The mental health crisis triggers the demand to study Psychology at the URV

Psychology studies have never enjoyed such good health at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Only half of those who request it enter them and the cut-off mark is growing every year. The most recent test is the data of this course 2022-23. The qualification to access stands at 9.7 points. In the 2018-2019 financial year it was 7.6. In that year there were 160 applications with that degree as the first preference. Now the data has practically doubled, rising to 296. It is 85% more.

The same happens with the places assigned to each course that starts: from 82 to 125. "We usually receive twice as many applications, so we fill half," explains Jordi Tous, dean of the Faculty of Sciences of Education and Psychology of the URV. The result is that the volume of students who delve into this subject in Tarragona is growing every year: from 456 enrollments in 2019-20 to 495 this year, 8% more. “The input data is spectacular. That the court note rises already tells you what is happening with the demand, ”says Jordi Tous.

Emotional support and wellness

In perspective, the dean gives some of the keys to the reason for the boom: «We have gone from psychology as a social science to being within health. There is more and more individualism, more problems, the need for emotional support, there is a greater demand for personal well-being. That connects with careers that have an expectation of vocational output.

Luis Heredia, professor at the URV and the UOC, has been detecting an increase in applications for years: «Psychology places at universities fill up quickly and there is a lot of demand. It is one of the most requested races.

The qualification to enter has risen in the Rovira i Virgili from 7.6 to 9.7 in four years

One of the main causes is the clear fall of the mental health taboo. Never before has there been so much talk about psychological disorders and illnesses, mental pathology, suffering, anxiety; and even suicides. Confessing that you are going to the psychologist is no longer frowned upon. «In young people there has been a work of awareness and education in mental health, in well-being, in the ability to improve the quality of life, in learning to better manage family relationships. This is also seen in older people who come, and who were raised with a different mentality, "says Heredia.

The factor of the two and a half years of Covid is key in the equation. “The pandemic has been a definite boost. The lockdowns generated an increase in therapeutic care. We also see autolytic behaviors at very early ages, which we had not previously perceived. And many people with anxiety disorders, very confused. So much so that the private psychologist sometimes seems like a primary care doctor, in the sense that he has full agendas and it is difficult to find a place », says Heredia.

The third most requested degree

Psychology is the third most requested degree at Rovira y Virgili, only behind Medicine and Nursing. The study 'Employability and university training in Psychology', prepared by AQU Catalunya, the agency that evaluates the quality of the university system, takes a look at these studies.

"There is a mismatch: many focus on clinical psychology and there are missed opportunities", explains Jordi Tous, dean of the URV's Faculty of Educational Sciences and Psychology

Some conclusions: demand "substantially" exceeds supply, eight out of ten students enrolled are women and, most worryingly, there is an "oversupply of graduates that is difficult to be absorbed by the labor market."

Despite the increase in mental needs, finding a job in clinical psychology after studying does not seem easy, although many young people dream of the iconic role of the psychologist attending consultations. The study points to a "mismatch between university training in psychology and professional practice."

"There is a demand for well-being and improvement in quality of life", diagnoses Luis Heredia, professor at the URV and the UOC

Dean Jordi Tous points to the same idea: «We find a large number of students who are all heading towards the same branch, which is clinical psychology. There are many other outlets linked to human resources, legal practice, the forensic field, sports psychology, mediation or emerging fields of social psychology or community intervention».

"A very biased idea"

Tous alludes to a "misalignment" that is clearly perceived: "On the one hand we are satisfied that they are studies in demand but on the other we would like to give them continuity in the labor market. Many students already come with a very biased idea of ​​a type of work, and they no longer see other expectations. We are not targeting the profile well.

For Tous, "if 2,000 professionals a year come onto the market in Catalonia, that's a lot of people if they all go to one specialty." The report adds that graduates, although satisfied with the education received at the university, "tend to occupy lower quality jobs".

"There is an oversupply of graduates that is difficult to be absorbed by the labor market", indicates the study 'Employability and university training in Psychology'

"There are many psychologists who value the career very highly but who have not just entered the market, they do not exercise," indicates Tous. Or, put another way, the vocational aspiration of wanting to help others from the couch comes up against high competition: “If there are more graduates, prices end up going down and that makes them earn a worse living. There are other areas to explore that would allow the graduate to have more stability and better conditions».

“Few places in the public”

Jordi Tous acknowledges that "there are other wasted opportunities" as an alternative to that proliferation of professionals who pick up the gauntlet of mental emergency to carry out their project: "In the public system there are really few places, although they are being promoted in primary school, but many Sometimes you have to end up self-employed. And it's not easy. Either you are very good, or you have been there for many years, or you do something very specific. If not, it is difficult to get ahead. That is why we give talks and conferences to explain that there are other professional opportunities».

The AQU Catalunya study focuses on this gap based on insertion: "People who work in the clinical field are the ones who have a lower average salary (1,336 euros), about 500 less, than those who work in the organizational (1852)». In turn, stability in contracts is less common among psychologists recently graduated from the classroom (43.1%) than in the overall Catalan university system (56.3%).

From graduating to setting up a center with 20 workers

Miriam Recio finished her degree at the URV in 2012. «At that time I didn't see where I could go and in 2015 I decided to set up the center. So there was still a lot of taboo and it was hard for me to start. The situation began to change before the pandemic: «We began to notice more demand and grow. We saw that it began to give more visibility. The fact that relevant people said they were going to a psychologist was important and helped a lot. It is even something that is beginning to be fashionable ».

Recio was shaping as director the Psicoedúcate center in Vila-seca, which has around 20 professionals, which includes psychotherapy for couples, children or nutrition. She is in charge of Ananda García, a psychonutritionist, also trained at the URV. She finished in 2015. "We like the concept of helping people, it's something vocational," she says. In the academy, they also carry out training for psychologists. Theirs is an example of success in which two young people, almost recent graduates, start a project in the middle of the mental health crisis: «In the race they had told us that there was little way out of this. I think we had the concept of the psychologist as something very cold. Now it is not like that. You don't have to be sick to come. There are people who go simply to do prevention, they feel sad or angry about something and they come to see points of view».

Half of careers with a higher demand are health

Five of the ten most requested careers in Rovira i Virgili are health. In fact, four occupy those first positions. They are Medicine (732 applications in first preference for this course that has just begun), Nursing in Tarragona (365), Psychology (296) and Nursing in Tortosa (207). In sixth place, behind Law, is Physiotherapy (143). The pandemic has revitalized the predisposition of young people to study this type of subject but also others related to science. Medicine, the double degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and in Biotechnology or that of Mathematical Engineering and Physics are the studies with the highest cut-off marks, above 12.

The link between health and 'big data' is a booming niche with promising job prospects, just like any content linked to digitization. "Covid-19 has accelerated interest in digital health, in terms of the transformation in the health world in terms of organization," says Carme Carrion, director of the University Master's Degree in Digital Health (E-health) at the UOC.

data and healthcare

Raquel Planas, a nurse and graduate of this master's degree, agrees in detecting this growing interest: «Professionals increasingly perceive technologies as an essential tool for the development of their work. They see all the possibilities they offer and it translates into an improvement in patient care and quality of care.”

This entire line goes beyond the concept of telemedicine. "We process data and we have more information, and that allows us to make more informed and personalized decisions," says Carme Carrion, who adds: "We have a tool that unites workers and patients and allows monitoring of the disease not only to be done in a few given moments, but rather that it be constant, even if the professional is not physically present».

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