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A good course of study?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by musicalneurosis, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. musicalneurosis

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    I am hopeful that some of you might have some good advice or ideas for me:

    After spending about a decade pursuing a life as a musician, I am thinking about going back to school and pursuing a different path. A lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that classical music jobs are getting fewer and fewer while the level of competition for those jobs is getting better and better.

    My own experience this past year dealing with burnout and working w/ a wonderful LMSW certainly play a role in this, but also the discovery of my tremendous interest in the area of psychology as it applies to people's 'problems' in life. I have also found a sense of gratification in helping people that is very different from the kind that I received in performing.

    I really don't have a strong sense of where I might do well or what kinds of programs I could even realistically pursue. I'll be 31 soon and have about 41K in student loans already. I'd prefer to avoid blowing that number up too far if I can.

    I have already done 7 years of schooling, but it was all in music.

    4 years: BaMusEd (3.96gpa)
    2 years: MMus Performance (3.87gpa)
    1 year post grad study (4.0)

    The only real 'psychology' background I have is in studying the psychology of education - Piaget and Erickson stand out in my head. I suppose I studied quite a bit of educational theory in there as well (action theory?). It was almost a decade ago so I don't recall much of it. I know I must have understood it well enough at the time.

    But what does that mean now? What options are available (and realistic) for me at this point in the area of mental health? Is mental health even an appropriate field?

    I gather than pursuing the LCSW is a good option for people who don't want to do a lot of research and want to spend more of their time working with individuals.

    I don't know if I would or would not like to do research. I did quite bit of research on soft tissue trauma during my MM and while it was interesting, it was a lot of time in a library and devising surveys. I don't think I would like to be school till I'm 40. :cool: In terms of 'type' I tend to be INFJ although depending on my mood I might be INTJ. Not sure if that is useful information but I thought I'd share it.

    Any ideas for things I could look into? There are a remarkable # of options out there and could certainly benefit from the insights of people who have been exposed to this stuff for a lot longer than I have.
     
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  3. socwrkr

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    I would suggest going to open houses to MSW, MFT, and clinical psychology programs to meet with students and faculty and share your interest. You may need to take some undergraduate courses to shore up certain areas that you are lacking. If you are unsure if working in mental health is something you would like to commit to, my suggestion is to volunteer in agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations that provide mental health services. This volunteer experience will also bolster your application. Having a background in music is actually a wonderful and desirable strength. There is quite a bit of research on the function of music and music therapy in mental health rehabilitation, so you already have a leg up in terms of research that you could do in whatever program you end up choosing. Good luck!
     
  4. musicalneurosis

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    Many thanks for your reply socwrkr.

    Right now I am living in Pittsburgh - it seems like there are a couple very good MSW programs around town. Would I just call them up and tell them I'm curious?

    Volunteering is something that I have been batting around in my head - I was thinking about H4H but I guess that wouldn't be quite 'in line' with the more counseling oriented aspects of social work that I tend to be most interested in. The main crisis hotline is shutting down so I've been trying to dig up what other stuff is around that I can maybe get a taste from.

    UPMC might be an option, I think they have a behavioral health clinic.

    What kind of volunteering would shine brightly on an application? Is it about the hours? The population? The institution?

    Interesting that you think that the music background could be a strength. I met w/ a vocational counselor who thought the same thing - I think right now I'm dealing with some ambivalence about that.. do I just want to do the music thing? Can I do it part time and use it as a jumping off point for establishing private practice somewhere dealing with people who have other kinds of things going on in their lives? Of course, the monetary aspects are always there: how much debt do I want to take on?

    A dream of mine has been to build my own house (not me personally, although I'd enjoy doing the finish carpentry). Is that going to be realistic as an LCSW?

    I'd like to have a family at some point. Is an LCSW going to be able to provide for children? I suppose these are big 'it depends' questions. I'm sure plenty of LCSW's do fine and others are not doing so fine.

    What is the competition like? I think someone was telling me that the field is flooded right now? Is that an accurate picture?

    Looking at Pitt's program, it seems that I would need to take anatomy and a basic psych course. Probably about $600 worth of credits at a community college. I also could take 'exam for credit' if I opted to. I don't know if that would be wise for those kinds of classes, though. My understanding is that different teachers teach anatomy in their own unique ways.

    I've been reading Schnarch's Constructing the Sexual Crucible and it's got me thinking about if I could contribute in that way at all - maybe as an MFT or "sex therapist." It seems like that would be far down the road - something to pursue after a more general exposure.

    Thanks again for responding, socwrkr. I appreciate your thoughts.
     
  5. 2012PhD

    2012PhD Psychology Resident

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    If you are volunteering, it would be helpful to have direct experience with patients (e.g. maybe sitting in on a group as opposed to doing hospital paperwork). You should check this out yourself to see if you would like working in a hospital anyhow. There are many challenges to hospital work so it is important to get some experience beforehand and see if you like it.

    Try going to a state university or getting funding to reduce the amount of loans you take out.

    Salary is always a big issue in the mental health field. The social work median salaries i've seen are usually 40-50K for experienced social workers. The mental health field right now is pretty saturated and competitive. If you want to support children and buy a house, i would recommend looking into psychiatric nursing if you don't mind taking some more medical courses. You can do the NP in the same amount of time as an MSW, but salaries are usually double and there is more demand for NPs. RN's also make more than MSWs.
     
  6. wigflip

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    I did a semester internship at a hospital and didn't care for it so much. I was in a social work program at the time (didn't finish) and had assumed I'd get an internship grunging around the streets in ripped jeans doing outreach to street youth or something equivalent. Instead I ended up at a hospital where we couldn't wear jeans on casual Fridays.

    The three things I remember (besides being thrown in with no training) are:

    1. I kept getting called to visit patients with MRSA (flesh eating virus).

    2. Being forced to sit amidst a family whose grandfather had just died. My preceptor (social work boss) kept asking them dopey questions ("Can you tell me about a happy memory?") and it was clear we were intruding. Awful.

    3. Sitting in on the weekly team meeting where various staffers strategize about how to reduce "malingering." It was quite clear that some of these "malingers" probably had good liability cases against the hospital.

    I'm sure others have had better experiences with this type of setting, but it wasn't the greatest for me.

    Have you tried domestic violence shelters in your area? I don't recall if you stipulated gender, but even if you're a man, shelters are often looking for men to work with the kids and provide positive male role models.
     
  7. musicalneurosis

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    Hi WigFlip,

    Sounds like a crazy experience.

    How many incidents of MRSA did the hospital have?

    This seems like an interesting idea-- domestic violence shelters. I am a male - it looks like the next training session is in October.

    I was hoping to be able to volunteer for the crisis hotline, but it looks like they are shutting down. Too bad. I would really appreciate getting the training to develop those listening skills a bit more.

    2012 phd - Thank you for that information. The issue of salary does play a role in my thoughts, especially as I have already lost so many years of working. I don't think I would be comfortable as a Psychiatric Nurse because of the Rx. I am more interested in the collaborative therapy side of things than anything else. I suppose if things were different, Clinical Psych. would be good possibility for me, but I have doubts about if that would be a viable choice at this point.

    It would be difficult to obtain research experience without any background in research -- Pitt and CMU both have research opportunities, but they both expect you to have research experience first.

    I imagine the GREs would be the least of my worries - I test well. I scored a 1330 SATs when my only prep was partying. I imagine if I spent a couple months preparing, I'd do OK. Probably just jinxed myself, there.

    My understanding is that the advantages of Psych are limited. I'm not quite sure what the story is with assessments and why this would be important in terms of a motivator for pursuing the Psych PhD. Perhaps it has more to do with nuance and depth of grasping a very specific subject area, rather than just the ability to perform a certain kind task.
     
  8. 2012PhD

    2012PhD Psychology Resident

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    clinical psychology phd/psyd is a good fit for people who are interested in careers in research, psychological testing, consultation, and psychotherapy. Its a whole different animal and takes 8 years of training post-college. You get very in depth training in these areas and will be required to take several statistics courses and psychological testing courses (e.g. by this i mean cognitive testing and neuropsychological testing). You will need extensive (2 years plus) research experience to land a spot in a good program. If you are only interested in psychotherapy, it won't generally be a good fit and you will spend a significant amount of time doing things you are not interested in.
     
  9. 2012PhD

    2012PhD Psychology Resident

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    BTW, from my experience, every hospital has a problem with MRSA. At the VA, there are plenty of MRSA cases in the groups that i've run on the units. They tell people to use hand sanitizer constantly. I'm sure shelters have them as well along with Tuberculosis. I have had friends who came up positive for TB from doing both hospital and shelter work and had to take meds. This is one of the risks of being a social worker or psychologist, not to mention possibilities of getting physically attacked.
     

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