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Work/Life Balance in a Clinical Psych program

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sesileet

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I am interested in pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology (Phd or Psyd) and wanted to find out from those currently in a program or those who have graduated what the work/life balance looks like during the program? On average, how much time do you have per week to spend time with family/friends or engage in activities outside of classes/studying/practicum? And how much sleep do you tend to get on average? How does that compare from year to year in the program?

I am thinking very seriously about pursuing a doctorate in clinical psych but have a partner and two young children. My only hesitation about proceeding with the application process at this point is my concern about not being able to spend meaningful time with my family and missing out on the next 5-7 years of my children's lives. I have a previous masters degree so I am familiar with the demands of graduate school but the stories I have been hearing about clinical psych doctorate programs seem to go above and beyond what I am used to- it is giving me pause. Thoughts?
 

BuckeyePsych

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I am interested in pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology (Phd or Psyd) and wanted to find out from those currently in a program or those who have graduated what the work/life balance looks like during the program? On average, how much time do you have per week to spend time with family/friends or engage in activities outside of classes/studying/practicum? And how much sleep do you tend to get on average? How does that compare from year to year in the program?

I am thinking very seriously about pursuing a doctorate in clinical psych but have a partner and two young children. My only hesitation about proceeding with the application process at this point is my concern about not being able to spend meaningful time with my family and missing out on the next 5-7 years of my children's lives. I have a previous masters degree so I am familiar with the demands of graduate school but the stories I have been hearing about clinical psych doctorate programs seem to go above and beyond what I am used to- it is giving me pause. Thoughts?

It will vary by program, but for me, grad school was just as demanding/ time consuming as the job I had before (although less salary!) In my program, several students came in with 2-3 kids already and a few had children during. If your partner makes enough to support your family given a grad school stipend, that will make it easier too. This will be something to ask about during interviews, as I have heard about much less supportive programs out there too.
 
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It will indeed vary by program- and within programs, may vary significantly among advisers. There were folks in my lab who had kids, but they had partners who didn't work or had very flexible work schedules (not sure how they swung it financially- either pre-school savings, or loans). My adviser was certainly much more time-demanding than most plus really pushed students to be ready to apply for internship 4th year. I felt I could barely manage having pets, and work/life balance was interesting... had to really think outside the box to combine social time with other obligations. However, when I got to internship I (and my other lab mates)after talking with the other interns I realized that the experience was on the far end of the bell-curve (and work/life balance during internship was, for me, more manageable than any other job I've ever had; I hardly knew what to do with myself when I was regularly heading home at 5:45pm). So programs really vary. It will be more manageable if you're willing to stretch out the time you're on campus to 5 or 6 years rather than trying to be ready for internship in 4 years. It will probably be a good bit more than the demands of the average master's program, but you're really going to have to find out from students during interviews about the culture of the program and adviser-- and how flexible you are able to be with scheduling your hours (how much flexibility do you have over scheduling your own clients, practicum/TA/research lab hours, working from home vs being on campus, etc). Also, you'll learn along the way what you really have to say yes to, and what opportunities/expectations are more optional.
 

foreverbull

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I came from counseling psychology (scientist-practitioner), but I don't imagine it was that far off of clinical, although most counseling students didn't have assistantships in research labs. It looked something like this:

Per Week:
~20 hours practicum
~20 hours assistantship
~10 hours course attendance (avg. 3 classes per semester)
~10-20 hours coursework/research

(not including commute time)

So my average weeks were anywhere from 60-70 hours, sometimes up to 80 in a very busy week, sometimes less. Near the end, I had less coursework to focus on dissertation and internship apps. Generally, I devoted Sunday to coursework/research and gave myself Saturdays to rest/socialize. Depending on what you do for your assistantship, you may be lucky enough to have some downtime to squeeze in some course reading, or you may not.

There will be downtimes between semesters when you can relax more and take a break, so your time commitment will vary greatly by courses, practicum, and research requirements at any given moment. At my practica, we didn't counsel over the summer semesters, but it will vary by program and practicum site. As singasongofjoy says, really get a sense of time demands and work/life balance from current students (you can ask if they do classes and/or practicum over the summer, etc.).

Graduate programs are harder for folks with small children, but I knew people who got through it, although their partners had to do more of the childcare. You simply won't be home much of the time. A friend of mine spent a lot of time doing homework at the library so that when she was home, she was present and spending time with her family. It's doable, but it will be harder while you're in it, for sure. It is a sacrifice, so you have to make sure it's going to be worth it for you and your family in the long run.
 
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