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can you transfer clinical psychology phd programs? what to do when your mentor leaves

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Hi everyone, 

Looking for some advice. I recently found out my research mentor at my current program (clinical psych phd, apa on contingency) is leaving the university. The only real option my program has given me is to join another lab/mentor. However, there are no other labs/mentors who do the same type of research that I am doing. I am a second year student who already has their dissertation outlined and am applying for funding. I fear if I go to a different lab I won't be able to conduct research 1) that I want to do and 2) if doing research in other fields harm me in terms of finding a job in the future. 

I was wondering if anyone has experience or advice on the following:

  1. having a research mentor who is not apart of the university (continue with course work and program materials at my current program but have a research mentor at a different university)
  2. transferring programs (without having to reapply, would credits transfer or would I have to start over)?

Any advice or insight is greatly appreciated!!!

Edited by clinicalpsych2022_advice
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  • clinicalpsych2022_advice changed the title to can you transfer clinical psychology phd programs? what to do when your mentor leaves

Hello there,

Sorry to hear about your mentor. 

Unfortunately in these cases there isn't an easy answer. The path of least resistance would probably be finding some common ground with a faculty member already in your program and trying to blend your research interests. While it may take you away from your current interests, if you continue with an academic career you can always pivot back to the areas that most interest you. 

You can also talk to the university if there is some room for compromise - can you be co-supervised (so maybe supervised by your mentor from afar and have another supervisor on-site or find a researcher who is not part of the university to co-supervise your thesis?) I have met people who had external supervisors and while this arrangement can lead to some headaches (mostly related to admin and bureaucracy), I've seen people happy with the choice. 

The transferring programs is not something that I've personally encountered, but it's probably possible. However, it is very likely that you will have to go through the application process again and have few transfer credits that you can move over. My understanding is that most programs prefer to train you from the start, in their own educational philosophy, and may be less flexible. In the best case scenario, if you find a good mentor match, is that you might push your graduation further into the future. If that is worth it or not, your the only one who can decide. It's important that you contact programs soon to find info on their transferring policies, since those aren't generally shared on websites. 

The best advice that I can give is to have a thorough conversation with your program and see what they can offer. I've seen people switch supervisors mid-program due to various reasons (incompatibility, parental leave, moving) and most of them were supported by the other faculty and graduated more or less on time. However, if you have other issues with the program (besides the mentor leaving), changing programs might be more beneficial.

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  • 11 months later...

My mentor left my institution, three months after I spent a $1000 moving my stuff across the country. I got reassigned a new mentor (who was a faculty member in a different program, but I could remain a student in my current program). She is the most lovely person I have ever met. I couldn't be happier that she's my new mentor. But the process showed me how little my program in general cared about its students. The first suggestion I received from the director of the clinical program was to leave institutions. Faculty members were sorry for me but none of them did anything to actually help. I'm sorry that this happened to you and I am interested to know if you were able to recover from your issue without leaving your current institution. 

Edited by rubberduck
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