Dec 29, 2020
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Hello everyone, and apologies for topic overlap. I see parts of my question answered in other threads, but I feel my own thread would be more direct.

I received my Bachelors in Biology from the best university in my state. Unfortunately, I began experiencing my own mental health issues that came in the way of academic performance. I had no support system, and didn't realize what happened until I had already graduated with a 2.33 cGPA.

I currently work as a Mental Health Technician. I realized I was fascinated with mental and behavioral health when I began working as a CNA towards the end of my time at university. I have since got to spend time with plenty of psychiatrists, psychologists, master level clinicians, as well as psych nurses and nurse practitioners. Through interviewing them personally and researching on my own, I have become dead set on becoming a psychologist. The only question is, how does a husband and father do this with an already lackluster academic record?

I've considered becoming a co-occurring disorder clinician to get some graduate experience and make a decent living helping those with both mental and substance use disorders. The university I previously attended has an incredible and reputable clinical psychology program. They recommend graduate work as well, but stated a research-based program would be what they suggest.

My question (thanks to those who stayed with me): Would a Master's of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling be a sufficient way to demonstrate research experience on my way to the PhD? The CMHC program's director indicated there's an option to partake and even present research while in the program. I just have a feeling that what the university's grad adviser was suggesting was an experimental psych masters instead. Should I be a nurse practitioner instead? PsyD? Easier PhD program? They exist, I just feel I should go for the best.

Thank you all so much for what you do.
 

R. Matey

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An experimental master's degree would be a better choice than a CMHC master's degree. Because the latter trains you to be a clinician, there really isn't a ton of time to develop a substantial research program and the transferable coursework from a CMHC to a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology amounts to very little. However, much of this advice hinges on your own goals for working in the field, which are still unclear to me.
 
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summerbabe

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The CMHC program's director indicated there's an option to partake and even present research while in the program.
Optional likely means that substantial research is not required, which probably means less infrastructure and possibly support for completing substantial enough research to make you competitive for a PhD. If attending a Master's program solely to get into a PhD program, having a required thesis component along with opportunities to engage in other projects would probably be your best bet. If you're content being a Master's level clinician and entertain PhD admission, a licensable CMHC program could be a good compromise.

The university I previously attended has an incredible and reputable clinical psychology program.
If you're geographically restricted to this program, your chances will decrease substantially due to general admissions odds and the many particularities that go into fit. The vast majority who attended funded PhD programs likely relocated and potentially very substantially.

Through interviewing them personally and researching on my own, I have become dead set on becoming a psychologist. The only question is, how does a husband and father do this with an already lackluster academic record?
What differentiates being a psychologist versus a Master's level clinician in your mind?

I also think you should be prepared that even with additional experience through a reputable research-based Master's, you may still not be the most competitive candidate for some funded PhDs. That's not to say you shouldn't consider this path but you'll likely be competing against many others with a strong undergrad GPA and published articles/posters that demonstrate a strong basis in research that began in undergrad. Good luck!
 
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Spydra

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I think it is also important to consider the what ifs, just in case. Before committing to a Masters, especially an unfunded or partially funded one, what if you change your mind about going on to a doctorate? What if a circumstance (e.g., health problem, aging parent, finances) prevents or delays you from going on to a doctorate? In either of these what ifs, will the Master's degree you chose give you enough options to support yourself, pay off student loans, and give you some degree of happiness? The CMHC opens a range of clinical options and if the research component provides sufficient support there may be lab coordinator options. An experimental Master's does not lead to a clinical license, so its important to know if any teaching training will be provided to expand your options beyond research. It's also important to have awareness that a prior Masters, regardless of what it is in, does not guarantee that a doctorate will be shorter. You may not be able to transfer courses or perhaps only a few and/or your thesis may not be accepted. If you are unable to shave time off your doctorate is the time/money investment of a Master's still worth it to you?
 
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R. Matey

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Important to remember that LPCs are often paid less and have fewer opportunities than social workers. OP, if you want a master's level credential to practice psychotherapy, you're better off with that one.
 
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Good psychiatric nurses are hard to find so if you dig nursing.... I think you'd be a hot commodity.

If I were in your position I'd probably go as suggested above with a social work degree, and also try to get research experience as much as possible along the way to keep your doors open. That way if you change your mind about PhD or don't get in the first round or two you still have that option and it is a LOT more flexible than LPC (more or less depending on the state). IME social workers and LPC are considered for the same job positions, but social workers have an edge because more insurances accept them and sometimes pay is better. Also many SW positions are available in hospitals, and many SW do primarily individual therapy (there are also doctorates in social work). Going this route would mean you don't get the same training in diagnostic testing / evaluation you'd get on the path to psychology, but would lend more options overall, could still be opportunity to get research expereince, adn would not preclude the option of a PhD in psych in the future if you were still driven for that.
 
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Dec 29, 2020
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Optional likely means that substantial research is not required, which probably means less infrastructure and possibly support for completing substantial enough research to make you competitive for a PhD. If attending a Master's program solely to get into a PhD program, having a required thesis component along with opportunities to engage in other projects would probably be your best bet. If you're content being a Master's level clinician and entertain PhD admission, a licensable CMHC program could be a good compromise.


If you're geographically restricted to this program, your chances will decrease substantially due to general admissions odds and the many particularities that go into fit. The vast majority who attended funded PhD programs likely relocated and potentially very substantially.


What differentiates being a psychologist versus a Master's level clinician in your mind?

I also think you should be prepared that even with additional experience through a reputable research-based Master's, you may still not be the most competitive candidate for some funded PhDs. That's not to say you shouldn't consider this path but you'll likely be competing against many others with a strong undergrad GPA and published articles/posters that demonstrate a strong basis in research that began in undergrad. Good luck!
Thanks for the input! The difference in my eyes between the Master's level and a psychologist is their training, as well as independently lead research vs dependent research. As I understand it, a CMHC could participate in research but it's usually scant unless you work for a particular psychologist researching counseling practices. The psychologist, from a research prospective, leads or aids with independent research.

I also have some personal experience working with psychologists (professors, professionals, providers). They're extremely talented in what they do. It's awe inspiring, and worth it in my eyes to slowly get what I missed earlier on. What would be the cons to considering a nonfunded PhD? There's two PsyD options near where I live as well as one PhD that I'd consider. I just want to be trained by the best really. I understand if that sounds silly since I'm not the best at research (clearly with my academic record), however, is that such a bad thing?
 
Dec 29, 2020
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Good psychiatric nurses are hard to find so if you dig nursing.... I think you'd be a hot commodity.

If I were in your position I'd probably go as suggested above with a social work degree, and also try to get research experience as much as possible along the way to keep your doors open. That way if you change your mind about PhD or don't get in the first round or two you still have that option and it is a LOT more flexible than LPC (more or less depending on the state). IME social workers and LPC are considered for the same job positions, but social workers have an edge because more insurances accept them and sometimes pay is better. Also many SW positions are available in hospitals, and many SW do primarily individual therapy (there are also doctorates in social work). Going this route would mean you don't get the same training in diagnostic testing / evaluation you'd get on the path to psychology, but would lend more options overall, could still be opportunity to get research expereince, adn would not preclude the option of a PhD in psych in the future if you were still driven for that.
I agree, that would be the best path forward.

However, what would you say about a nonfunded phD program? I guess it's worth pointing out to those who also previously asked as well, I am interested in forensic psychology.

The nonfunded phD I would consider describes their approach to the scientist-practitioner model as this:

"Under the LCS model, research and practice are not separate domains. Rather, they are integrated so that practice informs research questions, and research informs the practice of clinical psychology (Stricker, 1997, 2000); Trierweiler & Stricker, 1998).

Described in "The local clinical scientist: A bridge between science and practice" (American Psychologist, Stricker & Trierweiler, 1995) the LCS model extends the scientific and professional ideals in the original Boulder Scientist-Practitioner model of clinical psychology (Raimy, 1950)."

I'd see myself ideally as a forensic evaluator for the state I reside, a consultant to my community. Custody evaluations are huge areas of interest as well as child trafficking. In the midst of the world learning about how prevalent this abhorrent practice is, I'd like to contribute to putting an end to it. I don't know if that's best accomplished by getting top notch education and learning to pump out research on the topic, or making waves in clinical practice.

Thanks for your time.
 
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I agree, that would be the best path forward.

However, what would you say about a nonfunded phD program? I guess it's worth pointing out to those who also previously asked as well, I am interested in forensic psychology.

The nonfunded phD I would consider describes their approach to the scientist-practitioner model as this:

"Under the LCS model, research and practice are not separate domains. Rather, they are integrated so that practice informs research questions, and research informs the practice of clinical psychology (Stricker, 1997, 2000); Trierweiler & Stricker, 1998).

Described in "The local clinical scientist: A bridge between science and practice" (American Psychologist, Stricker & Trierweiler, 1995) the LCS model extends the scientific and professional ideals in the original Boulder Scientist-Practitioner model of clinical psychology (Raimy, 1950)."

I'd see myself ideally as a forensic evaluator for the state I reside, a consultant to my community. Custody evaluations are huge areas of interest as well as child trafficking. In the midst of the world learning about how prevalent this abhorrent practice is, I'd like to contribute to putting an end to it. I don't know if that's best accomplished by getting top notch education and learning to pump out research on the topic, or making waves in clinical practice.

Thanks for your time.
re: nonfunded PhD- I'd say nope, nope, nope, nope. Read many previous threads about the economic disadvantage of such. Consult with a financial advisor to figure out what that would mean for your family at this point in life. Take into account it's not like you're gonna roll out of a doctoral program and be raking in forensics cases and mad dollars, but you WOULD be raking in some really serious bills to pay and, probably, considerable bias against your job applications with most unfunded programs unless you are somehow a wild exception. You need some very specialized training and supervision to get into doing that competently. If you want to be a consultant/work in forensics or custody evals, you're going to have to build up a reputation and probably get used to having your expertise questioned regularly, dealing with people throwing a lot of anger directed at you, and being an expert in all things CYA. I also think there are probably more far more effective and efficient ways to work against child trafficking than getting a PhD in psych.
 
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Dec 29, 2020
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re: nonfunded PhD- I'd say nope, nope, nope, nope. Read many previous threads about the economic disadvantage of such. Consult with a financial advisor to figure out what that would mean for your family at this point in life. Take into account it's not like you're gonna roll out of a doctoral program and be raking in forensics cases and mad dollars, but you WOULD be raking in some really serious bills to pay and, probably, considerable bias against your job applications with most unfunded programs unless you are somehow a wild exception. You need some very specialized training and supervision to get into doing that competently. If you want to be a consultant/work in forensics or custody evals, you're going to have to build up a reputation and probably get used to having your expertise questioned regularly, dealing with people throwing a lot of anger directed at you, and being an expert in all things CYA. I also think there are probably more far more effective and efficient ways to work against child trafficking than getting a PhD in psych.
Yeah, I figured as much. LOL. Thanks for your honesty.

I'll make an effort towards a social working license. In my current line of work, there's plenty of unionized jobs that sponsor you working your way towards a social worker license. From that, I'll get research experience, if not just do a research master's program.

Thank you for the feedback. You've made this a much more understanding pathway forward.
 
Dec 29, 2020
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100%. You'd probably be more effective as a lawyer.
I've considered this. I'm also huge into law as a philosophical matter. Brother's a lawyer so, might have rubbed off. I do feel psychology is a better fit, but thank you for reminding me that there are other career paths to accomplish my goals in life.
 

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