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Exploring the perceived preparedness of clinical and counselling psychology students for the newly acquired roles as intern psychologists.

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Background: The training of clinical and counselling psychologists in South Africa has continuously received research attention as it is arguably rich in diversity and presents with the nuances of contextual factors influencing the training and wellbeing of trainee psychologists. South African psychology is inherently embedded in the politics of apartheid ideology and colonial oppression, marginalisation, elitism, unequal power relations and social control (Macleod & Howell, 2013. Consequently, the traditional training model has also been under scrutiny to ascertain its efficacy, given the contextually diverse challenges clients present for psychotherapy. The overall objective of the study is to identify the influential factors that contribute to the trainee psychologists’ perceived preparedness for their newly acquired professional roles. Methodology: The study explored the perceived preparedness of clinical and counselling trainee psychologists for their professional roles, using a qualitative research approach. The qualitative approach allowed the researcher to uncover the underlying trainee psychologists’ subjective experiences of the master’s training programme and the perceived impact on their professional competence. The researcher conducted five one-on-one in-depth interviews with intern psychologists who were enrolled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The accumulative data was categorised into codes using the stepwise thematic analysis method. Themes were consolidated with the help of the ecological systems model, adopted as a methodological framework, characterised by an integrated, holistic approach that is relevant when exploring subjective experiences. The ecological systems theory gave insight to the exploration of contextual factors that have an impact on students’ personal and professional development. Findings: The emergent findings of the study indicate that most participants reportedly experienced the professional training as being stressful, identifying concurrent academic, clinical, and therapeutic demands deeply entrenched in the training process. Moreover, trainees as illustrated in the findings, constantly put themselves under significant pressure to perform well despite not sharing their challenges with other trainees in the programme. Over the years, the increasing demands of the training have evidently become the fibre of the development of psychologists. The interviewing process provided participants the opportunity to retrospectively reflect on the nuances of their training experiences, which positively contributed to building their emotional and intellectual insight pertaining the technical and soft skills acquired in the first year of training.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.