Psychology volunteering is a great way for psychology students and graduates like you to gain relevant experience in the sector before you may be experienced enough to obtain a role with a salary.

Volunteer work has become almost as important as education in today’s competitive job market with Psychology Today reporting that volunteering helps you to get ahead by helping to hone valuable skills like teamwork and flexibility. Furthermore, psychology volunteering allows you to explore career options without commitment. This is one of the reasons our psychology volunteering opportunities are so popular, as you get to work with various client groups, age ranges and abilities all on one placement.

Psychology Volunteering Abroad with SLV.Global

We offer the opportunity to work in various environments with diverse client groups over five distinct project types.

+ Activity Support (AS)

These projects all involve psychology volunteering in a clinical or community setting. Here you’ll volunteer with service users experiencing mental health concerns who are in various stages of their recovery.

The psychology volunteering at these projects is primarily working as an activity support facilitator and running engaging, innovative activities for service users to engage with.

+ English for Development (EFD)

This psychology volunteering all takes place in schools or vocational training institutes. English is a real commodity abroad and you have the tools to help provide individuals with better career prospects and increased confidence just by speaking with your students!

In addition to the practical side of English language teaching, there's also so much more you're doing. When working in developing countries, seemingly simple, daily skills, which we take for granted, can often be overlooked, but should really be prioritised. According to a report conducted by the WHO, the skills often neglected in the developing world, but intrinsically linked to mental health are: decision-making, problem-solving, creative and critical thinking, effective communication, interpersonal skills, self-awareness and coping with emotions and stress.

+ Children's Development (CD)

We partner with a number of children's development centres, primary schools and after school clubs to provide extracurricular English lessons. Our aim is to be role models, but not caregivers to children who are often marginalised by poverty and circumstance. There are also opportunities to coach sports such as swimming, football and cricket.

+ Special Education Activity Support (SEAS)

Alongside the psychiatric facility, you'll be volunteering in psychology by working in a number of schools and initiatives for those with specific needs. With an average of 26% of inpatients who reside in UK psychiatric facilities displaying overlapping additional needs, like autism or a brain injury, this is most definitely a client group you should become familiar working with.

+ Community Outreach (CO)

The psychology volunteering here all takes place in the local community and has been requested by local community members. You could be running an after school club for kids aged 5 - 18 or running an English class for those aged 9 - 90! These projects mean so much that some people walk for miles just to attend.

What to Consider When Choosing an Opportunity

There are plenty of organisations out there offering voluntary experience, especially abroad. However, not all opportunities are created equal. When selecting a program it’s good to consider the following to avoid potentially participating in the destructive industry of voluntourism:

How many countries does the organisation work in and how many local staff do they employ?

Sustainability is a huge part of making an impact in a positive way. Find out if they run programmes year-round and if they have set dates when volunteers arrive. Organisations that allow people to drop in and out and that don’t keep consistent numbers of volunteers or staff in the country are actively contributing to a culture of instability and uncertainty for their staff and the service users they work with. Bad news!

We employ over 50 local staff year-round and commit to our projects in the same way. Our volunteer teams arrive and leave on certain dates together, to ensure everyone feels supported and safe.

Do they have any evidence of their positive impact?

Any organisation worth their salt will constantly assess the success of their projects. Ask to see the evidence that what they are doing is helping and not harming the communities they work in. You can check out our externally compiled report, completed by local and UK mental health professionals, can be found here.

Do they exploit vulnerable service users by putting their photos on the internet?

It’s never OK to put photos of vulnerable children and people who are unable to consent on the internet. These service users are unable to consent to their photo being used and most likely don’t know that their image is being used to sell a product.

We never put photos of children or service users on our website or any of our promotional material. Its’ just gross.

Do you need a specific visa and/or a DBS check to participate?

It’s illegal to volunteer in most of the world on a tourist visa, so make sure the company you choose isn’t asking you to break the law. Also, are they safeguarding service users by requiring a background check? If not, why not?

We never allow volunteers to join us on a tourist visa and everyone on our placements needs a valid DBS to participate in our placements.

Finding Psychology Volunteer Work at Home

We understand that not everyone has the ability to fly off to a gorgeous location to be a psychology volunteer. We know that when looking for volunteer psychology opportunities, it's important to cast a wide net. Searching "volunteering psychology" in Google is a good start, but you may get discouraged at the level of education or experience required to fill your desired vacancy. Looking for opportunities in "befriending," "care work" or "support work" may yield more promising results. Even working in a charity shop for a mental health charity could get your foot in the door and show an early commitment to the organisation.

Phone support is also a great way to get psychology volunteering experience. Many organisations like the NSPCC, Samaritans and the Suicide Prevention Hotline in the USA provide comprehensive training too. Another excellent service, which is almost always looking for keen volunteers, is your own university support line. This anonymous campus service is a great place to sharpen your listening and empathy skills. Just remember that despite being voluntary, these positions still require a high degree of commitment. Often the training alone can take months and the selection process is tough, so make sure you’ve got the time and the passion to commit before you apply.

Remember, we all have to start somewhere! It’s OK if your first voluntary psychology role isn’t what you imagined. It’s just the first step!