Exploring How Aspiring Clinical Psychologists from Different Racial Groups Experience and Make Sense of their NHS Career Trajectory

Winifred Atayero

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Racial diversity in the clinical psychology workforce has increased in recent years. However, the profession is situated within a broader National Health Service (NHS) context where there is evidence of workforce racial inequity in staff recruitment, career development, and progression. Previous studies have focused on the experiences of trainee and qualified clinical psychologists from underrepresented racial backgrounds, and there exists little research on the experience of those racialised as White. Therefore, in this study I aimed to gain an insight into the lived experiences of aspiring clinical psychologists (ACPs) from different racial backgrounds working in the NHS, and how they made sense of their pre-qualification career trajectory. I conducted two racially homogenous online focus groups with Black British (n=5) and White British (n=5) ACPs with at least 6 months’ experience of working in NHS mental health services. I transcribed and analysed the focus groups using interpretative phenomenological analysis. My analysis yielded three whole-group themes. ACPs experienced and made sense of their pre-qualification career trajectories in relation to 1) the profession, 2) interpersonal relationships, and 3) sense of self. Stark differences emerged across racial groups, highlighting how ACPs experiences within the NHS are shaped by power in relation to race, institutional racism, and Whiteness. White British ACP group experiential themes (GETs) included ‘Whiteness as the norm in clinical psychology’, ‘I feel confident and supported’, and ‘Luck vs. Merit’. Black British ACPs GETs included ‘Being Black: An asset vs. Racism’, ‘Support: A luxury vs. A right’, and ‘Racism costs me energy’. I explored these findings in relation to existing literature, as well as the implications for policy and practice within clinical psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Bjornsdottir, Thora, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • clinical psychology
  • racism
  • Qualitative
  • NHS
  • Focus Groups
  • Thematic Analysis
  • healthcare professionals
  • racial inequality
  • discrimination
  • lived experience

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