About the ads

Does having a history of psychological trauma give you an advantage?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Mufa, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. SDN is a nonprofit organization. Services are made possible through the generous support of SDN members and sponsors. Thank you.
  1. Ollie123

    Ollie123

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Messages:
    3,806
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 7+ Year Member

    SDN Members don't see this ad. (About Ads)
    Well, grades are far from the most important part of admissions. You need decent grades but beyond that, they actually count for very little.

    Experience is generally what they are looking for, along with a record of productive interactions with others. The issue is that "life experience" is not a substitute for professional experience, as in many cases it is as likely to hinder one's performance as help. No doubt having been through therapy (or having one's own negative experiences, etc.) can provide some important perspective. However it certainly doesn't qualify one to perform therapy (far from it), nor is it evidence that one is capable of learning advanced statistical techniques needed to be a successful researcher, etc.

    I think using your experiences as "motivation" is fine - this seems to generally be what the "successful" folks in the field with difficult pasts have done. If your experiences were truly unique, it might even guide a new research direction. However, a big part of properly treating clients involves learning to leave our "own stuff" behind when we enter the therapy room, which I think is why some folks seem to be worried about what your approach is likely to be. Similarly, research is meant to be objective. Obviously both of these are ideals that are impossible to achieve, but we are supposed to be striving towards these things...something that your previous posts imply you would be reluctant or perhaps even unwilling to do. That's one of the reasons they say its so difficult to pursue study in an area with such personal relevance.

    That isn't to say that having support from others, especially those who have had similar experiences won't be helpful. It certainly can be. The issue is just that being "supportive" in that way is not the role of a well-trained psychologist...specifically because there are other settings for that (e.g. peer support groups). Conducting diagnostic assessments, implementing semi-structured protocols based on what research suggests is most likely to lead to optimal outcomes, etc....this is what the role of a psychologist is.

    If you want to use your experiences to help people, do keep in mind that there are a whole ton of fields where you might be involved in that area and experiences of that sort would likely pose much less of a problem. Psychology just isn't the best choice...the approach and direction of the field is likely substantially different from what your perception of it may be.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2012
  2. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    The job of clinical psychology program, from an administrative standpoint, is to admit as strong a candidate as possible and to admit candidates who have the best odds of finishing the program. Attrition costs a program money. Attrition makes the program look bad. Attrition does not look good on your APA accreditation review. The "paper" credential represent criteria that have modest predictive value. Its the best we got.

    What would you like to replace it with, and does it have better predictive validity? Its a rhetorical question...
  3. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Messages:
    2,266
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    The consensus is truth and honesty.

    No, you don't get bonus points for having endured trauma or adversity. Don't expect any program to give you "leeway" simply because you survived an event in your life. Whatever this "episode" was, certainly you have allowed it to color your life, but that does not mean that others need to give you special dispensation for it.

    It has nothing to do with a "holier than thou" attitude, but rather the understanding that an individual must have sufficient intrapersonal resources and intellectual functioning to be useful to the patients he/she is treating. The idea that one benefits tremendously from having mental illness in being able to treat the mentally ill is flawed itself. You don't need to have a heart attack in order to be a cardiac specialist or to understand how to treat heart attack victims any more than you need to have bipolar disorder to understand how to treat bipolar patients.

    Certainly individual experience might provide some insight to problems being experienced by others, but to rely on this as a foundation for clinical competency would be foolish and naive. The fact is, that you might have the same experience as someone else, but you may interpret the experience differently. Individual experience allows us to understand how emotions might feel, but they are never a substitute for our patients individual perception.

    You may not like the consensus, but that does not make it any less true.
  4. Mufa

    Mufa

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    Doesn't make it any less disturbing either..

    But if those are the standards, what can I do?

    I'll find a place in society where my efforts are valued..

    Hopefully sooner rather than later.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  5. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    I hate to break it to ya, but most places/people in society will likely not recognize you as the special little snowflake that you seem to think that you are.

    You will have to play by the same rules and meet the same standards that everyone else does. For a ph.d program in psychology, this requires that (gasp) you have experience in the field via research, demonstrate the academic potential to complete the degree, and demonstrate appropriate psychological stability, maturity, and ethics ("secure your mask before the masks of others"). Im sure you can agree that given the demands and responsibilities of this profession, these are more than reasonable standards.

    I would suggest less narcissistic outrage and more working to become a better and more stable applicant.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  6. nika751

    nika751

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2012
    Messages:
    60
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    I have a trauma history and did not tell anyone during the admissions process. it is not an advantage. it can actually be a disadvantage as they will want to make sure you will not be over identifying with clients and can emotionalyl handle what is coming at you. I did make sure that I have advisors that will be supportive in the program. As things come up I am sure I will eventually share a little.

    I do not ever want to be given favors because I am a trauma survivor. I am a graduate student who earned my way there the same as anyone. I do have a unique (sadly probably not so unique) understanding of what many children in situations like mine may be experiencing.

    I think when applying to graduate school with trauma in your background you need to make sure you have dealt with your own past. If you are still really struggling emotionally wait a year. I am glad I waited an extra 2 years. I think also if you are overidentifying with a population or want to work with a certian population because that population deals with issues you CURRENTLY deal with, you should wait. I am going to be working with children who are dealing with issues I have dealt with in the past. They are issues I have dealt with though. I am also very interested in other issues I have not personally struggled with. Your interests should be well rounded to include things you have not personally experienced.

    On a whole I do not believe in disclosing more than you have to except to a few trusted people. I want to be known as a good psychologist. Not simply a psychologist who has been through X, Y, and Z.

    Sorry if this sounds a little harsh but I hope it brings up some things for thought.
  7. ClinPsychEnthus

    ClinPsychEnthus Psy.D. candidate, VA intern

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    277
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    Here's what I'm not understanding-

    Why is it disturbing?

    The general consensus is not that experiencing difficulties is bad. Most people are saying something like: what matters is someone's ability to understand, handle, and competently provide treatment to others, irregardless of their history.

    People are saying that things that impede that include: ongoing, unmanaged personal symptoms; others' symptoms potentially triggering your symptoms; or issues such as academic competence and aptitude, research abilities etc...

    People are also saying that if the above are issues, then you should go in another direction that is more feasible, such as peer support, or maybe research that you feel you could work in without feeling to triggered in/difficulty being impartial in.

    So, please help me see why this is disturbing...
  8. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2012
    Messages:
    8,207
    Status:
    Medical Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    and amputees make great hand surgeons.... :confused:
    Also... addicts and pharmacy :thumbup:

    Living through something does not make someone equipped to treat it professionally. This is not a reasonable correlation. If this event really is "behind you" then leave it there and do not bring it up.
  9. Member6523

    Member6523

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2011
    Messages:
    156
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    There's no need to be so defensive towards this guy. His opinions, however misguided they may be, will not be changed by anonymous internet posters who are getting increasingly hostile. The anonymity of the internet apparently brings out the nasty even in trained clinicians, it seems.

    With respect, erg933, comments like "I would suggest less narcissistic outrage and more working to become a better and more stable applicant" are not constructive, and you know it. I don't mean to single you out, but it seems like this is the general vein that this thread is going. I suggest more compassion. Some of you will argue, "well he asked for our opinion, we gave it, he rejected it and grew irritated, and now it's on." But where's the empathy?
  10. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2012
    Messages:
    8,207
    Status:
    Medical Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    one can empathize without accepting the other person's actions or thought processes as appropriate.
  11. Iwillheal

    Iwillheal

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    254
    I'm sorry but that's the wrong comparison on so many levels. Mental health issues are far more complex. The very fact that this thread is active is indicative of the actual complexity of that issue. This is not a black white matter. The OP makes some good points and in a certain ideal society there would be a place for people like him/her in this profession. Actually in that society therapists would not be "professionals" but people who lived through something and can offer advice. Sort of like the wise guy in the village. It's a romantic notion, really. But what most people are trying to make this person understand is that this is not the reality of the situation.

    That the way things work NOW, is that psych grad programs are not concerned with your personal history. Very little. The criteria are quite clear. GRE scores, grades, research experience, match between supervisor/student research interests/personality, reference letters and interview. They want someone intelligent, emotionally stable, mature, driven, passionate, independent, with great analytical skills, great interpersonal skills, who excels at mathematics and statistics, who loves to do research. So that this person can use empirical evidence to help us discover what causes mental health issues and how to treat them. If having lived through trauma also gives the person more passion, drive, and sympathy, great. But that's it. They are not going to study this person or use this person's experience.

    I'm genuinely sorry that the OP had something horrible happened to him/her. It's tragic. And what this person experienced is valuable, very much. It's something that can be shared with friends and family, can be reflected on, can even be published, can be used as motivation to start an organization, anything really. But at this point in time it is simply not going to help but even potentially hinder his/her application. That's the last thing I'm gonna say on the topic.
  12. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2012
    Messages:
    8,207
    Status:
    Medical Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    there is zero correlation between complexity of a subject and hits on SDN. sorry.... :thumbup:

    the part I underlined was exactly my point. Having experienced something does not an expert make. Admissions will not see it as such so to ride on a fallacious link between incurring damages and related performance is a poor decision.

    Edit: I read your post more carefully... It is a little alarming that you think people with need for professional help could ideally be treated by peers. This isn't a holier than thou complex. There is need for real understanding and insight, and not just simple camaraderie.

    I am not sure what the trauma is that the OP suffered. It is unfortunate when anyone suffers. But the "camp counselor" model only goes so far. Matters of circumstance - no matter how grim - do not reflect individual ability. They are entirely separate. And as such the comparison to amputees and addicts is perfect :eyebrow:
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  13. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    When I being a little silly, my parents, my friends, and/or my wife put me in my place, tell me stop being an *******, and offer me advice on how to actually solve the problem. That is exactly what I have done. I would argue that it is quite constructive advice...if used by the OP.
  14. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Messages:
    2,266
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    I will play devil's advocate for a moment. If we reach into our bag of tricks and pull out some group therapy, are we not relying on a persons peers to provide some level of treatment? I think that Yalom would argue that real understanding and insight can come from non-professionals when allowed to interact in a therapeutic environment such as group therapy. Clearly having a professional in the room to facilitate the interaction is part of the therapy, but the understanding and insight in group interventions can come from any person participating.

    Still there is much more to being a clinical psychologist than providing simple interventions or leading groups in therapy. Having unmanaged/mitigated psychological problems in the context of graduate school training is not a recipe for success. Doctoral studies are hard enough for healthy individuals, adding unprocessed trauma or other active psychopathology will not help you succeed in a doctoral program.

    M
  15. 4410

    4410

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Messages:
    354
    I believe Albert Einstein probably could be classified as having a major mental disorder under today's DSM IV standards. How about Thomas Szasz who wrote about the myth of mental disorders and fought against involuntary hospitalizations. I saw Szasz at one of the APA conferences in New Orleans back in the early eighties and he was really strange or perhaps eccentric. I guess Einstein and Szasz would not make it into a PhD program or an MD program under today's standards. How about Albert Ellis....now he really had some psychopathology going. I was at a workshop and a baby was crying....Ellis yelled at the mother, a psychology student and told her he was leaving and stopping his presentation if she did not get her baby out of the auditorium. Now the mother was leaving and crying too!!! Ellis, Freud, Rogers and others would not make it into graduate school under today's standards. Heck...Rogers only went into psychology after he failed seminary and decided to switch to an education MA degree. I believe Freud suffered from depression most of his life and treated himself with cocaine. I've heard that Freud had suicidal thoughts and he was in psychoanalytical treatment most of his life and he felt like a failure after being denied either a residency or internship in surgery during his training. He went into research and was drawn into mental health arena after viewing Hypnosis with Charcot. One theory is that Freud stole most of his concepts from another psychiatrist in England where Freud had most of his training.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  16. Mufa

    Mufa

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    I understand what people are saying...I guess that's why I changed the direction of the thread early on from a practical discussion to a more theoretical one.

    Again, I don't really doubt that the opinions voiced aren't informed. I'm trusting they are...at least more so than other avenues (school counselors, for example).

    I'm not saying that the reality is disturbing, I'm saying the reality as I percieve it is disturbing. I would have hoped I really wouldn't have needed to explain the difference between those two statements.

    Anyway, trusting that you're sincerely asking, and not just trying to validate your viewpoint (which doesn't need to be validated as far as I'm concerned), I'll go ahead and answer the question.

    It would seem to me that a system that recognizes the importance of psychological forces would account for them universally. This is clearly not the case (if you guys are to be trusted (you can be trusted, can't you?)). The complete disregard of a person's psychological background in the task of producing competent psychologists seems perplexing. I mean, what if what you say is true, and I decide to hide my past (which won't happen, by the by) and get all the required "paper credentials" and end up hurting the field more than helping it, just because I was smart/lucky enough to avoid that pitfall? (Which I would be at this point as it would never have occured to me to leave my psychological past out of the discussion). If the concerns voiced are true, that I might end up an overall negative force by virtue of my past, do you think I'm not competent enough to figure out how to hide that particular aspect of myself? If not me, then others?

    I'm arguing the negative, though I've been arguing the positive before (I'm an optimist, I would have thought it could only help..admittedly an assumption).

    Arguing the positive, does it disturb me that the pyschological field seemingly doesn't take into account my past? That it refuses to account for factors that it itself recognizes as important? Yes. It's a bit hypocritical in my opinion.

    So, it's disturbing because it doesn't seem appropriate from where I'm sitting. Does that mean it actually is innapropriate? Of course not. Does that mean I'm justified in being disturbed by it? No. Does that mean it doesn't disturb still? Nope. Perhaps with more experience my opinions will change (as they are apt to do), but it was concerning, strictly speaking from my perspective.

    Is my perspective wrong? (This is where you answer "yes").

    Probably. Doesn't mean it isn't my perspective. It'll probably change...but it still remains.
  17. Mufa

    Mufa

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    In response to the "You're not a special snowflake" comment: I, in fact, am. I'm sorry if that upsets you. If you want, you can be one too..lol. (Please find the humor in this, I know it wasn't his/her point...)

    In response to the "Sorry if this seems harsh" comment: Not really, no. I've been online way too long to know people can be rather brutal. At the end of the day, if I put myself up for potential abuse, I'd better be able to handle it.

    Also,
    The insight is appreciated. I've already learnt tons about the type of system I might one day have to face. As far as I'm concerned, short of talking to people face to face, this is one of the best ways of getting information..

    And finally,

    There seems to be an over emphasis on just getting admitted to a program...as if the whole point is to trick a program into taking you on. Perhaps not surprising coming from this particular type of forum, I just hope the field I end up working in isn't full of people who "tricked" the program/institution/orginization into letting them be there. That they're there because that's where they think they should be...based on who they are. Perhaps a little presumptious on my part, I just really hope people realize the game of life isn't the sole purpose of it. Meh, I might be young and naive, but hey, since I'm young and naive, I wouldn't know...
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  18. zensouth

    zensouth

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Messages:
    82
    Status:
    Non-Student
    I believe any decent PhD program would account for psychological forces. This is far from getting any sort of automatic bonus/brownie points.

    As many of the other members have made clear, a complete disregard for a person's psychological background is FAR from what happens in grad school. In fact it is quite the opposite. The faculty have to be aware that the student has progressed far enough in their personal life to begin to take on the perspective of others. While no one can do this perfectly, it is certainly true that others can hardly do this at all. When one's own psychological factors are so salient, so presently influencing, that they are unable to appreciate the experience of another without relating it to their own trauma then this is a problem. It means every session will become more about the clinician than the client, and this is not a good thing for the client growth.

    Clients shouldn't have to pay to hear about a clinician's problems. This does not mean the clinician's issues are disregarded overall. It does mean the clinician has to achieve a certain level of personal growth to realize when, in the client/therapist relationship, their personal issues may be interfering with someone else's treatment.
  19. Iwillheal

    Iwillheal

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    254
    Mufa, I think you got a few things muddled here. When you apply to any grad program, there is often competition. In order to beat competition, you need to emphasize your strong points (i.e. whatever is valued by the program). For some reason this is perplexing to you simply because you're considering a grad program in psychology.

    Also, I've been thinking about this and I believe that depending on how significant this trauma in your life has been, you may need to refer to it at some point in your application/interview. For instance, If I "lose" ten years of my life because I am providing 24 hrs care to a parent with Alzheimer's, how to account for the time lost in my application, without mentioning anything? Or if someone was tortured for years, and was unable to go to work or continue her studies for years after, it would be ludicrous to make no reference to that whatsoever.

    However, assuming that person has healed and the symptoms are certainly manageable, given that a grad program is very stressful even for "healthy" people and that dealing with patients with all kinds of traumas can take its toll (trust me!), referring to this sort of trauma, though necessary, is very tricky. It has to be done very carefully. So again, this is not about tricking anyone because it is presumed that you have fully recovered. But this is about making the faculty believe that, so that when they have 200 applicants and they only need 8, they will decide to pick you over dozens of qualified students.
  20. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    I would urge you to reconsider your thinking.

    If one was wrongfully imprisoner for 25 years, yes, I'll grant that that lost time would need some explanation. But otherwise, this is the applicants personal, private history. If they recieved medical/psychiatric treatment, then it is their personal, private medical history. Either way, there is no reason an applicant should be compelled to reveal such matters. It is the applicants responsibility to make sure they are in a place where they can handle the demands of grad school. Its a important responsibility but it's none of the program's business unless it starts effecting them or the person's patients.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  21. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2012
    Messages:
    8,207
    Status:
    Medical Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    I did not say there was not a place for group therapy and peer help. But the OP is not asking to take such a role. Context is important in such threads. "it is a bad idea for you to do XXXX" =/= "XXXX is a bad idea".
  22. Iwillheal

    Iwillheal

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    254
    Erg, I do agree with you. It's just that since we do not know the nature of this person's trauma (and this is not the place to discuss that anyways), I considered for a moment that he/she may have indeed suffered a truly significant trauma. Imagine yourself in a similar situation. Imagine being, say, 18, accepted to a great school, but then some kind of trauma happens to you. This can anything from a devastating car accident (years in hospital and rehab afterwards), to a very abusive relationship with an unstable, say, suicidal person, that spins out of control and affects every facet of your life. You can probably think of other examples. Now imagine you're 30, you have come back from whatever it was, and decide to continue school. You graduate at age 35. Now you want to apply to a grad program. How the heck are you going to account for those years when you were not doing anything "constructive" at all? Won't be easy.
  23. Psychadelic2012

    Psychadelic2012 PhD Student

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    Messages:
    824
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    I don't mean to be harsh, but this is just how life goes. It would be ridiculous, IMO, to expect that a 35 year old applicant would have a solid history of work and/or school without any gaps, and further that said person would not have experienced any interpersonal difficulties in their life. In fact, I would think it would be implied that there was a struggle along the way--it is inevitable in life. Just that they are applying to a program at that age suggests some major life upheaval, even if just in the form of a career change. That is why I believe some programs/advisers prefer older or younger applicants, because they know the older ones have been through some stuff for better or worse.

    Much of life cannot be controlled, and therefore cannot be held against someone, due to the fact that we all will have some kind of detrimental experience along the way. It could be the death of a loved one, a financial tragedy, a negative relationship, or a significant trauma, all of which could send one spiraling into the depths of depression or other crisis. Does that make it either a significant advantage or disadvantage? You can't say. It's part of being human and doesn't largely mean anything overall. It's what one does with it. Does it make them a more dedicated student, a stronger professional? If so, that's the advantage.
  24. Iwillheal

    Iwillheal

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    254
    Psychadelic, I certainly agree with everything you said. However, the questions remains, how does one explain a major setback. I am not part of the admission committee in my school and so I don't know, maybe the committee sees a big gap in the applicant's CV and not think about it twice. But if they do, and ask the applicant, then three things can happen. It can be seen in positive light or negative light. Or neutral. My understanding was that this person, sensing he/she needs to explains this trauma that affected every part of his/her life, felt that he/she could in fact present it in positive light. Of course, I suppose he/she could speak as little as possible about it and remain vague, referring to it as some "personal issues" or "health problems" and leave it at that. Perhaps less tricky that way.
  25. Psychadelic2012

    Psychadelic2012 PhD Student

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    Messages:
    824
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    I dunno. I had a major mid-twenties setback. Let's just say it was a major life event involving family and/or relationship issues that sent me into a huge downward spiral. I'm now mid-thirties. Really? Some committee of academics is going to look at that and require me to explain it? If they even notice it? I highly doubt it. I mean, if a committee is even going to ask about a setback, in the midst of a CV full of accomplishments (which would be necessary to be in the running as an applicant), I think something is terribly amiss. Either that or the applicant should rethink applying to that particular institution/program--plenty of places will see the big picture, no point in wasting time with those who won't. If they want someone "perfect" with no life behind 'em, no amount of asking or explaining will make it better.
  26. dumbledoresgirl

    dumbledoresgirl

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2012
    Messages:
    174
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    I'm new here, but I've been lurking on the forums for a few months now and I've been following this thread closely (I almost feel like I know you guys...but you don't know me. Creepy? hah.)

    Anyways, I just wanted to add my two cents (I apologize, OP, but my opinion is pretty similar to those expressed so far). It seems that this thread turned a little argumentative, and it's really unfortunate. I'm not sure why the OP is having such a hard time with the responses given thus far, because no one has said anything unreasonable or false.

    No one is saying that you are not qualified to be a clinician because of the trauma you've endured. It very well may be that your past trauma will help you become a great clinician. But you asked whether it's going to help you get into grad school, and the answer to that is no. I believe what everyone is saying is that your past trauma may very well make you unique (or it may not, as other have suggested). Either way, you must possess other qualifications (I won't repeat what those are) in order to be a good clinician (and along with that, in order to get into grad school). There is nothing wrong with going into peer support or getting an MSW and practicing with that degree. But as of right now, you are not qualified for a doctoral program (for reasons completely unrelated to your trauma). So, if you're interested in practicing and you have no interest in gaining the experience necessary to get into a PhD program, go for those other degrees (although I still strongly recommend that you see a therapist and work through your issues, regardless of the degree you obtain). If you do end up applying for PhD programs, all the more power to you. But again, you'll need a lot more than past trauma to get in to those programs, and I think that's the main point that everyone is trying to emphasize for you. Whatever you choose to do, just be aware that grad school is already an emotionally tasking experience; so, going into it with unresolved trauma is going to be even more difficult, and I think it's the consensus that everyone would recommend against it. As for your other questions (whether trauma will hinder you in your career or attempts to get into grad school), I think it might if you leave it as it is and don't take care of yourself. If you get into therapy and deal with your past, then I don't think it necessarily has to be a disadvantage (but it won't necessarily be an advantage either).

    If it helps, one of my close friends just got into a PhD program and she also has trauma in her past. However, she never told this to anyone at any of her interviews, nor did she mention it in her personal statement (while that was the main thing that sparked her passion for psychology, she decided to use a different reason in her SOP). She had research experience, an excellent GPA, good GRE scores, and awesome letters of recommendation to show for herself. And that's what got her into the programs, not her psychiatric history. And for the record, she's going into trauma research, and I think she's going to be an awesome clinician one day. But she has fully dealt with her trauma and is using it solely as a motivating factor, and that's why I think she's going to succeed.

    I hope this helps (even a little bit), and I urge you to start accepting these answers as well-intentioned, good advice rather than an attack on those with a history of psychological disorders. The sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be! I wish you the best of luck with everything! :)
  27. Ip Man

    Ip Man

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2012
    Messages:
    1
    Mufa, reading everything you're saying, I understand where you're coming from, or at least I believe I do. I'm going to throw some things out there, and you let me know if you feel the same.

    Although my gpa and all other "paper" credentials are strong and good enough to get in schools, they could be even stronger for the same reasons that you mentioned: it's just paper. And reading responses to your post, I understand the frustrations you must be feeling. How can someone understand if they haven't gone through the mental health system to understand what I understand? And thus, their responses seem meaningless, because all they're talking about are paper credentials in line with the current system.

    Going through a trauma and seeing firsthand the inefficiency of the way a lot is handled, we understand a lot of what's wrong and we believe maybe we can step in and be the heroes to transform the system to some perfect one. After all, we've experienced it, so it's not just theory for us. The whole structure of not just mental health, but also schools and society in general: money, politics, power, etc. Very unnatural and didn't develop the way we believe it should have. and we want to transform it because we feel we're have some sense of it beyond what the average person does. And maybe we do. But is our sense "above and beyond" everyone else's view? Or is it just "different in a way that's not allowing us to live in peace with our worlds"? We mentally rebel and don't accept the a) academic or b) mental health systems and thus a) grades drop and b) we want to transform things

    After a certain time, maybe we need to come to that realization that there's only so much we can fight and try to transform everything we feel is faulty. and by this I don't mean learned helplessness. I ask you, do people often tell you to stop focusing on the negative aspect of things and focus more on the positives? I used to get that a lot, and still slip here and there. And the question here becomes "when applying to phd/psyd schools, is your focus on what you can change, or is it how you can contribute to the current field?". There are faults in every field, but going in with the "change everything" attitude rather than the "what can i contribute to the current system" can be dangerous, considering that nothing will be transformed in the short run. We'll just keep hitting walls and being frustrated. Months ago, I came to the decision of applying to schools for the PsyD thinking "I'll come in and make people realize how flawed the system is". I realized how bad it was to think that way because a) there are probably hundreds+ of people who think like that, so I'm not special with my trauma experience and b) I have to find a way to make a living and stop fighting everything that's flawed. And the flaws aren't a secret. (Two of many flaws pointed out by David Rosenhan and Thomas Szasz)

    Again, in most systems, many things work, many things don't, and you have to ask "Will I focus on what works or what doesn't work?". I've found that focusing what works and adding to it allows for a greater deal of peace in life, if that's what you're looking for. Plus, I believe someone else mentioned, if you don't believe in the way things are done in the current system, is phd the route for you? Rather than picking a degree and trying to fit it around your values, why not list your values and find the degree/path that'll suit what you believe in? that's what I'm trying to do right now to see if the PsyD is right for me.

    So let me know what you do/don't agree with. (Without hostility/"throwing me out" like you did with others). Because out of all the posters here, I feel I may understand your concerns the best.
  28. Mufa

    Mufa

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    Thanks.

    Point taken (probably since the first couple responses).

    I just stayed on because I find it an interesting discussion regardless of my situation.

    I'm not going to hide anything because doing so hasn't led to good consequences in the past. Life doesn't work like that for me...tailoring my image in order to gain an advantage. It's a shame a field where I think I can contribute significantly wants nothing to do with me...at least if I go the traditional routes. Or perhaps isn't interested in why or how the negative instances of my life have influenced it..

    At the end of the day I'll produce the value I see fit and those smart enough to see it will be helped along with their causes, and those ignorant enough not to will remain just that. It doesn't bother me much.

    I know people of my...disposition...lead severely difficult lives. Higher rates of suicide, drug abuse, long term depression, extreme withdrawal, less likely to attain formal education, lower iqs, psychopathic tendencies, reduced brain functioning and whatever else they've come up with. I would have expected a bit more understanding from this field in particular. That's all. But if the institution doesn't see it that way...they may be right...but if they're wrong, I'm not willing to try to convince them of it. I do have my own life to get on with.

    Knowing how most of us end up, I already see myself as succesful. I'm not kidding when I say I'm quite surprised I'm deemed by society to be relatively capable of functioning. I'll simply take my particular set of talents and apply them elsewhere. I have very little interest in working against a system and for it as well.

    There is a pretty good chance I set myself up in a cave somewhere and do the necessary research that needs to be done...and distribute it to those interested. Funding is all that would be needed, I'd probably find a niche to get that. Something stupid like teaching chess or poker..

    Interesting parallel: race and affirmitive action.

    But that's way off topic so I guess I'm done with the thread. I'll talk to a couple people irl life to confirm what has been said. Doubt I'll have more to say unless someone comes up with an angle I hadn't thought of. My thoughts and reasoning on the matter are pretty clear, I think.
  29. Pragma

    Pragma

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    2,440
    Location:
    Quarth
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    You come off sounding as though you have been persecuted. No one said that you are going to be at a disadvantage. You don't have to hide things, particularly if they are well-managed. I am not sure where all of this "blame the system" and narcissism comes from, but you don't strike me as some genius where the standards everyone else is held to are going to be more lax for you. That seems to be what you wanted to hear.

    You know, it is possible for two opposing things to be true at the same time. Your passion and personal experience could help you to make excellent contributions and differences in peoples' lives. But those two things also might skew your perspective and thinking process far enough where doing the job of a psychologist might be hard for you if you can't think outside of your own persepctive. That is what admissions committees are trying to figure out...is this person going to be a successful psychologist. You can't really sneak past that part.
  30. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    I think the barrier you're encountering is just a fundamental disagreement with your hypothesis. I would argue that your experiencing a prolonged or severe trauma offers no real advantage or benefit to your abilities/development as a clinician. I know you don't want to believe that, but I think that you are probably overestimating the uniqueness of your experience and underestimating the homogenous nature in which human beings react to and cope with trauma.

    And trust me, people have had your hyopthesis for years. In fact, the predominant paradigm in substance abuse for many years was one of peer counseling...that one could better "understand" substance abuse if they themselves had been an addict. Unfortunately, research has never validated differential outcomes based on this premise.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  31. Iwillheal

    Iwillheal

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    254
    Man, this is brutal. Since seeing patients I've started to pay attention to my counter-transference in session, but looking over my replies in this thread, I just realized that I was not aware of it but I got caught up in something with the OP. Something about his posts really pulled me in and while working on some stats homework I kept coming back to this thread. In fact, the more direct and "harsh" the replies, the more I felt I needed to come to his aid, to make others understand his point of view, etc. Man, I have a lot of work to do on being mindful at all times.
  32. penguinbean

    penguinbean

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2011
    Messages:
    55
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    You keep saying this, but its not innately true, and its not exactly what we're saying. We're telling you how you can be the best candidate for an application cycle. Obviously your history is a part of what you are and will be as a clinician/researcher. There are many other important factors to it, though.

    Your past can be a positive, but it depends on what you do with it/how you present it. Tread carefully is what advice you should walk away with, not lie about things.

    If you have otherwise similar or equal stats and background/qualifications to other students, yes your background could be what puts you over the top (if appropriately dealt with and presented correctly). Or it could come across to the applicatoin board (as many have said, myself included) as "wow this person needs to get it together before they can handle grad school."

    I guess I am still having a hard time understanding that *just* because you had trauma = you should get into grad school, with only that qualifying experience? Thats not how ANY field works. You're sort of coming across as this petulant little thing, stomping your feet because we're all mean and not understanding how special and unique you are. I am sure you are special and unique. We are all so special and unique that it turns out... none of us are all that special or unique...? You could go through every single applicant in the world spending all sorts of time talking about how unique their specific circumstances are. Every other person out there has a story as to why they are applying. KWIM?
  33. nika751

    nika751

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2012
    Messages:
    60
    Status:
    Psychology Student

    exactly...
  34. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Messages:
    2,266
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    Hey, you noticed it... all of us can get caught up in the moment. You're doing just fine, Mufa is really pushing buttons and he may even be enjoying this. I mean, if I thought I was a special snowflake, I'd enjoy this much attention too.
  35. cara susanna

    cara susanna Predoctoral Intern

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Messages:
    4,507
    Location:
    Midwest
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    Mufa is making me SUPER curious about his/her condition, though.
  36. futureapppsy2

    futureapppsy2 Ed Psych PhD student Moderator Gold Donor

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2008
    Messages:
    4,252
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    Ooh, do you have citations for this? Just curious, having previously worked the substance abuse/misuse area and having heard this both promoted and refuted by different people.
  37. paramour

    paramour

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2007
    Messages:
    1,979
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    Being rejected from graduate school? Being dumped by their "exclusive" boy/girlfriend a few months ago? . . .

    Sorry. Flashback to a previous course where these were *actually* reported as distressing, traumatic life-changing experiences by students. :p
  38. Mufa

    Mufa

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    Yeah, I'd agree with most of that.

    Certainly there is much that I'd like to change, but I've learnt to perhaps not expect it on such a grand scale. To perhaps focus those efforts a little bit more on systems that are particularly relevant to me and trust that eventually it all gets done, if not by me, then others. It's frustrating to see people focused so much on so much of what I'd consider irrelevant but perhaps I'm not the best judge of relevance to begin with. It's also a degree impatience...having to do the legwork (that needs to be done, yes) before I actually start things that actually matter.

    The mental health field, though, because it personally failed me and is conceptually intriguing. I slipped through the cracks when it should have been there to step in. It indicates to me that the capacity and need for change is there, more so than other fields, at least.

    The plan would be to go to law school (I'm lucky in that area), back it up by a science based cognitive science, tie that into different areas of related areas of interests and produce value. Maybe with 5-10 years of strictly "relevance time" at the end... And all the while find a way to support myself, and the family I'd love to have. I have until I'm 65ish, then I'm done...I want the 30 years or so of just taking it easy..Also remembering not to limit myself from pursuing any opportunities that may make themselves apparent.

    Probably better to think of it as smaller bits though. And take it a bit slower.

    I've rather given up on finding a course of study that fits my values exactly. I'm just trying to guarantee a time in my life where I'll have enough clout and resources to pursue my own interests without it going to waste.
  39. FemmeFeline

    FemmeFeline

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2012
    Messages:
    40
    Status:
    Psychology Student
    I just want to add that, yes, while it's unfortunate that society works this way, you DO have to tailor your image a certain way to get into any kind of field. That doesn't mean hide who you are or hide your past, but present yourself in a way that emphasizes your strengths and why you are right for a job/field. That is how society works. No amount of philosophical debate will change this. Whenever we attempt to make money or attain a job or get into a grad school, we are competing with other individuals. Even when you do your own independently funded research or record your own music album on your own label, you are still competing with others in the field or market.

    Bashing fields because they don't fit into your philosophical framework or consider your life experience an asset is a waste of your time. Focus on a career path that is achievable and makes you happy.
  40. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Messages:
    2,266
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    I stubbed my toe once.
  41. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    And...there it is, folks.
  42. PhilAwesome

    PhilAwesome

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    I can't be sure because what you've said is pretty vague, but that doesn't sound like the "clinical research" side of the field, that sounds like public policy. Perhaps that's a direction that would be better suited to your passions and interests; how do we identify people who need mental health services and provide them appropriate treatment? Because in general, we have a lot of very good treatments out there for a number of mental health conditions, including trauma. The problem is that a lot of clinicians, for whatever reason, aren't using those treatments, or aren't using them appropriately. On top of that, a lot of people who need treatment don't get it, either because of lack of resources, social stigma against using mental health services, lack of desire to change, or any host of other reasons. I think these are great things to be looking into, and in many cases, would probably be more productive (in terms of actual change to the world) than clinical research. So I'd consider talking to advocacy groups and seeing what sorts of career paths would be helpful towards working in that direction.
  43. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2012
    Messages:
    8,207
    Status:
    Medical Student
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    this would all be much easier if the OP disclosed what the trauma was....
  44. Mufa

    Mufa

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    Not the place for disclosure, I don't think.
    Yup.

    I don't follow.
    I'd want to.
  45. sabaijae

    sabaijae

    Joined:
    May 5, 2011
    Messages:
    57
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    To the OP/Mufa-

    Being a philosophy major, you might want to read more about the philosophy of science (or even sociology or anthropology).

    Some people whom you might resonate with/might want to read are Nikolas Rose and Ian Hacking ... again, FWIW.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  46. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    Yea, that's exactly my point. And exactly why I don't think this is a wise career plan for you at the present time.
  47. Mufa

    Mufa

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    The philosophy of science path has been an option for a while...I'm just hesitant to pursue it because philosophy nearly drove me crazy for a couple years.
    You misunderstand me.
    I don't follow how you drew a conclusion that will prove itself to be wrong.

    I'd like to.

    So, feel free to explain your thought process, if you wish to be corrected...
    Or, don't.

    (To be fair, you couldn't possibly be aware of how you're wrong...but your presumptuousness is intriguing...and the blind arrogance with which you present it is admirable. )

    Secondly,
    Based on 30 posts, without knowing anything else about me, without the slightest clue as to what my real world situation might be, do you honestly think you're capable of assessing my potential for success in any capacity? With such bolstering certainty? Or, is it more likely that there is a little bit of speculation going on your part, backed up by motivations that I'd rather not bring to light?

    Will you defend yourself by saying "I'm going by what you posted"...without considering that I purposefully painted myself in a certain manner for ends that I'm quite aware of?

    (Again, to be fair, you have nothing else to go on...but you particularly seem unaware of this hindrance. Almost threatened...)

    If you genuinely want a discussion, or to explain your thought process, or a clearer context from which to assess my behavior, you may respond. But if you respond with what you know will be unhelpful rhetoric, ask yourself "For what purpose do I respond?". Then consider I may have nothing to do with it...

    And finally,
    At what point in time is the present? lol. Your ignorance won't be saved by a discussion that descends into one of the ambiguities of time.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  48. Pragma

    Pragma

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    2,440
    Location:
    Quarth
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    Oh boy, I can't imagine erg sitting on that one.
  49. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6,370
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    The erg sits.;)

    I have little desire to think deeply about what intentions you may or may not have had (or what picture you were trying to paint) with your orginal posts...or your subsequent posts. I, like most other posters here, will give people advice based on what they post and just assume (reasonably so), that they asked simply because they want to know. Thats all. You asked a question. It was answered. You did not like the response. I suggest you leave it be.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  50. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Messages:
    2,266
    Status:
    Psychologist
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    You've outsmarted the Internet. We've got nothing. You win a cookie.

    Seriously, your posts are pretty pointless and rambling while attributing vague motivations to others.

    Do you feel better now?

Share This Page


About the ads