DynamicDidactic

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I think a lot of people go into doctoral programs, not just clinical psychology, for the wrong reasons. It is nice to see someone recognize that before committing. I warn students that going for a PhD in clinical is a particularly masochistic endeavor. I am in my 10th year since starting grad school and I am only now getting a chance to do the things I really wanted to do. That is a lot waiting, a lot of learning, a lot of feeling incompetent, a lot of grinning and bearing, a lot of life delays, and a lot of stress.

What will you do next?
 

futureapppsy2

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What are you planning to do now, if you don’t mind me asking?
 

erg923

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Yep. In my current role, I am, uh, "satisfied."

The "doctor thing" wears off fast, as does directly interacting (day after day after day) with very damaged persons....many of whom have issues that are well beyond your ability to control or change/help as well.

I do make more than many persons employed by a clinical service agency. And more than some supervisory positions (depending on location and their level in the hierarchy), but certainly much less than people with a banging PP or top R1 research role. I make less than some friends I know with a BA in finance or business. I also have a very flexible schedule and can work from home. The latter has turned out to mean much more to me than I could ever imagine before.

Despite this, I likely wouldn't do it over again. Maybe meteorology (even with the lower salary), or maybe an MPH..or maybe a skilled labor trade, although not sure I have the discipline to be a business owner/entrepreneur? It depends on the day.
 
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Sanman

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Glad to read about someone being more mindful abut their career choices. Many people think that the trick to surviving grad school is being intelligent. The truth it is more about delayed gratification and being willing to suffer in the short-term for a long-term goal. That said, you need to decide if this is a goal worth pursuing in the scheme of the rest of your life. The sacrifices just start in grad school. The farther go in this field, the more you may need to sacrifice in other areas to realize your dreams. Get into grad school, then internship, then the right post-doc, then finding a job in your specialty. Each hoop gets smaller and smaller. The older you get, the less you may be willing to sacrifice for those hoops. Something to consider in the larger scheme of things.
 

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Psychology has one of the worst barrier to entry to income ratios out there. Although I love what I do and genuinely enjoyed some aspects of grad school, I would probably make a different choice knowing what I know now. Your willingness to carefully consider your choices before signing on is highly commendable, because a lot of people aren't able to do that - especially after putting in so much work on the front-end.

A few things that stood out to me about your post:
1 - In working your tail off to become a competitive applicant, you got a taste of what the path would be. This isn't an argument I have seen before when the cyclical arguments for/against predatory programs with low admissions standards comes up, but it's extremely valid. If you had gotten in the year before, you may not have realized that you didn't want it until you had already moved and potentially taken out some debt. One of the people in my grad cohort made it clear from her first day that she was ambivalent about being there. That struck me as not only foolish, but selfish - she took a funded spot someone else could have had. And, to no one's surprise, she dropped out before graduating.
2 - The racial/class homogeneity in psychology is so real and so depressing. I don't know the solution to it, but it is a big problem that threatens the validity of the field in a lot of ways.
3 - It is incredibly important to think about fit (with a mentor, program, field, etc.) as a two-way street, as you did here. I think most people get overly dazzled by the doctor thing, which as erg mentioned, wears off really fast. Still, it blinds you to the reality that this is a life-altering decision with real consequences, opportunity cost being one of the big ones.

I am very happy for you that you found the right answer for you. I'm also very curious what you've decided to do instead, if you have a sense of that already.
 

LadyHalcyon

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What is the solution to this problem? If fully-funded PhD programs are the only acceptable route to becoming a psychologist, then there simply won't be enough psychogists. Our field has actually seen a decent growth rate, despite the prevalence diploma mills. Yes, certain metropolitan areas are oversaturarted, but I also frequently receive APA job alerts for solid positions. Also, while I think research 100% needs to be a component of all psychology training programs, I don't think the traditional PhD training model is the best fit for everyone. In order to be a good clinician, it is essential to be able to understand and critically assess the findings of studies. A good psychogist should know to how to a) immediately seek out research in areas outside of their expertise; b) how to find the research; and c) critically analyze the quality of the research (methodological problems/selection problems in terms of participants and statistical tests chosen for analyses). This type of knowledge goes far beyond simply reading the limitation paragraph in the discussion section. This is why I think a traditional (aka REAL) dissertation should be a non-negotiable component to ALL doctoral psychology programs.

However, for students who want to be clinicians, spending the bulk of your time in a research lab working on a research topic another person likely chose sounds like a less than optimal situation. I am likely biased, but I belive my program did a good job of balancing research requirements/providing research opportunities with clinical requirements and opportunities. During my internship interviews, many students from Clinical Psychology PhD programs (not so much counseling PHD programs) had far fewer direct intervention and assessment hours. Obviously this discrepancy doesn't impact their match competitiveness, as PhD programs have higher match rates. But what if a student wants to spend their graduate training primarily doing assessment and therapy, not research? I don't want this to turn this into a PhD vs Psy.D debate, as I think most people on this board agree there are good quality Psy.D programs. We also agree there are horrible ones!


Eta: if my reply is too off-topic for this thread then I can delete it or break it out into a different thread. Also, congrats OP for the acceptance offers. Even though you have decided to choose a different path, you should be very proud of all you have accomplished. I have no doubt you will be successful in any profession you choose.
 
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foreverbull

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Thanks for sharing, OP.
I do think that sometimes there’s unfortunately a large disconnect between what people think grad shool is like AND what psychologists do on a day-to-day basis versus the perception by undergraduates and others unfamiliar with the job market, prospects, and day-to-day. I don’t think I had a clear view of either grad school or the career options. If I could do it all over again, in an ideal world I would’ve shadowed a grad student to understand a typical week for grad school and shadowed different professionals using their psychology doctorate for different career pursuits. I can’t speak for everyone’s graduate program, but mine was way more geared toward students pursuing academia (although the majority of graduates go into practice!), and was lacking in providing practical information about practice-related careers and career outlook.

That’s a little beyond what you’re getting at, but I’m glad you are truly considering the best path for you rather than “can I get in?” without considering what your future 5+ years of grad school and beyond will be like. As @Sanman mentioned, it’s not just intelligence that is needed for grad school, but I would add strong drive, determination, and endurance, and dare I say high stress tolerance and strong social supports. And the end result isn’t necessarily a high level of respect, being highly sought-after in the field, and rosy income prospects, but carving out your own path that fits you and financially sustains you, which may be a difficult and arduous process if you don’t like the typical 9-to-5 grind in community mental health, etc. Not an easy path, but can be rewarding for those who find a path they love. This is the stuff I wish they told us before grad school!

As far as the makeup of applicants, this is a problem that started long before application time (is systemic) and really frustrating to see. Teaching at a community college, I saw the vast differences in education and resources between white students (of generally middle class) and students of color, who largely came from urban, underfunded school districts. The school worked really hard to be proactive and reach out to students and mentor them to try to help make up for years of poor education (and prevent dropout), and I appreciated that because it’s more than most schools do and made a difference, but it is hard to undo several years of inadequate education by the time folks get to college. I could talk about this forever, but the main point being, we all need to do better to address this more directly at every level, because students of color disproportionately end up in underfunded schools and don’t receive a quality education that prepares them for college let alone graduate school. I believe that this is why we see homogeneity of folks pursuing a psychology doctorate. I don’t have any easy answers or solutions, but it is concerning to me as well.
 
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I think it’s important to note too that many people do not have the luxury of being able to do unpaid internships or the like if they need to make money to survive, so they end up not being competitive in the PhD admissions process. SES is a huge factor and one I think the grad schools do a terrible job accounting for, psychology in particular. A family member who now has a PhD (not psychology related) was flown out to all their interview sites by the schools. Zip out of pocket. Yet, in our field you really need to be able to spend thousands and take off school/work (losing more money) to interview. Sure, some programs do Skype interviews, but we all hear those aren’t looked at as favorably. I am applying this Fall for doctoral programs, but without the ability to do a lot of unpaid activities, I don’t realistically know my chances. I’m considered middle class, but I cannot afford to spend thousands on apps and flights. And some of the application fees are downright ridiculous. $125 and then sending transcripts and GRE scores on top of that. It’s definitely a field that favors the wealthy or in some cases the severely underprivileged who may qualify for some great programs, but not most. I think you were smart to make the decision you made and I can see myself doing the same should it come down to that. I am also an older student and that is not looked upon favorably either. The elitist system definitely needs a shakeup.
 

Psycycle

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I think it’s important to note too that many people do not have the luxury of being able to do unpaid internships or the like if they need to make money to survive, so they end up not being competitive in the PhD admissions process. SES is a huge factor and one I think the grad schools do a terrible job accounting for, psychology in particular. A family member who now has a PhD (not psychology related) was flown out to all their interview sites by the schools. Zip out of pocket. Yet, in our field you really need to be able to spend thousands and take off school/work (losing more money) to interview. Sure, some programs do Skype interviews, but we all hear those aren’t looked at as favorably. I am applying this Fall for doctoral programs, but without the ability to do a lot of unpaid activities, I don’t realistically know my chances. I’m considered middle class, but I cannot afford to spend thousands on apps and flights. And some of the application fees are downright ridiculous. $125 and then sending transcripts and GRE scores on top of that. It’s definitely a field that favors the wealthy or in some cases the severely underprivileged who may qualify for some great programs, but not most. I think you were smart to make the decision you made and I can see myself doing the same should it come down to that. I am also an older student and that is not looked upon favorably either. The elitist system definitely needs a shakeup.
I agree & disagree with this post at the same time. I was an older student who had a degree in a different field, so I went back to undergrad part time while working, and volunteered on a hotline for experience. Is an unpaid internship necessary for admission in other programs? In my estimation, research experience was more highly valued and I obtained that as part of the returning to school part time for undergrad. I found the professors to be interested in me as an older student as they knew I was committed to my goals and would do good (and yes, a lot of grunt) work in the labs.

I went to a balanced program, and most people who come out of it are working as clinicians or clinician/researchers. I am working as a clinician/administrator/researcher. It does seem to me that the high end, top ranked research programs do likely end up with a more homogeneous, wealthier applicant pool that had more guidance and options than those of us who went to state schools and had less guidance. And that may affect bias issues in research. I'm not sure of that though, and if I'm incorrect I'm happy to hear otherwise. I absolutely do think our field in general has an SES/race problem. Like others have said, I don't see how to correct it. The issues that are driving it need to be addressed when future applicants are born, not 22 plus years old. Although programs do need to be aware and to be sure they are not creating boxes for what a good student is - boxes based on race & gender & SES. Professionally, I have seen this happen where people talked about other professionals as "not your typical such-and-such" which basically felt like coded racism and sexism (in this case male).

I'm not sure if I'm glad I went into this field or not. I'm in a good position now, I have a good job with good income. However, I'm also in a position for the first time in my life where I have free time to pursue other interests - I have a life! and I gave that up for a long time for this field for a variety of circumstances related to this field that I don't want to post on a public forum for fear of outing my identity. I think if jobs were more plentiful and there wasn't so much encroachment, maybe it would have been worth it. Retrospectively, I think I would have likely gone into medicine.
 

MamaPhD

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I agree & disagree with this post at the same time. I was an older student who had a degree in a different field, so I went back to undergrad part time while working, and volunteered on a hotline for experience. Is an unpaid internship necessary for admission in other programs? In my estimation, research experience was more highly valued and I obtained that as part of the returning to school part time for undergrad.
I think the unpaid internship/volunteer experience issue is real, though not universal. 100% of my research experience was for either course credit or wages. I received a lot of need-based aid in college and couldn't have afforded any other option. It was my supervisor's willingness to pay me that led to my getting as much experience as I did, and I'm not sure I would have chosen graduate school without that experience.

If fully-funded PhD programs are the only acceptable route to becoming a psychologist, then there simply won't be enough psychogists.
I'm not sure. Coming up with an estimate of demand (for clinicians) is a slippery task that requires big assumptions about the organization and financing of psychological services. Even APA's optimistic and self-serving projections don't paint the picture of a dire shortage of psychologists. However, I do think that expectations of would-be graduate students need to be shaped more to the realities of the job market.

I found myself feeling worried for these individuals, though, because I'm not exactly sure if they had the research and life experience to decide that a clinical psychology program, in its 6-year-long guts and glory, was *it* for them.
I get your point, but this is a little patronizing. There are pros and cons to committing to a professional or graduate degree at 22, or at 35. We all indulge our do-over fantasies at times but most people adapt to the circumstances they get themselves into. I've talked to plenty of people who wish they'd pursued or continued their education earlier in life, so this goes both ways.
 

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During my internship interviews, many students from Clinical Psychology PhD programs (not so much counseling PHD programs) had far fewer direct intervention and assessment hours.
This notion does not match the reality of the situation. At least in past published years, clinical PhD applicants have, on average, higher numbers of clinical hours than PsyD applicants.
 
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LadyHalcyon

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Well then there is a problem, as the Psy.D option was created for a very specific reason. I think what we are seeing nowadays is that good PhD and Psy.D programs share more similarities than differences, which ultimately is something I find a bit perplexing.
This notion does not match the reality of the situation. At least in past published years, clinical PhD applicants have, on average, higher numbers of clinical hours than PsyD applicants.
 

WisNeuro

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Well then there is a problem, as the Psy.D option was created for a very specific reason. I think what we are seeing nowadays is that good PhD and Psy.D programs share more similarities than differences, which ultimately is something I find a bit perplexing.
Well, the reason for its creation and the reality of it, in most programs, are two very different things. Which often happens when there are large pools of money involved. But, these numbers have been this way for a while.
 

LadyHalcyon

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I looked back at past surveys and you are correct. Another interesting trend is the overall decrease in clinical hours. I'm assuming this is likely due to the increase in APA internships? 2015 vs 2008 in the attached pic
Well, the reason for its creation and the reality of it, in most programs, are two very different things. Which often happens when there are large pools of money involved. But, these numbers have been this way for a while.
PhotoGrid_1555332486410.jpeg
 

WisNeuro

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There isn't really much a decline in hours, it's pretty minimal and may just be normal variation. You'd have to look at it over time to see if that small of a difference is significant.
 

LadyHalcyon

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There isn't really much a decline in hours, it's pretty minimal and may just be normal variation. You'd have to look at it over time to see if that small of a difference is significant.
Part of me wants to graph the trend; the other part of me wants to work on this evaluation that will put some money in my pocket. And there is still an entirely different part of me that wants to watch Game of Thrones.
 

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Part of me wants to graph the trend; the other part of me wants to work on this evaluation that will put some money in my pocket. And there is still an entirely different part of me that wants to watch Game of Thrones.
It’s a holiday up here in MA, and I’m just watching Red Sox and I like numbers, so I just looked at the published data on this (available easily only for 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2015):
Year (total applicants)Ph.D. Hours (Int. + Assess)
Median/Mean
Psy.D. Hours (Int. + Assess)
Median/Mean
2008 (3759)823/943726/799
2011 (3899)769/875662/739
2012 (4067)613/892500/798*
2015 (4005)787/898747/869
* median assess hours=68, mean = 172. This might be a typo in the report?

It’s really hard to determine an overall trend without addition data, as we don’t know if 2008 is an outlier. Since then, pretty stable means in Ph.D., with increasing trend in Psy.D. (which, given the numbers involved is probably statistically significant). Median data is kinda funky.
 
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LadyHalcyon

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It’s a holiday up here in MA, and I’m just watching Red Sox and I like numbers, so I just looked at the published data on this (available easily only for 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2015):
Year (total applicants)Ph.D. Hours (Int. + Assess)
Median/Mean
Psy.D. Hours (Int. + Assess)
Median/Mean
2008 (3759)823/943726/799
2011 (3899)769/875662/739
2012 (4067)613/892500/798*
2015 (4005)787/898747/869
* median assess hours=68, mean = 172. This might be a typo in the report?

It’s really hard to determine an overall trend without addition data, as we don’t know if 2008 is an outlier. Since then, pretty stable means in Ph.D., with increasing trend in Psy.D. (which, given the numbers involved is probably statistically significant). Median data is kinda funky.

Thank you! Thoughts on this article? It is titled "PhD Training in Clinical Psychology: Fix It Before It Breaks"
 

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WisNeuro

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I've read that article before, and disagree with the premise. If you completely eliminate research training, there is almost no reason to award a doctorate degree. PsyDs with minimal or no research training are essentially just training masters level clinicians. The only real caveat would be assessment training, which I would argue that research knowledge is still essential to be a competent clinician in that area.
 
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LadyHalcyon

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I've read that article before, and disagree with the premise. If you completely eliminate research training, there is almost no reason to award a doctorate degree. PsyDs with minimal or no research training are essentially just training masters level clinicians. The only real caveat would be assessment training, which I would argue that research knowledge is still essential to be a competent clinician in that area.
I agree. I spent the morning reviewing some articles and it seems there are some definitive trends: University-based PsyD programs are superior compared to freestanding PsyD programs; programs with an emphasis on research are superior across the board (both PhD and PsyD programs). As mentioned in my earlier post on this thread, knowing how to both conduct AND critically analyze research is imperative to being a competent clinical psychologist; the research supports this. That being said, there seems to be two types of PhD programs: extremely research focused and more of a blend. Additionally, most PsyD programs employ predominantly PhD faculty. While I understand the Vail vs Boulder models and why they were developed, I am not very impressed with the implementation of these different models in regard to clinical training. I am all for some heterogeneity, but too much heterogeneity in training leads to poorly trained providers.
 

Meteora

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But what if a student wants to spend their graduate training primarily doing assessment and therapy, not research? I don't want this to turn this into a PhD vs Psy.D debate, as I think most people on this board agree there are good quality Psy.D programs. We also agree there are horrible ones!
I find myself as somewhat in this category. I ended up at a R1 university (which I wasn't even aware of when I applied), but was quite surprised at the nice balance of research and clinical work. I've really enjoyed the various responsibilities I have from seeing clients, teaching and mentoring students, and thinking of research questions I want to answer. However, it's clear when compared to a lot of my peers that my focus is on clinical work and teaching. Often I feel quite guilty/inferior for not primarily doing research and writing papers (and taking up a valuable spot in a good program). At the same time, I do not feel incompetent when it comes to being able to interpret and think critically about an empirical paper, or to use evidence-based practice in my work with clients or teaching my students. I think this gets at the spirit of your comment and what others have posted; the goal of a doctoral program in clinical psychology should provide a firm base of competency in the crucial tenets of our field...which includes research, assessment, teaching etc. I think as long as applicants know what they are getting into when applying to PhD programs (that the work balance may be more research-focused), then it's fine. I recall a statistic that something like 70% of people who graduate from clinical PhD programs end up doing primarily clinical work anyway.
 
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Sanman

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A few things to think about here. The Vail model that started the PsyD movement was established in 1973. A time when it was realistic for a PhD to go straight into an academic job. With the recent relative demise of the tenure track university job (thanks baby boomers and medical advances..who told people to live so long?), programs are all moving toward training health services providers in some fashion. Hence more programs are training in a more balanced fashion.

As far as mental health shortages, that is a good thing, IMO. Shortages mean you have get a job in a decent locale and command a competitive salary. If we are training enough graduates that psychologists all have to look in the middle of nowhere for a decent job, I am getting out of this profession. Shortages in this country will continue to exist because of the poor mental health coverage. If there a competition for a 50k community mental health job, the government will see it as the need being "filled" and we will all be broke.
 
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AcronymAllergy

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RE: trends in hours over time and between degrees, at least in the past, Ph.D. students took longer on average to complete their degrees, which was probably one thing contributing to their having more clinical hours. And I imagine this may also be contributing if there's a trend of decreasing clinical hours in recent years (which remains to be seen): less of an imbalance means fewer folks needing to re-apply and potentially more folks applying earlier rather than taking an extra year to make themselves more competitive.
 
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MamaPhD

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While I understand the Vail vs Boulder models and why they were developed, I am not very impressed with the implementation of these different models in regard to clinical training. I am all for some heterogeneity, but too much heterogeneity in training leads to poorly trained providers.
I agree. Unfortunately I do not think this is a very popular opinion at APA headquarters.
 

Sanman

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While I understand the Vail vs Boulder models and why they were developed, I am not very impressed with the implementation of these different models in regard to clinical training. I am all for some heterogeneity, but too much heterogeneity in training leads to poorly trained providers.
Agreed as well. In fact, I think that this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in this field. It creates a needless hurdle in training and leads to faulty generalizations based on the local supply of psychologists.
 
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erg923

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I'm sure all of us have seen terrible practitioners from ALL generations. However, the Boulder Model makes the most sense to me if done correctly. I am not clear how long it was done correctly though. It often seems there was too much of one to the neglect of the other over the years?

We can ALL, also, probably think of (or personally know of) many who embody the Boulder Model in their careers and overall performance/competencies? How did this happen? What were the variables? Individual characteristics and circumstances? Systemic issues within the field and within academia and science in general? How hard is it to have a truly blended career these days? Unless one likes doing alot work for free, research skills/competencies and involvement seems hard to keep up if you see patients these days. That is, unless you have a 80/20 mix. But how common is that, really? Interesting questions.
 
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LadyHalcyon

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I find myself as somewhat in this category. I ended up at a R1 university (which I wasn't even aware of when I applied), but was quite surprised at the nice balance of research and clinical work. I've really enjoyed the various responsibilities I have from seeing clients, teaching and mentoring students, and thinking of research questions I want to answer. However, it's clear when compared to a lot of my peers that my focus is on clinical work and teaching. Often I feel quite guilty/inferior for not primarily doing research and writing papers (and taking up a valuable spot in a good program). At the same time, I do not feel incompetent when it comes to being able to interpret and think critically about an empirical paper, or to use evidence-based practice in my work with clients or teaching my students. I think this gets at the spirit of your comment and what others have posted; the goal of a doctoral program in clinical psychology should provide a firm base of competency in the crucial tenets of our field...which includes research, assessment, teaching etc. I think as long as applicants know what they are getting into when applying to PhD programs (that the work balance may be more research-focused), then it's fine. I recall a statistic that something like 70% of people who graduate from clinical PhD programs end up doing primarily clinical work anyway.
I think this article pretty much speaks to what you (and I) are talking about.
 

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To the OP, I wish you well in your future endeavors. There are lots of interesting and rewarding ways to earn a living. Psychology is certainly one of them, but there are many others.

Regarding this whole PsyD and PhD debate, I think the reason PhD students fare better boils down to the programs having a vested interest in the outcomes of the students, and having stipends and tuition waivers which offer better selection of candidates. Students are not numbers, and FAFSA money is less important than grant money; skin in the game.

I come from a PhD background. I have published research. I find it moderately helpful in my day to day practice as a therapist, at best. Granted, I am doing mostly therapy. In utilizing assessments, this certainly comes into practice more often. If I were in admin or leadership, I would find it much more useful in day to day practice, particularly with assessing outcomes.

This raises another point. I think with PhD training, we should be moving in the direction of leadership, hospital outcomes, management positions within healthcare, etc. This will be more lucrative for us, and taps into our research and didactic skill that we acquire throughout school. Let's train our students to be leaders, not just clinicians.
 

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I think this article pretty much speaks to what you (and I) are talking about.
An interesting paper, thank you for sharing. Their findings make sense, especially when you consider that the better PsyD programs out there incorporate an active research component into their training. I need to share this paper with my undergrads...
 
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LadyHalcyon

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Another somewhat related article:


"Getting In and Getting Money: A Comparative Analysis of Admission
Standards, Acceptance Rates, and Financial Assistance Across the
Research–Practice Continuum in Clinical Psychology Programs"

I also attached an older article I found interesting. Not data driven, but still an interesting perspective. View attachment ContentServer (13).pdfView attachment ContentServer (8).pdf
 

LadyHalcyon

Bronze Donor
2+ Year Member
Oct 30, 2016
697
406
81
Status
Psychologist