MSc Forensic Psychology and Mental Health is aimed at Psychology undergraduates who want to pursue a career working in a forensic setting. Jo Curry is a recent graduate from the programme – take a look at her breakdown of the course, the University and what it’s like to live in Manchester…
When I first read the description for the course, I knew instantly it was the one for me. Most MSc’s are purely forensic psychology but the fact that Manchester’s has mental health is in the title tells you straight away that it’s a key component and that the course is distinct from others. This appealed to me hugely as I’ve always been interested in this area and I think its particularly important to have a good understanding of mental health when working with clients in forensic services.
Essentially, the MSc is the next step toward becoming a charted psychologist and prepares students for stage 2 of their career, using the knowledge, theory and awareness of current literature relevant to forensic psychology gained in stage 1.
Stage 2: people keep saying, “what does it mean?”. Basically, it involves working for a minimum of two years full time as a Forensic Psychologist in Training (otherwise known as a Trainee). As a trainee, you will be supervised to undertake tasks which demonstrate and build on your competencies in four main areas or ‘core roles’.
The first of these is conducting psychological applications and interventions such as psychological assessments of a client’s behaviours, risks and needs, as well as carrying out intervention work to support clients along their treatment pathway. The second core role requires trainees to design and carry out their own research.
Core role three is communicating psychological knowledge and advice to other professionals through preparing reports and providing feedback to clients and professionals; and, finally, core role four is training other professionals in psychological skills and knowledge, such as designing and delivering training packages.
In order to demonstrate your competence in each of these core roles, you will be required to complete a practice diary to include reflections on your clinical work and decision making, and submit evidence of your work such as anonymised reports.
For example, one of our assessments was an essay on consultancy, a key part of these cores; reflective practice was also tied into and emphasised in everything we did. Whilst at the time we might have begrudged this, as a trainee I now see the benefit as it really prepared me for completing entries in my diary and the constant reflection required in clinical practice.
The range of modules on offer is great: some were more theoretical and others focused more on applied psychology/treating clients in specific mental health areas such as cognitive impairment. I have three clients suffering from these issues in my current caseload and I used the lecture slides as well as suggested reading from the MSc to start me off with ideas for how to best help them – this is just one example of how relevant the MSc is to my current clinical work!
There is such a range of lecturers too – all at different levels of experience. We had guest speakers from different services which meant we got a really broad view of where forensic psychology could be applied, and the small course size also meant there was lots of opportunity for interaction with lecturers, group activities and a high level of support through our supervisors
As for the city of Manchester itself – I loved it! I came here 9 years ago for my undergraduate and never left!. It has all of the big city vibes but in a much more compact space, meaning when you can always escape somewhere – you can even jump on a train and be in the Peak District in half an hour. There’s music, museums, art galleries; so many different areas for shopping, more food than you could ever work your way through!
The university itself has fantastic facilities: from the contrast of huge lecture halls versus study spaces suited to small tutor groups; multiple libraries – including the biggest single-site library in the UK – to the amazing variety of study-spaces with cool egg-like chairs, ‘igloo-style’ group seating and sleeping pods!
I lived in student halls for first year of my undergraduate; I met friends there who I went on to live with for second and third year, and even after I left university – including my now husband! Going into university halls was great for me as it made it so much easier to meet people and you instantly feel part of a community. I didn’t live with any fellow psychologists but this meant that I developed a wider circle of friends.
Since graduating, I am currently in the midst of stage 2, working as a Trainee Forensic Psychologist in residential children’s homes and I love it. Having previously worked with children and adolescents in secure mental health, I have always enjoyed working with young people: I like the creativity in sessions, their unpredictability and their humour. So what’s next? My ultimate goal is to become a Chartered Forensic Psychologist, but who knows where that will take me in the future?