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Clinical psych right out of undergrad?


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Curious college student here - does anyone know of any reputable clinical psych programs (either Ph.D or Psy.D) that accept students straight from undergrad? Will graduate with a GPA around 3.9, good clinical experience (3-6 years depending on the specific population) and moderate research experience (semester-long research project abroad & completing a year-long honors research project). Not interested in a career in research but not opposed to doing it in grad school. Would like to go straight to grad school if possible - any insight would be much appreciated!

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Maybe "clinical" isn't the right word...I just meant experience that wasn't research. Volunteering at a crisis hotline and domestic violence shelter, a summer job/seasonal job working with children/adolescents with disabilities, behavioral disorders, and other mental health issues, teaching a religious school class w/students w/special needs, volunteering at a hospital's psychiatric department, 6-week internship at a mental health agency

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I think people get in straight out of undergrad for both- just less frequently for phd programs, from what I’ve seen. But I’m just one person! I think if you’re not pumped about research, and wanting to go right away, PsyD programs could potentially help you get there sooner. But of course, that’s not always the case. I actually got into a PsyD program straight out of undergrad (but I ended up leaving it) and several of my cohort were either straight out or a year removed. But I have a (very) few colleagues who were accepted to PhD programs straight from undergrad - so it’s possible either way. But if you’re a senior right now, you have unfortunately missed the cutoffs :( 

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Just now, therapisttobe said:

Not a senior yet - just an obsessive planner :) I do think psy.d programs are more up my alley, but the cost is not, lol. Thanks for the info!

That’s great! Some PsyD programs have funding (Baylor being one, I believe), and if you’re at all interested in joining the military, you can get funded that way as well (but obv incurring a service commitment). Good luck! 

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1 minute ago, FreudEgg said:

That’s great! Some PsyD programs have funding (Baylor being one, I believe), and if you’re at all interested in joining the military, you can get funded that way as well (but obv incurring a service commitment). Good luck! 

I agree, if you can find a PsyD program with funding I'd go with that. If you aren't interested in research, you shouldn't just want to do it because a program requires it. That's a great way to get burnt out and dislike your years in grad school. PsyD programs are a lot easier to get into since they do not guarantee funding whatsoever so they can take on far more students than PhD programs, but it's good if you are more interested in practice than research.

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From my experience and from speaking with mentors, you’ll statistically get more interviews and into much better programs when you take time off between undergrad and grad and work on research. I’ve had people tell me they don’t even consider people who haven’t taken time off. Not to say that it couldn’t happen, I know one person who had a near perfect GRE and got in right from undergrad but I would strongly advise to take time in between. You’ll mature as a person, a researcher, a clinican, etc. Additionally, I would describe “clinical” experience as working face to face with patients and/or people with psychopathology. The rest is more volunteer experience and lets the committee know you’re socially conscious, but this isn’t clinical experience in particular. I volunteer with crisis text line and have done service trips, and I would not say that’s clinical experience. 

If you don’t envision research in your future, I would shy away from PhD programs and consider instead PsyD, SW, or MHC degrees. Those all will allow you to be a clinican. 

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3 minutes ago, psychasf said:

From my experience and from speaking with mentors, you’ll statistically get more interviews and into much better programs when you take time off between undergrad and grad and work on research. I’ve had people tell me they don’t even consider people who haven’t taken time off. Not to say that it couldn’t happen, I know one person who had a near perfect GRE and got in right from undergrad but I would strongly advise to take time in between. You’ll mature as a person, a researcher, a clinican, etc. Additionally, I would describe “clinical” experience as working face to face with patients and/or people with psychopathology. The rest is more volunteer experience and lets the committee know you’re socially conscious, but this isn’t clinical experience in particular. I volunteer with crisis text line and have done service trips, and I would not say that’s clinical experience. 

If you don’t envision research in your future, I would shy away from PhD programs and consider instead PsyD, SW, or MHC degrees. Those all will allow you to be a clinican. 

I have to disagree with your point on volunteering on crisis lines and whatnot as simply volunteer experience. I feel as though this is not good advice, especially since you are most likely not going to be doing any form of psychotherapy or one-on-one counseling with clients with a BA. A vast majority of programs count volunteering at crisis lines or shelters as clinical work because you are indirectly providing a form of therapy for clients who call in and usually have to go through some form of training in order to be able to volunteer. 

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I was in a similar spot last year - strong GPA and GRE, good amount of clinical and research experience, and I got interviewed at 2/8 programs and those programs were statistically the least competitive out of all the ones I applied to, plus I went on to be rejected to both. This year, very little has changed on my paper application, just a couple of research posters and a better written personal statement, but I've had much more success. I cannot speak to PsyD or master's programs (which I would highly recommend you look into if you're looking to be a therapist), but for PhD programs, it really does seem like just having graduated has improved my application by a lot.

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Are you sure you're not interested in research as a career? If you're interested in practicing exclusively, a master's might be more up your alley. I strongly suggest taking some time off to explore your interests and evaluate WHY you want a PhD/PsyD. That is, what is your end goal with the doctoral degree? This is something that I needed to do, and it helped reaffirm my interest in a PhD. However, for some people, it helps them realize that a PhD/PsyD is NOT what they want to do.

It is possible that you get accepted somewhere, but if you don't clearly know what your career goals are or why you want that degree, you may end up unhappy in a doctoral program. Also, I highly suggest you talk to your advisors/mentors and see what they recommend for your particular case.

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39 minutes ago, Keyz said:

I have to disagree with your point on volunteering on crisis lines and whatnot as simply volunteer experience. I feel as though this is not good advice, especially since you are most likely not going to be doing any form of psychotherapy or one-on-one counseling with clients with a BA. A vast majority of programs count volunteering at crisis lines or shelters as clinical work because you are indirectly providing a form of therapy for clients who call in and usually have to go through some form of training in order to be able to volunteer. 

I'm going to chime in with my 2c. I wouldn't call CTL a clinical experience (and frankly, some of these crisis line experiences are more harmful than helpful - don't get me started on 7 Cups. Thankfully CTL has pretty robust training). A lot of that is just supportive listening, in the vein of a peer support. And you're largely talking from a script anyways.

With a bachelor's, you can work as an MHT/BHT, and THAT I would count as clinical experience since you're managing a psychiatric milieu and/or co-running groups. Other things I would consider clinical experience: ABA, internships where you have supervised patient interaction, mental health camps for youth with developmental disabilities. Things that I would not consider clinical experience: "volunteering" at a shelter, shadowing, anything with NAMI ;)

Edited by dancedementia
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55 minutes ago, Keyz said:

I have to disagree with your point on volunteering on crisis lines and whatnot as simply volunteer experience. I feel as though this is not good advice, especially since you are most likely not going to be doing any form of psychotherapy or one-on-one counseling with clients with a BA. A vast majority of programs count volunteering at crisis lines or shelters as clinical work because you are indirectly providing a form of therapy for clients who call in and usually have to go through some form of training in order to be able to volunteer. 

 

16 minutes ago, dancedementia said:

I'm going to chime in with my 2c. I wouldn't call CTL a clinical experience (and frankly, some of these crisis line experiences are more harmful than helpful - don't get me started on 7 Cups. Thankfully CTL has pretty robust training). A lot of that is just supportive listening, in the vein of a peer support. And you're largely talking from a script anyways.

With a bachelor's, you can work as an MHT/BHT, and THAT I would count as clinical experience since you're managing a psychiatric milieu and/or co-running groups. Other things I would consider clinical experience: ABA, internships where you have supervised patient interaction, mental health camps for youth with developmental disabilities. Things that I would not consider clinical experience: "volunteering" at a shelter, shadowing, anything with NAMI ;)

This is a topic I've been considering lately. Is volunteering for a crisis text line something that is realistically likely to make a difference on your CV, or is it just going to be looked upon as worthless by ad coms?

Re: what dancedementia was saying - I just started an internship at a local clinic, and so far my time has been largely spent between scoring assessments, doing basic phone intakes, and even calling insurance companies (so fun). Hopefully as time moves on I'll have the opportunity to observe testing or assist with group therapy sessions. Clearly I don't have constant face-to-face contact with patients, but is this experience going to be worth much by the end? FYI, I'm in my gap year.

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59 minutes ago, EileanDonan said:

 

This is a topic I've been considering lately. Is volunteering for a crisis text line something that is realistically likely to make a difference on your CV, or is it just going to be looked upon as worthless by ad coms?

Re: what dancedementia was saying - I just started an internship at a local clinic, and so far my time has been largely spent between scoring assessments, doing basic phone intakes, and even calling insurance companies (so fun). Hopefully as time moves on I'll have the opportunity to observe testing or assist with group therapy sessions. Clearly I don't have constant face-to-face contact with patients, but is this experience going to be worth much by the end? FYI, I'm in my gap year.

If you're trying to get into a PhD program, the number one thing you can do you boost your chances is to get research experience (and preferably some posters and publications). If you're trying to get into a PsyD or practice-heavy program, get real clinical experience. Be an MHT or a case manager. It sounds like you're getting some related experience at your internship in terms of doing intakes (and learning about the medical admin side is always useful). But no, I would put volunteering at crisis lines VERY low on the priority list. No one cares. And surprisingly, many mental health professionals think they do more harm than good, so in some cases it might even work against you. 

As an illustrative example: I used to help with screening clinical internship resumes. I threw out any ones that mentioned 7 Cups. 

Edited by dancedementia
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1 hour ago, dancedementia said:

I'm going to chime in with my 2c. I wouldn't call CTL a clinical experience (and frankly, some of these crisis line experiences are more harmful than helpful - don't get me started on 7 Cups. Thankfully CTL has pretty robust training). A lot of that is just supportive listening, in the vein of a peer support. And you're largely talking from a script anyways.

With a bachelor's, you can work as an MHT/BHT, and THAT I would count as clinical experience since you're managing a psychiatric milieu and/or co-running groups. Other things I would consider clinical experience: ABA, internships where you have supervised patient interaction, mental health camps for youth with developmental disabilities. Things that I would not consider clinical experience: "volunteering" at a shelter, shadowing, anything with NAMI ;)

No, it is not a "clinical experience" per se, but every single faculty within clinical or counseling that I have ties to wants some form of clinical exposure and largely for people coming from undergrad, as this post entails, can only do so through volunteer opportunities like at a local crisis lifeline, which my mentors count as a form of clinical exposure. Now, if the thread were to be about clinical experience in general, then yes, after completion of a bachelors you can find SOME opportunities to provide more direct clinical experience. But, yes, ultimately research is more important than some form of exposure to clinical work but you also need to have that in order to be a competitive applicant, I know many PIs within my own clinical department at my school that will disregard applications that are otherwise strong along the lines of GPA, GRE scores, and research experience if they have not shown any sort of volunteer experience like at a crisis line, since you will end up having an entire year internship around year 5. So to say that no one cares about this experience isn't quite sound advice because there are professors that do care about this stuff and it's something that's not hard to obtain. 

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Every time I read some of these "What are my chances..." posts on here, my recommendation is almost always the same: Step 1- Begin reading this guide.
If you still believe a Ph.D. or Psy.D. is the best degree for you (vs. a practice-oriented, LMSW/MHC route, which in my opinion would be the most appropriate for your interests and career goals, based on what you disclosed), move on to: Step 2- Purchasing the following book. Both give you a solid foundation to start with.

Edited by checkingmyemail
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I have two friends who did clinical right out of their undergrad. One is an average/above average student who has decent research experience and went into Alliant's PsyD program. Another friend is absolutely brilliant with a 4.0 undergrad GPA, 165/165/5 GRE, lots of research experience in a neuro rat lab, & had a stats minor went into UN-Reno's clinical program.

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I'm currently in my fourth and final year in my undergrad. I'm applying to Canadian Clinical Psych programs that are MA/PhD or MSc/PhD, and it has def been nerve-wracking hearing that most people don't get in straight out of undergrad. I've been VERY fortunate as I've already been accepted to a program and am interviewing for 2 others. It CAN be done!! :) 

My GPA is NOT a 4.0, but GRE scores are 

V: 161 - 88th percentile

Q: 158 - 58th percentile

AW: 5.0- 92nd percentile

I have a diverse amount of research experience (started two months into my first year, have done work in a number of fields: health, social, personality psych, etc). Did a paid research internship in Europe after my 2nd yr. Have received awards/funding to conduct research, etc. 

(Pls keep in mind I cannot speak for the States and what your chances are there)

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17 minutes ago, Mickey26 said:

I'm currently in my fourth and final year in my undergrad. I'm applying to Canadian Clinical Psych programs that are MA/PhD or MSc/PhD, and it has def been nerve-wracking hearing that most people don't get in straight out of undergrad. I've been VERY fortunate as I've already been accepted to a program and am interviewing for 2 others. It CAN be done!! :) 

My GPA is NOT a 4.0, but GRE scores are 

V: 161 - 88th percentile

Q: 158 - 58th percentile

AW: 5.0- 92nd percentile

I have a diverse amount of research experience (started two months into my first year, have done work in a number of fields: health, social, personality psych, etc). Did a paid research internship in Europe after my 2nd yr. Have received awards/funding to conduct research, etc. 

(Pls keep in mind I cannot speak for the States and what your chances are there)

We have similar stats and I too am a fourth-year undergrad and have been offered admission into a Canadian Clinical Neuropsychology Ma/PhD program! My gpa is 4.11/4.33 and GRE was 157 Q, 161 V and 4.5 AW. I too have pretty extensive research and volunteer experience. As for "clinical" experience, I work as a behaviour interventionist for children with autism :) 

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I applied right out of undergrad knowing my odds were slim, hopefully I'll report back with good news lolol. I think its pretty clear that the clinical game is so competitive nowadays; having a few years off is almost essential for the R1s, unless you're some research prodigy, but thats pretty rare.

Edited by higaisha
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I'm applying from undergrad (I'll be graduating in June). I applied to 8 clinical PhD programs and got 6 interviews. I've already been accepted at one of my top choices, so I canceled four of my interviews and am only going to one more.

I think it's extremely common to take a year or two to gain more research experience, but I've had meaningful research experience (and resultant posters/publications) since my freshman year of college (and even a summer in high school), so I knew what I wanted to study and I knew that I'd be competitive. It's really a case-by-case situation though I think. When it comes time to apply, you should compare your CV to other people who are applying/have applied that you know. That can give you a good idea if you're competitive.

Also, to the folks saying that you shouldn't pursue a PhD or even a PsyD if you're interested in a practice-oriented career, you are seriously misguided. 50% of graduates from clinical PhD programs go on to do full-time clinical work. We need good clinicians with good scientific training, and many of those folks come from PhD programs.

Edited by youngqueerliving
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3 hours ago, dancedementia said:

If you're trying to get into a PhD program, the number one thing you can do you boost your chances is to get research experience (and preferably some posters and publications). If you're trying to get into a PsyD or practice-heavy program, get real clinical experience. Be an MHT or a case manager. It sounds like you're getting some related experience at your internship in terms of doing intakes (and learning about the medical admin side is always useful). But no, I would put volunteering at crisis lines VERY low on the priority list. No one cares. And surprisingly, many mental health professionals think they do more harm than good, so in some cases it might even work against you. 

As an illustrative example: I used to help with screening clinical internship resumes. I threw out any ones that mentioned 7 Cups. 

I agree with you regarding research - that has been my primary focus, as I'm aiming for Ph.D. I am currently involved with a couple projects (of varying relevance) which I'm hoping will prove productive over the coming year. My stats are decent, but I've only been doing research since Fall 2017, with no major results to show for it yet. As of now, I'm just trying to determine how I can best maximize my time and energy until the next application cycle.

Looks like crisis text lines are something of a love-or-hate topic.

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1 hour ago, youngqueerliving said:

Also, to the folks saying that you shouldn't pursue a PhD or even a PsyD if you're interested in a practice-oriented career, you are seriously misguided. 50% of graduates from clinical PhD programs go on to do full-time clinical work. We need good clinicians with good scientific training, and many of those folks come from PhD programs.

I don’t know where you are getting your information from (Can you provide a citation on this figure?), but you’d be setting someone up for failure by telling them to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology if they simply want to do pp/“full time clinical work.” Even in AMCs or integrated healthcare settings (VA, state hospitals, private hospitals, etc.), most individuals with such credentials are assigned administrative roles, teaching roles, etc., which would not allow them to engage in “full time clinical work.”

The majority of reputable, competitive Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology would outright reject applicants who would even communicate such an interest at interviews or even their SOPs, as clinical psychologists are not simply psychotherapists. For those who are interested in a practice-oriented career, there are plenty of rigorous LMSW/MSW/MHC counseling programs that provide scientific training at least in EBP (UT Austin, UPenn, etc.).

Please be careful about disseminating incorrect information on here- numerous doctoral-level forums across the Internet have addressed this topic in depth. This isn’t the first time someone has posted a similar question on the Internet re: graduate studies in clinical psychology ;) 

Edited by checkingmyemail
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