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Part-Time Masters or PsyD Program to Become Clinical Psychotherapist?

Degree Programs  

9 members have voted

  1. 1. Given my objectives, which degree program do you think I should consider most?

    • PsyD -- Clinical Psychology
      2
    • PsyD -- Counseling Psychology
      0
    • PhD -- Clinical Psychology
      1
    • MSW -- Clinical Social Work
      5
    • Master's -- Psychology
      0
    • Master's -- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
      1


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Posted (edited)

Hey everyone --

Just browsing this forum has been helpful as there is a lot of bad or misleading information online about various psychology/social work/counseling programs. I was hoping others could help with some advice about my specific objective and situation. Application competitiveness aside, I'd appreciate any thoughts about/answers to the questions below. Thank you in advance!

Objective: 

I'd like to become a clinical psychotherapist, transitioning out of my work in public health (social determinants of health, more specifically) to direct clinical practice. 

Situation:

  • Ideally, I would like to complete a master's or doctoral program part-time (nights/weekend/etc., or distance) while maintaining full-time employment/income.
  • I have lived in DC for 7 years and would like to remain here for the entirety of my program.
  • I already hold a Master of Public Health from Emory University (Policy Concentration) and a Bachelor of Arts from Penn State University (English/Writing and Health Policy)
  • I have been told by several therapist friends (ranging from MSWs to PhDs and MDs) to pursue a (second) master's degree as that is all that is needed to practice as a therapist. They have all emphasized that you can earn a significant amount in private practice, especially in a market like D.C.
  • I would qualify as a non-traditional student in that my professional and academic background are outside of social work, psychology, etc. I have worked in health policy (4 years total, including some mental health policy work and nonprofit board service) as well as entrepreneurship (founded and ran a startup for 3 years).

Questions:

  • Are there any venerable part-time and/or online PsyD or PhD programs that I should consider? If I could complete a doctoral program in a reasonable timeframe (likely a PsyD given my primary focus on practice), that might be preferable to a master's programs. The challenge I've seen is that most of the programs I've researched require full-time students (i.e. no evenings or weekend classes).
  • Among the various MSW/MA/MS programs in clinical social work, mental health counseling, etc., do you have any recommendation if my end goal is clinical psychotherapy?
  • Given my above objective and situation, do you have any other thoughts about vetting programs for fit (i.e. things to look for as I research programs)?
  • Is there any possibility that I could acquire merit-based aid for master's programs like these or a part-time PsyD?
  • Given my location in DC, are there any specific programs/departments you would recommend?

Again, many thanks for any help you can provide!

Edited by SMLucas

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I think that any of these would help you accomplish your goals, but it boils down to what you want to prioritize.

If earning potential/best rates for private or other practice- a PsyD or PhD in Clinical Psych has the highest earning potential mainly due to ability to administer assessments (which involve more money.) Being a Licensed Psychologist may also allow for more flexibility and variety in the type of work you do (such as contract work, behavior intervention or really whatever interests you.)

If psychotherapy alone and not assessment interests you, as well as shorter time in school/less money then either the MSW or Master's in Counseling/Psychology might be the best option. I'm from a different region, but what I understand is that the LCSW on the East Coast is often a very marketable career, more so than being a Licensed Counselor. CACREP is another consideration as many license boards are moving towards those standards for Master's programs. 

Another consideration related to your background is any interest in research you may have, with the amount of research involved from Low-High being Master's/PsyD/PhD. For what it is worth, I think that PhD and PsyD programs in Clinical Psychology would definitely find your public health experience very valuable. 

Financial aid can vary widely based on the school itself, I personally look for programs that are forward about their financial aid offerings. I think that typically the PhD or PsyD programs offer some kind of assistant-ship related to financial aid, and it can be difficult to work a more full-time schedule if that is something you need to continue. 

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To my knowledge, there are no reputable online clinical psych PhDs or PsyDs. Also, these programs are usually full-time. I am unfamiliar with any university-based part-time doctorates. For PsyDs, you also want to look for those attached to a university rather than a for-profit school similar to the now defunct Argosy. 

Based on your expressed interests, a masters level licensure in counseling or clinical social work will be less time-consuming. I would still always recommend in-person rather than online, as they will have better connections to clinical placements in your area since they are in your area. Check out any nearby state universities by you, as they may offer options. I know the one by me has a weekend-only intensive MSW program. The LCSW seems to be the portable degree as of now, as the standards are nationally set. Licensing requirements for masters level counselors can vary from state to state, so if you think you may move, an MSW may be a better route. 

Also, please note that as of now, there is no masters level licensure in clinical psychology. A masters in psychology will not get you where you want to be. There are talks of APA establishing an MA level licensure, but I wouldn't hold my breath for that one. 

As far as merit-based aid, that will be dependent on each school. I would also look at the programs provided by state schools versus private universities. The education is usually the same/comparable and the price tag is way smaller. Also, pretty much no one will ask their therapist where they went to school. 

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To me, it sounds like a master's of clinical mental health would be a great option. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has a great Clinical Mental Health program that requires classes in the evening which would allow for you to have full-time employment. 

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I want thank you all for taking the time to answer so many of my questions -- and thoughtfully! So wonderfully helpful. A few responses --

Re: PsyD vs. Master's -- I do have some interest in being able to conduct assessments and more generally have an interest in clinical psychology as a field of study. That said, the time commitment of a PsyD might be the biggest barrier for me. Having worked full-time for 7 years since my first master's degree, it would be hard for me to sacrifice a steady income, especially in a city like Washington, D.C., where I currently live alone downtown. (I know it would only be for 3-4 years for that degree, but that's in the middle of my 30s...) One person asked about my interest in research. It's actually quite strong -- I have some specific interests and projects in mind -- so I am going to look at what all is possible for master's students (e.g. independent study? research labs?) and if a PsyD is at all feasible given my interest in part-time school.

MSW vs. Other Master's -- Helpful to hear from a couple people that an MSW is maybe the best fit for my interests. This is what I've heard from a couple therapist friends of mine -- "best bang for your buck" as one said. Curious to compare specific curricula/classes across programs to see if content fit is better. (Some MSW programs seem very macro-focused vs. clinical.) I have heard that a Master's in Psychology would not be the ideal degree if I want to practice immediately. 

Specific Programs -- I've been most interested in the following master's programs given their proximity and flexibility: George Washington University's Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master's Degree (in person, evenings), Columbia University's Master of Social Work (online with local placement), University of Maryland School of Social Work (in person, part-time), and Catholic University School of Social Work (in-person, part time). I'm also open to any venerable online MSW programs like Columbia's -- open to suggestions there, especially ones where D.C. professional placements are possible. (USC advertises theirs a lot... thoughts?)

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40 minutes ago, SMLDC said:

I want thank you all for taking the time to answer so many of my questions -- and thoughtfully! So wonderfully helpful. A few responses --

Re: PsyD vs. Master's -- I do have some interest in being able to conduct assessments and more generally have an interest in clinical psychology as a field of study. That said, the time commitment of a PsyD might be the biggest barrier for me. Having worked full-time for 7 years since my first master's degree, it would be hard for me to sacrifice a steady income, especially in a city like Washington, D.C., where I currently live alone downtown. (I know it would only be for 3-4 years for that degree, but that's in the middle of my 30s...) One person asked about my interest in research. It's actually quite strong -- I have some specific interests and projects in mind -- so I am going to look at what all is possible for master's students (e.g. independent study? research labs?) and if a PsyD is at all feasible given my interest in part-time school.

 

Just FYI, a PsyD or PhD will take between 5-7 years to completion. Most programs are 4-5 years or coursework, practicum, and dissertation, then a full year internship on top of that. Once you graduate, you typically need another 1-2 years of post-doctoral hours prior to becoming licensed. 

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21 hours ago, PsyDGrad90 said:

Just FYI, a PsyD or PhD will take between 5-7 years to completion. Most programs are 4-5 years or coursework, practicum, and dissertation, then a full year internship on top of that. Once you graduate, you typically need another 1-2 years of post-doctoral hours prior to becoming licensed. 

Noted. I have had the PsyD program at George Washington in my head. Their typical length is between 4 and 5 years.

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