Questions from a soon to be graduate regarding Clinical Psychology.

Aug 12, 2020
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  1. Pre-Psychology

I am graduating senior from an R1 University with a 3.5 GPA. I have one year of research experience in a lab that conducts both social psychology and industrial/organizational psychology research.

I am interested in pursuing a career in clinical psychology. One factor that is greatly limiting me in further pursuing my goal is that I am, at least for the time being, geographically constricted to my hometown which is located in the Central Valley of California. For both family and personal reasons, I cannot move for at least a year or two.

Is it at all possible to find remote RA positions in clinical psych? Most importantly, where would you recommend I focus my efforts to develop the best possible application for a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program.

Is it worth looking into pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology? I believe that I have a decent understanding of the difference between the two fields, and I think that I would function well in both.

Lastly, when I read the forums I often see that applicants are advised to volunteer. Is volunteering in this capacity meant to occupy a substantial amount of one's schedule, or is it meant only to cover 10-15 hours a week?

I would appreciate any advice or guidance offered. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope all is well!
Oct 19, 2020
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  1. Pre-Psychology
Get RA experience, whether volunteer or paid. Reach out to labs, universities, VA’s, etc.

The worst thing you can do on your application is to geographically restrict yourself. Apply when you’re in a position that you don’t have to be restricted.

It’s up to you to decide if you want to pursue a PhD in Counseling/Clinical. The two have very similar overlap, and you will be able to become licensed in a School, Counseling, or Clinical program. Do your research on the goals of the programs and the PIs, then see what kind of program fits your interests.

Volunteering in a clinical lab looks pretty good on applications. If you can, though, try to get full-time, paid experience as a Research Assistant or a Research Coordinator.

I’d say you definitely need more research experience to be competitive. If possible, try to find experience doing research in the same/similar area of your desired PI.

R. Matey

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Jul 15, 2014
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The two specialities are very similar, but emphasize different areas of research. While clinical psychology tends to focus on issues related to psychopathology, counseling psychologists focus more on contextual factors (race, gender, work, etc) though there is a ton of crossover as a lot of research is driven by funding priorities. Both degrees are roughly equivalent in terms of competitiveness (see Insider's Guide for stats) and lead to licensure as a psychologist. In either case, you're going to need research experience in an area. I'd say shoot for an area that interests you and see who is studying it.
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5+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
Along with what others have said, counseling psychology and clinical also have different histories/foundations and can be housed in different departments at universities. But both require research experience as a baseline (50/50 research/practice split is common in both programs) and both are generally indistinguishable at the practice level/licensure level in a broader sense (ie when they graduate and get licensed, they work in the same settings and are both psychologists).

Overall, counseling psych has fewer programs across the country, so students don’t know as much about that subfield. But we’ve got counseling and clinical psychologists in here at SDN.
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