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Career switch to psychoanalysis. Is psychodynamic PhD program the goal?

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Hi all! I know there are some similar threads here but my situation is unique enough that I figured I would post and see if anyone had any thoughts on my chances of getting into a PhD in psychology at this stage.

My goal: I'm in my early 30s and I've known for some time that I'd like to become a psychoanalyst. I have realized that the foundational step for doing so would probably be to complete a PhD in psychology with a psychodynamic focus. Then I would go on to complete training in an institute, ideally with a contemporary Freudian or Lacanian focus. 

My background: BA comparative literature & philosophy (3.97 GPA); MA anthropology (3.95 GPA), Harvard. Have worked in tech for the last 6 years as a UX researcher. Most recent GRE scores IIRC were 169 verbal/155 quant. I also undertook ~6 years of my own psychoanalysis with a Lacanian analyst, which changed my life immeasurably for the better–this is really why I want to pursue this path, and I'm sure a training institute would be interested in this info, but not sure if it's relevant info for a PhD program.

My relevant experience (or lack thereof): I have plenty of research experience but I'm not sure how relevant it would be, if at all.

  • In my current career as a UXR I do, of course, create qualitative research protocols to test product design/usability remotely and in lab settings. I have done hundreds of one-on-one interviews, ethnographic research, international research, contextual inquiry, group ideation, etc. I also have some quant background (survey design) and some experience working with vulnerable populations in this research. I'm aware that this research is not methodologically rigorous and is usually just used as a directional test for business decision-makers, but perhaps it has some weight?
  • As an MA student, I conducted months of ethnographic fieldwork in Russia.
  • I'm fairly well-versed in the history of psychoanalytic thought (especially Freudian/Lacanian) but unfortunately most of this is via self-study. I have a strong background in continental philosophy/critical theory from my BA/MA coursework.
  • I volunteer at a homeless services org and work directly with the population they serve.


  • Do I have a chance at getting into any PhD in psych, even a psychodynamically/psychoanalytically focused one? I'm aware that to do a PhD/PsyD I would most likely need to take some foundational psych courses for credit (abnormal psych, experimental psych?). Assuming I do that... I'm wondering if that would be enough to even approach fitness for a PhD in psych? I'm looking at programs with a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic focus (Duquesne, Columbia, Adelphi, among others) so I wonder if my SOP/reason for pursuing the program would be compelling in the eye of those admissions committees?
  • What about research interests? I have a few specific areas of interest in terms of theory and the types of clinical practice situations I'm interested in–but as I stated, my interest is really more in getting into a very specific type of clinical practice and deepening my foundation in psychodynamic theory/clinical practice. That said, I'm wondering also about how to best go about refining those research interests for a PhD application.
  • Is a PhD even the right move? Other options would include a PsyD, an MSW, or just going into a qualifying psychoanalytic training program in NYC that makes one eligible for LP licensure at the end. These options seem less appealing to me–PsyD because of cost, MSW because it might make me slightly less competitive as a training institute candidate or as a private practitioner, and LP licensure because I don't want to be tethered to NY for the rest of my career. So it seems like the PhD would be best, but not sure 

Open to hearing any thoughts folks might have.

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Outside of a few key cities (mainly NYC, Chicago, DC, and maybe LA), you aren’t going to find much demand for psychoanalysis. Plus, most insurance won’t cover long term psychoanalytic psychotherapy, so you’re better off just getting a masters in counseling or MSW and then going to one of those psychoanalytic training institutes. To be competitive for any PhD program, you’re going to need to spend several years gaining research experience with products such as posters and publications. In private practice, you can charge whatever the market demands. The majority of clients don’t care/can’t tell you the difference between a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. 

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