Today’s post forms the second part of Hollie’s interview with Stella Ogunlade, inspired by Black History Month which was celebrated in October. Stella is a black female Assistant Psychologist working with individuals with eating disorders in Yorkshire. Here, she describes her experience as a black woman being employed in the field of clinical psychology. We hope Stella’s words draw attention to the issues and challenges faced by black women working within the field.
1) Can you tell me about your role and what led to you getting this position?
I am an Assistant Psychologist in CAMHS Community eating disorders service (CEDS) for Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS foundation (RDASH). I moved to Doncaster from London after accepting the job offer and my contract commenced in April 2021. When graduating from university in 2020, I had some clinical experience from working as a Bank (third- party organisation that is part of the NHS, covering absent shifts) healthcare assistant in Avon and Wiltshire NHS partnership. I thought applying for jobs after graduation would be a breeze despite my awareness of the competitiveness of the field. Nonetheless, I was optimistic and was never going to give up.
After over 100 applications to mainly Assistant Psychology positions and support worker roles, I began to receive offers for interviews. This made me feel hopeful that the time spent revising my personal statement was leading to positive outcomes. I was unsuccessful in the first three Assistant Psychologist interviews. However, I made sure to always ask for feedback in order to identify improvements for the next time. In my fourth interview with RDASH NHS trust, I was not accepted for the job, but after speaking to the interviewing Clinical Psychologist to gain some feedback, he shared that I had scored second place and that they were in the process of receiving funding for a second Assistant Psychologist post and that he would contact me once finalised. I was ecstatic but at the same time doubtful and continued with the job search.
A month later, I received a call from the Clinical Psychologist at RDASH who informed me that they had finalised the second Assistant Psychologist post and that they would like to offer it to me. I was completely gobsmacked – I didn’t believe it was real. I was tearful on the phone but also so grateful for the opportunity. I immediately accepted the role and contacted my mum to let her know I’ll be moving to Doncaster to start my first full-time job in the NHS as an Assistant Psychologist. The journey was not easy but it highlights that you should never give up hope and to keep persevering.
2) Did you experience any challenges associated with being a black person working in the field of clinical psychology, or in your role specifically?
Being the only black and ethnic minority individual in my team, I find it difficult to relate to discussions with my white colleagues due to the differences in our racial backgrounds and experiences. Consequently, this impacts my sense of belonging and value in the team. Also, moving away from my family and friends in London and into a town with much less cultural diversity has had its own mental repercussions.
The main challenge I have faced in my role as an Assistant Psychologist is the need to adapt to a new environment, without any friends and family present. My aim is to acquire valuable skills and clinical experience to later apply for another Assistant Psychologist post in London (with hopefully a greater chance of success). The competitiveness of applying to Assistant Psychologist roles means you have to work hard and make sacrifices to attain various clinical skills/experiences to even enter into the field of Clinical Psychology. As a black woman from a disadvantaged background, this makes things even more complicated. At one point in time, I started to question my self-worth and doubt myself. Was this what I wanted to do? Am I good enough to become a Clinical Psychologist? Should I pursue a completely different career? These are all internal monologues I’m sure many people pursuing Clinical Psychology have had. It would be nice to be able to have these conversations with a black person who may have faced similar issues within my team.
3) What would you like to see from those already in the profession, or those who might work in the profession in the future, to encourage more individuals identifying as black to work in Psychology?
I would like to see more black Psychologists becoming mentors to help support black psychology graduates, by providing professional and personal advice and tips about the field as well as their experience as a black individual working in mental health. This should be free and not monetised as this only acts as a further barrier for working class people.
I would also like to see more black women achieving senior leadership and managerial roles within mental health. We must continue to support black women to take on those roles and to not limit themselves due to their race and/or sex. Having black women in these roles creates role models for younger individuals to aspire to and it can help reduce any self-doubt as a result of one’s physical characteristics.
If you missed it, here’s part 1 of this series.