Dedani (Nobuhle) Dlodlo studied for the Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at City, University of London, and graduated in 2017.
What is your current job/study? What do you most enjoy about your role?
I am a counselling psychologist working within a Tier 2 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) at Achieving for Children (AfC). AfC is a social enterprise “providing children’s services for Kingston and Richmond”. I enjoy the innovative culture of the organisation most. It only started in 2014 and as a social enterprise, it aims to bring change and meet needs in new ways.
That does something powerful to shape the relationships formed inside and outside of the organisation. This culture also facilitates the responsibility and autonomy I’ve been encouraged to embrace. I have a strong sense that my perspectives as a counselling psychologist and individual are valued, in spite of the fact that I only just qualified.
Initially, I found the degree of responsibility and autonomy very daunting, especially after enjoying the protection that comes with being a trainee psychologist. However, 4 months later, I appreciate the freedom I have to think creatively and to bring my “self” to my work. I have found that this has an important effect on the quality of relationships I can create with my clients, other professionals and the schools I work in.
What path have you taken to get there? Were there any particular areas of interest that lead to you specialising?
I have always had an interest in the way social enterprises work – how they literally go about making social solutions their business. With that interest, I have volunteered in various mental health charities and social enterprises, which have led me to ask questions about how the profession of psychology could operate within the hybridised framework that characterises a lot of social enterprises.
In fact, these questions were a large part of my doctoral thesis. Fittingly, I discovered Achieving for Children just as I finished my thesis and it just made sense to apply and fortunately, I landed the role. I would never have predicted, however, that my career would start in a CAMHS service.
It was a serendipitous placement opportunity and a wonderful placement supervisor (who is also a City Alum) that helped me settle into CAMHS work and I have worked with children and young people since. I have found something uniquely appealing about working as part of a CAMHS team. Perhaps this relates to the multi-disciplinary/systemic perspective you have to take when working with children and young people.
Perhaps it has to do with how collectivity appeals to me. I am after all a product of a collectivist culture.
Why did you choose to study at City, University of London and how has it helped you with your career?
When I was at the end of my conversion course and looking to apply for a doctorate, a friend (another City Alum) told me about the 5 Day Basic Counselling Skills training that City offers. She told me I could book onto this course and tick off one of the entry requirements for a DPsych application, which I did.
That’s how I managed to enjoy a week long taster of City, its facilities and its sandwiches. Importantly, the high quality of that 5 day course convinced me that City would be a great place to learn. In retrospect, it was that introductory experience that helped me decide to choose City over other DPsych programmes. City’s location in the heart of the city also helped!
I feel that City prepared me for this profession and role in just the right ways. Not only have I gained the required qualification, I have developed capacities for flexibility and proactivity, which have proven to be vital in this social enterprise. It was the experience of finding and keeping placement opportunities in particular that allowed me to do so. City’s emphasis on professionalism, evidence-based skills and sensitivity in practice have been important in helping me build therapeutic and professional relationships that are, even now, ensuring great opportunities.
What did you enjoy most about your course?
To list a few…
- The support within our cohort
- The theoretical and practical expertise that was evident in the lecturers’ teaching
- The emphasis on professional identity and ethics in each of our modules, which helped me formulate my research about power, the profession’s social relevance and the implications for social justice
- The research experience (but only in hindsight) and the relationship I developed with my research supervisor
- Specialist supervision groups, where we were able to integrate our theoretical knowledge with practical experience.
What was the most challenging aspect of your course?
Placements and research (the latter goes without saying). As I mentioned before, my ability to secure and pass my placement experiences relied heavily on flexibility and proactivity. Developing these capacities has helped me embrace the responsibility and autonomy that characterises my current role and so I appreciate the challenge that placements ensured.
However, I have noticed that City’s placement and research processes seem to be less structured or prescribed than other courses I have come across. The expectation that we would meet those placement/research deadlines by whatever means meant that we had to apply a great deal of organisation, self-motivation and resourcefulness.
Often, this proved hard to do in the context of everyday life. And yet, doing so has reaped the rewards I most enjoy post-training.
What did you most enjoy about being a City Student?
I had the opportunity to represent my peers on the Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC). It was certainly an empowering experience and also powerful to see changes coming out of SSLC meetings. I also appreciated City Sparks and attended a few seminars. They offered great opportunities for me to start thinking about entrepreneurship practically and to connect with successful entrepreneurs.
More than anything, however, I enjoyed being part of my particular cohort and developing relationships that have continued beyond the course. I am also proud to say that City made the transition from City University London to City, University of London during my time – which meant even more access to library resources
If you could give one piece of advice to a prospective City Counselling Psychology student, what would it be?
Focus on relationships! For us counselling psychologist (and psychologists, in general), the therapeutic relationship is all important. On a practical note, when writing essays and process reports, include something thoughtful and reflective about the therapeutic relationship and you’ll be sure to earn important points.
When it comes to placements and jobs, it seems effective to show that you can “talk to people”; that you are self-aware, aware of others and able to respond to others’ needs. Again, I’d say that has something to do with being able to communicate and form relationships. I have found that employers can prioritise this over skills or experience.
Finally, it goes without saying that the relationships you form with peers and lecturers throughout the course will be important and will continue to bear fruit even after the course.
Date of interview: