Clinical psychology comprises the fastest growing subfield in the study of psychology, and it accounts for approximately half of all doctoral degrees earned within the field . There are two primary degrees awarded for doctoral study within psychology: the PhD and the PsyD. Briefly, the PhD holds a primary research focus in addition to clinical practice, while the PsyD is focused primarily on provision of clinical services. The PsyD, or the Doctor of Psychology degree, emerged in the 1970s and has since grown rapidly as a primary model of training for clinical psychology.
Most PsyD programs follow the scholar-practitioner model, also known as the Vail model. This type of training is characterized by emphasis on practical clinical training. In the course of this training, students also learn how to analyze and evaluate existing scientific research, and they may carry out their own original research, as well.
The PhD, or the Doctor of Philosophy, takes a balanced approach to research and clinical work. In addition to learning the practice of clinical psychology, the PhD emphasizes conducting research. This is the scientist-practitioner model, or the Boulder model. Students in PhD programs gain extensive training in the development, execution, and dissemination of research.
After what seemed like a lifetime of being in school, I was finally done! I could finally call myself a psychologist. I remembered breathing a huge sigh of relief after I realized that I would not have to worry about writing papers, participating in weekly discussions, or giving presentations anymore; I was finally free and ready to do what I loved, and get paid for it!
But wait…what was I supposed to do next? So, you mean I just go and start working? Who is going to walk me through the career world now? I was so used to always having a directive and a professor to guide me that I did not even think about the fact that one day, the training wheels would be removed and I would be launched out on my own!
The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is something every psychology graduate student dreads. After spending years in school, hours reading, writing, applying for internship and fellowship, and collecting clinical hours, the day has finally come for that very last step.
Of course, it’s normal to feel anxious about the EPPP. Many have said, “You feel like you’re failing it the whole time you’re taking it, but it will be fine.” Or there’s an optimistic tone of, “You’re going to be fine, you’ll do great! You just need a score of 500 to pass.”
Then there are the aftermath celebrations and Facebook updates: “I passed the EPPP!” Or, “Another step closer to being licensed!”
I found it so rare and uncommon for my peers to speak about the other possibility: What happens if you don’t pass?
While a lot of people my age are slowing down and retiring as they hit the half-century mark, I decided to make a career change and go back to school to earn my master’s degree in mental health counseling. Now, at the age of 54, I am proud to say that I am a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in the state of Texas, currently completing my postgraduate internship hours.
If you are wondering how I decided to become a psychotherapist at this point in my life, I can assure you that it was not an idea that simply plummeted out of the sky and bopped me on the head one day.
Quite the contrary – I have been a therapist-in-training ever since I was a little girl, although I never really knew what that meant at the time. I always knew that I had a caring and compassionate heart and a special gift for helping others, but I did not know how to translate that into a career when I was younger.
Sometimes the hardest job can have the most amazing rewards.
Living and working in the New Orleans metro area has been an eye-opening experience, especially working as a mental health counseling intern in one of the area’s elementary schools.
New Orleans has a vibrant culture that is woven together with tragedy and music that just draws you in. Coming here as a visitor, you are usually not aware of the negatives such as the long-term effects of Hurricane Katrina and the communities that have been locked in poverty (and the effects that has had on its residents). As a visitor, your focus is usually on the excellent music, the delicious food, and the eccentric characters that make visiting New Orleans so great.
This article is part of the series, Careers in Behavioral Health, where we interview professionals in the field about their educational and job experiences.
Madeline E. B. Wesh, PsyD is an adjunct psychology professor, field researcher for psych test revisions, and clinical psychology post-doc. Here are the questions we asked Dr. Wesh.
As a psychologist, a profession that brings both routine and unpredictability, I try to hold onto – and maybe even control – what I can.
For me, that means starting each day with my cup of coffee (which I often leave on the Keurig until reminded by someone that I made it) and looking at my schedule to plan for my next few days.
There is comfort in the routine and also excitement in the possibilities of the unknown. Together, this dialectic keeps me passionate for what I do with my patients in consultation, therapy, and assessment.
And yet, one possibility, a mostly unspoken fear during my education and at training sites, was the chance that I would lose a patient to suicide.
Throughout my many practica and on internship, I completed numerous risk assessments and hospitalized patients voluntarily and, in a few cases, involuntarily. The focus of those interventions was the preservation of safety and the illusion that I would be able to keep each of those individuals alive.
“What type of supervision will I receive at this training site?”
How many times have you asked this question during your interviews for practicum, pre-doctoral internship, or post-doctoral training sites? I recall my own apprehension about my clinical supervisors over the last few years.
I had the opportunity to experience wonderful clinical supervisors who provided excellent supervision. I attribute my professional and personal development as a clinical psychologist to the clinical supervisors I worked with during my graduate school training.
My story begins at the tender age of 23, when I was looking forward to starting graduate school and raising my son, who was one year old at the time.
That day in August 2007 still remains very vivid in my mind, as I recall sitting at my desk at work, enjoying what felt like one of the best days thus far.
Then I received a phone call that changed my life forever, and I heard the following: “Shenae, I don’t know how to tell you this, but we received your test results and they appear to look just like your mother’s, which means you, too, have lupus.”
This is the first article in a new series, Careers in Behavioral Health, where we’ll be interviewing professionals in the field about their educational and job experiences.
Our first professional is Jeff Doering, a behavioral scientist and part-time Ph.D. student from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here are the questions we asked Jeff.