Jun 2, 2015
Psychology Student
Hi all,

Before I ask my question, let me give you a little context to the situation I'm in. During my senior year of undergrad I took an independent study course to investigate the existential factors operative within addiction. As a result of the course I developed a thesis -

"Addiction can be construed as an outgrowth of an existential neurosis brought on by a failure to individuate due to being overwhelmed by the anxiety engendered by existential givens."

Since developing this thesis I have been hoping to pursue the development of it in graduate school. As such, I have been on the look out for clinical psychology faculty who share my interests.

Well, I hit the jackpot a couple of days ago. I found the research of David Shumaker, PhD from Suffolk University, who just co authored an article called "An Existential–Integrative (EI) Treatment of Adolescent Substance Abuse."

In this article the author basically uses the same insights i discovered while researching my thesis, though far less theoretically, and with far more empirical support.

Reading the Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology I have learned that It can be very beneficial to email faculty who you would ideally like to work with.

I am possibly overthinking things, but i was hoping that someone could provide me with some feedback about how I ought to approach introducing myself to this scholar. I am very very enthusiastic about the subject and don't want to come across as someone who is star struck.


Counseling Psychologist
5+ Year Member
Mar 2, 2013
In general, emails to professors outline your interests, how those fit with their research interests, a statement about your attraction to the program, and a question about direction for future lines of research in the given area (given that it is actually something you are interested in- don't ask this just to have something to fill a longer e-mail). Don't forget to ask if they are taking students for the coming year. Folks are used to these e-mails. The key is be enthusiastic, interested in their work, and professional in doing so. Best of luck.

My advice to anyone going into graduate school is not to pigeon hole themselves too much in any interest (clinical or research) and be open to work around the broader topic- you are not a specialist yet and I think it does a disservice to try and be. So if you are interested in depression in geriatric populations in nursing homes, focus on depression labs to built a generalizable skillset about this important topic and then make the narrow part where you focus your practicum, thesis, dissertation, fun summer readings, themes for fun tattoos, etc to build your personal niche in the broader market. Part of the reason for this focus on broad training in a given area of interest is that at an undergrad level, we just aren't aware of all the cool things (e.g., treatment process/outcome research on specific depression therapies, neuro research on risk for specific presentations of mood problems, etc.) that we are about to be exposed to as clinicians in training.
Apr 11, 2012
I also encourage you to be brief in your emails to faculty. A sentence describing your interest based on your thesis, a question as to whether that person is taking grad students that year, and something akin to what the previous writer said, asking about future research and/or if this is an area of continued interest for the person. Don't ask anything that's available on the person's website, and don't write a novel or ask really broad questions like "Tell me about your research interests." (I got an email like this a few months ago). Show enthusiasm but respect for the person's time.