Apr 13, 2010
32
0
0
Status
Hi all. Looking for some advice on what to do regarding my education. Here is the background:

Graduated with a BS as a double major in public relations and psychology with a minor in marketing as an undergraduate. Planned to apply to graduate PhD programs in clinical psych after taking a year off to get a job as a research assistant or a job in clinical care. For reasons not worth going into, I was not ready in getting my stuff together to apply out of college and needed the extra year. My undergraduate stats were:
-Overall GPA: 3.56
-Psych GPA: 3.7
-Completed a senior honors thesis
-Worked in a depression/anxiety lab at our university from soph year to senior year.
-Essentially no clinical experience

So as I'm applying to jobs during my spring of senior year, I get an email from one of my marketing professors about applying to the marketing phd program at my same university. The program has a focus on consumer behavior which has a bunch of psychological aspects to it. Long story short I was essentially given the golden ticket into this phd program in marketing.

One year has passed and I'm still debating whether or not I should reconsider applying to true clinical psych programs. I like this program but I do not LOVE it. After a year I still have this itch from knowing this degree will not allow me to work as a therapist (and this is my true interest). I have reached out to other professors and I know it is possible to get a phd in one area and then pursue a psyd or something like that later in life but I'm not sure it's worth all that time waiting.

To this point this is my graduate GPA: 3.67 likely to be 3.7 by semesters end.

Here are the main pros of my program:
-Fully funded (no tuition cost) with a very nice stipend.
-Beautiful campus/location and the same I've been at since undergrad
-No required TA or RA assigned to the stipend
-Most of my classes are taken in our psychology department within the university (e.g. emotion & cognition, social psychology, psychometric theory, ANOVA methods, etc.)
-Currently living with my girlfriend of over 5 years who recently just applied to my programs MSW program (will almost certainly get in too).
-Assuming I stay with it, I could be a professor at some point studying the same topics I would be studying at a clinical phd program but making more money (bus schools are better funded, sad but true)
-New program in the sense that it is still finding its identity (although this is also a bad thing). I'm one of only 5 students in the program so far.
-The professor that recruited me actually studies very cool stuff in self-control and goals. I could see myself working under him in this area of research despite it not being my main areas of research. My main area of interest for research is in emotion and emotion regulation. Therefore..

Cons to the program:
-My main research interest is in emotion regulation. This requires training in conducting research on emotion-- a subject nobody in our department studies. This means I'd need to spend a semester or two at another university learning under a professor there. This is allowed in our program but probably not ideal. My thinking is if I need to go somewhere else for training in what I'm interested in, perhaps I should just apply to what my heart is saying I should do.
-Not a lot of guidance/mentoring
-Not much in the way of professors who share a similar interest as I do. Apart from the previously mentioned professor, many study "pure marketing" which is one of the fastest ways to put me to sleep :p

Basically I feel stuck. Do I stick with this program knowing that I can be content but not really giving my chance to truly be happy? Do I wait it up until later in my career to look into options that will allow me to become a therapist? Or should I just save myself the long waiting period and just make the switch while I'm still young (23).

I have a couple of questions I hope you can answer:

-Given my background, if I hypothetically dropped from the program today and applied to clinical Phd programs, would I be competitive given a decent GRE score?
-Would it be taboo to begin applying to clinical psych programs while I'm still in the program and on my stipend, with the assumption that if I don't get accepted anywhere it's no harm no foul? Do you need to inform the psych grad school that you are currently in a different phd program? Would you need to get a LOR from someone in the marketing phd program?? BTW I think I would be able to get one but would prefer to keep quiet if I can.
-How realistic is it to expect to get accepted in a psyd or a masters down the line if I stay in this track? That is, would admissions have a bias against me and my academic background?

I was thinking of hypothetically getting a MSW at some point but I know not all states allow you to private practice with that degree alone (eg you need a doctorate). And again, getting back to that professor I talked to, he got a phd in theology and later (after being tenured) got his psyd at the university he taught at.

I guess what I'm getting at is I really want to be a therapist at some point in my life. Should it be now or later? I know this was long-winded. Thank you if you got through all of it. I appreciate ANY advice you folks can give me.

Best
 
Last edited:
Apr 13, 2010
32
0
0
Status
Hate to bump my own thread but I know this is a very rough question for people to answer. I'd really appreciate people's thoughts on anything that I've written. Anything you feel like you can comment on. Particularly with regards to investigating/applying to clinical programs while already enrolled in a different program and also the possibility of getting a degree later on that would allow for the option to conduct therapy (either psyd or msw etc.).
 
Jan 14, 2010
149
0
0
USA
Status
Psychology Student
Hate to bump my own thread but I know this is a very rough question for people to answer. I'd really appreciate people's thoughts on anything that I've written. Anything you feel like you can comment on. Particularly with regards to investigating/applying to clinical programs while already enrolled in a different program and also the possibility of getting a degree later on that would allow for the option to conduct therapy (either psyd or msw etc.).
How long until you get your phd from this program? 23 is fairly young - so it's definitely not like you couldn't get a psyd/phd in clinical psych later.

I imagine, at the very least, you should inform the programs you would apply to that you are enrolled at another doctoral program elsewhere. (As to whether you *have* to I'm unsure... you'd have to read the fine print - as it could be seen as fibbing on an application not to disclose that information). For example, all of the applications I filled out stated that I needed to put all of the universities/institutions of higher learning I had attended, even if I hadn't received a degree (some schools even had me include the university where I studied abroad). Also, it'd be hard not to inform the schools you apply to of this as they will look for/ask you what you have been doing for a year (and you don't want to get caught in a lie) and, because you're still at the same school, I'd wonder if your transcript would indicate you're currently enrolled as a graduate student anyway. I would guess the way to handle this is to address it directly in your personal statement and spin it in a positive way (and even potentially have a professor in your program show that they support your decision, positively speaking about the change you want to make and highlighting your skills as a graduate student, through a LOR).

Truthfully, I'm unsure how it will be judged though - I'm sure some programs would have less biases against it than others. And as for your other stats, I think it depends what balance of programs you apply to (and if the research experience you have now is good enough in terms of what they'll be looking for). Clinical experience, for example, isn't really as important, unless, I guess, you're applying to very very clinically focused programs.

As to whether you should disclose to the program you're in now if you were to apply... I can understand why you wouldn't want to (I wouldn't want to either). But you run the risk of someone at a program you applied to contacting your adviser at your current program or someone at the school... and that might be a harder situation to deal with. (I don't think you necessarily need a LOR from the program you're in now, as long as your three other letters are from arguably stronger sources so the programs you apply to won't wonder why you didn't get a LOR from the program you're in now.)

So overall - I can't say as to whether you should stick it out, get your PhD from your current program, and then go after a PsyD/PhD. It's a long haul for sure. But if you apply to clinical programs while enrolled... my instinct is to disclose that information to all parties involved.
 
Last edited:

Metta

Human
10+ Year Member
Mar 24, 2009
53
0
0
Status
Hmm. The first question that comes to mind when reading your post is this -- how sure are you that you want to be a therapist, given that you've got, in your words, "essentially no clinical experience"? I can think of a number of people (posters on this forum, grad students I spoke with while on interviews) who entered a PhD/PsyD program certain they wanted to be therapists, only to find, once they'd gotten a few years of experience, that they really didn't like that side of clinical psych at all. Obviously you can't actually practice therapy right now, but would it be possible for you to find a volunteer position for a few hours a week where you could answer crisis line calls, facilitate support groups, or similar? That might offer a useful counterpoint to your undergrad experience and your current program.

If you do decide to leave your current program... do students in your program normally acquire a (non-terminal) Master's degree on the way to the PhD? If so, that might be a good time to leave. You'll have learned something about the research topics available to you there, and produced a Master's thesis. It leaves the impression that you gave the program a fair chance, and left at a (semi-)natural stopping point, rather than just bailing out "whenever". And if you're committed to a future with your girlfriend, it gives her a chance to finish her MSW, and then the two of you can decide together where you want to apply to a clinical psych doctorate program and where she'd like to spend the first years of her career.
 
Apr 13, 2010
32
0
0
Status
Hmm. The first question that comes to mind when reading your post is this -- how sure are you that you want to be a therapist, given that you've got, in your words, "essentially no clinical experience"? Obviously you can't actually practice therapy right now, but would it be possible for you to find a volunteer position for a few hours a week where you could answer crisis line calls, facilitate support groups, or similar?

If you do decide to leave your current program... do students in your program normally acquire a (non-terminal) Master's degree on the way to the PhD? If so, that might be a good time to leave.
This is why I'm happy people have started to chime in because you're challenging me a little bit and that's good. To answer your first question, I can't say that I'm 100% sure but I can say that it is my gut feeling. The closest I've had to anything clinical is phone interviewing people for our research projects in the psych lab I was at as an undergraduate.

Essentially, we would be responsible for screening people before the graduate students did a more thorough clinical diagnosis. However, we (the undergraduates) were the ones initially talking to people to get a sense of whether they appear to have MDD or Social Anxiety Disorder.

That was always the best part for me. I loved talking to the people and hearing their stories. I think hearing so many different points of view really forces you to have a wider perspective on life in general. Oftentimes I felt moved and wished I was talking to them to actually help them and not because I was trying to determine if they were depressed enough/anxious enough for our research studies.

However, this is my only experience that could verify this gut feeling I have. I can see a more direct clinical experience would help me know for certain if I really do want to conduct therapy. My girlfriend is actually training now to become a certified crisis hotline counselor (not sure what the correct word is there) where I could certainly volunteer to get some additional exposure.

----------------------------
We're still waiting to hear if my girlfriend has got accepted into the MSW program she applied to at the university I'm currently in as well. As far as the other questions about the current phd program I'm in, it is set to be a 4 year program although it can take 5. Unfortunately, this program does not have a masters set in place like most Phd programs. With this one you just go the full distance and that's that. I agree that stopping at that masters would have been perfect and would have timed out just right with my girlfriend finishing her degree assuming she gets accepted.
 

docma

10+ Year Member
Oct 27, 2007
791
259
281
Status
It seems like you are in an interesting program that is new enough that you could build a degree and research base that is very psychological and then see where it takes you. Do you have a mentor in your program that could help you think about all the different ways you could use a marketing degree?(there are options outside the business world but you will have to search for those to see what lights your creative fire) There is going to be such a new range of work as health care evolves that I think a marketing degree could have possibilities that would get you many more career options and income possibilities than a PsyD or even clinical PhD. I think you need to dive into what the options might be given your interest in emotion/emotion regulation and where that might lead before you abandon the current track. You are certainly young enough that you could return for credentialing later if it really only counseling/clinical that you long to do long term. (And you do not need a PhDPsyD for that; LCSW is a solid clinical license) But you would probably have established yourself financially and have a range of options by then if you complete the current program and see where it takes you. Keep us posted....
 

Therapist4Chnge

Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Oct 7, 2006
21,454
2,415
281
The Beach
Status
Psychologist
It seems like you are in an interesting program that is new enough that you could build a degree and research base that is very psychological and then see where it takes you. Do you have a mentor in your program that could help you think about all the different ways you could use a marketing degree?(there are options outside the business world but you will have to search for those to see what lights your creative fire)
You can make a ridiculous amount of money if you could leverage your stats, psych, and marketing training....but it'd take a lot of business savvy and opportunity to make it happen. I'm with docma on this, you can always go back for respecialization, I'd ride out your current doctoral program instead of up and leaving.
 
Apr 25, 2010
3
0
0
Status
Hi Xarasis,

I read your thread earlier today and at the time didn't have any useful input. However, I've spent the majority of my Sunday researching I/0 Psychology (my area of interest) and noticed that there are a lot of individuals with Ph.D.s in Clinical Psychology who are now working as Business Consultants and are members of the Society of Business Psychology.

Personally, I would recommend reaching out to any of these individuals. Not that you're considering Business Psychology, but perhaps it would be useful to speak with someone who obtained a Ph.D. in a specialization and ended up pursuing something quite different. Perhaps they'll have the type of personal insight you're looking for.

Also, just my opinion, I would apply for other Ph.D. programs while in your present program. I think the guilt you're experiencing is typical of anyone settled in a present job, searching for another. It's admirable that you don't want to waste their time or resources - however, you haven't made a decision. And you can't definitively say that you're going to pursue a different degree. By applying to other programs, you're simply exploring your options and I believe that you're allowed to do so.

Not sure if this helps - hope it does!

Best,
Nicole
 
Last edited:

psich

10+ Year Member
Mar 27, 2009
292
0
0
Status
You stated that you went into the PhD in marketing even though your true interest was in providing psychotherapy. You also wrote that you could see yourself working in an area of research even though that wasn't the main area of study you would like to pursue (emotion regulation). You said that you are also looking into a MSW but wanted to apply to clinical psychology PhD programs. I'm sensing a bit of confusion here...

I think that if you were to apply to doctoral programs in clinical psychology after dropping out of your current program, adcoms would wonder why you had a change of heart. They may also wonder if you would also drop out of their program if they were to admit you. You want to show programs that you have the commitment and dedication to follow through with your studies. At the same time, you also do not want to burn bridges with your current institution. The faculty or program in your current PhD program in marketing may look unfavorably upon your decision to suddenly leave.

You may get a PsyD or MSW after completing your current program. There are several people who switch over to psychology from different areas of study.

Anyway, you do not need to have a doctorate to be a therapist. You can provide therapy with a terminal master's degree, such as a master's in counseling, mental health counseling, social work, etc. I think it would help to determine whether or not you want a doctorate first and then go from there. Since a master's degree takes less time than a doctorate, you can finish your PhD program in marketing and then enroll in a master's program afterwards. But if you really want a PhD, you can apply while in your program or after. Either way, it would be good to consider the consequences of following these two paths.
 
Apr 13, 2010
32
0
0
Status
Hi Xarasis,

Personally, I would recommend reaching out to any of these individuals. Not that you're considering Business Psychology, but perhaps it would be useful to speak with someone who obtained a Ph.D. in a specialization and ended up pursuing something quite different. Perhaps they'll have the type of personal insight you're looking for.
This is a great idea. I know this Marketing Phd has a number of possibilities that are not strictly academically oriented... I just haven't really looked into them yet. This seems like a great starting point.

As for the next poster.. I'm definitely confused with which direction to go. It is incredibly encouraging to hear from you all that it is indeed a possibility to go back after getting this degree. It seems like an encouraging possibility. Again, I like this program but just am not in love with it.
 

PHinisheD

New Member
Feb 15, 2010
29
0
0
Status
Post Doc
Hi Xarasis,

I read your thread earlier today and at the time didn't have any useful input. However, I've spent the majority of my Sunday researching I/0 Psychology (my area of interest) and noticed that there are a lot of individuals with Ph.D.s in Clinical Psychology who are now working as Business Consultants and are members of the Society of Business Psychology.

Personally, I would recommend reaching out to any of these individuals. Not that you're considering Business Psychology, but perhaps it would be useful to speak with someone who obtained a Ph.D. in a specialization and ended up pursuing something quite different. Perhaps they'll have the type of personal insight you're looking for.

Also, just my opinion, I would apply for other Ph.D. programs while in your present program. I think the guilt you're experiencing is typical of anyone settled in a present job, searching for another. It's admirable that you don't want to waste their time or resources - however, you haven't made a decision. And you can't definitively say that you're going to pursue a different degree. By applying to other programs, you're simply exploring your options and I believe that you're allowed to do so.

Not sure if this helps - hope it does!

Best,
Nicole
Xarasis, your situation sounds a lot like where I was about 5 years ago. I had gotten a "golden ticket" to a clinical PhD program at a top school. I was pretty damn happy about it at first, though over the next year or two, it became clear to me that I didn't LOVE IT nearly as much as I thought I would. I considered a host of career changes, including law school, MBA school, and some other things. But, I decided to stick it out, hoping that it would get better when I finished my thesis, when I finished my diss, when I went off to internship, when I went off to postdoc. It really hasn't changed. Without getting into the reasons, I'll just say I now feel more certain than ever that the two main clinical job options, research and clinical work, are not for me.

So, what now? I've spent the last year working toward licensure, all the while trying to make the jump to Business Psychology, hoping that it may be more satisfactory. It's been a tough road. I've spent a lot of time networking, applying to jobs, and doing informational interviews. So far, no luck. While it is certainly possible to change careers out of research or practice, it is by no means easy. I find myself up against I/O candidates who have degrees and specialized training in I/O, and employers tend to be a bit skeptical about clinical folks who are trying to change careers.

Here's what's important to know: Switching careers ain't easy--even within psychology. When you choose a PhD, you are investing considerable time and money into training for a narrow set of research and clinical jobs, which are highly demanding and only moderately financially rewarding. Research, especially, gets more demanding and competitive as you get further down the career path. If you don't love your work--I mean, if you wouldn't do it as a hobby--then don't waste precious years on it. Don't place too much of a premium on the degree. Invest your time, instead, into figuring out exactly what you would like to be doing, and finding out how to do that.