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what is PhD clinical psych grad school really like?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by PizzaButt, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. PizzaButt

    PizzaButt New Member 7+ Year Member

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    Sep 25, 2005
    Hi there,

    I'm 30, married, non-trad applicant (not a psych major; have a law degree). This is my second career. I'm wondering what the curriculum is like in graduate school. It's my understanding that the first two-three years are courses, and then the last two years are research and then you do your internship.

    How hard is grad school? Is it mostly papers or tests in PhD clinical psych? How does it compare to undergrad (for me, law school was far easier than college). Do you get summers off or does it go straight through?

    Do most people try to shadow a graduate student in their area to get a better idea of what it's like? If so, how do you go about doing that? I'd like to shadow a PhD grad student but don't know anyone in my city in these programs.

    Also, how difficult would it be to start a family while in graduate school? Does anyone know on average what the hours are like and how much people study after classes are over?
     
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  3. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

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    Feb 19, 2007
    I'm not there yet, but I've worked with and am friends with a bunch of grad students so I have SOME idea of what to expect.

    Yes, generally 2-3 years of courses 1-2 years of PRIMARILY research. Note that THROUGHOUT you are usually working in a professor's lab for at least 10-20 hours a week, its just the last 1-2 years you are usually doing your own independent research as well.

    There's no way to say how hard it will be. If your undergrad was a community college and your grad school is Yale, I imagine it would be alot harder. If your undergrad was an engineering degree from MIT, I imagine it would be alot easier;) Sounds like grad school is both papers and tests, with probably more emphasis on papers than most undergrad programs have.

    You generally don't take many classes over the summer, but you do lots of research. NEVER heard of anyone actually taking the summer off, though its usually possible to arrange for like, a 1-2 week break.

    Don't know anyone who shadows. Most people work in a research lab so you should get to know/see the grad students enough where shadowing would kind of be pointless.

    Family is tough, but people do it. Many people do it actually. Again, depends on the program though, some are more accepting of it than others.

    Hours? I''m expecting to put in about 60-70 hours a week, including everything (classes, research, studying, writing). Of course, some weeks that may be 40, some weeks that may be 110, but we're talking on average:) The students in my area seem to think that's reasonably accurate. Like anything, this may vary based on how involved you want to be. I like to be involved in everything, so I expect to put in more hours than most students. In general, don't expect it to be like a 9-5, but its also not like being a surgical resident. You'll have to work your butt off, but its generally manageable.
     
  4. KillerDiller

    KillerDiller 7+ Year Member

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    Mar 14, 2007
    In my experience so far in a Masters program, graduate school is very hard and stressful...in a good way (meaning you feel like you're accomplishing something while being stressed). I came from a highly ranked undergrad program and went to a less prestigious school for my Masters degree and I still found grad school to be more difficult than undergrad. There are a lot of lengthy papers and some tests for the courses, but ultimately it's not the volume of work that makes grad school hard, it's the depth of the work. It's a lot more mentally exhausting, for example, to critically analyze someone else's study and brainstorm original research ideas than it is to accomplish the rote memorization that is required by many introductory undergrad classes.

    I think with your law background you'll be more than prepared to handle the workload for graduate school, it's just a matter of preparing yourself to deeply analyze the subject at hand in both the abstract and the concrete.

    As for your other questions, you usually have to do some form of research over the summer, so although you may not be in class, you're not really "off". There are people who start families in grad school. It may take you longer to write you dissertation and graduate, but it's definitely possible as long as you have a partner who understands the level of committment your program will require.

    Hope that helps. Good luck.
     
  5. Lunabin

    Lunabin New Member 2+ Year Member

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    Jun 7, 2006
    I found that year 1 was entirely classes and research. I had about 40 hours of committed time (to classes and such), but worked a lot more than that on assignments, projects, papers, presentations, practicum applications, etc.

    Every year added one more level of work/time. Year one I had a fair amount of free time, but only took classes and did research. I spent years 2, 3, 4 doing practicum (16 - 30 hours a week), TA'ing here and there, did research every year, and finally, now I'm at internship.

    By my 4th year I was easily pulling 60-70 hour weeks, sometimes longer (especially around the dissertation and APA internship applications). Grad school is a busy busy time. I only took one summer "off" my first year - to relax, but I worked instead.

    Overall, I found that grad school wasn't "harder" or "easier" than undergrad, but a whole different experience. It utilizes very different skills and demands. It's not academically that difficult, but emotionally is very stressful and demanding.
     
  6. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    It obviously varies from person to person and program to program, but in general I'd say it would be more demanding than previous academic experiences you've had. I think the intensity may fluctuate, but what is hardest is that it is more of a marathon than a sprint. From what I know about law school, it has a strong focus on memorization and regurgitation. Clinical is very different, in that it is about evaluating different types of information, breaking it down, and then applying your knowledge by synthesizing a concept using unique data, and then being able to explain the result.

    I attended a very rigorous undergrad, so I felt very prepared for the written aspects of grad school and the workload. I think what is pretty challenging is the time management aspect. I had come from the biz world, which works on a very different schedule, and I don't have the luxury of a personal assistant and staff. (I wish I had my old personal assistant, he made my life SOOOOOOO much easier. :laugh: )

    As for summers off....not likely. I took classes most summers, and the one summer I took 'off' of classes (I took extra during the year), I still had to see pts, do research, etc. Your summers can be more/less intensive...depending what you need to work on.

    I have friends who went through the process, so I asked them. There was a shadowing process in my program that allowed/required students to shadow other students for a semester (2nd half of 1st year)

    People do it, but that is just adding another factor into a pretty complex equation. I think it really depends on your spouse. I know people who do it, but they have a very understanding and flexible spouse.

    ------

    That is my experience also.

    Pretty much my experience...though i'm about to go through the internship process now....ugh.

    I think my last year will be easier (if I get my research done). This year is definitely the hardest. I am trying to wrap up my research by this summer, do my core competency exam, seeing pts, etc. I only have 4 classes left (2 summer, 2 fall) so I'll be doing additional work either in a hospital and/or with someone in private practice.

    Definitely. I can remember very definitive times when I just went, 'What the heck am I doing?!', 'Is this really what I want?', 'Is it really worth it?', 'Sleep....can I get by on 5 or less hours' (no).

    -t
     
  7. WaitingKills

    WaitingKills Rockstar 5+ Year Member

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    Jan 29, 2007
    I've just finished my masters, so I'm not talking Ph.D perspective here, but Lunabin's statement pretty much summed up my experience with grad school. Academically, I found it not difficult - except for my neuro classes cause I have no experience with that - at all.

    It was VERY stressful and demanding. Except for my first semester, I was doing a 3 day a week practicum, 3-4 classes, research and TAing 6 hours a week. During my last semester, I only had one class but was doing my thesis write up which was more time consuming than the classes.

    In the thick of things, I would wake up around 7:30 and be off to work or uni until 5 or 6, come home have dinner and short 1/2 nap, then back to uni to do assignments/thesis till 10 - 12 depending on the night. This was not all the time, but I'd say for the last 1/2 of every semester when I had extra burdens such as marking or analyzing results.

    With that being said, my program was a 2 year masters in which I was the only one in the last 5 years to graduate on time. Most extend for 6 months to a year. Because I was international, I didn't want to have that expense cause fees were rediculous.

    The stress in grad school can be overwhelming and intimidating, but it's manageable if you have someone to vent to. My boyfriend was great for that. It's also a good stress because I found that there were distinct accomplishments along the way that reinforced my work (eg. first semester teaching - kids loved me, yay I'm now a 2nd year grad student, holy **** I got accepted to present at an international conference etc etc.)

    This post is dragging on, sorry. I'm socially deprived right now. I hope that this may have helped a bit. Prob repetitive from other posters though.

    S
     
  8. WaitingKills

    WaitingKills Rockstar 5+ Year Member

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    Jan 29, 2007
    I went through this exact thing too. And then was crazy anxious for a few months thinking that I was making the biggest mistake of my life and should have done marine biology in undergrad and postgrad (hehehe, I like the ocean and tropical places). This too passes.
     
  9. Shrinkydink

    Shrinkydink 2+ Year Member

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    Feb 24, 2007
    I agree with all that's been said here--I found undergrad to be much more academically challenging, but grad school has been a long, arduous journey with lots of ups and downs (some related to school and some related to LIFE!). It requires a lot of endurance, and definitely delay of gratification!

    As someone who transitioned to psych from another field (and I think you'll find that this isn't as unusual as you think), for me a big chunk of year 1 was also about playing catch-up, filling in the gaps where I wasn't so knowledgeable. But I think that even people who have majored in psych go through a similar process simply because grad school requires major adjusting.

    One of the things I find most challenging, as others have said, is juggling so many different tasks--research, clinical work, courses, supervision, papers, etc. I would say years 2 and 3 were the hardest as far as trying to squeeze everything in. Years 4 and 5 were hard in a different way--things get very intense when you start zeroing in on your dissertation topic/writing/research AND when you simultaneously have to apply for internship. I just went through the application process this year and in some ways it was more draining than anything else.

    As far as summers -- the only one I had "off" was between 1st and 2nd year, but I still had to see patients and attend supervision.

    However, having lived with my boyfriend (now husband) through his entire law school experience, I will say that I thought his schooling was far more "rigorous" in certain ways, such as having regular "homework" and lots of memorization. (And I would NEVER want to experience anything like the Bar exam.) Again, as has been said before on this thread, my academic experience, compared to his, has been much more about integrating and synthesizing ideas, trying to figure out how to apply what I read (theory and research) to how I work with patients, finding my own clinical style, etc. (As you may have guessed, I attend a psychodynamically inclined program (PhD) ). But law school always seemed like a heck of a lot of work to me, and if you found it relatively easy, I think the papers and readings won't be your biggest challenge in a PhD program. My undergrad was very rigorous so I felt very prepared for that part, but some of my classmates had a much harder time, particularly with papers.
     
  10. PizzaButt

    PizzaButt New Member 7+ Year Member

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    Sep 25, 2005
    What kind of papers are we talking about in grad school (length, etc.) Are we talking about 15 page papers or more? Also, how many per course per semester, on average? What about tests?

    Also, what kind of vacation time do you get? Is it the regular university holidays (2 weeks at Christmas, a week for spring break, etc.) I ask because my husband gets a lot of vacation time, and I'm just wondering about this.
     
  11. NeuroPsyStudent

    NeuroPsyStudent 2+ Year Member

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    Feb 5, 2007
    My program is particularly writing intensive...20-30 page papers for many classes. Some classes are exam focused. My stats class has 14 weekly exams plus weekly homework assignments. Some of the reading for clinical classes is excessive (reading an entire dense book on theory in one week). I've done my best to keep up, but have to admit that not every word was read....Some classes are easy..
     
  12. PizzaButt

    PizzaButt New Member 7+ Year Member

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    Sep 25, 2005
    How do you know in advance if a program is more writing-intensive? Is that something you find out only after you've started, or can you find out ahead of time? I'd love to email some grad students at various programs to find out more about their individual programs but their names and email addresses aren't listed on the program web sites.
     
  13. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    Each program is different, so definitely inquire with current students. Some of my classes had weekly exams, others did mid-term/final/research paper. Others had weekly case presentations (page length obviously varies).

    -t
     
  14. WaitingKills

    WaitingKills Rockstar 5+ Year Member

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    Jan 29, 2007
    Papers will vary depending on school, class and professor. Some classes I had were standard 12-15 page papers, while others were multiple 8-10 pages (3 I believe for that class) while another class I had was completely excessive (all of us complained to the dean) and turned out to be 110-130 pages answering multiple questions. I had no exams in grad school - all papers.

    As for vacation... HAHAHAHAHA! Officially, you will get the breaks in between semesters and at Christmas... Unofficially, you will still either be on placement, doing research, writing papers, marking if you TA etc etc. I don't remember having time for a break after my first semester. A couple days here or there where I protested life and said screw it, but nothing beyond that.
     
  15. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    The best rotation I did was in a school system.....school holidays....are plentiful!! I am in the opposite setting now, I need to schedule off for holidays and every single day I'm even remotely thinking of taking off.....weeks in advance. :laugh:

    -t
     
  16. Lunabin

    Lunabin New Member 2+ Year Member

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    Jun 7, 2006
    Vacation? In 5 years, I've taken 2. Well, 3 if you count my cross country move for internship! One was my honeymoon.

    The thing I found with grad school, is you rarely know what your life will be like in another few months... classes and schedules change every semester, and I had to find time to fit in my clinical and research work. You apply for practicums (that start in Sept.) starting around Dec./Jan., and sometimes can't anticipate what time constraints they have (ie- school placements are early daytime hours).

    Every winter/spring/summer break I had was spent catching up on research that got neglected during exams and everything else. I took about 4-5 days a year to visit my family. There wasn't really time to just take off.

    As for tests - I always had tests for stats, but rarely otherwise. The program did have 3 'advanced competancy' exams - stats, ethics, assessment. These were crazy hard and were completely separate from courses - they each took place early in summer break, and required multiple weeks of study (both in groups and individually) to pass. There was also a clinical case presentation (including paper) that was a lot of time, but not as hard. Lots of papers - typically I wrote (on average) about 12-14 pages - though definately had some BIG (20 - 50 page) ones!

    I, personally, have not felt grad school was terribly condusive to having kids. Certainly, programs will make accomodations, and people do make it work. I think it's a matter of weighing your own preferances, needs, and life desires. People do make it work, but it seems to take longer to graduate, and certainly cuts into "family time." <this is my personal opinion - not to be construed as advice>
     

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