Dr Jodie Allen (Clinical Psychology and Mental Health 2013) is a Clinical Psychologist. She leads the West Kent locality Emotional Wellbeing Team for the NELFT NHS Foundation Trust.
Jodie graduated in 2014 from Sussex with a Masters in Foundations of Clinical Psychology and Mental Health. After completing her doctorate, she returned to Sussex in 2021 to complete a PGCert in Supervision of Therapeutic Practice. Jodie’s current role in the Kent and Medway Mental Health Support Team involves supervising Education Mental Health Practitioners and other staff within her team, who offer mental health support for mild-moderate anxiety and low mood in schools. The team offer this support to pupils of all ages, as well as school staff through consultation and training.
What made you choose Sussex?
I wanted to continue at my job during my studies so I found it helpful to have a course close to home! I liked that I could do a Masters so closely linked to my chosen career path (Foundations of Clinical Psychology and Mental Health).
What do you love most about your job?
I find it interesting and intellectually challenging; I use my psychological skills and problem solve every day. Clinical Psychology is incredibly varied and there are job opportunities in so many different settings. It can also be really rewarding. In my current job, I supervise a whole team of therapists who work in schools offering early intervention and preventative work. This means I can use my experience and knowledge to help improve thousands of children's lives by supporting clinicians in my team and working with senior staff in schools to make changes in the system.
Another part of my role is supporting the training and development of new practitioners so if people are interested in this work, they should keep an eye on our vacancies page and NHS jobs!
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get started in a career in Clinical Psychology?
Start off small with some volunteering and gradually work your way up from there. During my time at Sussex, I volunteered at a hospital for people experiencing psychosis. I just went in on a Friday evening and chatted to people or played pool! I met some amazing people, and it was nice to just be a friendly face with no pressure.
Any job that involves working with people can be made relevant to psychology if you reflect on the work and try to apply relevant theories. Try not to rush the journey either, I still use knowledge from my first job out of university, as a Teaching Assistant, all the time: it's all relevant and helpful experience. Also, don't forget to have a life outside of your career – self -care, close relationships, and good hobbies are all really important factors in succeeding in this career.
Clinical Psychology is incredibly varied and there are job opportunities in so many different settings."
Dr Jodie Allen
In your recent talk at one of our Make it Happen events you mentioned the importance of increased representation of under-represented groups in Clinical Psychology. Why is this so important and is there any support available for anyone looking to get started?
I don't think I can fully do this justice but it's incredibly important. Services need to visibly represent everyone they serve, not just the majority, so that service users feel welcomed, understood and are more likely to seek help when they need it. We also need to reflect on our biases and consider other ways of working that incorporate more than just white western heteronormative ableist traditions.
Valuing people with different lived experiences is a key way of opening up these conversations and challenging the status quo. Having said that, I do appreciate the additional barriers that some groups face and the emotional labour that can come from this. This is why we have a number of networks and mentoring schemes designed to link people up with each other so that hopefully no one is left feeling alone in this work.
I'd recommend following the British Psychological Society (BPS) minorities network on Twitter and Facebook as a starting point and looking out for aspiring psychologist events run by the various Clinical Psychology doctorate courses. Most importantly, don't be put off if you don't meet the psychologist stereotype – reach out to people, make those connections and follow your passions!
What is your proudest achievement?
I received the Lucy Fildes Award for best research relating to Children, Young People or Families for my doctoral research thesis at Canterbury Christ Church University. I researched new mums' experiences of having a baby and finding compassion for themselves in the context of our society. I had never used the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research method before, so it was a huge achievement for me to not only finish but also receive such an honour for my work!
What challenges have you encountered in your career?
Working in the NHS can be stressful as services aren't always given enough resources to meet everyone's needs. I found it important to reflect on this stress regularly, be compassionate to myself and my colleagues, and to find a supportive team which matches my values.
Time for some quick-fire questions…
What are you currently reading?
The Lord of the Rings, although it's taking me ages!
What’s the soundtrack to your time at Sussex?
Roar, Katy Perry.
Favourite place on campus?
The Bridge Café.
What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back and start University again?
Look into the pomodoro method sooner rather than later. As a chronic procrastinator, this method was life changing and got me through my doctoral thesis!
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