Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the interface between the professional and personal, and particularly personal realities reflected in the Equality Act (2010), within a clinical psychology training context.
Design/methodology/approach – An innovative action research process involving discussions, seminars and focus groups. The first author was a trainee on the programme and had been an informal carer. The other two authors are programme staff with service user experience. In the cycle presented here, six staff members and 14 trainees attended five 50‐minute reflective group sessions. Data were collected by focus group and analysed using thematic analysis.
Findings – Participants voiced continuing uncertainty about the personal‐professional interface alongside increased understanding of ways to enact it. Parenthood, class and mental health were identified as important domains and competition between these emerged as a theme.
Research limitations/implications – The reflective groups and focus group have contributed to a process of change in relation to service user involvement and trainee learning. Transferability of the findings to other programmes is discussed and further research is required.
Practical implications – The authors would advocate for partnerships between trainees, staff and service users as a means of learning, researching and change within mental health training.
Originality/value – The authors are unaware of any other similar work: the unusual collaboration by the authors, the use of action research and the adoption of reflective groups within the process is unique.