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from social work to psychology

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by dru101, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    Hello Everyone,
    I will keep this as short as possible...I need your help! I am graduating with an MA in clinical social work from the University of Chicago in June 07. Frankly, from my internship as a therapist at a hospital and my three years of work as a coordinator at a group home I have discovered (to my dismay) that an LCSW, my vocational goal, is severly limited. Rather than bore you all with my subjective reasons why, I will explain my delema: I have decided to apply to clinical psychology doctoral programs after graduation but feel that I am not qualified. I have a bachelors in English from a top-tier university. However, my GPA stunk. My masters GPA is curretly 3.7, majority of courses are psych oriented. I am about to start a 1 year volunteer RA position at the U of C hospital in the psychiatry unit doing "neuroscience". I am very interested in research, particularly with the chronically mentally ill. Ideally I will apply with an MA, high masters GPA, 1 to 2 years lab research, myriad of clinical experiences and strong letters of rec and GRE. Did I mention I am a 30 year old male. Here are my questions: Is a clinical psych phd worth it in this current climate? Will I even have a chance without a psych undergrad degree? Should I even take the RA position? This forum has been very informative and helpful to me thus far...so I thought I would toss my hat in the ring. Thanks everyone.
     
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  3. LM02

    LM02 Senior Member
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    I think it's hard to say without additonal information. For example, what limitations do you have as a social worker that you are hoping a PhD can fill? If you can specify that, it may be easier to say whether a PhD will be worth it for you in the end.
     
  4. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    thanks for the reply. i was a little vague. i am interested in the scientist/practitioner idea. Ideally, I want to be involved with research/publication in conjuction with clinical practice (e.g., hospital, private pratice). teaching psych at a university would be fantastic and is also a goal but i realize...it is a long shot. my five years of social work have been rewarding but I am feel I'm too restricted to a certain role clinically. Managed care has been positive for the field (social work) as far as providing more jobs but I have been incredibly disheartened by the care the chronically mentally ill are receiving (i work with individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder at a hospital). Essentially, I want to be more involved in setting the curriculum at hospitals, mental health centers and not limited to what is mandated. I am hoping a clinical psych phD will provide more opportunities for me to make more systemic change. I am confident it is the right thing to do...I just don't think many clinical psych doctoral programs will take a chance. I am particularly interested in working with a certain professor at University of Virginia (not Curry). I just think he might laugh at me!
     
  5. edieb

    edieb Senior Member
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    The current climate for clinical psychologists is fair. Psychologists can do many things social workers are not allowed to do (e.g., testing, etc.) . However, managed care has really hurt salaries. One thing I recommend doing is to contact a local psychologist and ask them how they like their job, etc. I know that the switch from SW to psychologist will definitely satisfy your craving for expanded roles in the mental health profession.
    As far as getting in to a graduate school, it is important that you: 1.) join the APA and your state psychological association [some will tell you that this won't help; however, my aunt has been on 3 clinical PhD admissions boards and always looks at psych. association membership as very favorable and very important because they view this as a sign of future involvement in the field, 2.) start studying for the GREs ASAP -- as clinical psych is the most competitive grad program to gain entry into, it is very important to have high GRE scores, 3.) start cultivating >1 interest in the field so when you apply to mulitiple schools you have something psych-oriented to talk about on interviews.

    A really, really helpful book to buy is Gaining Admission to Graduate School (or something like that) from www.apa.org/books
     
  6. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    thank you very much. great tips. do you think that volunteering at the psych lab 1 day a week as an RA(what was offered to me) for one year/possibly two will be worth it? i work full time and attend a part time masters program so it will be difficult to fit in. i am certainly motivated enough to do it...if it will ACTUALLY help me get in to a good school! thanks again for your time...
    also, are the salaries that bad? i know that is relative/type of position...master level social workers max out around 60,000
     
  7. Psyclops

    Psyclops 1K Member
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    I'm amazed that of three pieces of advice you offer that is one, let alone the first. I can't imagine it mattering much at all. It certainly couldn't hurt. I would imagine that more specific memberships would look better though.
     
  8. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    how about some advice psyclops!!!! i would love to hear your opinion/ideas. do i have any glaring weeknesses that will turn admissions away? i appreciate anyone who takes their valuable time to answer my questions! by the way...i have to agree to the one year RA position monday. would you do it if you were me?
     
  9. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin'
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    Dru, with your interests, have you considered a SW PhD in a program that focuses on advocacy and MH service delivery?
     
  10. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    good question...and yes i have. frankly, from the talks i have had with my professors/supervisors and from what i know of the field, phd's in social work are more involved with socio-economic / minority populations then strictly clinical mental health advocacy / research. the doctoral programs in social work that are purely clinical (where my heart truly is) are few and far between. thanks for your response...are you thinking that jumping the social work ship is a bad idea? trust me...i would rather not make this shift if i didn't think it was imperative!
     
  11. Psyclops

    Psyclops 1K Member
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    Ah, my favorite form of request, the demand. Ok, so why wouldn't someone take a chance? What do you feel you are lacking? If you have no research expereince then yes, you are deficient in a large part of any successful applicant's CV. So, if you are serious about pursuing a PhD in clin psych then by all means, go ahead and get the experience. Even if you don't it certainly won't hurt you. A couple of things to keep in mind about what CP programs are looking for. Just like every other profession in the world they are looking for the best member to add to the team. Professors know what it is like to get burned by taking a student who is not into doing thier fair share of research. And they also know that they are much better off if they can take someone who will be very enthusaistic about their program. The probelm for many is that long ago applicants primarily interested in practice learned how to lie. Now, to be entirely honest with you they will likely look at the SW degree (primarily practice oriented) and think not interested in research. So yo uwant to do your best to mitigate that. Working in a lab seems like the best (only?) way to do that.

    Based on what you have said a PhD in CP is what you are intersted in. I work with a PhD in SW and he does clinical work but, IMO, falls short of being the expert a CP would be. Your task will be convincing committees that you have given serious consideration to your change in focus.
     
  12. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin'
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    trust me, dru, I'm the last person who can tell a SW not to jump ship if it's what they feel they need to do. :)

    I suppose I was thinking that your description sounded like policy development, community organization, and advocacy rather than direct clinical work- and those things ring more "social work-y" rather than "psychology" to me. The PhD program near me does have a huge amount of MH research going on, so that's probably skewing my thought process on this. And you're right, some of it is specific to limited populations, but not all of it.
     
  13. Psyclops

    Psyclops 1K Member
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    If your worried about leaving behind that certain je ne sais quoi that originally attracted yo uto SW, there is always a CP PhD with a focus on community.
     
  14. LM02

    LM02 Senior Member
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    In order to be competitive for clinical psych programs (such as UVA), you will definitely need to get some research experience. Given that you have this opportunity in a setting where you already work, I would jump on it.

    However, it's also important to keep in mind that 1 day/week of research may not be sufficient. I'm not saying this to discourage you - any research is better than none. However, you may want to think of how to beef it up even more down the road. Many people who are applying to these programs have taken time to complete full-time research jobs, and 1 day/week is just not the equivalent.

    Good luck - it sounds like you've thought this through quite a bit, and that a PhD in clinical might be a good match for you.
     
  15. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    thanks everyone!! a main concern was that 1 year 1 day a week research experience would not be competitive. frankly, i don't have a lot of time to work with. the programs that i am going to apply to stress the importance of the scientist/practitioner idea ( uva)...so maybe they will value all the practice experience I have. who knows...i sure everyone would agree that a lot of what determines if you get in to programs you want is circumstances out of your control. does anyone have any thoughts about age/gender biases admission commitees may have? i am 30 after all.
     
  16. Psyclops

    Psyclops 1K Member
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    When I interviewed, one dude was in his 40's. I don't know if he was successful. But 30 isn't as ancient as you feel.
     
  17. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin'
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    I knew there was a reason I liked you.

    Keep talking.
     
  18. psy86

    psy86 Member
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    Honestly, my opinion is that admissions committees are going to be very wary of you, given your lack of research background. If you were to work full-time as a research assistant for a year or two, your chances would be much better. I don't think volunteering for one day per week is going to help much, frankly.

    Applying to grad programs in clinical psych is more like applying for a job than applying for other kinds of grad programs. Your job is to demonstrate to your potential advisor that you are going to bring a set of skills to their lab that will catapult THEIR research forward in a way that others' skills will not. (Oh, and, along the way you will also get a doctorate, but that's not really their primary concern). Without any research experience I think you are going to look more like a liability than an asset.

    Being male may be an advantage depending on the committee and is certainly not a disadvantage. On the age question, I'm not really sure. If you have kids they are going to worry about your ability to commit your time (illegal as that worry may be). They may also be concerned that you have spent some time floudering around, not being able to figure out what you want to do-- you're just going to have to work on your ability to spin your story as a positive thing, and then I don't think that will matter much.

    The research thing is the main problem, I think.
     
  19. Psycycle

    Psycycle Psychologist, ABPP
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    I think I can address the age/returning to school question a bit - I'm 30 and just entering a doctoral program. I am unsure if it affected my admission status; however I can tell you that I got interviews at all the schools I applied to, and that two RAs in the lab I worked in were older than me (32 and 33, approximately) and one had three children and both got in where they wanted to go. I was also interviewed by students in several grad programs who were well over 30.

    I returned to undergraduate classes and worked as an RA in few professor's labs before applying to a PhD and I think that made a huge difference. I would highly recommend that you do this if you can.
     
  20. psychanon

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    I really don't think being 30 would have any negative impact on your admissions at all. If anything, it might help. 30 is definitely NOT old, and it is really not that much older than the average grad student. It's not like you're past your peak or anything like that! Being 22 is probably more of a disadvantage than being 30, as some worry about the maturity level of someone straight out of college. And as the last poster said, plenty of people start grad school past 30.

    BUT being a little older probably does have implications for your decision making process. You'll probably be in grad school until you're at least 37 or 38, if you apply in a year. Do you want to wait that long to start your career? Are you planning to support a family at some point? These are all very personal decisions, of course, and only you can know your priorities, but you should realize that the cost-benefit equation of grad school shifts as you age.
     
  21. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    psycycle,
    did you work as an RA full time? it appears, as i had expected, that i may be underqualified/not appropriate (in committees' eyes) for this level of schooling. i don't want to allow myself to be too discouraged form what info i am getting. but it certainly seems to be a long shot without some full time research experience.
     
  22. Psycycle

    Psycycle Psychologist, ABPP
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    I didn't work as an RA full time - I worked about 7 hours a week in one professor's lab for two semesters and 6 hours a week in another professor's lab for two semesters following that. When I applied, those experiences were on my CV and it never came up as a question the amount of time I spent in the lab. They were just listed on there along with my other experiences... I also took a very research-oriented class that resulted in a poster at a conference. I don't think that the amount of time you spend doing it will matter as much as the fact that you did it, and anything you can get out of it - i.e. a poster or a presentation - will really help.
     
  23. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    i have taken several "advanced" clinical research classes in grad school and done well. does anyone have an opinion on how much MA/grad school course selection/GPA could or would affect admission in to a CP program?
     
  24. psy86

    psy86 Member
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    Well, it's certainly not going to hurt you. The major factor in admissions, though, is research match with an advisor. Unless you've got that, nothing else (stellar GPA, astronomical GRE's, all the right classes, etc.) is going to help much.
     
  25. dru101

    dru101 Junior Member
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    i won't be applying until 2007/2008 for admission (hopefully) to a program in fall 2008. should i start contacting professors i want to work with now...asking questions about their research? i imagine that is risky...being that the faculty i am interested in working with could leave the university within two years. i have research interests that match many profs!!! does anyone have any ideas about what my timetable should look like...knowing i won't be applying until fall 2007? thanks again to all that have taken the time to answer my MANY questions? looks like i am going to take that RA position...regardless of how much/little it affects my chances...even if it does sink my marriage!
     
  26. psy86

    psy86 Member
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    Hey Dru-- Others may well disagree, but I think it's too early to contact profs at this point. This is a good time, however, to start looking into profs and their track records and see who you might be interested in working with. A good place to start is by searching a research database (like psychlit or pubmed) to identify professors who write papers on the topics that you're interested in. Pull a bunch of them, look at the people that they frequently cite, check those people out too... build a master list of people you're interested in working with. Then google them, check the websites for the school they're at, look at lab webpages to try to see if they're actively mentoring grad students, etc. All this research (and narrowing down your own interests somewhat, or figuring out a way to present your interests as if they are narrowed down!) will take some time. Consider contacting profs in the spring of '07? Just my two cents. :)
     

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