top of page

Therapeutic Reflections: How to improve your chances as a clinical psychology student.

Dear Clinical Psychology Student, Don't give up. Your struggles

are valid, and while they can be daunting, they're also surmountable. I’ve faced many challenges, taken on odd jobs, some of which barely paid the bills. However, through it all, I've been fortunate to find work I deeply love. Now, it's time for me to pay it forward and help you navigate your path in this rewarding but often complex field. Jump directly to: 1. The International Psychologist's Dilemma 2. My Journey 3. Ways to Boost your Chances 4. Resources (Volunteer, Jobs, Links) Short read: Challenge: not getting work as psychologist

Solution: be proactive and enhance your skills and network

How?: read on.

Photo by Ying Ge on Unsplash

The International Psychologist's Dilemma:

Although many people need psychological support, getting into the clinical psychology field is not always easy. Paradoxically, since the need for psychological support is palpable. Yet, the path to becoming a therapist within the clinical psychology field is fraught with obstacles. The demand for therapists starkly contrasts the challenges they face – from restrictive training institutions and complex licensing procedures that can vary by country, to selective clinics and insurance companies dictating reimbursement policies. These barriers can push aspiring therapists into precarious positions, sometimes even leading them to unpaid work or unsafe environments. Moreover, without adequate clinical training and proper licensing, starting a private practice becomes a risky venture. To complicate matters further, clients often struggle to distinguish among various professional titles, including psychologist, GZ-psychologist, psychotherapist, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, and coach. This post is dedicated to the international psychology students in The Netherlands navigating this intricate landscape, seeking to carve out their professional niche and serve those in need. Challenges arise from restrictive training institutions, intricate licensing processes, selective clinics, and convoluted reimbursement structures. The result? Many budding therapists find themselves in precarious positions, sometimes even unpaid or in unsafe environments. This post is dedicated to all international psychology students in The Netherlands, trying to get an in and become a therapist.

My Journey

While I may not fully grasp your personal struggles, I have faced my share of challenges in this journey. Thousands of kilometers away from home, I grappled with not understanding the Dutch language and faced countless rejections from clinical internships and jobs. I recall the heartbreak of not getting into my preferred Master's program and leaving a Research Master just two months in, jobless and on the brink of eviction from a one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam. I shared that apartment, to save on costs, sleeping in the living room. After these setbacks, I did complete my Masters, and for a time, I made a living preparing sandwiches (which, for the record, were delicious). My time with the crew at Small World Catering was enlightening in ways university never was. Postgraduate training eluded me for a while; I even flew to the UK, advancing to the next round for a DClinPsy program, only to stumble on a Stats exam. But my persistence paid off. Now, I've been running my private practice for six years, which I've successfully relocated three times.

Today, my private practice receives numerous applications weekly. I've mentored interns, allowed professionals to shadow me, and engaged with both budding and seasoned psychologists over lunches. However, I've decided to pause on accepting new interns for the time being. The reason? Training them demands significant time and effort, and many, unfortunately, don't yet possess the foundational skills for effective therapy. Sorry, just sharing my candid experience. That said, I remain committed to supervising clinicians and make it a point to respond to all requests, offering advice wherever I can. It's the least I can offer to those following a similar path.

Ways to Boost your Chances:

  • Be proactive - Steven Covey’s first principle in his 7 habits to Highly Effective People is onto something.

  • Focus on skills

    • Think of it as a apprenticeship where you can hone your craft, ideally under the supervision of more experienced practitioners. Having access to several experienced therapists allows you to compare and contrast, absorb different skills, and find your own therapeutic style eventually.

    • Upgrade your skills and experience; make sure to focus on psychotherapy basics and not per sé expensive courses. Most skills you can learn on the job and from books. Expensive courses are often a way for therapists to enhace their fundamentals, thirst for novelty, knowledge and their egos.

  • Volunteer (see the links at the bottom) or intern. Ideally not only online work but with real people in live settings. If you only want to work online it’s a different story, but even then I’d encourage you to have a feel for face-to-face interactions as online therapy can miss a lot of the body language, subtle interactions, smells, etc. Look for a place where you can grow. Be aware of charlants and abusive work dynamics - leave if you intern in an unsafe environment (for instance no pay for years; no weekly supervision; no suportive colleagues to whom you can knock on the door in case of support or a crisis; no colleagiality, unclear work boundaries, nothing set on paper, the list goes on…).

  • Figure out what you want. Do some soul searching.

    • What is your 5 year plan?

    • Beyond the mere therapeutic modality that interests you - What is authentic to you? What is your niche? What could be your therapeutic style?

    • What fits with your profile and personality? Not everyone is cut out to be a clinician. Some are more research focused, some of us work for a big company, or go into organizational psych. Or get into marketing or another entirely different field. There is nothing wrong with changing paths if you realize something else fits you better. Unfortunately, often times psychology students only get actual practical experience after being 4-5 year in academia. You can still use your acquired knowledge and skills to your and others benefit, whatever you do.

    • It’s okay if don’t have your answers set in stone, but it’s good to start thinking about this, and try to gain as much clarity as possible. The best way to gain clarity is often through experience i.e. trying different positions out.

  • Decide where you want to practice

    • Get some clarity where you'd like to practice. Maybe it's a bit down the road, but it's good to have a vision. This can be hard for internationals, who are drawn to several places or feel restless easily. If you want to stay in NL, should you learn Dutch? Zeker weten! It will increase your chances and connect you to the country, culture and people. If you want to practice elsewhere the same applies (see next bullet point).

    • For non-EU citizens wanting to work in Europe, Visas can be an issue. Be aware that most employers might not be aware nor care. Also realize that your international background can bring something fresh and unique to the table (e.g. a unique perspective, an additional language), and that this could be a unique selling point.

    • Also for European citizens, each country has a different licensing procedure and different protected titles (I could write a whole post on this).

    • Don’t stress to much about licensing issues. A supervisor, who moved internationally and couldn’t get all her diploma’s accredited once told me: “if you’re good at what you do, you’ll always find a way”.

  • Learn the local language. It increases your chances dramatically for networking professionally, social interactions, and job opportunities.

  • Network - go to job fairs, expat fairs, conferences (often they’ll give you a student discount - if not, ask the organizers for it).

  • See what opportunities your uni provides. Internships, teaching/tutoring positions, research opportunities, etc.

  • Do you still have to write your Master’s thesis? Why not write one about a topic that you’re genuinely interested in? Also consider writing your thesis with an external business, practice or clinic.

  • Are you into research? Consider getting a PhD. A doctorate is a great way to work internationally as it is a universally acreditted degree, irrespective of the country (though if you’re planning on working as a clinician rather than researcher and you want to move countries you might have to get it accredited by their organizing bodies).

  • Invite a clinician for a coffee or lunch. Kindly pick their brains, figure out how they did it.

  • Use your languages and multicultural background to your advantage.

  • Connect with like-minded individuals with similar aspirations. Is it hard to get work? For some it is, for some it isn’t. Look at your peers that do manage to get an in. What did they do differently? Did they volunteer during their studies? Or followed clinical training next to their psychology studies? Have an in via their network? Or something else? Don’t hypothesize - invite them for a coffee and ask them. See what makes them tick.

  • Learn how to write well. How? Read. Write articles. Blog. Double check your CV and motivation letter - no one wants to read a too generic letter. Make it tailormade to where you apply, and you’ll increase your chances significantly. I immediately reject an applicant if I see they haven’t taken the time to even read where they are applying.

  • If you cannot get into a bigger clinic, look if you can join a local group practice. If they’re not able to accomodate you, ask them why and figure out what they’re looking for.

  • Here’s an original idea. Work for a startup, and become their in-house therapist. They’ll have a counsellor that provides support in a stressful environment and you’ll get experience and paid. Moreover, make sure to arrange that they pay for further training/courses that will help increase your skills as a therapist which is in the mutual interest of your employer and yourself.

  • Start your own practice. Big caveat. I can recommend to only do this if you have had sufficient experience in the field, otherwise it might be unsafe for you and your clients/patients. The truth is, almost anyone can start a practice, and chances are the people who are suffering will ring on your doorstep. You might get clients with very light mental health struggles, to those whose complexity may have put them on a waitlist in specialist clinics - but out of desperation they come to you. Next to having several years of clinical experience, supervision, intervision and having colleagues physically present with you seem essential to me, to anyone considering this. Starting your own business is risky on many levels (emotional, ethical, financial) and more than you think. However, if you do have the clinical experience, why not take the plunge? I once gave a webinar on this subject. If your interested on how to start a private practice in The Netherlands, let me know.

  • Breathe. You don’t have to do all of this, and not all at once. See what works for you.


  • Volunteering opportunities (I’m not affiliated to any of them, except ACCESS where I volunteer myself)

    • - ACCESS is an NGO helping out internationals in The Netherlands, mainly run by international volunteers. Originally set up by English speaking counsellors they have developed a wonderful team environment and serve the international community in NL in many ways (educating them, having frontdesk, workshops and much). Full disclosure: I am currently a member of their counselling network.

    • volunteer for the Dutch suicide prevention hotline. They provide you with a training before allowing you to help them. A friend of mine volunteered here whilst studying. He very quickly landed a job at a clinic. If you know how to help someone who is considering to commit suicide, employers will rightfully assume that you can probably also handle less severe situations.

    • Child psychologists, developmental psychologists and orthopedagogen might be interested in these two hotlines:; a hotline where children can call for support and the; a hotline where parents can call for support and advice.

    • - a hotline where anyone can call for someone to simply listen to them.

    • - based in many Dutch cities there are young people, helping other young people under the supervision of mental health professionals.

    • For the sake of this blog I only focused on Dutch sites. There are many English-speaking chats/hotlines I am not including, plus the myriad of support sites in other countries that you might consider if you speak another language ;-).

  • Job Opportunities If you are looking for work, maybe try one of these links:

    • There are many expanding online practices (again, not associated with any of these) like where they are often look for internationally minded therapists .

    • connects Turkish, Middle-Eastern and Ukrainian mental health professionals with employment options in The Netherlands.

    • this is a useful platform where trainings, jobs, etc are posted for people with a Masters - Dutch is required for these vacancies. Unfortunately, this website will stop functioning unless new people join their board (I’m smelling an opportunity here ;-)

    • Clinics like specialize in intercultural psychiatry, especially if you have speak Turkish or Arabic, you could find some work options here.

    • If your Dutch is good enough you can search the Dutch jobmarket like or all the other vacature websites out there.

  • Other websites of interest:

Am I missing any useful links, books and ideas? Let me know! Drop a comment or send me a message.


bottom of page