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Clinical vs. Experimental

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by August2008, Apr 12, 2007.

  1. August2008

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    Hey everyone, I'm new here. I'm just wondering what exactly is the difference between clinical and experimental psychology? Also, why are you interested in becoming a clinical psychologist? Wouldn't it be depressing to work with mentally ill people? Wouldn't it be very demanding and difficult? Isn't it much tougher to become a clinical psychologist as opposed to an experimental psychologist?

    I'm a bit confused.. don't know which route to take.. please offer some inight if you can. Thanks.
     
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  3. Ollie123

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    Clinical is just that...clinical. You get training in things like assessment and therapy that you would not get in an experimental program which focus on giving you a broad basis in theory, and a broad basis in research methods/stats to allow you to test those theories. Clinical also focuses largely on psychopathology (or at least factors involved in psychopathology), whereas experimental can encompass all psych areas...clinical, cognitive, neuroscience, etc.

    I chose clinical for several reasons.
    1) It definitely offers the most flexibility of any psych degree. I can get into research, therapy or consulting with a clinical PhD. Most other degrees only prepare you for 2/3 (though there's always a way to make it work if you change your mind later, its just harder).
    2) I think its important to have a solid background in therapeutic methods for the kind of research I want to do. It offers a different perspective, and helps me keep in mind the end-goal of helping people live happier lives - something that can get kind of lost in the shuffle in the midst of a large research project.

    It can be very depressing to work with the mentally ill, but it can also be very rewarding. To each their own. I want to work with depressed people, who ironically, I find much less depressing than people with other disorders. Some of the people on the board are interested in working with survivors of sexual abuse. That is an example of something that would give me a complete psychotic break very quickly. Any child abuse actually I would just find too depressing for me to handle (obviously the occasional case will probably come up and I will deal with that, I'm talking about PRIMARY focus) If you can't handle the idea of working with the mentally ill, this is definitely not the field for you:)

    Yes, it will be demanding and challenging. I'd like to think any job that requires a PhD would be. There's much easier paths to "objective success", but this is something I want, so I will do it.

    Clinical psych is definitely tougher to get into than experimental (though don't get me wrong, experimental is still really freakin hard).

    Hope that helps a little.
     
  4. thewesternsky

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    Ollie gave a very good, comprehensive answer, so I don't have much to add, but I thought I could chime in a bit.

    If your primary interest is research, another important factor to consider is what you're interested in studying specifically. Are most of the researchers in your field clinical psychologists? For example, I'm interested in doing research on language processing disorders, especially developmental language disorders. There are researchers who work on these things in clinical, developmental, and even some cognitive neuroscience divisions. As such, I applied to both experimental and clinical programs. Someone interested in research on Personality Disorders, however, might have a more difficult time finding an advisor outside of a clinical program. Clinical profs rarely, if ever, supervise the research of students in experimental psychology programs.
     
  5. August2008

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    Thank you so much for your replies. The problem is, that I'm not sure what I'm really interested in. I'm thinking of applying this year to an MA program, but I don't know what field I want to work in. I've always battled with a decision of law school vs. psych, and combining both (forensic psych & psychology and the law) are courses I've always enjoyed. So then that would put me into the social psychology category, correct? But I'm just afraid that going into the social psychology field is limited in terms of future job opportunities. I'm sure there are more job opportunities after clinical psychology, but I don't want to base my decision solely on this factor. I'm just really confused, I thought that by the end of 4th year I'd know what the heck I want, but I just don't. I don't know if I'm strong enough to work with mentally ill individuals.
     
  6. KillerDiller

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    If you want to combine law and psychology, you don't have to go into social psychology, you can go for a specific forensic psych degree. There are a handfull of these programs throughout the country, although most of them offer PhDs instead of Masters degrees. There's one at the University of Nebraska, one at CUNY at John Jay, and one at Drexel to name a few. John Jay may have a Masters program, I'm not sure. I know there's at least one NYC school that offers a Masters in forensic psychology.

    If these don't sound up your alley and you are uncertain of what you want to do, I think your best bet is an experimental psych program. An experimental program will have faculty working in many areas of psychology--clinical, social, developmental--and you can take your time figuring out which of these is the most intriguing to you. I think you're right that job flexibility is a poor reason to jump right into clinical psychology, especially if you feel that working with a pathological population would be depressing and too demanding. Exploring other options would likely work in your favor at this point.

    Take heart, in my experience, most people still don't have a clear idea of what they want to do by their 4th year of college.
     
  7. paramour

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    I'm allegedly working, but wanted to address one/two things.

    John Jay does have a master's degree-I ran into SEVERAL of them all at one interview. They were all quite impressive and had extensive research experience.

    And, *I* still don't have a clear idea of what I want to do. And I'm completing my master's degree soon. ;)
     
  8. ny1020

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    Paramour, you ran into several of the John Jay Masters students at one interview? Wow - can you imagine interviewing with your masters classmates for the same school? Can I ask what school it was? If it's too personal, I totally understand.
     
  9. August2008

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    Thanks for the replies guys, but I'm in Canada and if I'm not mistaken, the only MA program in forensic psych offered here is in B.C... I'm also engaged and I'm not sure if I'm willing to move to the other end of the country (I'm in Toronto) so I'm looking more at schools within a distance of 2-4 hours max.
    Also, I'm wondering about the monetary aspect of clinical psychology. I'm not eager to get into this profession to make lots of money, so please don't get me wrong, I'm just wondering when do you actually start making some money to start paying off college debt? Throughout your MA and PhD years, are you making any money at all? I'm afraid I might not be financially suitable for this profession because lets face it, we need money to survive and it would be nice to start making some before the age of 30.
     
  10. Ollie123

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    First off, if you are going to limit yourself to that extent in terms of geography, you may find it hard to get in anywhere in the first place. Not impossible, but it does make it much harder. There are some good schools in the region (UWO, York, U Toronto and Waterloo are all respected programs), but most people apply to 10-15 places in the hopes of getting in to just a few (if any).

    If you do a PhD at a reputable school you will likely get a tuition waiver and a small stipend. There are some exceptions to that, but most schools do that. You won't make enough to start paying back loans, but it at least supplements your income enough that you aren't taking out even MORE loans to get you through grad school (or at least you are taking out minimal loans). Yes, you'll earn more if you just start working, but frankly, if you did your undergrad in psych and don't have any other seriously marketable skills, there's a good chance you won't find a job much over the poverty line anyways. Last I checked the average starting salary for psych grads was 22k, which isn't terribly much more than the stipend I'll be getting next year! Of course, intelligent, qualified people can always find ways to earn much more than that if they so choose, but I just want to offer some perspective.
     
  11. thewesternsky

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    Hi August! I can definitely commiserate... Deciding on a career path is tough, and Ph.D. programs in experimental (e.g. social) psych are generally geared toward producing academics/researchers. A degree in clinical psych allows for more options outside of academia, and I've always been a fan of options.

    I'm from Ontario, too (within two hours of Toronto), and Ollie is right about there being a limited number of schools in the area. If you decide to do clinical, there's Waterloo, Western, York, Guelph (Guelph has a clinical-developmental programme that is CPA accredited), and (coming soon!) Ryerson. If you do experimental psych, that opens it up to a few more schools (U of T and McMaster... and probably a few others.) That's not a LOT of schools, especially once you cross off schools where you're not interested in the research. I limited my applications to schools in the area this year, and only ended up applying to three schools (five programs total). That's not a lot, especially for clinical applicants, and I didn't get into any of the three clinical programs to which I applied.

    Have you talked to your academic advisors? They might have ideas or suggestions. You could also get some clinical or research experience, if you haven't already, in order to help narrow your interests. For example, you could volunteer in a lab where a prof is doing research related to forensic psych, or volunteer at a crisis hotline or in the psychiatric unit of a hospital to see if you like clinical work...?

    Do you have research or clinical experience already? If so, did you enjoy it?
     
  12. tkj

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  13. August2008

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    Thanks for the replies and greetings to those from Canada! I realize that I'll be limiting my options and chances by restricting my applications to certain schools.. I haven't thought about how to resolve this yet. I have some clinical experience, I've done volunteer work with mentally ill and disabled children (does that count as clinical experience?), although it was only for about 4 months last summer.
    I'm thinking about applying to clinical because if in case I really dislike it, I think it would be easier to then switch gears and become an experimental psychologist rather than the other way around, what do you think? Do people do this? Can you switch career paths after you complete your MA once your accepted somewhere?
     
  14. August2008

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    Also, to increase chances of getting in, can you apply to both an experimental and clinical program at one school... or is that not accepted?
     
  15. paramour

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    For the record, in my experience, most of the programs cared more about research experience rather than clinical experience--and, yes, these are clinical programs I'm talking about.

    As far as switching, yes, it's possible. My master's is in experimental psych and I'm going into a clinical psych program for my doctorate.
     
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  17. paramour

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    Some programs allow it--others don't. As with most things in this process, it depends. Or, I have a prof who actually simultaneously completed the requirements for a counseling program & an experimental psych program. He indicated that it was hard as heck to do, and most of the others who were attempting to do the same ended up dropping the counseling part. But, 'tis possible.
     
  18. JockNerd

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    August-- what about a forensic psych grad school in the States?
     
  19. paramour

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    Yep. Even more amusing was the fact that one of the current students in the program was also from John Jay. It was like a reunion or something, only at a different school in a completely different state (TTU)--most of them only overlapped by maybe a year, if that. Others had been out and doing other things for a year or two so they didn't know the others too well, but still . . . Not sure I'd want my classmates or even people from the same program interviewing with me.
     
  20. Shrinkydink

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    This happened to me a whole bunch of times this year at internship interviews, and it is indeed weird and uncomfortable. On the other hand, sometimes a familiar face can be nice when you're feeling overwhelmed (of course, it depends WHOSE face!).
     
  21. paramour

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    SEE! There's the catch. :laugh: Although it definitely would be nice to have someone to talk to if needed, just not sure I'd want to be around the individuals in MY program during an interview.
     
  22. August2008

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    Thanks for all the info everyone!
     

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