Formal teaching: content of teaching

A brief description of each of the nine conceptual strands and its function, as part of the overall learning and teaching programme, can be found below. Detailed session plans for each of the formal teaching sessions within a strand are made available as they are formalised, and where available can be linked to by clicking on each strand heading in the text below. There is also the general reading list for the programme as a whole, which can found in the appendix below.

The actual teaching timetables for the year are available to trainees via the Moodle virtual learning environment.

Formal Teaching - Strands

Assignment Preparation

Assignments are a central aspect of the assessment of competence leading to the award of DClinPsy. This strand introduces information about the different assignments which have to be submitted. It explains the processes and preparation required for each assignment and how it will be assessed. Each assignment has its own associated teaching and development/support/feedback sessions to support trainees in preparing for submission.

From Theory to Practice

The integration of theory and practice is considered central to the curriculum. This strand introduces trainees to a selected number of major and emerging therapeutic models. It aims to develop trainee understanding of theoretical aspects of therapeutic models and how they can be applied in clinical practice across a range of specialities.

The strand takes a developmental approach by initially considering the theoretical underpinnings of each model before moving on to consider the clinical application of each therapeutic model in a relevant and timely way (i.e. fitting with the speciality placement trainees are on). Over the three years of training the strand will develop the trainee's learning of each model and relevant aspects of its application such as assessment, formulation and intervention. The intended outcome of this strand is for trainees to feel competent in understanding, selecting, adapting and applying appropriate therapeutic models across a broad range of clinical specialties and service contexts. The programme focuses upon therapeutic models that fall within the cognitive-behavioural, systemic, and psychodynamic / attachment-focused / cognitive-analytic traditions.

Critical and Contextual Psychology

This strand examines the assumptions which inform scientific activity in relation to clinical psychology, the problems in applying philosophies and methods from the natural sciences to human behaviour and the relationship between the philosophy of science and research activity. The strand provides trainees with conceptual frameworks to enable them to develop a scholarly and constructively critical approach to clinical psychology theory, research evidence and practice, and an awareness of issues of power and diversity as they apply to the role and profession of the clinical psychologist.

Personal Development and Reflection

The nature of clinical psychology work includes access to and use of the personal self of the clinical psychologist. In line with the acknowledgement that the work impacts on the self and the self impacts on the work (Scaife & Walsh, 2001). The personal development and reflection (PDR) strand aims to:

  • support trainees in the development of self-knowledge and self-awareness
  • support personal growth
  • facilitate the development of resilience in relation to changes and challenges

The strand provides trainees with opportunities and experiences to enable them to become reflective and reflexive practitioners (Lavender, 2003) and to use these skills and competencies in the role of a trainee clinical psychologist and beyond.

In recognition that different trainees and/or cohorts may have different needs and preferences there is flexibility in the way the PDR curriculum develops for each cohort of trainees. However, overall there is a developmental progression from a taught curriculum, introducing the strand and helping trainees to think about what PDR means to them, to more experiential sessions as they progress through the course. Within this structure there is protected time for PDR sessions over the three years indicating the value that the programme places on the process of personal development. There is also consultation with trainees to offer them some ownership of how their PDR needs are met and a system to review how the process is progressing.

In relation to the taught curriculum, topics include; training as a personal journey, self-care and support systems, boundaries, use of self in teaching and on placement and theory of change. Within the experiential component there is the opportunity for trainees to access individual and group sessions (e.g. mini-CAT sessions, Action Learning Sets).

Personal development and reflection influences and is influenced by teaching across the programme. The PDR curriculum provides the foundation for the development of skills that can be used in different contexts and a place where skills developed in different contexts can be reflected upon. Given the interface between personal and professional development the PDR strand has a particular affinity with the professional issues strand and sessions within the transferable clinician skills strand which focus on the developing self as a professional/therapist e.g. the leadership module. However, sessions in other strands which include a consideration of PDR will usually do so from another perspective e.g. professional or skills-based.

Physical Health & Cognitive Development

This strand covers health and medical related issues that may occur during a person's life. The strand takes a developmental approach in relation to both process and content. Teaching in this area begins with an exploration of some of the essential aspects of clinical psychology in health and neuropsychological settings, such as assessment, functional neuroanatomy, and the range of psychological models applicable to these areas. As the teaching develops to the more advanced stages, it considers specific physical health and neurological conditions such as enuresis, cancer, and brain injury. There are also sessions on some of the associated broader themes that can influence a person's psychological such as pain, fatigue, body image, and subsequent emotional distress.

Whilst this strand inevitably has a focus on what may be termed 'organic' conditions such as neurological conditions and physical disabilities, there is an emphasis on considering those issues in context. This includes the context of the person / people accessing psychological support, as well as the context in which clinical psychology may be situated (e.g. medical settings / diagnostic-based services). Teaching encourages trainees to critique traditional and contemporary models of working in these areas, and take a developmental approach to positioning themselves and the profession, in relation to associated professions in physical health and medical settings.

Professional Issues in Context

The Professional Issues in Context (PIC) curriculum strand aims to increase understanding of the professional and organisational contexts within which clinical psychologists currently practise, and aims to ensure that trainees develop a professional and ethical value base. It also aims to increase awareness of future developments within the profession in terms of roles and contexts.

The key and unique elements of this strand relate to the process of developing professional values, identity and ethical practices as a clinical psychologist as part of a distinct profession, and developing competence to practise autonomously yet within the boundaries of agreed frameworks. Within this, trainees must also understand the relevant guidance, policy and research which inform safe and effective professional practice.

Learning topics within this strand include issues such as: ethical practice and decision-making, confidentiality, consent, record-keeping, fitness to practice and managing professional concerns and dilemmas, and other methods of establishing and maintaining a safe practice environment. The strand also covers current and future developments within the NHS/health and social care organisational contexts and helps trainees better understand the role of clinical psychology within these contexts, as well as service user perspectives on psychological services and ways of involving service users in practice.

Quality Assurance

The Quality Assurance curriculum strand covers matters to do with clinical governance, quality, continuous improvement and the standards required by our regulatory body, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and professional guidance and good practice identified by the British Psychological Society (BPS). The aim is to ensure that trainees are equipped to meet all mandatory requirements that apply to them on the programme: the mandatory training requirements of their employing NHS Trust, the NHS nationally, national legislation, the HCPC and the BPS. It covers a range of learning activities (including e-learning) as well as some formally delivered teaching sessions.


The programme adopts the position that research is integral to the role of clinical psychologists. The ability to draw upon research evidence is essential for good clinical practice, as is an understanding of how to conduct original research. Research and clinical practice also share several common aims and methods. With this in mind, the programme aims to produce research-minded practitioners who should be applying a critical, analytic stance to both clinical and research practice. In pursuit of this aim, the objectives of the research teaching are therefore to enable trainees to:

  • Conduct research to a high standard which advances both psychological theory and service practice;
  • Apply ethical principles to their research work;
  • Understand the basic principles of a range of research strategies, methods and approaches to data analysis, and how they can be applied in NHS settings;
  • Critically evaluate their own and others' research;
  • Develop the skills and knowledge to disseminate their research work appropriately and to understand the importance of doing so.
The research strand teaching sessions are designed to provide trainees with grounding in all aspects of the research process, from design to dissemination, and in the major research designs used in clinical psychology research. These include quantitative approaches to data collection and analysis, such as survey design and statistical analysis techniques; and qualitative approaches such as Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Grounded Theory. The delivery of the sessions is planned in order to support trainees in the development, implementation and completion of their research assignments, in which trainees have the opportunity to apply and consolidate the skills and knowledge developed through the teaching sessions.

Transferable Clinician Skills

This strand supports the development of the trans-theoretical skills required of a clinical psychologist. Teaching sessions across the three years cover core abilities within the professional role, such as interviewing; adapting communication to a range of listeners; formulation; engaging with difference; managing risk; leadership; consultation, and working with families, staff and carers. The curriculum is planned to follow a developmental path, and aims to build upon trainees' existing interpersonal skills and life experiences to inform and develop their clinical practice. From the first year, sessions include foundation level and 'direct' skills workshops as well as focussing on broader abilities required within a clinical psychology role such as conducting indirect and consultation work and engaging in leadership roles, with an increase in complexity, expected autonomy and integration of psychological theory as training progresses. This strand inevitably links closely with the content of other strands, for example the 'From Theory to Practice' strand, given that generic clinician skills will underlie the implementation of all theoretical approaches. Similarly, much of the work in this strand involves reflective components which link with the Personal Development and Reflection curriculum.

General reading list