Burnout is believed to be coined by the psychologist Dr. Herbert Freudenberger who defined it as “failing, wearing out, or becoming exhausted through excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources” .
At times, graduate school seems synonymous with burnout – it is a multi-year, grueling process of hurdle after hurdle.
There is often a mentality in graduate programs that this “suffering” is a right-of-passage of sorts, an initiation that all therapists before us endured and overcame before entering into the profession.
However, the reality is that these expectations and this laissez faire attitude, when left unchecked, can produce burnout that is of detriment to not only the physical and mental health of graduate students, but also to their productivity and quality of work. Unfortunately, for many in the psychology field, this experience does not end with graduate school.
The first time I worked with a physician was during my training as a suicide risk assessment consultant in a hospital.
My job was simple: give the nice doctor a brief run-through of the patient presentation and make recommendations for treatment. I walked into the doctor’s office, smiled, took a deep breath, and I began to regale them with the tale of my time with the patient and how they made me feel.
After about thirty seconds, my story was cut short.
The doctor shook his head, raised his hand, and said “you’re burning my time buddy, just tell me what I need to do.” Caught off guard and sweating profusely, I managed to stumble through some recommendations before the physician said “sounds great” and turned back to his notes.
When I entered graduate school, I knew one thing: I would never become a clinical psychologist. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew psychology wasn’t it, and I figured that spending a few years in a doctoral program was a good way to pass the time while my interests worked themselves out. (Side note: It isn’t. There are much easier ways to spend six years.)
Now I am the one thing I thought I would never be: a clinical psychologist. How in the world did that happen?
The truth is that I began graduate school with a narrow sense of what it means to be a psychologist. Over the course of my training, I learned that there are many ways to match your interests, passions, and values to a career in behavioral health and many opportunities to fall in love with this work.
Whether you have well-defined professional goals or are utterly confused about the path ahead, here are a few questions to consider as you work toward developing your professional identity and choosing a meaningful career.
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.
For parents, the idea of pursuing an advanced degree can sound daunting and even impossible. Being a successful parent and student can require a bit more juggling than what’s required of those who are in just one role.
Yet, many do make it work — in fact, 4.8 million undergraduate students, or 26 percent, are raising dependent children.
The key to joining this group of colleagues who are seemingly doing it all? Mastering the three keys of balancing parenthood and your studies: setting boundaries, practicing time management, and being compassionate.
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!
Between running studies for your research, trying to get enough clinical hours, classes, comprehensive examinations, supervising undergraduates, lab meetings, teaching assistance-ships, and many other graduate school demands, it is sometimes a great accomplishment to squeeze in a few moments for lunch.
There is a general tacit agreement amongst graduate students and oftentimes, their supervisors, that achieving work-life balance is hard enough given the demanding schedules of graduate school; but achieving work-life-and-family balance can feel near impossible. Although it may be challenging, it is not impossible.
The core purposes of clinical supervision are to protect the welfare of clients by ensuring they are receiving ethical, quality care and to promote the growth of pre-licensed clinicians .
A couple of main areas that distinguish pre-licensure clinical supervision from consultation, mentoring, or another form of guidance are the evaluative and non-voluntary components of the supervisory relationship .
This tends to amplify a supervisee’s existing anxiety related to questions of competency, training demands, and balancing academic, occupational, and personal obligations . Too often, the level of anxiety is suboptimal, negatively impacting learning, growth, and clinical work.
Students within a graduate program will share research interests, goals, and dreams. By nature, graduate students share the qualities of motivation, diligence, persistence, and focus. We share accomplishments as well as setbacks. We also share supervisors, textbooks, friends, and Netflix accounts. Yet, despite these commonalities, graduate students within one program can be vastly different.
Remember The Breakfast Club? The Brain, the Athlete, the Basket Case, the Princess, and the Criminal had nothing in common other than the fact that they were in detention. Yet by the end of the movie they learned to connect with one another and bonded despite their differences. Graduate school is a lot like The Breakfast Club; it is full of unique personalities that come together for survival, but often results in strong personal and professional relationships that last a lifetime.
Conflict is common when a group of individuals is working toward a shared goal while simultaneously trying to meet their own needs. Needless to say, graduate school is full of conflict. It’s an environment where you willingly compete with those you are closest to, allow yourself to be vulnerable with those who evaluate you, all while trying to develop and maintain your identity as a professional.
Although conflict is often viewed negatively, it is not always a bad thing. When managed appropriately, conflict helps us to achieve our goals, express our opinions, learn new ideas and points of view, and strengthen our relationships. Essentially, conflict can help us to grow both personally and professionally.
Although conflict can often be beneficial, many people remain uncomfortable with the mere idea of it. Due to the inevitable conflict of graduate school and the common discomfort surrounding it, students are often left wondering, “How do I best navigate this diplomatic environment, achieve personal and professional goals, all while building and maintaining professional and personal relationships?”
Preparing your dissertation for publication can feel overwhelming. The dissertation represents the pinnacle of many challenging years in graduate school.
By the time its defended, you have no doubt poured countless hours into its design, implementation, and writing. It has likely been formally proposed, heavily critiqued and reformatted, and “defended” to an expert audience.
After this effort, repacking the dissertation into a concise, academic-journal worthy manuscript is time consuming, but completely doable. Here are 8 steps to help you succeed: