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Do you enjoy the work you do?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by fallen625, Jul 2, 2013.

  1. fallen625

    fallen625 5+ Year Member

    Oct 8, 2012
    I have seen many posts about how many people in psychology don't enjoy grad school and the financial / competition aspects of the job, but I was curious on whether people here enjoy the work (whether research, therapy or teaching). Would love to have people who finished graduate school elaborate on their current jobs, whether they are satisfied with them, and just general positive / negative aspects about them.
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  3. PHD12


    Nov 21, 2012
    Would love to hear from people in primarily therapy roles. This is the group that seems to be hit the most with declining reimbursements and market saturation.
  4. WisNeuro

    WisNeuro Board Certified Neuropsychologist Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Feb 15, 2009
    I actually enjoyed grad school quite a bit. As for work so far, I'm very satisfied. I do about 80% clinical work and 20% research. I also do clinical supervision. You deal with some bureaucracy in the VA, but its manageable. No real complaints.
  5. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    It is important to split out typical comments about training from comments that are more about the actual day-to-day work in field and what that work may look like in the future.

    Knowing what I know now about the field, there are only a small % of people who I've actually encouraged to pursue this path. Most applicants have a very rose-colored glasses approach to the field, and only later do they get blind-sided either during training and/or once they are out working a job by some of the harsh realities within the field. While it may feel like SDN can get pretty Chicken Little when talking about the future of the field, this is mostly in response to the overwhelming (and usually misplaced) optimism by many looking to get into the field.

    With all of that being said...I generally enjoy my day-to-day work, but I still have concerns about what my job will look like in 3-5yrs. Regardless, I will still be paying back my loans 10yrs down the road, so I have a Plan B and Plan C...just in case. I harp on here about trying to minimize debt and avoid any choices that will limit job options down the road because you do not want to jeopardize your long-term financial future because you wanted to be a psychologist.
  6. EmotRegulation

    EmotRegulation Psychologist Faculty 5+ Year Member

    Apr 11, 2012
    I love my job, which is tenure-track faculty in a Clinical Psych Ph.D. program. It's technically 40% research, 40% teaching and 20% service, but it's absolutely more skewed toward the research direction. My days are rarely boring, I teach both undergrad and grad courses (including supervising in the department clinic), mentor graduate and undergraduate students on research, conduct my own projects and write them up, participant in clinical training, and I even see a few clients just to keep my skills fresh.

    I'm very happy in my position, but I do have a fair amount of debt (here's hoping loan forgiveness program is still around at my ten-year mark) and I absolutely feel the "publish or perish" pressure, though it's unclear whether that is coming from the university or from myself....probably a bit of both. I work long long hours, and that's unlikely to let up anytime soon, and I always feel like I'm behind.

    I spend a lot of time talking to undergraduates about graduate school and I too tend to push people toward other options more than I tend to encourage application to doctoral clinical/counseling programs. Don't get me wrong, I also loved graduate school, but I know plenty of people who didn't, and I agree that people go into this field thinking they'll have cushy, lucrative jobs, and the reality is far from that.
  7. erg923

    erg923 Regional Clinical Officer, Cenpatico National 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    Yes, although I am changing jobs at the moment..primarily because of money.

    I would venture to guess that most of us do, but think its important to remember that work is called work for a reason. I think its important to get rewards from your work, but also think it important not to get TOO caught up in the (relative recent) notion that one should be bounding of the office every morning excited to start the day. I like my place of employment but if they told me they weren't going to pay me for a while, i would readily tel them I would see them again when their check clears....
  8. Member6523

    Member6523 2+ Year Member

    Dec 11, 2011
    I'd be curious to know more about this - who do you think is a good fit for psychology?
  9. LivingOffLoans

    LivingOffLoans 2+ Year Member

    Sep 15, 2011
    My two cents...

    Grad School

    Pros: excellent training, networking opportunities, learning what you like/dislike, nerding out on research and articles, finally getting to do the kind of work you've been dreaming of, free journal access, exchanging interesting ideas.

    Cons: peer competition, departmental politics, little time or money for adequate self-care, paranoia, mounting debt, isolation, feelings of uncertainty in self and in job outlook.

    Working as a Therapist

    Pros: get to do therapy all day, still learning what you like/dislike, more money and time than in graduate school (inherently equals better self-care), getting more respect from colleagues now that you're not just 'the intern', opportunities for collaboration, a feeling of accomplishment for doing good work.

    Cons: long hours, the paperwork...oh God, the paperwork (which is unpaid and makes up at least a third of my job), no shows (which also means no payment), wondering whether your clients are really changing or not outside of therapy, anxiety over future job outlook, wondering if it's in your best interest to go to place X or Y because you might bump into a client.

    Similar to Therapist4Change, I often contemplate a Plan B and C to discharge my anxieties around the job. What I really struggle with though is that right now I just can't picture myself doing anything else and enjoying it like I do therapy, even if the pay continues to get worst. Maybe this last part will answer the above poster's question as to who is a good fit for psychology - people who will basically sacrifice it all just to do it.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  10. Pragma

    Pragma Neuropsychologist Psychologist 5+ Year Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    I enjoyed graduate school to the extent you can enjoy it - sometimes you lament the sacrifices you make with family, $, time, etc, but overall it was totally worth it. I am a better person and a good psychologist as a result.

    I enjoy my job because I spent a lot of time asking people in the field in various jobs what they liked/disliked and really contemplated my post-school options. I wanted to go for an academic job, and decided to shy away from the AMC job and go for an R2 faculty gig. For me, it's great. Flexible hours, teaching (which I like), research (not as intense or well-supported as it would be at an R1, but I can run my own studies and have a fair amount of support), service work that hasn't been overwhelming (e.g., committees for the university, doing professional service work), and summers that I have a choice about. I could take a lot of that time off, I could just work part time doing research, I could keep teaching, etc. I also work part time in a private practice. If I ever miss the R1 environment, I get invited back to lecture and consult on research studies, so it isn't foreign for me. I still collaborate with folks at a couple of these types of institutions and I just don't envy their lives. If they offered me a job at one, I don't think I would take it.

    For me, this type of job makes me very happy. I have a lot of control over my time. While the tenure process is stressful, I find I am the right fit for that mold (i.e., I probably expect more out of myself than my evaluators do). Getting to do private practice work makes me feel connected to the "front lines" while at the same time, I am cozy in my office or at home deciding which grant to go for or how to teach that next class. I'm not overwhelmed - I'm inspired by the time I have and hope to make the most of it (or not sometimes - family time rocks too).

    A lot of people in this field end up piecing together multiple types of work. How you choose to do that depends on your preferences and how competitive you are for what you want. I decided I preferred a TT job to have stability with, and not to depend on the stressors of clinical work for my livelihood. But I still benefit from clinical work and enjoy it. Other people may want something totally different. But I feel stable, fairly in control, not overwhelmed, and fairly stimulated. I feel like getting a faculty gig at the 2nd tier and doing other work on the side gives you the best of both worlds. Seems like a good deal to me!
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  11. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    I think the ppl who enjoy research and academia, but don't mind doing therapy/more clinically-based work are a much better fit. The therapy-heavy/only crowd are usually not a good fit bc they have more direct competition and more limited job options. The wanting to "help" people tend to be a poor fit bc they often have less to fall back on if/when they get frustrated when their patients tank. They also tend to not have a solid grasp on the day-to-day challenges of the work.

    This had been very true for me. I don't worry much about my being able to do the job, but instead I worry about the frustrations of the work to overtake my genuine interest in the work. I want my career to be more than just a job, but if it can only be a job...I'm taking the job for $150k so I can just use the $ to do what I want outside often daily work.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  12. LivingOffLoans

    LivingOffLoans 2+ Year Member

    Sep 15, 2011
    Pragma, how are the personalities of your colleagues, and do you feel secure in your job (i.e. pressure to publish or perish)?
  13. Pragma

    Pragma Neuropsychologist Psychologist 5+ Year Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    My colleagues are great....they are all older than I am (I think I was the "new blood" hire), but we have plenty in common. Occasionally one witnesses a big ego or people talk about their accomplishments a little more than I care for, but I find the department to be very positive and constructive most of the time.

    "Publish or perish" is to some extent a fact of life in academia. You do have to be productive in order to get tenure and promotions. But that doesn't really bother me...if you like doing research and publishing then this comes naturally. I think the biggest difference working where I am vs an R1 environment is that I don't have the "funding or perish" pressure. My job is not contingent on soft money...if it were, I would find it much more stressful.
  14. PHD12


    Nov 21, 2012
    I personally found graduate school to be very tough in terms of work-life balance and quality of life (mostly due to living on a stipend). You are living in extremely frugal conditions for a long period of time and that is quite a commitment, especially if you were previously employed prior to graduate school. I am really happy to be out of school even if my postdoc pay is still low compared to a salary. I also enjoy having more autonomy as a postdoc compared to being an intern. In the end, I am mostly satisfied with my career, but I don't have debt and have been fortune to have a partner who can pay for extra expenses. I don't think I would be satisfied if I graduated with a significant amount of debt.

    The most stressed out and least satisfied psychologists I know are the ones that have therapy-only jobs (outside of VA). They are usually the group with the lowest salary, least flexibility (pay is based on # of face to face hours), burdened by extremely high caseloads, and poor management/administration. Often times there is a huge disconnect between the management and clinicians on the front lines of treatment. There is a huge push to produce a high number of billable hours. I interviewed for many clinical jobs/postdocs and found these conditions to be the norm. Luckily, I ended up in a different setting. I also personally know many psychologists working in these types of clinical settings. Most echo that they are unable to provide high quality care to their patients, and most are unable to see their patients weekly and/or have strict session limits. Oh and don't get me started on college counseling centers. Some of the lowest pay i've seen for incredibly demanding conditions, including being on call at night and 6 session limits (e.g., obviously some are better than others). The type of flexibility and autonomy that Pragma seems to enjoy would not be available in a 100% clinical job.

    PP psychologists are another group that seem very stressed out and have a poor quality of life, unless they are in the top percentile of this group or rely on a spouse's income. Most of the PP psychologists I know rely on another income to help support them. This is not a recommended route unless you have another steady pay check and a partner/spouse with health insurance.

    I think this is why people on this forum recommend against a doctoral degree if you want to work as a therapist.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
  15. PSYDR

    PSYDR Psychologist 10+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    It will come as no surprise when I say I see many cons in this field. I imagine most will say that there are so many great things about this field, and they are probably the majority. Their reasons are not wrong. Here are my own reasons for my current dissatisfaction. An observant person will note NONE of these reasons have a thing to do with money, health insurance, or such. :


    1) Testing: In general most testing is relatively unpleasant. It sucks to meet a stranger, delve into their world and then give them hours of unpleasantness.

    2) Patients: By their very nature, patients are suffering. I do not take this personally, but day in day out it kinda sucks.

    3) Feedback: In adult neuro your feedback options are almost limited to : A) You have a disease state which invariably has a high ten year mortality rate with no known cure. Good luck. B) You are lying. C) Your emotions are messing up your thought process D) You can have surgery but it will probably mess you up some E) You can't have surgery because it will mess you up lots F) Your medications are causing your cognitive problems G) Your substance abuse is causing your cognitive problems. H) etc. Few of those go over very well, regardless of how kind you are. It also sucks to have to tell people bad news on an at least weekly basis.

    4) Treatment Interventions for NP disorders: Not too ecologically efficacious.

    5) No Thanks: Very few people say thank you. People will demand and then not have the common decency to thank you.

    6) My Time: A) Patients, understandably, try to schedule things at their convenience. I don't mind. But when you miss 3 appointments and then call because your surgeon won't schedule your surgery/your psychiatrist won't write you another script until this is done/etc, it has already gone to the bottom of my priority list. 100 phone calls won't change the consequences. When you explain that there are 30 people in line ahead of them who are just as ill than they are, expect some rage. I could diffuse the situation, but then I start thinking about how this behavior developed in a context and start thinking about what is best for the person. B) Patients and/or family members calling and demanding to speak to the Dr. You don't get paid for this, and you usually have a sick person in front of you. Scheduling them for another feedback session does not work because they are too busy to see you. The irony is palpable.

    6) Colleagues: IME, on a personal, "do I want to hang out with you on the weekends", level, most psychologists are weird, narcissistic, judging, and offer opinions outside their area of expertise for no apparent reason while using feelings words to cover up their lack of knowledge in a subject. They also tend to say things like "someone should do something", while offering a million reasons why they can't actually do a ten person study, pay $100 for a PAC, take on a student, read every issue of the quarterly journals in their subfield, or whatever. I think it has something to do with their reliance on the omnipotent supervisor, who they always have to tell me they studied under 35 years ago. If only there were a developmental stage associated with this behavior.... There is also a lot of incompetency, which means your referral sources refuse to stop sending people to you even after you tell them you are shutting down, and give your name out to more people. I also think there is a lot of unethical behavior towards students. Some of the superstars in the field are paradoxically the most humble and awesome people.

    7) Mundane: There's a reason some disorders are seen more than others. This means the majority of your interactions are going to be confined to the high frequency disorders, with the odd zebra thrown in. It's exciting in a morbid way when you see one of those odd ones. But day to day it is sort of boring. After enough patients of one disorder, tests almost become ancillary. Almost.


    1) Committee meetings. OMFG, this is the 5th ring of hell. And unavoidable.

    2) IRB trainings: While good for a few years, it is always painful to go through the "don't sleep with subjects, don't commit fraud, disclose conflicts of interest, etc" training.

    3) No results studies. Just sucks.

    4) Politics: I hate having to play this game. Just let me work. Or don't. Just don't make me answer 300 emails about some random aspect of the study which was already addressed.

    5) Funding: What other job makes you find the money for your own salary? Yes, I know what "history of extramural funding" means, and yes I can do the math, and yes this is insulting especially in light of point #4.


    I've actually quit teaching.

    1) Students: When compared to med school peers, they are immature, dressed less well, not responsive to deadlines, confrontational about obtuse points, and full of excuses.

    In summary: For me, day to day in clinical practice, the cons outweigh the pros. I do like my consultancy gigs though.
  16. LivingOffLoans

    LivingOffLoans 2+ Year Member

    Sep 15, 2011
    All the points in this thread on therapist work is spot on. To play devils advocate, I have to reiterate that so far in my early career (and I suppose I say that to deliver the following with a couple pinches of salt) I really do enjoy it. I don't exactly live for the majority of the (paperwork, administrative) hours that I have to put in, but when I actually sit down with people in an office, I imagine that I feel the way an artist does who gets to paint all day. It's very much a part of who I am, and I absolutely love getting to know people. I also feel it's 'natural' for me to do therapy. I would like to eventually move into more of a teaching and publishing role one day, because I feel disconnected from and miss academia. I'd also like to 'give back' to the field and train future scholars and therapists. But I would like to maintain a handful or so of patients on the weekend if/when I reach that point. This is a good thread.
  17. Doctor Eliza

    Doctor Eliza Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    For the most part, I enjoy the patient interactions in PP. So, I would say I enjoy my day to day work.

    However, this is a very different question from, "would you do it again?" Unfortunately, that answer is no. I have felt very limited in job opportunities and earning potential and I know there are other careers out there I'd enjoy. Coupled with the fact that grad school was hell on earth makes me want to encourage others to do something else.

    But since this is what I chose, I might as well enjoy it!

    Dr. E
  18. Sanman

    Sanman O.G. 10+ Year Member

    Sep 1, 2000
    I work primarily as a therapist and I do find the work rewarding at times and frustrating on other days. I have yet to hate really hate my job for clinical reasons (usually admin issues cause me more grief). I am in an area that pays decently well and has pretty good options regarding employment in my area of the country. That said, I don't see staying in this position for the long haul and plan to move into more administrative areas, consultaion, and possibly some teaching.

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