Callaghan, J. (2011) Becoming a psychologist: knowledge and skills in context. Paper presented to: 14th Biennial Conference of The International Society for Theoretical Psychology (ISTP 2011), Thessaloniki, Greece, 27 June - 01 July 2011.
This paper reflects on the accounts of South African women students, training to be professional psychologists, exploring their understandings of the processes involved in becoming a psychologist. Student accounts of 'becoming a psychologist' represent their training as an identity project, involving the production of self as a Professional Psychologist who can wield expert knowledges and practical psychological skills. In the paper, I explore students' descriptions of the acquisition of professional skills in training, focusing particularly on an articulation of a tension between theory and practice. I attempt to tease out some of these students' fraught and complex accounts of this tension, to develop an understanding of how psychological constructions of theory, knowledge and practice intersect in the construction of professional identities. Of paramount importance in a consideration of student accounts is the notion that students do not know how to theorise their own historical locations, how to construct and theorise their own narrative accounts as a base for the theorisation of psychological practice. My argument is that this is a consequence partly of a problematic severing of theory and practice within dominant psychological discourses, and partly of the way in which the student psychological is positioned within the web of training practices to which they are subject. Further, as has already been noted, the politics of race, class and gender in post-Apartheid South Africa are often obscured under the rubric of rainbow nationism, or rendered unarticulatable in other ways, and thus a political analysis is not always easily available for students in training to draw on. I consider the place of reflexivity as a resource for the theorisation of a more contextually located psychological practice