The academic component of the programme aims to actively engage trainees in the learning process. This is helped greatly by the relatively small size of each year group, allowing plenty of scope for discussion and development of ideas and skills. The majority of teaching, which is carried out in dedicated teaching rooms in the School of Psychology at Bangor University, is workshop-based, introducing problem based learning, with theory-research-practice links developed from the outset. Trainees are expected to take an active role in teaching and present clinical work at regularly scheduled case discussion sessions.
The programme is redesigning the academic curriculum to emphasise life-span perspectives. This means that topic areas can be taught by clinicians from a range of specialisms, thus ensuring that the trainee gains a developmental perspective.
In previous years, the first year of the programme teaching focused on topics including adult mental health, older adults, clinical health psychology and neuropsychology reflecting the range of clinical experience trainees may have during the year. In the second year, child and adolescent mental health and intellectual disabilities teaching were covered. However, depending on the results of the current review, this current placement pattern may change in the future. Third year academic sessions pursue a range of topics at a more specialist and advanced level. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaching is introduced at the start of the first year, and includes two skills workshops where trainees have the opportunity to obtain feedback on role plays from peers, programme staff and members of the People Panel. The Third-Wave Therapies are taught across the three years. In the first year there is a focus on Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. These skills are further developed over subsequent years, while Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is introduced in year two. The DBT teaching (and related clinical experience) has been expanded so that trainees can have acquired all the knowledge based competencies and most of the practice based competencies they require for accreditation as a DBT therapist by the Society for DBT in the UK and Ireland, that implements the International DBT Accreditation Standards. Teaching on therapy processes, professional conduct, reflective practice and research runs throughout the three years. However, there is a review ongoing at the moment of the programme structure and depending on the outcome, the structure of the teaching timetable might be reviewed as well.
Most of the teaching takes place in academic blocks, but there are also 'college days' spread more evenly across the year, to further encourage theory-research-practice links. There are also teaching days across the academic year, where all three cohorts come together, where specialist and current topics are being presented and discussed. Recent all cohort days have focused on “working in Wales” and “new ways of working in Health Psychology”. While clinical and academic psychologists within North Wales undertake the majority of the teaching, psychologists from outside the area and other professionals are also invited to contribute where appropriate. Members of our Service User/Carer Group (People Panel) and other service users and carers are actively involved in a number of teaching sessions throughout the three years. Trainees greatly appreciate and value their perspective, and feedback remains consistently high. Trainees give feedback on all academic sessions, thus enabling the programme to keep improving the standards of its teaching.
There are four academic assignments to be completed across the three years, including one reflective essay. While the format for the assignments is set, the trainees choose their own clinically relevant topics for these. Welsh speaking trainees have the option of completing their assignments through the medium of Welsh. The programme organises translation services.