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Clinical Placements

Trainees on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology undertake clinical placements within clinical services in our partner organizations across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (see locations of clinical placements in last academic year).

Clinical placements enable trainees to develop a comprehensive portfolio of clinical skills, so that by the end of training they should be well prepared to start working in an NHS clinical service.  Trainees will normally complete four mandatory placements over the first two years of the course (in adult mental health; older people’s services; children, young people and families; and people with intellectual disabilities). In the third year, trainees would normally complete a year-long placement; the Programme is currently considering introducing the option of enabling either one or two elective placements in the third year to further increase training opportunities. The Oxford Programme has a wide range of exciting elective options, some of which are in national specialist services. An important aim of third year placements is to equip trainees with additional skills such as leadership, consultancy, supervision and effective team-working to meet the needs of the modern NHS.  All placements are approximately 5½ months in duration, with the possible exception of electives in the third year where there is more flexibility. Trainees will normally spend between 60 and 70 days on each placement. 

The assignment of placements is primarily based on training needs and aspirations and these are regularly reviewed from pre-training through to completion of the Programme. Over the course of training, trainees may express preferences for the opportunity to develop particular clinical competencies or work in specific service contexts.  These preferences are considered by the trainee’s course tutor alongside their individual training needs and the availability of supervision. Trainees may be assigned placements in any of the services within the geographical area covered by the Programme. A valid driving license and access to a car are strongly recommended.  

Placements are fully integrated with the academic programme  A wide range of support is available within and out with the Programme for each trainee, including a course tutor who oversees all aspects of their experience, including placements, academic learning and research projects. At regular intervals, there are scheduled individual discussions with the trainee’s course tutor about progress and learning needs.  To help facilitate the effective development of clinical and professional competence, trainees normally keep the same course tutor throughout their training.

Placements are carefully monitored and supported by course tutors, who visit once at the mid-point of each placement and more often if helpful.  Trainees normally receive a minimum of 1 hour formal individual clinical supervision from their placement supervisor(s) each week whilst on placement in addition to less formal supervision and support. A range of learning opportunities are incorporated into placements including opportunities to observe placement supervisors and other accredited psychological therapists conduct clinical work, and also be observed in a structured way including receive feedback through direct assessments of clinical competence.

Wherever possible on placements, trainees are encouraged to work with staff from other professions and with service users and carers.  The Programme is committed to co-production i.e. health care professionals and service users working in partnership to develop services and conduct research. Placement feedback is 360 degree and incorporates feedback from other professional staff and service users and carers.

The Programme is currently pursuing secondary accreditation with the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and Association of Family Therapy.

Academic programme

The academic programme is carried out over three terms in each year of the Course.


Training begins with a four-week induction block, to provide trainees with the core professional knowledge and clinical assessment skills needed to commence their first placement. The subsequent two years of taught content is aligned with the order of our clinical placements, that is working age adults and older adults in year 1 and then child & adolescent/intellectual disabilities (in either order) in year 2. During these two years, trainees will become competent practitioners, both in cognitive behavioural therapy and systemic practice, and gain awareness of a number of other modalities. Trainees will also develop competence in neuropsychological assessment and working with the psychological issues associated with health problems. Throughout training, the topics of culture and diversity, professional/ethical issues and leadership will be interwoven into the curriculum.

There is an emphasis on training clinical psychologists who are confident in their research skills, and will seek to engage in research whatever their work setting when qualified. Research training begins in the first term of year 1 to ensure trainees have sufficient time and skills to successfully complete three research projects (a main research project, a service improvement project and a systematic review of the literature).

The third year curriculum covers specialist areas of clinical activity and professional issues to coincide with the elective clinical placements which are taken up in this year.

The Course aims to encourage creative self-directed learning and where possible the academic programme provides workshops, seminars and interactive sessions, rather than formal lectures. Teaching is delivered by Course staff, clinical supervisors working in the three counties, and external lecturers. Trainees have access to world class libraries in Oxford, including the Bodleian.

Research training at the Institute aims to provide trainees with a positive learning experience that will develop their research skills to a high level and increase their confidence in their ability to conduct research in clinical settings.  Research is emphasised as an integral part of clinical practice.During the three year course, trainees develop their knowledge and understanding of research designs and methods, statistics, computing and qualitative data analysis. They grow in their competence to plan, conduct, write up and present their own original clinical research as well as critique research across all domains.

Initially these skills are explored through the development of a Service Related Project (SRP) jointly with their supervisor on clinical placement. This gives the trainee first-hand experience of how research skills can contribute to service development in a typically multi-disciplinary context.These skills are then further refined as the trainees identify a topic for their Research Dissertation. This is a substantial piece of work that must reach doctoral level in conceptualisation, design and execution and investigate a topic which is of clinical relevance. The Research Dissertation has two components: Paper A forming a literature review and Paper B a report of an empirical investigation.

Many novel and influential projects have been developed at the Institute, and many trainees have pursued careers in clinical research on graduation.


Taught syllabus: Teaching takes place across all three years of the Course. Quantitative and qualitative designs and methods are taught, together with statistics and computing skills. Specific sessions are provided on research ethics and to familiarise trainees with the University and Course rules and regulations on the assessed research work. Teaching also aims to help trainees plan and organise their research work.


Service related project: This is normally conducted before beginning work on the Dissertation, typically on the first clinical placement. It is supervised by the placement supervisor with the support of the trainee’s research tutor. Together with their supervisor, trainees are encouraged to consult national and local audit plans in order to select a suitable topic, bearing in mind the needs of the service. Projects require local audit committee approval.


Dissertation: This is a major piece of research work. It must be original, with human participants, and relevant to the practice of clinical psychology. It is written as two journal style papers, consisting of a review and an empirical paper. Planning begins before the summer of year 1, and it is handed in in mid-July, with a viva voce in early September. Projects require NHS or University ethical committee approval, as appropriate. The Course Research Sub-Committee must approve the proposed project before it can proceed to ethics.


Examples of recent dissertation titles/topics:

  • A qualitative investigation of the experiences of young people with low mood who attend CAMHS
  • The impact of social anxiety on cognitive processes and safety behaviours when using Facebook
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and the cognitive model, in women with in patient admission for anorexia nervosa
  • Neurofeedback and positive reappraisal: a novel method of regulating emotion in adolescents
  • Emotional distress, hot-spots and imagery, in the relatives of intensive care patients

Trainee Support & Personal and Professional Development


Trainee support

The Course provides a range of support systems that trainees can use flexibly depending on their individual needs and preferences.  Each trainee is allocated a Course Tutor who will support the trainee throughout the 3 years of training.  The course tutor is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the training experience for that trainee, including personal and professional development, progress with research projects, academic learning and coordinating and monitoring clinical placement experience. Course tutors act as delegated line managers for trainees and conduct annual appraisals and regular review and goal-planning sessions.

Course tutors are supported in relation to clinical placements by clinical tutors who source suitable placements, allocate placements based on trainee needs and aspirations, audit placements and induct and support supervisors in relation to Programme expectations. The Programme also offers a wide range of support and training options for local supervisors to support wider therapy and supervisory skill development.

Research Tutors develop the research components of the Programme including related teaching, and research proposal approval and assessment processes. Individual support for each of the 3 main research projects (critical literature review, service improvement project and main research project) is provided by a supervisory team including both regional and programme staff.

Each year group is also supported by a Cohort tutor who progresses with that cohort through the 3 years of training.  The cohort tutor will check in with the cohort regularly, offer support with group-related issues and facilitate two-way communication between the cohort as a whole and the Programme team.

Academic Tutors also meet regularly with trainees to discuss academic and general Course related issues.

Personal and professional development is facilitated through supporting reflective practice in a variety of ways, including professional reflection seminars, trainee led reflection sessions, and six-monthly confidential appraisal meetings with the course tutor.  There is a “Buddy” system where each new trainee is offered support from a trainee in the year above. There is also a Personal Tutor system; all trainees on commencing the Programme are allocated a Personal Tutor, from a list of local clinical psychologists, for confidential mentoring.

In addition to the usual NHS options, further support is available through Oxford Health Human Resources Department and the University Counselling service for trainees who need additional support.

Oxford Doctoral Course in Clinical Psychology 

The Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

 The Oxford Doctoral Course in Clinical Psychology is part of the Oxford Institute of Clinical Psychology Training and Research. It has over 30 years' history of excellence in training people to become effective Clinical Psychologists. Trainees benefit from having access to some of the best clinical and academic resources in the country via the University of Oxford, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and other agencies and Trusts providing health and social care. All trainees are affiliated with Harris Manchester College which is a small friendly college for students aged over 21. Successful completion of the three-year full-time course leads to the qualification of Doctor of Clinical Psychology (D.Clin.Psych) from the University of Oxford which confers eligibility to apply for registration with the Health & Care Professions Council and to apply for Chartered status with the British Psychological Society.

The Course supports trainees in the process of becoming highly competent and flexible scientist-practitioners, who are confident in their ability to meet a range of needs in health and social care contexts. This is achieved through a research-led academic and skills training programme; high quality placements in a broad range of specialty areas; and excellent research support and supervision. The philosophy of the Course stems from the reflective scientist-practitioner model, and the Course is committed to drawing on a range of empirically supported and grounded theoretical orientations including Cognitive-Behavioural Therapies and Systemic (Family) Therapy. Graduates from the Course will be equipped to practice at a high level of research and clinical competence, and within an empirically grounded reflective and ethical framework which will provide a foundation for further learning and development

The Oxford Course frequently updates the way in which training is delivered. These changes reflect our commitment to remain at the cutting edge of clinical psychology training and to fully meet the requirements for approval by the Health & Care Professions Council. We are currently working towards accreditation of the programme with the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice (AFT) and the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) - Level 2. We take pride in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from current and past trainees and have an excellent track record in listening and responding to trainee input in all areas of Course policy and procedure. The Course also has an active Partners in Experience Advisory Group which advises on all key areas of the Course.


Frequently Asked Questions from Potential Candidates  

This is currently being updated.


The Oxford Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology is accredited by the British Psychological Society.


The programme underwent a reaccreditation visit in June 2017 and received unconditional accreditation for a further 6 years. The full accreditation report can be accessed here.


BPS accredited