Trainee support systems

Any form of professional training is potentially stressful and we recognise that the programme team and supervisors cannot necessarily provide all the support that may be required. How can I get support flowchart shows how the different components discussed below are related to each other.

Within the programme we hope to promote a mutually supportive atmosphere in which programme members feel able to share concerns and issues with one another, with the programme team and with supervisors.

We recognise that the four components of the course: university attendance, clinical placements, research and independent study may be difficult to balance. 

Trainees with personal problems or psychological difficulties that are affecting their studies and work should contact a member of the programme team. This would normally be their appraiser, but may also be their clinical or research supervisor, tutor, clinical tutor, the programme director or another member of staff.

Please remember to talk with your appraiser if you begin to experience difficulties.

Experiential Group

As part of the commitment to the development of reflective practice trainees attend a confidential reflective group. This provides trainees with an opportunity to further their understanding of individual and group dynamics and work through any emergent dilemmas in a facilitated context. The content of the meetings will be confidential between the facilitator and the trainees, but if there are any important issues coming out that the University should know about, the facilitator or the trainee would alert the appraiser.  Meetings are scheduled to take place while trainees are in Exeter for teaching blocks and will run through all three years of the programme.

Buddy System

Trainees from the earlier cohort will welcome trainees before they arrive and act as “buddies” to help new trainees settle in. This will be particularly important for trainees who move to the region from elsewhere and who may want advice about travelling and places to live.


Each trainee should find a mentor (anyone who is employed as an NHS clinical psychologist in the South West region) with whom to meet regularly to talk confidentially about how he or she is developing during his or her training and about the context in which his or her development is taking place. We recognise that for people moving to the South West, who are unfamiliar with available people, it may be difficult to find a suitable mentor quickly and so choosing someone may take several months. Trainees may discuss possibilities with others who are more familiar with local psychologists and who may have ideas of suitable people to approach. Trainees in earlier cohorts may have ideas, as may the first supervisor, members of the programme team or regional liaison tutor. It is good to think about what you might be looking for in a mentor. Previous trainees have said that they appreciate the following: someone who is a good role model, someone who seems approachable and friendly, someone who will challenge you, someone whose values you may share and someone who can help you think about career developments. An up-to-date list of psychologists who have volunteered to act as mentors will be made available.

Once the trainee has identified a possible mentor they should meet to talk through mutual expectations and agree a plan for meeting. It is intended that this relationship will provide further continuity throughout the programme, although trainees and mentors may wish to review and renegotiate the relationship as time moves on. Trainees are expected to meet their mentors regularly (i.e., at least three times a year) for individual sessions. During these meetings they may discuss all aspects of the trainee’s progress and development in relation to personal, academic and clinical experiences.

Exclusions of the Mentor’s Role

  1. To take on any management function that is properly the task of the programme team. For example, mentors would not be expected to pass on information about requirements, to monitor continuous assessment or to contribute to appraisal.
  2. To provide personal counselling or therapy.  Although personal support is part of the mentor’s role, mentors would not be expected to provide counselling or personal therapy for trainees. However mentors may be well placed to guide trainees towards appropriate help when this is needed. 

There is also a university student counselling service that is free and confidential and available to all programme members.  Appointments are available during term time and a reduced service is offered during the vacation.

Occupational health services are available both through the university and Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust. The programme administrator has details.