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Last-minute deferral at law school, I dream now of being a psychologist!


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I've been trying to make this happen, but I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed and I want to check with you all to see if I'm being sensible about this. I dearly appreciate any thoughts!

After dedicating myself for years towards going to law school, I was accepted, but I've chosen to defer attending for a year. As I got closer, seeing the state of our society, I don't think the law is going to be the vehicle for social benefit I thought it would. I think they've ruined it. Plus doing it over zoom seemed crazy. My undergrad GPA was 4.0 in a Labor Relations degree from Rutgers, and I managed a 97th percentile on the LSAT. I'm a non-traditional applicant, over 30. 

Suddenly, I want to pursue psychology. Without any background in psychology or research, I sense I will need to get a master's first. 

I am wary about choosing the right master's. I presume it would be best, if a doctorate and clinical practice is the goal, to stick to a master's that is more general or one specifically designed for people pursuing a doctorate. There is a risk here, though, since doctoral programs seem extraordinarily competitive. What if I get this non-terminal master's and never get into a PhD program? Should I hedge my bets and get a master's that has a master's level career offramp? Like an MSW or one in behavior analysis or something? Are all master's degrees seen as equal? Should any be avoided? How far can one's degree stray from traditional psychology before a doctoral admissions officer has a hard time with it?

Also, for this cycle, I'm not sure I have time for the GRE, knowing first-hand the horrifying grind a high percentile score requires. Perhaps I can try and add a note about the LSAT, since it's such a tragic score to throw away? How obsessed with pedigree is the psychology world? What type of research is seen as stand-out? Is a master's thesis seen as research? Are non-GRE or GRE-waived programs going to be an issue down the road somehow?

Basically, given how competitive doctoral programs are, if I go to a modest, respected master's program, put my head down, network, and 4.0 it again, would I be able to more or less assume admission to a doctoral program afterwards? I know I'll have to apply to over a dozen and do that whole "fit" legwork, but I just want to know if this is a pipe dream. I'm worried about not appearing competitive beside young people who've worked their whole lives towards it, despite having a master's.

What do all the people who get rejected from PhD programs end up doing with their lives? There seem to be maybe 300-400 seats nationwide, and I would guess that over a thousand apply for them. Is it reasonable to do this or am I bound for disappointment?

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Hey. That's an interesting overview and I am commenting because I've been dedicated to psychology for more than 10 years and now thinking if I can do law instead. I watched too much RBG and BLM movies lately. But I hope you know that the grass on the other side always look greener. We can always contribute to the world with our own way.

If you want to give a try, I suggest looking out for forensic psychology programs or psychology and law. At least you will have both worlds. Is relocating an issue for you? I know John Jay College at New York is one of the complete and good school for that. With their variety of masters, doctoral and certificate, that might cater your need. 

Many programs are waiving GRE this year, but the main thing is always a match. You need to back up your story with a reason for transition. Finding a match really matters. It all depends on what psychology you are looking for, what school, what degree. If you're looking into doctoral, there's a LOT of commitment there, so I don't think changing right away is wise, unless you want to give a try to 1-2 schools and see what is the experience like. If you really want to do a psych program, I suggest starting from masters and see if you like it. Doing a PhD requires interest, some research experience (a thesis counts), and commitment to the field. If you can tie together your story, it might work! We never know. It's always a good thing to find out, but make it as a calculated decision.

That's my two cents!

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I don't think you can ever assume admission to a doctoral program even if your credentials are perfect! From what I've heard and read, getting independent research experience with products is crucial in a master's program, not just a good GPA. And a psych master's would definitely be best especially if you don't have a psych background. Just curious, do you have any specific interests within psychology?

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This is a difficult one. 

It depends. What exactly do you intend to do in the field? If you want to practice as a psychologist (clinical), you need a doctorate. If you want to do therapy, or more social justice work, a MSW would be cost-effective and might admit you based on your accomplishments up to now. 

However, for the doctorate, my best guess is that you need to have multiple balls in the air at the same time and see how you can juggle them all to make this happen: 

1) you need psychology courses - while some programs don't ask for a major in psychology, they need to see that you've taken the basics; some may accept the Psych GRE, but many may not;

2) you need research experience and some products - some may accept research experience in a different field than psych if it's relevant for your interests and products don't always have to be first author papers; however, you still need a reasonable amount since a) you're coming from a different field and you need to figure out if you want to do this for 5+ years at least and b) to prove to the POI that you can function successfully in a research environment;

3) you need some defined research interests and an idea of what you want to do after you finish, so you can search for clinical experiences for that goal.

The above can be accomplished with a strategic master's, if you hit the ground running from the start so that you can get the most out of it. 

Your age can be a disadvantage (since you probably want to get set on a path already), but also an advantage (you already know the hard work it takes to reach your goals, you may have a more mature approach vs. a 20 year old).

Most applicants work as a full-time research employee in a lab for a year/ two before applying. This may be an option, along with psych online classes, but it can be competitive to get such a position and you'd may be limited to research labs that are more related to your current experience.

As a side note - I know Drexel has a JD/PhD in Clinical Psychology. This is probably competitive and may depend on your flexibility to relocate, but it may meet both of your interests if it's a good fit.

I don't want to discourage you, and to be honest, many of us don't have a straightforward path on the road to becoming a clinical psychologist. I just think it's wise to consider all the implications, including the considerable amount of time and energy involved to get to your goal if you decide on this path. Best of luck!

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Also to add - a Clinical Psych PhD is for a huge part of the PhD journey doing research, not necessarily practicing treatment all the time. So areas you may want to train yourself in are quant/statistics, research methods, get fast at reading the literature (i.e., get familiar with scientific papers in clinical and how to read them), what type of research you'd like to do in clinical (e.g., anxiety? depression? emotion regulation? etc.)

 

Other options are a post-bacc. Although GPA matters, especially for clinical, research experience matters a lot. However, you may want to just email some labs that do stuff that interest you whether you can volunteer. A lot is on Zoom and we had two interns this summer through Zoom. I know a lot of those getting into very competitive programs generally have 1 or  2 years as a lab manager (full time research experience) and some posters/presentations that underscore their skills. 

I know that there seems to be a hierarchy in MA programs as well, but I never went that route so I can't say too much about it.

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I don't think your background is a disadvantage sometimes it might even be an advantage! I am over 30 too, and applying to Ph.D and PsyD programs this year. I had no psych experience before my Master's which I ended up doing fairly late (I was 29 when I started). I ended up doing a Masters in Counseling which is where I got my research experience and after my clinical experience. I think you first need to figure out what your goal is and what your research interest is? Why do you want to do a Ph.D? Do you want to practice mainly or also be involved in research and teaching? I can only speak for myself but my Master's in Counseling was essential in me figuring out my ultimate research and clinical interests and goals and gave me invaluable experience. I can also practice with it since I can get licensed as a mental health counselor, so worst case if I don't get accepted into PhD/PsyD programs I can still engage in clinical work which I love, and apply meanwhile. I hope this helps! 

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"As I got closer, seeing the state of our society, I don't think the law is going to be the vehicle for social benefit I thought it would. I think they've ruined it."

What do you mean by this? How has law been ruined? What social benefit do you desire to bring about? How will clinical psychology achieve that?

One of my motivations for admission to a clinical psychology PhD was because I think the discipline has been greatly damaged by ideology and influenced by activism. I entered in a (potentially naive) attempt to eventually offer some balance. It is an on-going struggle, but one I believe will ultimately be worthwhile.

Your suitability for admission aside, I think analysis of this statement is critical in determining if switching to a clinpsych PhD will be satisfying for you, because this will translate into 'goodness of fit' when you start applying for doctoral programmes. I came to mine with an Applied Psychology BS and about 8+ years of clinical experience in various mental health fields at that level. I was over 40. I had no formal research experience. I had walked out of a MHC Master's after a single semester to earn another BS, one to prepare me for a physician assistant programme.

However, I was able to narrate my journey and the logic of my decisions well. Due to familial obligations, I had geographical restraints that meant, after looking for potential mentors/supervisors, I could only apply to a single programme.

You 'on paper' is one thing, and the others here can speak to that strategy.  You showing up on interview day and the connection you create with a potential mentor is something else. Your passion and desire will need to come through in order for you to have the best possible shot. 

"Suddenly, I want to pursue psychology. Without any background in psychology or research, I sense I will need to get a master's first."

These questions are important before you commit yourself to a course of action that might not be satisfying for you, especially you've already spent years dedicating yourself to a field only to find out it's not what you wanted it to be.

This post will probably attract some ire from one or two of the regulars because it will be interpreted as questioning your life goals and somehow invalidating them, but by your own admission, you don't have any kind of background in the field. I'm not assuming that you haven't thought this out fully. I'm just not seeing this addressed in your post and I think it's vital to clarify this before suggesting how to go about becoming a suitable candidate. 

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12 hours ago, Reading Terminal said:

Basically, given how competitive doctoral programs are, if I go to a modest, respected master's program, put my head down, network, and 4.0 it again, would I be able to more or less assume admission to a doctoral program afterwards?

Sorry, but this made me laugh out loud.  NOTHING ever allows you to assume admission to a doctoral program. There's a reason you will see threads on the forum here with folks commiserating about being on their second, third, fourth cycle of admissions, still trying to get in.

As mentioned by several others, you need to be able to articulate why you suddenly want to do psychology. And exactly what about the law has been ruined, that you think isn't similarly happening within Psychology? Nothing in our culture exists in a vacuum, and whatever you are seeing in the law is almost certainly happening in every other field, in one way or another. 

Test scores and GPA mean very little to many POIs - when someone says "goodness of fit" is the most important thing, they aren't kidding. My suggestion would be, what was it you thought you were going to do with the law degree, and how does that passion translate to psychology? Also, why clinical? Of all the psych PhD programs, the clinical ones are by far the most competitive. You will have to be able to articulate these same things to any Master's program, so take the time now to really nail down all the whats and whys before you waste time and money applying anywhere. 

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Wow! Thank you all for replying so thoughtfully. I steeled myself for tumbleweeds.

I see a few threads here, and I feel challenged to explain why I want to do this, and taking that as an invitation to, I hope you'll indulge me. I promise I'll try not to bore you! I'll be honest and submit myself for inspection.

I chose law because I wanted to advocate for women and children who are emotionally abused. People have been telling me for years that I should be a psychologist, but I saw a lawyer as a sort of fighting psychologist, and in a position where I could do more practically than simply plugging my finger in the dyke. The law is very poorly equipped to remedy emotional abuse, if it is at all, and the law changes only from within. I believed I had to be participant to do so.

I was emotionally abused as a kid, and in the tragically typical fashion, I in turn emotionally abused people myself in my 20s. I saw two LCSWs and a PsyD after recognizing my problem, but I identified a real lack of knowledge in psychology about what that kind of trauma does to people. It usually took months to explain what had even happened to me (I didn't even know myself), and surprisingly even these clinicians were at first dismissive about how profound and insidious that abuse can be. To me, there was a lot more literature about narcissistic personality disorder itself than about what impact those people have on others, for example. I also didn't find real success in therapy until I sought out a doctor and asked him directly for psychoanalysis and to help me purposefully decompensate and get to a better place. This has certainly colored my perception that a master's alone might not equip me to help others in the way I'd like to. The notion that doctors are somehow better than LCSWs seemed validated.

I read a British study a long time ago about procrastination, and how they found that the best way to overcome it is to imagine yourself having completed the proposed task. We procrastinate to soothe stress, because putting off the task feels better than confronting it. But if you can imagine the task done, you've reframed the binary choice: now, starting feels better than procrastinating. I personally find this incredibly effective, almost like magic, and I love that psychological research could have true pragmatic value beyond just identifying characteristics of a disorder or seeing what treatment is most effective. 

Getting to the meat of questions surrounding abuse, why we passively accept abuse, and why the damage persists even after the abuse has ended is what I'm interested in doing. I know a lot of research has been done there, but I think there must be tools, like that procrastination trick, that can help people climb out of the hole abuse has placed them in so that they can actualize and get on with their life. With the perspective I have, I see people around me struggling in a similar way that I had (though not as severely since they weren't abused), where I avoided getting myself in order until I was into my 30s. I see it as "being afraid to think". I want to find practical solutions through research, not for consumption only by psychologists, but for everyone. What did people who self-actualized do? How do we make that solution persuasive to people who still refuse to self-actualize?

As for the law, I see it as broken because of the rise of professional admissions officers. Three hundred years ago, the legal tradition as we know it was born in dim, wooden rooms where exceptionally boring men in wigs carved out a philosophical space for themselves and outlined a set of virtues that created something beautiful and special. And for hundreds of years, that tradition was carried forward by similarly boring men in a space that really didn't permit getting rich or famous. It was very genuine, and we can all look back on old cases and people writing constitutions and see virtue because the only people involved in the law were themselves stale and principled. 

Today, the prestige schools - the holders of true legal wisdom - haven't increased the size of their classes in decades, even though the population has since exploded. To get in, one must become a sort of hyperachiever student, someone who is almost pathologically ambitious. That's the mark of a great person, sure, but those people aren't the people who shepherded the legal tradition into today. I think that since law schools select for hyperachievers, they're at the same time selecting for people who view obstacles as something to push out of their way, and in law, those obstacles are virtues themselves. 

An overwhelming majority of law school admissions officers are not lawyers, and I think that's alarming. This is a new problem, starting around 1980, and I think we can see its consequences in how politicized judicial appointments have become, the rise of BigLaw, or how law schools openly have political groups like the federalist society or american constitution society. Law schools are even developing deep political reputations as conservative or liberal. I'm just disgusted with it, and I realize how naive I was. It's not about justice at all anymore. I think the tradition is on life support.

I'm not sure I would truly describe my interest in psychology as "sudden", but the idea of actually persuing it is indeed new. Perhaps you'll all think of me as naive. But I'm certainly at a crossroads. I am not at all tied down by family or obligation, I would go anywhere. I don't need to go to a prestigious school. But I am, rightly it seems, intimidated by the competitiveness and I appreciate that some of you have tried to take a discouraging tone. Law school admissions is very numbers based (the LSAT is everything), and I see that I'm having a tough time letting that go.

Do I sound like someone who has a shot here? 

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You might want to flesh this out a little bit more. Think about how working as a therapist or researcher will help you advocate for women and children that have gone through abuse. I can certainly see this though the research route. Through the therapy route, you may be mostly treating the emotional effects related to the abuse. You may want to get an idea of what the day to day activities are really like in research and in therapy to see if you want to pursue these in the long term. Without knowing all of the little processes that go into providing therapy and conducting research, you may be overestimating the amount of change you can make and overestimate how much you would enjoy the activities.

Sorry if came off as a bit pessimistic, but I think it's important to understand these things before you make a commitment to pursue clinical psychology

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1 minute ago, Reading Terminal said:

Wow! Thank you all for replying so thoughtfully. I steeled myself for tumbleweeds.

I see a few threads here, and I feel challenged to explain why I want to do this, and taking that as an invitation to, I hope you'll indulge me. I promise I'll try not to bore you! I'll be honest and submit myself for inspection.

Bravo, phenomenal! This is exactly the sort of introspection I was interested in. That was not boring at all. You make a compelling argument, surely from all the intensive logic LSAT preparation, haha! I also wasn't trying to be discouraging, just honest and frank. 

As an aside: Psychology is increasingly politicized as well. It's beyond 'liberal' (as a UK-immigrant, I resentfully apply that term to American left-wing politics). To me, a sort-of centrist libertarian, it's bordering on 'leftist'. Professors openly discuss politics in class, including their extreme disapproval of parties, policies, and candidates. This is reflected in the treatment guidelines provided by the American Psychological Association. It's also reflected in our textbooks.

You might be interested in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). A senior student and his mentor from my programme have been working on complex PTSD and implications for treatment: 

https://apatraumadivision.org/files/51.pdf

https://www.apa.org/pubs/books/contextual-trauma-therapy

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3 hours ago, Reading Terminal said:

I chose law because I wanted to advocate for women and children who are emotionally abused. People have been telling me for years that I should be a psychologist, but I saw a lawyer as a sort of fighting psychologist, and in a position where I could do more practically than simply plugging my finger in the dyke. The law is very poorly equipped to remedy emotional abuse, if it is at all, and the law changes only from within. I believed I had to be participant to do so.

Now 1. What people think a psychologist does and what htey actually do are very different things. I'm a psychologist, a social psychologist, I do very little treating people and promoting their mental health

 

3 hours ago, Reading Terminal said:

I read a British study a long time ago about procrastination, and how they found that the best way to overcome it is to imagine yourself having completed the proposed task. 

Getting to the meat of questions surrounding abuse, why we passively accept abuse, and why the damage persists even after the abuse has ended is what I'm interested in doing.

 I see it as "being afraid to think".

I want to find practical solutions through research, not for consumption only by psychologists, but for everyone.

What did people who self-actualized do? How do we make that solution persuasive to people who still refuse to self-actualize?

I feel these things could also be part of social psychologist. Procrastination has definitely been hot topic on the literature on social cognition.

Emotion regulation is also studied in social psychology. Why people avoid 'thinking' has also been studied.

The field is also more 'justice' oriented and pragmatic than clinical in that sense.

I'm not a huge fan of the term self-actualization, but maybe coz Maslow has been discredited a while ago. Although the positive psych folks (usually in social psych areas) still use it sometimes

3 hours ago, Reading Terminal said:

As for the law, I see it as broken because of the rise of professional admissions officers. 

I'm not sure I would truly describe my interest in psychology as "sudden", but the idea of actually persuing it is indeed new. Perhaps you'll all think of me as naive. But I'm certainly at a crossroads. I am not at all tied down by family or obligation, I would go anywhere. I don't need to go to a prestigious school. But I am, rightly it seems, intimidated by the competitiveness and I appreciate that some of you have tried to take a discouraging tone. Law school admissions is very numbers based (the LSAT is everything), and I see that I'm having a tough time letting that go.

Do I sound like someone who has a shot here? 

I can't say I don't see psych as not broken. We study generally very specific populations (aka undergrads at elite institutes)  and draw all sorts of hot shot generalizations from it. The 'publish-or-perish' thing runs strong. I would personally see psychology just as broken/flawed.

Anyway, if you want to do more 'advocating' stuff, you may also consider social psych or community psych where the advocating part runs very strong.

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5 hours ago, Reading Terminal said:

I read a British study a long time ago about procrastination, and how they found that the best way to overcome it is to imagine yourself having completed the proposed task. We procrastinate to soothe stress, because putting off the task feels better than confronting it. But if you can imagine the task done, you've reframed the binary choice: now, starting feels better than procrastinating. I personally find this incredibly effective, almost like magic, and I love that psychological research could have true pragmatic value beyond just identifying characteristics of a disorder or seeing what treatment is most effective. 

I need to read that study, haha. I'm a terrible procrastinator and I just tried your technique. I think it helped. It certainly lessened the anxiety associated with an unpleasant or unstimulating task, anxiety that as you stated is typically soothed by procrastination.

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Excited to hear about your new plans! I thought your insight on the prestige of law was interesting. It always confused me on why a lot of classmates wanted to practice law JUST for the prestige of becoming a lawyer, especially with the job market for them these days.

 I hope the career transition doesn't make you lose your passion for advocating for people, even if it is in a different capacity than what you first started out as.

As for your initial post, I want to say a few things that might not be helpful at the moment. I think you really have to get the research experience from the lowest level to REALLY know what you want. You may find that you hate research while doing it. Personally, I found that even the banalities made the process interesting and worthwhile. 

I think you could reach out and try getting a volunteer position at a research lab if that's feasible for you. Also try and volunteer at some sort of social cause, and compare the two to see which interests you more. I worked as a research assistant and at a juvenile detention center at the same time, which made me realize I couldn't do without both the clinical/outreach and the research. Life kind of finds ways to answer your questions for you, if that makes sense. 

If you want to focus on community type work, I don't even know if a doctorate is necessary. LCSW's can do a lot of that, and might be more worth your time. You could work at a crisis center if you want to focus on abuse/trauma. 

If you want to the doctorate, a psych post-bac could be the way to go. They make them just for career changers, you will take classes and get research experience if you pick the right program. At the worst, it would be 1 year of your life that you tried something new and you can change your mind. Of course, there is the ever looming question of funding, so it would depend on your current financial situation too.  

I don't think an MSW/LMFT program would be the best in a doctoral admissions standpoint just because clinical experience is not as heavily weighed for PhD programs. You want to focus on the research aspect, and getting a theoretical psychology background. 

Sorry if I missed anything, it's quite late but my sleep schedule is awful so  Ithought I might as well make some use of it. Hopefully it helped a little bit at least. 

 

 

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Alright, this has been fantastic, once again I'd like to thank you all!

If I may, I'd like to ask more naive questions and steer us back towards the discussion about obtaining the right master's. That feels like the challenge ahead and PsychMama's experience of getting a master's in counseling first seems like a good way to go, since I'll have to get the core psychology coursework behind me one way or another. SoundofSilence spoke of a strategic master's, and I think that is spot on. What kind of master's should I be looking at? Does a master's in forensic psychology pigeonhole me into PhD programs that explore that field, or would I be able to come out of a forensic psychology program with my own interests unrelated to forensic psychology in mind? Let's assume I can articulate a good application and target the right mentor. Would they care if my master's or research experience is in something unrelated?

Spring2000 mentioned independent research experience and products. As credit to my inexperience, I've never heard the word products used that way. What does quality research look like? Is sticking to a legitimate university enough? 

Also, I might be operating under an incorrect assumption about clinical psychology versus say social or educational psychology. Is a PhD in clinical psychology the only type that can lead to working one-on-one with patients in a generalist way? Is a social psychologist educated in largely the same way as a clinical psychologist? For example, and I have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm more interested in working with what I'll call soft-skill personality disorders like obsessive-compulsives than I am something more neurological or "hard" like deep schizophrenia or brain injuries. Is clinical psychology even what I'm looking for?

I see that there are some blurry lines between PhD programs and PsyD programs. And to explore some options, I'll admit that raw research without ever working with patients doesn't seem like what I want, and that if I found myself with a PhD, I probably wouldn't stay in academia forever. This pipeline toward being a clinician is so odd! There are PsyD programs that conduct research, are they easier to get into? Would a PsyD program frown on an MSW in the same way a PhD program would?

From a networking standpoint, do you all think it is wise to pursue a masters at a school I would want to get the doctorate from? Rutgers, for example, offers a master's in applied psychology and a PsyD. Would getting to know the teaching staff while working on the master's help with a later PsyD application, assuming I impressed them? 

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32 minutes ago, Reading Terminal said:

If I may, I'd like to ask more naive questions and steer us back towards the discussion about obtaining the right master's. That feels like the challenge ahead and PsychMama's experience of getting a master's in counseling first seems like a good way to go, since I'll have to get the core psychology coursework behind me one way or another. SoundofSilence spoke of a strategic master's, and I think that is spot on. What kind of master's should I be looking at? Does a master's in forensic psychology pigeonhole me into PhD programs that explore that field, or would I be able to come out of a forensic psychology program with my own interests unrelated to forensic psychology in mind? Let's assume I can articulate a good application and target the right mentor. Would they care if my master's or research experience is in something unrelated?

Plenty of my peers have some kind of counseling Master's degree. I don't think you need a strategic Master's as much as one that will achieve three things:

  • Inform you on what it's like working in the field of mental health.
  • Expose you to the academic side, research, posters, publications.
  • Not be useless if you decide against a doctorate OR (heaven forbid) you're not accepted.

I have an extensive clinical background when compared to my peers and NO formal research experience. I've learned that we can't rely on a programme to provide us with research opportunities. There is no reason that you can't foster relationships with faculty at the institution you're earning getting a Master's from and be part of a research team. My mentor invited a recent graduate of our counseling Master's to our team as she is thinking about applying to clinical psychology PsyD programmes.

 

 

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39 minutes ago, Reading Terminal said:

If I may, I'd like to ask more naive questions and steer us back towards the discussion about obtaining the right master's. That feels like the challenge ahead and PsychMama's experience of getting a master's in counseling first seems like a good way to go, since I'll have to get the core psychology coursework behind me one way or another. SoundofSilence spoke of a strategic master's, and I think that is spot on. What kind of master's should I be looking at? Does a master's in forensic psychology pigeonhole me into PhD programs that explore that field, or would I be able to come out of a forensic psychology program with my own interests unrelated to forensic psychology in mind? Let's assume I can articulate a good application and target the right mentor. Would they care if my master's or research experience is in something unrelated?

Some experience is better than no  experience and a lot of skills are used in simialr lines of research. Relevant experience is better than some experience, but it's also how well you are at drawing lines between your past experiences and the type of research you want to do.

43 minutes ago, Reading Terminal said:

Spring2000 mentioned independent research experience and products. As credit to my inexperience, I've never heard the word products used that way. What does quality research look like? Is sticking to a legitimate university enough? 

A lot of research experience (at least in Social Psych) is helping a grad student with their research. That can consist of things like being a confederate, basic data cleaning, help with the development of studies, etc. Independent is more like doing your 'own' supervised research.

 

49 minutes ago, Reading Terminal said:

Also, I might be operating under an incorrect assumption about clinical psychology versus say social or educational psychology. Is a PhD in clinical psychology the only type that can lead to working one-on-one with patients in a generalist way? Is a social psychologist educated in largely the same way as a clinical psychologist? For example, and I have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm more interested in working with what I'll call soft-skill personality disorders like obsessive-compulsives than I am something more neurological or "hard" like deep schizophrenia or brain injuries. Is clinical psychology even what I'm looking for?

Only clinical can treat. These are distinct areas of research. I'm not sure exactly how one picks a population they want to work with in clinical psych - but it is also not my area. I'm by no means trained to  work with patients.

 

52 minutes ago, Reading Terminal said:

I see that there are some blurry lines between PhD programs and PsyD programs. And to explore some options, I'll admit that raw research without ever working with patients doesn't seem like what I want, and that if I found myself with a PhD, I probably wouldn't stay in academia forever. This pipeline toward being a clinician is so odd! There are PsyD programs that conduct research, are they easier to get into? Would a PsyD program frown on an MSW in the same way a PhD program would?

a PhD is a research degree and you will spend a significant portion of your time doing research. 

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41 minutes ago, Reading Terminal said:

Also, I might be operating under an incorrect assumption about clinical psychology versus say social or educational psychology. Is a PhD in clinical psychology the only type that can lead to working one-on-one with patients in a generalist way? Is a social psychologist educated in largely the same way as a clinical psychologist? For example, and I have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm more interested in working with what I'll call soft-skill personality disorders like obsessive-compulsives than I am something more neurological or "hard" like deep schizophrenia or brain injuries. Is clinical psychology even what I'm looking for?

This is potentially a deep conversation. Generally, state licensure requirements dictate the qualifications required to work clinically with patients as a psychologist. Many, but not all, require a PsyD or PhD in clinical psychology from an APA accredited programme. In my experience, social psychologists are often purely academic, not clinicians, and not eligible for licensure.

I'm not as familiar with educational psychologists. I would imagine they are focused on researching how people learn. That might be a specific protected title in some states. In Florida, we have School Psychologists who have a separate doctoral programme, but that's not the same as an educational psychologist. Have a look here:

https://www.apa.org/careers/resources/guides/careers

A licensed clinical psychologist can be a generalist or specialist, for example in child psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology, or forensic psychology. There are other specialities.

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2 hours ago, Reading Terminal said:

Spring2000 mentioned independent research experience and products. As credit to my inexperience, I've never heard the word products used that way. What does quality research look like? Is sticking to a legitimate university enough? 

I just meant research experiences where you're coming up with the research idea and then executing it! So a master's thesis could be an example. It can also be something super small and basic as long as it shows you have the capacity/potential to do research independently. And I didn't mean outside of a university, it's usually done under the supervision of a professor/ in a lab that you work in. 

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Just hopping back in here to ask, why aren't you considering an MSW and DSW? If you're interests lie at all in education and advocacy as well as clinical work, a DSW would get you there just as effectively. Contrary to your personal experiences, the absolute BEST experience our family had with trauma-based therapy for abuse was with an MSW who focused her practice and research on it. The clinical psychologists were merely interested in assessment and then shoving us on to someone else (typically an MSW). Counseling psychology might also fit this bill, but Social Work as a field already tackles these exact topics, and is well-positioned to go a variety of professional routes. 

DSW's are also competitive - any PhD is going to be - but perhaps not quite as crazy-competitive as Clinical Psych. And yes, a DSW may be considered less "prestigious" than a Clinical PhD in some circles, but if you are more interested in doing the real work then you are with being an Important Person, than that doesn't really matter.

Just some thing to think about.

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4 hours ago, Randi S said:

The clinical psychologists were merely interested in assessment and then shoving us on to someone else (typically an MSW). ...if you are more interested in doing the real work then you are with being an Important Person, than that doesn't really matter.

Yeah, plenty of students I run across love assessment and aren't into psychotherapy at all. They present themselves as neutral arbiters of differential diagnosis or competency, which they are anything but. 

I can't stand most assessments. Yes, yes, for many psychologists they are their bread and butter, because they generate more revenue, but they're not my thing. Too many assessments are built on flawed psychological constructs, so I don't see much validity in implementing them. I realize that for some, it's the defining trait of a psychologist, the one thing they can do that others can't, so they're deeply defensive of it as it's tied to their professional identity. Those people take themselves far too seriously.

The central message that Randi is giving you is right. The work should be first and foremost, the credentials are merely means to an end.

Edited by Psyche007
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