Placements Overview

Practice placements are an integral part of the whole programme of training in clinical psychology at Lancaster. Practice placement work constitutes over 50% of the time that a trainee has during their three years on the programme. This document addresses the management, governance and assessment of this significant element of the programme.

The programme's Clinical Director manages and oversees the entire placement planning and support process. The day to day activity involved in accessing, arranging supporting and reviewing practice placements is devolved to a team of clinical tutors and administrative support. Strategic development of these processes is led by the Placement Development and Implementation Group led by the senior clinical tutor (placements and quality assurance).

Placement range of experience

The placement programme is designed to offer trainees practice experience of the range of clinical psychologist activities. This can range from therapeutic work with individuals, families and groups across the age range and across a diverse range of contexts, working practices and presenting difficulties to consultation, leadership and service development. The main function of achieving this diversity is to afford the trainees appropriate opportunities to nurture and develop their skills and competencies to the level required by the Standards of Proficiency (SoPs) set out by the HCPC for Practitioner Psychologists (including those specific to the practice of clinical psychology) and to be confident in achieving these standards by the completion of their training. A trainee would usually have clinical experience of issues relating to adults, older adults, children and families, and people with learning disabilities, as well as in contexts where brain injury and health issues are addressed. On some occasions, placement experience may be selected which is at variation from the clinical specialities outlined above, where it is felt that opportunities for competency development are equivalent and appropriate for an individual trainee's training journey. In addition, we encourage trainees (where it fits with their learning needs) to undertake 'innovative' placement activity within the third year of their training, for example to develop skills which relate to the broader role of a clinical psychologist in a modern NHS climate (eg leadership, service development) or in 'non-clinical' settings, such as in community based or third sector work contexts. The focus is on trainees accessing the appropriate learning opportunities to build their competence to that of a fully trained clinical psychologist over the whole three years; paths to this end may differ, and being flexible in this way will always be designed around achieving this end.

Time spent on placement

Pre-thesis hand in

The general plan is for trainees to be available for placement work for three days each week.

There may be occasional extra teaching days and meetings, but these should be rare and it is anticipated that trainees use some of their private study/research time, if necessary, for these extra commitments. Private study is generally one day each week, so there is room for negotiation between supervisors, trainees, and the programme staff about allocation of time for commitments that fall outside of placement activity.

Each week there is also one day set aside for teaching. Generally, the first year trainees are taught at the university in Lancaster on a Wednesday, second years on a Tuesday and third years on a Monday.

Post-thesis hand in

Following submission of their theses (usually from mid-May of the third year) trainees are available for placement work for four days each week until the end of the course. Where trainees are late in their thesis submission, they should still attend placement for four days a week from the first week of June unless other arrangements have been specifically made. This fourth day of placement activity, from June onwards, can under some circumstances (and with careful planning with trainees, clinical tutors and supervisors) be used to undertake a separate placement activity, for example to enhance skills not addressed elsewhere such as service development or community focused work.

Placement Schedule over Three Years

Placements on the Lancaster University DClinPsy fall into a precise pattern across the three years. For the first two years, two placements each year notionally go between 1st October and 31st March, then 1st April and 30th September. In the third year the placement starts in early December and finishes on 31st August. The broad nature of the services within which each of these placements is provided is given in the table below:

Placement Schedule Clinical Placement (3 days each week)
Year 1
September (No Placement - Induction Programme)
October - March Children and Families
April - September Adult Mental Health
Year 2
October - March Older Adults, Physical Health or Neuropsychology
April - September People with Learning Disabilities
Year 3
October - November (No Placement - Research Activity)
This constitutes 30 days of study time to undertake research activity connected to their thesis. If the demand sof their research are more appropriately met through a different schedule, their third year placements can start at any point from October of their final year. However, these 30 days would then be scheduled with the involvement of both tutors, clinical and thesis supervisors to be taken throughout the period up until thesis submission, making sure this does not impact negatively on the value of the placement or detract from the clinical service provided on the placement.
December - August Third Year Placement (placement activity often 4 days each week from thesis submission)
This pattern allows the three doctoral clinical psychology programmes across the northwest to share and integrate their placement arrangements, selecting placements from the whole pool of placements available within the northwest. This consistent order of placements also enables the programme to match the contents of the taught curriculum that runs alongside the placements to the broad needs of each placement. Should trainees intercalate (e.g. through illness or maternity leave), this may necessitate a variation in this schedule; in this case trainees' attendance at teaching sessions will be negotiated so that they will have appropriate access to teaching content to support them on their placements.

Placement support and monitoring

Once a placement is allocated, the clinical tutor will make contact with the supervisor and plan the support for the placement over the following six months. Clinical tutors are responsible not only for supporting the trainee on placement and arranging for any trainee specific needs to be met, but also for liaising between the programme and the supervisor and supporting the supervisor in any of their placement related needs, including planning mid placement visits (MPV) and arranging end of placement reviews. In addition to quality assurance visits, pre-placement or start of placement visits might be offered if the clinical tutor and supervisor agree they would be useful to facilitate preparation of the placement for the trainee (for example, for a trainee with a support plan or other specific support needs).

Start of the Placement

The placement contract should be drawn up between the trainee and the supervisor. This should be sent to the Programme Assistant (Placements) by the end of the first two full weeks of the placement. The establishment of the placement contract is the first priority at the start of any placement. The trainee's clinical tutor will review the contract for appropriateness when it is sent in. Supervisors and trainees are also strongly encouraged to form a psychological contract regarding the supervision process at the beginning of the placement. In addition, an appropriate induction to each placement must be carried out, including identifying any risk or safety issues that are specific to the placement and service specific procedures that may be relevant to the trainee's work on the placement. These matters will be subject to individual service policy. However, the placement contract does specifically ask that trainees be made aware of the practice placement provider's extant Equality and Diversity Policy, including how these apply to the trainee and how they will be implemented and monitored (to ensure compliance with the HCPC SET 5.5).

Mid Placement & Mid Placement Visits

The trainee's designated clinical tutor will arrange the mid-placement visit (MPV) at the start of the placement, along with all the placement support and monitoring, by telephone or e-mail depending on the needs of the placement and trainee (e.g. supervisors new to supervision will be contacted by telephone and when offering a placement for the first time, and/or will be offered a pre-placement visit). MPVs will usually occur around month three on first placements and around months three or four on subsequent placements. Third year mid-placement visits will usually occur in April or June in order to avoid clashing with thesis commitments.

When placement visits are arranged by the clinical tutor, supervisors will be asked to ensure that they have completed the SAT form in draft form, to be sent to the clinical tutor one week in advance of the arranged MPV date. This draft can then be used by supervisors when completing the SAT form at the end of the placement, adding any elements that had been evidenced in the second half of the placement. For this first draft, ratings (e.g. satisfactory etc.) would not be completed.

Similarly, trainees would be asked to send tutors their draft Placement Audit Forms (PAF) and log books, one week in advance of the MPV. During the meeting itself, these draft documents would inform the respective conversations, as set out in the schedule below.

MPVs will take place at the placement location. Broadly following those procedures outlined in the BPS Guidelines on Clinical Supervision (see appendix), the mid-placement visit will incorporate the following structure:

  • Tutor meets trainee (using PAF & Log book)
  • Tutor meets supervisor (using SAT & Log book)
  • 3-way meeting between tutor, trainee and supervisor, in order to collectively review the trainee's progress, provide feedback to the trainee and the supervisor, and agree appropriate goals for the remainder of the placement
The SAT, PAF and log book do not cover everything that might be discussed but it is the tutor's role to check that all angles and issues have been addressed - so even if the above documents don't address, for example, finding an appropriate piece of clinical work to use for an assignment, the tutor will be checking these issues out. The tutor will be recording key points.

Although the time allocated to meeting with the trainee and supervisor separately and collectively may vary depending upon individual need, it is advisable for supervisors to allow two hours for the visit.

After the placement visit, the tutor will e-mail the supervisor and trainee with any necessary brief notes from the MPV (within, at most, two weeks of the visit). The e-mail can say anything that was agreed at the MPV, but the intention is that it will be brief, on the basis that most useful information will be contained in one of the attached forms. This e-mail will also be sent to the Placement Administrator, along with the draft documents (already submitted) as attachments. This will form the record of the placement visit, and will be stored by programme (as, previously, the MPV forms were stored).

This allows any concerns to be noted and any action plans to address these concerns to be recorded. For example, an opportunity for the achievement of a particular type of learning objective may have been lost on placement, and this record would acknowledge that this learning might need to be replaced by a different, more achievable objective in the placement circumstances.

End of Placement

Whilst the clinical tutor provides the support throughout the placement, further visits or placement reviews with supervisor and/ or trainee are only scheduled should a query or difficulty arise. At the end of placement, the clinical tutor contacts the supervisor by phone to confirm that the trainee's progress on placement has continued as planned, and to respond to any difficulties or queries they have, both generally and specifically in completing the Supervisor's Assessment of Trainee or SAT form. Subsequent to these conversations, a pre-planned training progress review is held with each trainee.

BPS Guidelines on Clinical Supervision
Supervisor's Assessment of Trainee (SAT) form
Supervisor's Assessment of Trainee (SAT) form - final placement version