How to Develop Your Professional Identity & Choose a Career Path

How to Develop Your Professional Identity & Choose a Career Path

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.


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Should You Apply to a PsyD or PhD Program?

Should You Apply to a PsyD or PhD Program?

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 [1]. 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.


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The 3 Keys to Balancing Parenthood & Your Studies

The 3 Keys to Balancing Parenthood & Your Studies

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.


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From Student to Professional: 2 Tips to Help You Transition

From Student to Professional: 2 Tips to Help You Transition

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!


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Starting a Family During Grad School

Starting a Family During Grad School

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.


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Improving Clinical Supervision Through Collaboration

Improving Clinical Supervision Through Collaboration

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 [1].

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 [1].

This tends to amplify a supervisee’s existing anxiety related to questions of competency, training demands, and balancing academic, occupational, and personal obligations [2]. Too often, the level of anxiety is suboptimal, negatively impacting learning, growth, and clinical work.


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How to Handle Conflicts in Grad School the Smart Way

How to Handle Conflicts in Grad School the Smart Way

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?”


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How to Get Your Dissertation Published

How to Get Your Dissertation Published

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:


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5 Crucial Concepts for Working with Sexual Abuse Survivors

5 Crucial Concepts for Working with Sexual Abuse Survivors

The #MeToo movement has exposed powerful men who leverage their positions to abuse and manipulate. The courage these women and men exhibit as they step forward to confront this behavior is inspiring.

May it continue to motivate other survivors to come forward, because as statistics show, roughly 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported [1]. What a jarring reality, especially since nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives [2].

Survivors may have many reasons not to publicize their story. But if and when they do, are we as mental health providers prepared to help? A thorough manual on how therapists can propel them toward recovery is beyond the scope of this article [3], so what follows are 5 concepts to remember when working with survivors of sexual abuse.


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