Jul 2, 2016
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Psychology Student
I am about to start an adult emphasis track in a clinical Psy. D. program.

I have been advised that I am cut out for working with veterans. I was also told that working in a prison would suit me. I am trying to make a decision as to what I should do my dissertation on, as I have been working on a PTSD mediator for over a year now, reviewing the research, which calls for treatments for the mediator, appetitive aggression, as it can be unhealthy despite being a protective agent against PTSD. I am experienced in formulating and testing a psychotherapeutic intervention, as my thesis was on one in regards to mental illness stigma, so I feel like this seems most promising, at a glance.

I did a little homework on working in prisons (correctional) and I just do not feel as if it is for me, while I find veteran affairs to be more potentially fulfilling as a career path, from what I gathered about it. I myself was planning on entering the military and that was ruined by a mental health crisis. I want to serve, and preferably, for the military, and I see that doing so as a psychologist may be possible.

I would like some input form someone who works in a VA about research you did for your degrees, what a typical day is like, and what the general pros and cons of being a VA psychologist are-- I would just like to know how you yourself got there and what being there as a psychologist is like.
 

WisNeuro

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There are a few of us that work in the VA, although I think all of us but @erg are in the Neuropsych realm, so our jobs look quite a bit different from a PTSD psychologist.

As to the research part, really depends on the VA. I've been at both kinds over the years, those that are constantly pumping out research and there is more data than you know what to do with, and those that barely register any research. Depends on what you're looking for.

In terms of PTSD treatment, I'd get familiar with PE and CPT. The VA is big on empirically supported treatments these days.
 
OP
M
Jul 2, 2016
5
0
Status
Psychology Student
There are a few of us that work in the VA, although I think all of us but @erg are in the Neuropsych realm, so our jobs look quite a bit different from a PTSD psychologist.

As to the research part, really depends on the VA. I've been at both kinds over the years, those that are constantly pumping out research and there is more data than you know what to do with, and those that barely register any research. Depends on what you're looking for.

In terms of PTSD treatment, I'd get familiar with PE and CPT. The VA is big on empirically supported treatments these days.
Thanks for the reply.
 
Aug 9, 2016
5
0
Status
Psychologist
I am about to start an adult emphasis track in a clinical Psy. D. program.

I have been advised that I am cut out for working with veterans. I was also told that working in a prison would suit me. I am trying to make a decision as to what I should do my dissertation on, as I have been working on a PTSD mediator for over a year now, reviewing the research, which calls for treatments for the mediator, appetitive aggression, as it can be unhealthy despite being a protective agent against PTSD. I am experienced in formulating and testing a psychotherapeutic intervention, as my thesis was on one in regards to mental illness stigma, so I feel like this seems most promising, at a glance.

I did a little homework on working in prisons (correctional) and I just do not feel as if it is for me, while I find veteran affairs to be more potentially fulfilling as a career path, from what I gathered about it. I myself was planning on entering the military and that was ruined by a mental health crisis. I want to serve, and preferably, for the military, and I see that doing so as a psychologist may be possible.

I would like some input form someone who works in a VA about research you did for your degrees, what a typical day is like, and what the general pros and cons of being a VA psychologist are-- I would just like to know how you yourself got there and what being there as a psychologist is like.

Just a few questions for clarification.

I am not sure what you mean; being "cut out for working with Veterans." What do you mean by that?

If you want to work for a VA, your best bet as a graduate student would be to make sure that you do a practicum at a VA site. At the very least, you need to make sure you have a VA internship. The research that you perform as an undergraduate or grad student isn't really that important unless you want to be hired in a research heavy VA as a researcher. If you want to be hired as a clinician, then the clinical work you do is far more important than your research. There are hybrid/split positions for research and clinical but they don't happen very often. Some clinicians have a little research in their clinical profile, but only a few hours per week.
 

Terri Dactyl

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Jun 30, 2013
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I'm an aberration when it comes to being hired by the VA (e.g., no previous practica/internship/postdoc in the VA or interest working with vets). I'm a from a clinical psych program with a concentration in forensics. I'm hired overall as a generalist; but I have specialized training in DBT, ERP, working with SPMI and dual-diagnoses, and conducting forensic-based evals.

Many students and colleagues have asked "what did you do to get in?" I found a position that is a really great fit for my previous experiences and skill set andfor what they needed, and simply applied. That's it. It wasn't difficult at all. I received a call back a month later and was offered the position three days later.

I feel somewhat guilty that my career goal was to work inpatient within a forensic setting in comparison to colleagues who were unable to place with the VA as part of their career goal. But if anything, my fortunate placement and lack of playing the long game is an example that it's possible to work for the VA.

My only advice is to explore clinical opportunities, step out of your comfort zone, strive to become a clinically competent practitioner, let your work speak for your skill set(s), and find a good fit for you.
 

WisNeuro

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If you have accredited training at the doctoral and internship level, and are somewhat flexible with your location, you can get a VA job. Especially if you want to get into a an undesirable location. There are certain VA's that I see constantly trying to fill positions. I'm looking at you Danville IL and St. Cloud MN...
 
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AcronymAllergy

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Agree with the above. If you're well-trained, particularly in certain EBTs (e.g., DBT, various forms of CBT, PE, CPT), that can be more helpful than having prior VA experience. Additionally, if you're geographically flexible, that can go a long way toward increasing your chances. And I see WisNeuro already beat me to these points.

If you know someone at the VA(s) at which you'd like to work, you can also ask if they'd send you a quick note anytime they hear about potential job postings. If you're not checking USAJobs regularly, these can go unnoticed when they show up.

However, being a current VA employee does work to your favor, particularly with respect to internal job postings. So if being in the VA is a major goal, you can always apply for spots in less-popular regions and then keep your eyes open for transfer possibilities.
 
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Terri Dactyl

Graduate Psychologist
Jun 30, 2013
17
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So if being in the VA is a major goal, you can always apply for spots in less-popular regions and then keep your eyes open for transfer possibilities.
Great point! The transfer opportunities was a major selling point for me. During the interview and orientation, the VA emphasized that if there was a position or clinical opportunity within the campus OR nationwide to not hesitate to apply. I spoke to psychologists who had transferred in and were planning to transfer shortly; all had positive experiences.
 

CheetahGirl

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Great point! The transfer opportunities was a major selling point for me. During the interview and orientation, the VA emphasized that if there was a position or clinical opportunity within the campus OR nationwide to not hesitate to apply. I spoke to psychologists who had transferred in and were planning to transfer shortly; all had positive experiences.
Same.

Having been a VA intern significantly increased my VA postdoc opportunities.
 

cara susanna

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Yeah, I got a VA internship despite having no prior VA experience, and am now a research post doc at a VA. My clinical work is specialized in PTSD treatment. I absolutely love it and never thought that I would enjoy clinical work as much as I do now. I also love the focus on EBPs and research (note that I am at a research-heavy VA). I'm definitely going to apply to VA jobs.
 

AryaStark

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VA employee here. My graduate research focused on maintenance of maladaptive health behaviors. I had no prior clinical experience at the VA prior to internship. Completed apa accredited internship and fellowship at the VA with a focus on behavioral health. My roles have varied considerably in each setting. In pcbh, I offered on call or "open access" coverage to primary care providers for consultation and warm handoffs, saw individual patients in designated slots, ran groups and shared medical appointments, participated in joint medical visits, supervision of trainees (meetings, supervision session, reviewing tapes, reviewing writing). In specialty mental health, it focuses more on individual patients (many slots), groups, team meetings, and supervision. Impatient work consisted of rounding with the team, meeting with patients for treatment and assessment, running groups, writing notes. There are also more admin positions for psychologists at the VA, too. These focus more on training other providers, coaching providers, program development/improvement.
I am about to start an adult emphasis track in a clinical Psy. D. program.

I have been advised that I am cut out for working with veterans. I was also told that working in a prison would suit me. I am trying to make a decision as to what I should do my dissertation on, as I have been working on a PTSD mediator for over a year now, reviewing the research, which calls for treatments for the mediator, appetitive aggression, as it can be unhealthy despite being a protective agent against PTSD. I am experienced in formulating and testing a psychotherapeutic intervention, as my thesis was on one in regards to mental illness stigma, so I feel like this seems most promising, at a glance.

I did a little homework on working in prisons (correctional) and I just do not feel as if it is for me, while I find veteran affairs to be more potentially fulfilling as a career path, from what I gathered about it. I myself was planning on entering the military and that was ruined by a mental health crisis. I want to serve, and preferably, for the military, and I see that doing so as a psychologist may be possible.

I would like some input form someone who works in a VA about research you did for your degrees, what a typical day is like, and what the general pros and cons of being a VA psychologist are-- I would just like to know how you yourself got there and what being there as a psychologist is like.
 

Therapist4Chnge

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I agree with having experience with EBTs like PE and CPT. Exposure to severe/chronic psychopathology is helpful, as is solid assessment (any of psych/health/neuro/sub abuse/etc) experience. I had zero VA experience prior to internship, but doing my internship at one really opened up doors to fellowship spots and future employment. While VA hospitals can vary quite a bit by site and VISN (grouping of VAs in a given area), I think it's a pretty solid gig for psychology. The areas mentioned above are what I was told made me a strong candidate for internship at a VA.

If you have accredited training at the doctoral and internship level, and are somewhat flexible with your location, you can get a VA job. Especially if you want to get into a an undesirable location. There are certain VA's that I see constantly trying to fill positions. I'm looking at you Danville IL and St. Cloud MN...
Random aside….

Problems filling (neuropsych) spots in Danville, IL location somewhat surprises me. It's ~20min from Champaign, IL and maybe 50-60min from Indy? I've never been there, but it seems like a great small town gig with flexible hours. The neuropsych staff seem like genuinely nice people, at least that was my impression when I talked to them way back when on a whim. I guess most VA jobs are going to have favorable hours...so might as well work somewhere with more going on?
 

AcronymAllergy

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Random aside….

Problems filling (neuropsych) spots in Danville, IL location somewhat surprises me. It's ~20min from Champaign, IL and maybe 50-60min from Indy? I've never been there, but it seems like a great small town gig with flexible hours. The neuropsych staff seem like genuinely nice people, at least that was my impression when I talked to them way back when on a whim. I guess most VA jobs are going to have favorable hours...so might as well work somewhere with more going on?
Maybe just a sporadic/seasonal thing? All the posted jobs up at the moment seem to have been running for quite a while. Although the Alaska position, which was up forever, looks to be gone. So either it's filled, or funding for it was pulled.

Another random aside--I just noticed they revamped the look of the USAJobs website. Swanky.
 

WisNeuro

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Problems filling (neuropsych) spots in Danville, IL location somewhat surprises me. It's ~20min from Champaign, IL and maybe 50-60min from Indy? I've never been there, but it seems like a great small town gig with flexible hours. The neuropsych staff seem like genuinely nice people, at least that was my impression when I talked to them way back when on a whim. I guess most VA jobs are going to have favorable hours...so might as well work somewhere with more going on?
If I didn't hate IL and IN, I would have strongly considered those positions at some point in time.
 

erg923

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I caddied for Lou Holtz in several golf tourneys...before he lost his marbles.
 

Therapist4Chnge

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Michigan State... that's the one with the Wolverine mascot right? ;)
U of Mich actually doesn't have an official mascot (that dresses up, etc), as the administrators thought it would cheapen the reputation of the university. However, they have tried multiple animals. My favorite being Biff...a live wolverine that was kept at the zoo and brought in for game days in the 1920s and 1930s. I believe the story goes they started w two wolverines that they brought in a cage to have on the sideline, but that proved to be unsafe...so they went w Biff at a local zoo. There was also a small dog that used to run on the field at halftime in the 1940s or 1950s (?), though he was never considered a mascot, but merely a staple at UM home games for awhile. They were more liberal w what you could bring into the stadium back then.

Back in the late 80s there was a push for a mascot again, which involved the eventual founder of GroupOn (Eric Lefkofsky). He and some friends trademarked a character and sold merchandise. Students loved it, but again the administration hated it and after some initial push back they quashed the mascot. I actually spoke w. Lefkofsky about it a number of years ago, and his retelling of it was pretty entertaining. There were supposedly cease and desist letters, at least one rally, etc. /Random UM Facts
 
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WisNeuro

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U of Mich actually doesn't have an official mascot (that dresses up, etc)
If you're from the Midwest, you'd know that UM does indeed have a mascot. It's the Smug AHole. An invasive species that grows and breeds in the Ann Arbor area and then migrates to other parts of the US. Sometimes you can identify them by their shrill calls of "Public Ivy, *squawk*, Public Ivy!"