained a 1st or 2:1 in their first degree in psychology or any other subject. Applicants with a 2:2 degree in Psychology who have also completed a further postgraduate academic research qualification in psychology may also be considered. Any conditional offers will be subject to achieving a 2:1 or above. We welcome applicants with an interest in learning from their life experiences, both personally and professionally.

Relevant experience of at least one year whole time equivalent is required (not including undergraduate placements). This may include part-time or full-time, voluntary or paid work, involving an advocacy or service role with clients in the public or voluntary sectors. Applicants may have relevant experience as an assistant in NHS Departments of Clinical Psychology, or social services, or in health or a range of human settings. It is helpful to have had clinical experience that has been supervised by a qualified Clinical Psychologist and to have current understanding of the profession of Clinical Psychology. Work experience with undervalued or marginalised groups is particularly valued. Research experience in a branch of psychology or a related discipline is relevant and valued by the course. Please see the Entry Requirements section of our website for further details about relevant clinical experience provided by our Clinical Lead.

Candidates for whom English is not their first language, or who did not complete their first degree in English, will be asked to provide evidence of English language proficiency, IELTS (7.0).

The course welcomes applicants from diverse cultural and personal contexts, mature applicants with extensive life experience, and applicants with disabilities. The University operates an equal opportunities policy. The recruitment and selection processes for the Plymouth Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme comply with Plymouth University Admissions Policy. Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, colour, gender, creed, sexual orientation, age or disability.

Selection Procedure

Our values based recruitment process takes full account of the six core values and the NHS Constitution.

The programme strives to ensure that we uphold the values of equality and inclusivity at all times, including in our selection process. For this reason, our procedure is designed to actively encourage those from diverse backgrounds to apply and is focused on an individual's overall potential to become an outstanding clinical psychologist rather than over-emphasising existing knowledge and skills.

If due to disability you need support to access our selections procedure or feel that any aspect of our process would put you at a disadvantage, we will work with you to mitigate these issues and ensure that you are given a fair opportunity to show your potential. Please contact us and we can discuss your options.

Applications are also considered on the basis of academic attainment, clinical experience, life experience, reflexivity and critical understanding of the social and cultural context of the profession of clinical psychology and the workplace. Between 40 and 50 candidates are usually short-listed for interview.

Please see below for specific information relating to International Applicants with overseas fee status.


Why we use a short-listing test

We collaborate with the Lancaster and Cardiff Universities' Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Programmes with regard to our short-listing screening procedures. All candidates who have achieved Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership and the minimum English language requirement will be invited to take part in our screening procedure (see the Entry Requirements section above if you need further details). Many applicants to our programme are fortunate enough to have had access to extensive education and employment/experience opportunities. However, some individuals have not had these privileges, and may never have, but have significant potential and are well suited to the programme. As we want everyone to be assessed on a fair basis, we use a short-listing test which examines potential rather than looking only at the application form which emphasises experience. Evidence also shows that application forms on their own are poor predictors of academic and job performance. Our approach means using short-listing tests which have substantial evidence to indicate they predict performance on both the programme and in a complex job role once qualified.

This component of our screening process uses an online general mental ability (GMA) test. This approach is widely used, for example by other healthcare professions with graduate entry training programmes, as it is a strong predictor of performance in complex or intellectually challenging roles. The GMA test will have verbal and numerical reasoning elements.

Giving yourself time to practise the tests beforehand can help ensure that all applicants, regardless of background, can demonstrate their ability. Please visit the SHL Direct website to complete the practice tests - you only need to do the verbal and numerical tests for the Plymouth programme. SHL practice tests are only examples of the type of questions you will be given and do not indicate the difficulty level as this changes dynamically in the live test based on your responses. The live test system has some visual differences from the practice tests and includes additional support to allow for zooming and changing text/background colours.

How the short-listing works

Candidates will be invited to take the online GMA test at a time and place convenient to them. Candidates must complete these tests during a time window of two weeks which will take place sometime between February-March 2019. Once arranged, it is not possible for online testing to take place outside of this window.

In the Plymouth selection process, these test results are considered together with information taken from the candidate's Clearing House application form to help inform the potential for training on a Doctorate training programme. Applicants should have a minimum of a year whole time equivalent relevant experience in human services (not including undergraduate placements). Further knowledge of candidates is gained from two interviews at our Selection Event.

Selection Event

Our selection process may be subject to change for our 2019 round of selection, our procedure will be confirmed in September 2018.

Two interview panels are completed which together are designed to explore candidates' academic, clinical and reflective strengths. Panel members will include the course team, representatives of our Service Users and Carers' Consultative Group and practising clinical psychologists drawn from services across the Devon and Cornwall Peninsula.

As part of the range of interview questions, candidates will be invited to discuss three pieces of work: a clinical or professional paper plus a research and a clinical scenario all provided to candidates one day prior to interview. Information about the programme is available on the interview days and current trainees are present throughout the interview days to consult with candidates.

Following your panel interviews, you may be asked to take a second general mental ability test which acts to verify your identity as the original test-taker. This will comprise a short form of both verbal and numerical reasoning tests and is undertaken under supervision. These will take approximately 40 minutes in total.

The selection process takes place over two days, with each candidate joining us for the major part of one day. Candidates rank order their preference for their placement base at the selection day. Candidates are informed as soon as the selection process is completed and are allocated their placement base at this time. Feedback to non-successful candidates is offered after the selection process is complete.

All offers of a place on the doctoral programme are dependent on satisfactory references, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and Occupational Health checks. This programme is committed to Safer Recruiting.


Our trainee numbers for entry in September 2019 are to be confirmed for both NHS places and international self-funded places.

NHS places

Applicants for NHS places must be eligible for home fees status.

Candidates for 2019 entry should check for funding updates on the Clearing House Funding page.

Current UK/EU trainees are full-time employees of the health service and have annual leave and other benefits in line with usual NHS entitlements. On entry to the programme all current trainees commenced on the first spine point of Band 6 of the Agenda for Change pay scales. Travelling expenses are currently paid for travel to placement and University fees are currently paid directly by the NHS.

Please see our website for a link to the current person specification and job description.

Self-funded places for international applicants

We invite applications for these places from international applicants who can provide their own funding. Applicants for these self-funded places must have overseas fees status.

Application for these self-funded places is through the Clearing House using Course Code 21 - X.

We offer a Skype interview to candidates applying for our self-funded placements. This takes place each year in early March.

For specific questions please contact Michele Thomas, Programme Administrator. For general information about studying at Plymouth University please see our International Plymouth website.

Structure and Content

The course is full-time for three years and attendance at all course components is mandatory over that time, including the induction period. The length of the course cannot be reduced through the accreditation of prior learning or experience: all trainees are required to complete the full programme of training in order to qualify.

The Programme is structured with two main teaching periods based in Plymouth at the start of Years 1 and 2. Additional teaching is interspersed with time on clinical placements and is delivered using a variety of teaching methods. The Programme adopts an adult-learner approach and encourages increasing trainee participation as the course progresses.

There will be an emphasis throughout training on assessment, formulation, core competencies, intervention and evaluation, reflexive practice and developing clinical skills. A multi-level integrative approach to clinical problem-solving is encouraged throughout. During the first year trainees will complete a Foundation Level Systemic Family Therapy course in an inter-professional learning context that is accredited by the Association of Family Therapy. Cognitive Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy are taught over the three years. Social constructionist and community psychology form the fourth model of intervention. The curriculum covers core competencies for working with children and families, people with learning disabilities, adults across the life-cycle, organisations and systems; and includes neuropsychology, health psychology and forensic psychology. The third year will offer teaching and learning opportunities, linked with placement experiences, aimed at reviewing, consolidating and deepening clinical knowledge and practice gained over the previous two years. Additionally there will be opportunities for optional study to explore in more depth developing areas of interest. The approach to training at this stage further emphasises adult and peer-led learning, and provides increasing opportunities for trainee choice. Recent options have included: Cognitive Therapy; Attachment Theory; Mindfulness Psychoanalysis; Feminist Therapy; Spirituality; Community Psychology; Neuropsychology; Leadership, Management and Supervision skills; and working within IAPT service developments. In addition, the third year aims to orientate trainees towards Qualified Practitioner status with sessions on job interviews skills, newly qualified realities, and reflections on the experience of ending training.

Trainees will be supported by individual appraisal, personal tutorials, reflective groups and clinical tutorials throughout their training. Additional facilitated reflexive days occur over the three years which offer trainees the opportunity to reflect as a group in the natural environment.


The course encourages a diversity of research methods and especially encourages a reflexive and collaborative approach to all aspects of research activity. There is the opportunity to explore a piece of your own psychotherapy work; to conduct a service evaluation project as a co-researcher; and to produce a publishable piece of original research. Research is linked to, and supported by, the interests of the course team and local clinicians to encourage lively and relevant research in the region.


Trainees advance and develop their clinical skills through supervised clinical experience. Host placements are located in NHS and other services in Exeter/East Devon, Plymouth, South Devon, Torbay and Cornwall. We are fortunate in having excellent relationships with our local supervisors and Heads of Service, with Placement Co-ordinators in each Trust or service who provide a link between the Programme and the Trust. Each Trainee normally resides within the geographical area served by their host Trust(s). There are three distinct periods of clinical practice - one in each year of training - each of which is preceded by a period of teaching and interspersed with academic days in Plymouth or locally-based distance teaching events.

In the first year, trainees focus on the social and developmental aetiology of psychological distress. Placements provide experience of working within two main services: families and children; and people with learning disabilities. The placements' emphasis is on the social and developmental systems within which we live: families, schools and occupational systems; care and support networks. The primary focus of the first year will be on gaining clinical skills in working with the individual-in-context - in the context of families, groups, care systems and organisations. Trainees will additionally focus on developing conceptual skills in formulating systemically and in applying theoretical understandings of the social aetiology of psychological distress. Trainees will gain experience in the range of opportunities for clinical psychologists working in these settings.

In the second year, trainees will continue to develop their clinical and conceptual skills in the context of Health and Mental Health placements with adults across the life-cycle. This year-long placement will focus on trainees' therapeutic skills, working with adults in health and mental health services in individual, couples and group settings. Trainees will have the opportunity to develop their clinical skills in a number of therapeutic models, in particular Cognitive and Psychodynamic Therapies. Trainees will continue to strengthen their understanding of the social origins of psychological distress in considering the impact of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and social and economic disadvantage on health and mental health difficulties. The placements will also enable trainees to continue to develop their understanding of organisations, systems and service development.

In the third year, trainees complete the major part of their research. The emphasis of clinical placements in the final year is on the integration and consolidation of conceptual, clinical and professional skills. Clinical experience in the final year is guided by the completion of core competences and experience and also by trainees' interest in particular areas of clinical specialty. The trainees practise more independently, beginning to identify more with the position of the newly qualified Clinical Psychologist than that of the trainee.

Over the three years, trainees will have a "primary" and a "secondary" supervisor in each placement and will be present in at least two different services each week. Placement duration is 9-10 months, enabling trainees to have sufficient time to become familiar with all aspects of the services in which they are based and to work with clients over a substantive period, enabling some clinical work to be seen through to completion.

Trainees are visited on placement by their Clinical Tutors and also have facilitated small group tutorials with approximately six of their trainee peers. Regular academic and reflective tutorials are provided in Plymouth. Clinical Tutors work with trainees and their supervisors to ensure that the appropriate range and depth of clinical experience are obtained on each placement. In addition, clinical tutors provide pastoral support.

Since the geographical location of the course is wide, it is desirable that trainees, unless prevented through disability (DDA classified), are able to drive and preferably have their own transport.


Five principal methods of assessment are included:

  1. Coursework - two essays including a journal article review.
  2. Clinical Studies - covering core clinical experiences, with an emphasis on developing formulation skills, and including one single-case psychotherapy process study.
  3. Supervisor Reports - assessment and monitoring by placement supervisors. We require that supervisor judgements are based in part on direct observation of trainee work, including in-vivo assessment of clinical competence.
  4. Problem-Based Learning - group presentations and individual written reflections about the learning process.
  5. Research Portfolio - all research undertaken over the three years. This includes two journal articles prepared for submission, and a service evaluation (group report and individual critique).

Coursework is planned so that the emphasis changes across the three years as trainees develop a range of competencies commensurate with the role of Clinical Psychologist, following a developmental sequence that fosters formative growth and offers support at each stage.


Trainees receive support from their allocated clinical and appraisal tutors and the confidential, independent mentors they select. Trainees are offered assistance in ensuring that their assessed coursework meets the standards required. Clear marking guidelines and written feedback help to ensure the development of academic skills following a progressive programme which increasingly develops confidence, self-evaluation and self-direction.

Trainees have access to the University of Plymouth library and IT facilities and also when on placement, through internet access to the University Portal and the postal library services. Trainees also have the use of the library facilities of their host Trusts.

There is specified time for self-directed study and there are additional study periods identified that facilitate the completion of placement-related paperwork and research activities.

Plymouth University offers its students an extensive range of recreational and sports facilities. The Devon and Cornwall peninsula is very rich in opportunities for exploring sea- and land-based activities in areas of outstanding natural beauty, creative arts, personal growth and environmental activities.


Michele Thomas - Programme Administrator

Dr Jacqui Stedmon - Programme Director
Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.
Areas of speciality - Child and health paediatrics, Childhood bereavement, Developmental disorders, Family therapy.

Professor Rudi Dallos - Research Director
Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Plymouth Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
Areas of speciality - Family therapy, Eating difficulties, Youth offending, Attachment theory and narrative, Qualitative research methods.

Dr Cordet Smart � DClin Psych Research and Lecturer in Psychology

Ms Annie Mitchell - Clinical Director
Clinical Psychologist, Devon Partnership Trust.
Areas of speciality - Community psychology, Supervision, Reflective and reflexive practice, Service user involvement, Clinical health psychology (renal medicine), Therapeutic relationship, Playback theatre performance.

Duncan Moss - Associate Professor (Clinical Psychology)
Clinical Psychologist.
Area of speciality - Mindfulness, Reflexive practice, Social constructionist perspectives in adult mental health.

Dr Sarah Baldrey - Associate Professor (Clinical Psychology)
Clinical Psychologist, Clinical Health Psychology, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth.
Areas of speciality - Clinical health psychology, Adult mental health, Cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy.

Catherine Collin - Associate Professor (Clinical Psychology)
Clinical Psychologist, Outlook South West, Cornwall.
Areas of speciality - Primary care adult mental health, Independent sector service development, Cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy.

Helen Lloyd - Lecturer in Clinical Psychology
Area of Specialty - Intellectual disability, Clinical education, Solution focused therapy.

Ben Green - Clinical Tutor (South)
Clinical Psychologist.
Areas of speciality - Adult Mental Health: Early Intervention in Psychosis.

Rebecca Holtom - Associate Professor (Clinical Psychology) and Clinical Tutor (Central)
Clinical Psychologist.
Areas of speciality - Service user and carer partnership work, Reflexive practice, Supervision and inter-professional learning.