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Clinical Psych PhD and Attrition

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Ya Ya, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. Ya Ya

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    Hi guys! I'm a first time poster and really excited to join this community! I'm a few weeks away from starting my program so please forgive me if my question sounds a bit elementary.

    I've been perusing other forums looking to gather as much advice as possible and discovered that in other disciplines (science and humanities) it seems commonplace (at least that's what others have indicated) for an incoming cohort of 10 to be cut down by as much as half by the middle of the program. This seemed surprising to me considering that my program hasn't lost a soul in a number of years. They also talked about Comps or Quals used as a weeding out process.

    So here's my question...

    Why do you believe that clinical psychology programs have lower rates of attrition? (Also, please correct me if I'm wrong). Do we perhaps "weed out" students in the application process as opposed to during the duration of the program? Are our departmental atmospheres more collegial and supportive? I don't really know the answers to these so any insight would be much appreciated.
     
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  3. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist
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    I've had friends in a variety of other doctoral programs here (biology, physics, various types of engineering, English, math), although they're all at my university, so this might only reflect our particular "culture"--but attrition generally seems to be a fairly rare occurrence school-wide. Many of the other disciplines actually pay for their prospective students' plane tickets and hotel rooms during interviews, and they tend to pay better, so they may actually be investing even more into their students than clinical psych programs do into ours.

    That being said, if attrition is actually higher in other areas, perhaps it's due to a variety of factors related to our field. We may have faculty who, by virtue of their profession, are better able at picking up on students who're at risk of burning out; and us students may, again by virtue of what we do day-in, day-out, be more primed to pick up on our own burning out as it occurs. Also, as you've mentioned, perhaps because so much "weeding out" occurs during our application process relative to other disciplines, there's less inclination to boot students once they've cleared the admissions hurdle?
     
  4. psypsypsy

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    I'd actually be a bit more cynical about why there's less attrition in clinical than AcronymAllergy is being, at least partially. This is purely conjecture, of course. As programs are APA-accredited, attrition and time to completion are actually two of those categories that programs can be dinged for, so it's actually in their benefit to move you through the system and graduate you, and there is a bit of a disincentive to kick you out/let you drop out. Not that it doesn't happen, and I'd like to hope that students who should not become psychologists are kicked out, but I think there's a bit of a conflict there.

    On a more positive/less cynical note, I also think the low attrition is because you can do so many things with a clinical degree, as opposed to pure research degrees. The other areas of psychology at my university (i.e. developmental, social, etc) do have higher drop-out rates than clinical, and I think its because if you don't want to be an academic, there's really no point in continuing to go all the way to the PhD. There are definitely more who drop out with the masters, which is probably all you need if you wanted to switch to policy or nonprofit work or who knows. In contrast, you have a much wider range of activities you can do with the PhD in Clinical. So, it's probably more worth it to stick with it.
     
  5. FadedC

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    Well I think the highly competitive admissions proccess also plays a strong part in the low attrition. You don't really get admitted into an apa approved phd program unless you've already shown that your both have what it takes and you are incredibly dedicated to the field. I definitely know of phd programs in other fields where the competition is nowhere nearly as intense, and they may have more of a need to weed people out as the program goes along. In our case the weeding out has already occured.
     
  6. DrGachet

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    What are you guys talking about? Attrition is NOT low. Maybe you're just looking at the best schools. I know of at least a couple of APA approved programs where only 75% of the incoming clinical class completed the program. When it comes to students of color and minorities, it's much worse, like half of them not completing the program. And at my school, with a respected APA approved program, we also had a couple of students who had been in the program for close to nine years.

    Yes, I know this is not every program. And of course programs like that of Yale for instance, would have very low attrition.
     
  7. psypsypsy

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    I'm sure you're right, and for certain clinical psych schools, there are high attrition rates. I assumed YaYa was asking questions about programs at big universities for which there are low attrition rates, since that was the basis of the question. And I believe a lot of the funded, clinical psych PhD programs at universities do have low attrition rates. I don't go to a "Yale-type" place, but my program hasn't had any attrition since I've been there (on internship now), and all I really remember is a big story about someone dropping out/being asked to leave a year or so before I came.

    Also, I think we're comparing funded PhD to funded PhD programs here, at the same university, with probably similarly small starting classes. I.e. a English/Bio/Econ/Neuroscience PhD to a Clinical Psych PhD. If we start getting into unfunded programs and programs with large class sizes, I'm sure the same doesn't apply, at least partially because finances will come more into play. In unfunded programs, it's probably better to compare a Clinical Psych attrition to Med School Attrition or something like that, rather than other PhD programs.
     
  8. Ya Ya

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    Hi DrGachet. Thanks for replying. I was really interested in your comment about half of people of color not finishing. Do you have an article that you could cite? If you do, do they mention any possible explanation for this? As an African American (who's about to start a program in the Fall) I do find that a bit disturbing.

    Also, when I created this thread I did have funded programs with smaller cohorts in mind. I actually was not using Yale as a model but was taking into account all of the schools that I applied to (n=14) which really varied in perceived "prestige".

    Is it possible that the "type" of work being done by other disciplines ( science and humanities) is more solitary than that of clinical psych? I've talked to second year students and they've told me that they feel a higher sense of responsibility than what they had their first year because of seeing clients. Could it also be possible that we are reinforced from things like client outcomes?
     
  9. cara susanna

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    I definitely think the flexibility helps. I always feel like there's at least one area of my graduate career that I'm happy about or at least satisfied with, even if another area is not going that well in my eyes. Of course, I'm also in a balanced program.
     
  10. AlaskanJustin

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    Just my two cents, consider also the general ease of which someone, such as myself, could transfer from a clinical phd to some other research area of psychology (or neuroscience as I am considering). Sometimes we just realize that clinical just is not for us.

    Its not like going from molecular biology to another field of biology is a change from a clinical to nonclinical position, and in fact many (if not most) biology departments (or medical schools) house all the departments and its not considered attrition to transfer.

    Not sure how this would change stats, but I have heard plenty of stories of people leaving clinical phds because what they really wanted to do was research only and not have to deal with externships etc.
     
  11. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    I thought you were a research grad student in Canada?

    Attrition is generally low at the vast majority of APA-acred. and C(anadian)PA-acred. Ph.D. programs. Attrition is closely scrutinized by the APA, particularly in regard to minority students. I've gone through acred. processes at the program level and internship level...and diversity stuff is beaten into the ground. I highly doubt your 50% figure. As for length to completion....that I can believe. There are some programs out there that average 7+ years...which is crazy for a clinical program.
     
    #10 Therapist4Chnge, Jul 25, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
  12. 2012PhD

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    Professional programs are an exception to this. Attrition in apa accredited professional programs can be as high as 50%. This is not uncommon to see.
     
  13. wigflip

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    I can provide a perspective from the other side, doing a pure research degree in a social science field other than psych. I agree with the above--the applied nature of your degree and its versatility probably contributes to your lower attrition rate relative to social sciences and humanities. Also (I was a psych undergrad, rue the day I strayed from the path!), I think psych undergrads (at least the smart ones) are much, MUCH savvier about grad school than us dreamy-eyed folks who end up in other disciplines. And you have a real career in mind. AND as sappy as it sounds you can actually make a difference in the real world.

    Early on I took a grad seminar from a prof who was boasting about his/her Very Important Article That Got Her/Him The Job and how groundbreaking it was. Published in mid-1980s. I looked it up--only 6 citations since then--3 from the same prof who wrote it! So I think some of us wild-eyed idealists wake up one day and realize that taking a neo-Gramscian approach to studying consumption will never put food on the table or make any tangible difference to anyone but ourselves, and we do the only rational thing (since there are no academic jobs): bail.

    I also wonder if your clinical psych programs are more structured/sane than academia at large? Our program is largely unstructured (guidelines and requirements are vague, even your adviser doesn't know what's required and when), you're blocked from taking certain classes you want/need, and there are all kinds of toxic shenanigans both amongst the grad students and the faculty (example: your drunk adviser calls up another one of his grad students late at night to complain/gossip about you). But maybe I'm idealizing psych and you all put up with this and more??
     
    #12 wigflip, Jul 26, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011
  14. Ollie123

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    I wouldn't say more structured. Grad school as a whole is typically quite unstructured compared to "professional" training (MBA, Law, Medicine). Clinical might be slightly different, but not much.

    The issues you describe are really just those of a particularly miserable culture. I know people who experienced things like that all the time in grad school. I know others who can't fathom the very idea of that happening. Universities are not mystical places of wonder and perfection, they are a workplace like any other. Some work environments are good, others are not. Grad school is much more like the working world then it is like undergrad. Choose carefully, and even then there is an element of luck.
     
  15. paramour

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    Nope, sorry. We get the same crap in clinical. At least we do in my program.

    As for attrition, my program does not have a 'low' rate by any means, and I attend a funded APA-accredited PhD program. Our program is designed to be completed in 7 years. There are relatively few folks who complete it in 6--mostly the folks who have entered with their master's, but even that's not a guarantee to be done in 6. There also are folks who take longer than 7 years to finish for various reasons. Of course, our faculty are concerned about the aforementioned problems due to our upcoming APA site visit. They also explain away all of the previous problems due to personal issues with the students. Every. Single. Student. :rolleyes: They ALL had personal problems that prevented them from being able to complete the program. The program or faculty never does any wrong. I oh, so can't wait 'til our grand li'l site visit when we've been commanded to be happy and on our best behavior because it's in our own best interests. :smuggrin:
     
  16. wigflip

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    Thanks for the reality check paramour (ollie too) --it's so easy to romanticize the path not taken (it stinks here, but I'm sure it's just swell in clin psych!). I'm sorry to hear that you have to deal with such tomfoolery as well. I've been sexually harassed in the mainstream work world, but I don't think I've ever before experienced the level and types of outright craziness and social inappropriateness as in academia.

    We just had our departmental grad student survey for our review...I had plenty to say. Shortly after I completed the survey (no results yet--review will be this fall) all the usual suspects really ramped up their aggression/nuttiness--I was so dying to redo that survey!! Good luck with your review--hope it produces something positive for the future of the program.
     
  17. 2012PhD

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    You will def. find outright craziness and inappropriateness in the clinical psychology field, both in academia and in the work world. I have heard horror stories about professors and supervisors with inappropriate boundaries, addiction issues, and outright sexual harassment. In the clinical world, there are a good amount of researchers and clinicians who work with the same issues they struggle with (or struggled with in the past), including addiction, trauma, depression. Its not everyone by any means, but there are def. people who are still struggling with the same problems as the population they are treating.
     
  18. wigflip

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    Yeah, I've heard this before too. Maybe I'm way off here, but I guess I don't really see a problem with working with populations whose difficulties mirror your own issues if you remain professional at work/school. I'm guessing it's the latter part that is the difficulty for many.
     

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