Nihl

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Nov 9, 2009
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I've been having a hard time finding 'clinical experience' that one can live decently on and actually get sufficient patient contact.

I have 5 years of hard research background, with volunteer experience in psychiatric research, but neither has given me what I think constitutes sufficient clinical experience.

If I do not get into the programs I am wait listed on, I will most likely spend a year or two working somewhere I can bolster this part of my application, but I honestly don't know where to look. I am primarily interested in adult issues like domestic violence and marital counseling, though working on similar issues with aggressive children or early relationships is stimulating to me as well. My major issues are, however, that I definitely want some form of patient contact that does not necessarily involve restraining individuals and also pays at least $35k. I realize money isn't everything, but this number is already a significant pay cut for me (and my significant other) and I would still like to work towards saving for grad school and keeping my head above water in the New York/Long Island area.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

buzzworm

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I've been having a hard time finding 'clinical experience' that one can live decently on and actually get sufficient patient contact.

I have 5 years of hard research background, with volunteer experience in psychiatric research, but neither has given me what I think constitutes sufficient clinical experience.

If I do not get into the programs I am wait listed on, I will most likely spend a year or two working somewhere I can bolster this part of my application, but I honestly don't know where to look. I am primarily interested in adult issues like domestic violence and marital counseling, though working on similar issues with aggressive children or early relationships is stimulating to me as well. My major issues are, however, that I definitely want some form of patient contact that does not necessarily involve restraining individuals and also pays at least $35k. I realize money isn't everything, but this number is already a significant pay cut for me (and my significant other) and I would still like to work towards saving for grad school and keeping my head above water in the New York/Long Island area.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
One great way to get patient contact is by working in a psychology/psychiatry research lab. I see that you have some volunteer experience in that kind of setting, but it's definitely possible to get paid to be a research assistant or study coordinator where you work with patients -- I did it for several years. Unfortunately most of those jobs will probably pay closer to $30,000 to start, but it is sometimes possible to negotiate a higher salary before you accept a job offer, or to get a raise later. The sad fact is that it's very hard to get a decently-paying job that will get you clinical experience when you don't have a graduate degree.
 

futureapppsy2

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Can you continue at your current job and just get volunteer clinical experience, say at DV shelter, child guidance center, etc.?
 

Nihl

Psy Student & MFT
Nov 9, 2009
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Can you continue at your current job and just get volunteer clinical experience, say at DV shelter, child guidance center, etc.?
My PI was very kind to let me volunteer even during work hours if my projects were not affected, however I believe she has been pressured by other people in the lab to not allow this.

When I was interviewing, I felt like the clinical experience I did have was not 'enough' so I was hoping to actually make it a full time employment experience rather than volunteer.
 

JockNerd

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My thoughts, backed up by what the faculty at my program (research-focused PhD) tell me:
Clinical work as a doc student is different from almost anything you could get in undergrad/pre-doc, since you'll be seeing people on an ongoing basis, developing treatment plans, using more and different kinds of interventions, etc., as a doc student. So, while it would look a little odd to have *no* clinical experience, it's solid research experience that really separates the applicants from the people offered admission.
I'd do some volunteer thing once a week.
 

Therapist4Chnge

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+1 to JN.

You can't (or at least shouldn't) have access to the kinds of clinical experiences you will have in a doctoral program, so you will need to work with what is out there. Crisis phone line, volunteering at a homeless shelter, etc.
 

McClinas

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To reiterate a previous post, clinical experience is not that important compred to the other variables (e.g., research experience) in play when applying to a typical clinical PhD program. If the rest of your application is pretty strong or you are applying to PsyD or clinically-focused PhD programs, then you're right, perhaps this is something you should seriously focus on.

I obtained pre-grad school clinical experience by a) working as a mental health counselor at a small local (rural) hospital. I think you mentioned that you live in or near NYC, so this might not be a viable option b/c in that area, psychiatric hospitals are probably not looking for candidates with just a B.A. or B.S. I also gained clinical experience by volunteering as an intern at another hospital. I observed some DIs, therapy sessions, assessments, etc. I think it really bolstered the rest of my application, so see if there are such opportunities near you. Also, I think volunteering at a crisis hotline would be another good way to go. But, I would keep it mind, that it doesn't need to be some extraordinary clinical experience. Something minimal, where you are volunteering a day or two or week should be sufficient. The rest of my time would be devoted to gaining research experience, studying for the GREs if they need to be retaken, attending presentations/conferences/workshops where you can network, preparing a SOP, etc.

It seems liek you have the right attitude for this rigorous process. Hang in there!
 
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I would check out opportunities at NY Psychiatric Institute in upper manhattan. www.idealist.org has job listings under health, mental. Also YAI is also a good option. Also crisis hotlines.
 

AcronymAllergy

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Just adding another +1 to the previous posts--I haven't heard of many programs placing premium importance on clinical experience. Rather, the key areas tend to be research experience, degree of fit with the program/mentor, letters of recommendation, GRE, and GPA. As an anecdotal example, I had essentially no clinical experience before applying (however many years ago).
 

leavingprov

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Yes to all the above. Case management is also an interesting direction to go in, with the understanding that, like any other 'clinical' experience, it's very different from doctoral level work. But for me case mgmt was a great opportunity to get some more 'in the trenches' experience in terms of learning to think on my feet and work in a community-based setting (vs. a lab). I did that and volunteered for a number of years at a crisis hotline, in addition to my research work.
 

BuckeyeAlum

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Just to give you insight, I got my clinical experiences through the research job I currently hold and during a pretty intense summer 'internship' at b-mod summer camp. The summer position definitely helped me b/c it is pretty well-known in my specific area, but I still didn't get asked much about it at interviews (usually just something like "Oh, so you know Dr. So-and-so?").

I think putting in some hours definitely shows your interest in clinical, but unless you're applying to a Psy.D. or a clinically-heavy Ph.D. program, I don't think you need to go overboard. Your research background sounds great! Plus, like many already said, it will be pretty hard to find a well-paying entry level clinical position.