CARED Perspectives: The Political Climate, Government Shutdown, and Unavoidable Dialogue in the Therapy Room

This blog post is a part of the series, “CARED Perspectives,” developed by the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity (CARED). This series will discuss current events and how these events relate to graduate students in psychology. If you are interested in contributing to the CARED Perspectives series, please contact Aleesha Young, Chair of APAGS-CARED.

By: Aleesha Young

shutdownDecember 21, 2018 marked the longest federal government shutdown in United States (U.S.) history and was prompted by a political divide around the President’s demand to fund and build a wall along the U.S – Mexico Border. Notably, the border wall has been at the center of the President’s immigration policies and was imposed to prevent illegal entry into the U.S.  Thus, immigrants who were once protected from deportation, even DACA recipients, are faced with pervasive fear and uncertainty about their future and livelihoods. Consequently, these xenophobic government policies have a remarkable impact on individuals from marginalized groups.

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Personal Finance for Psychology Trainees

by: The Debt Shrink

FinancesIn grad school they didn’t teach us about repaying student loans. They also didn’t teach how much we could expect to earn after we graduated.

Fortunately, during undergrad I attended a seminar by current grad students about applying to grad school. They recommended we ONLY apply to programs that offer both tuition waivers and stipends. Yes, such programs are more competitive, but the extra efforts to get more lab experience, present  posters, and earn high GRE scores to get in could save a hundred thousand dollars or more. This was the best advice I received!

Student loans can be a median of $160,000 for PsyDs, which is significantly higher than the median Clinical/Counseling PhDs ($76,500) and Research and other PhDs ($72,500). However, there are no significant differences in pay between the two degrees. Furthermore, most early career psychologists say they earned less money than they had expected (Doran  et al., 2016).

In 2017, the median salary for psychologists was $77,030 ($75,090 for clinical/counseling/school psychologists, $87,100 for I/O psychologists, $97,740 for other psychologists) (US Dept of Labor Statistics).

I had a baby while on internship, and was the sole provider for my family of three while on post-doc. Luckily, I did graduate from a PhD program with tuition waivers and I worked as an RA. However, I still took on debt, which I had to start repaying six months after graduating!

During my two-year post-doc, I kept my expenses as low as possible. Although I was making twice as much money, I continued to live as if I were an intern and threw all the “extra” money I was making toward my loans.  When I started a staff position, I made nearly double the salary as I did during post-doc. However, I still continued to live as if I were an intern. Within three years of graduating, I had paid off my loans (without any forgiveness or repayment plans)! Five months after that, I had enough for a down payment on my house. I’ve had my home for 5 years, and plan to have it paid off in another 2!

I know that after 30 years of hard work and living like a student, you will be eager to finally  be making money. But if you are able to keep your expenses at near-student levels during post-doc and your first few years of your career, your future-self will thank you!

If you are having difficulty getting by on your grad school or internship stipend, what are the reasons?

Do you live in an area with a ridiculous housing market and rents have skyrocketed? If so, seriously consider getting a roommate (or two). Aim for rent to be <30% of your annual income.

Do you own more car than you can afford? If so, consider selling it (even if you have to pay to get out from under it). Aim for car value to be <50% of your annual income.

Are your food expenses taking a big part of your salary? If so, this is a really easy category to cut back on. Some families manage to spend only $100 per person per month for food, but you don’t have to be that extreme.

Do you have debt but continue to engage in “luxuries” (e.g., salon services, gym memberships, gourmet coffee). If so, remind yourself that you have negative net worth and look for free or inexpensive alternatives. You’ve literally been taking out a loan to pay for your gym membership. Remember, “I can charge it” isn’t the same as “I can afford it.”

Even if you’re facing a mortgage-sized student loan payment, it is possible to repay it!

For more tips, check out my personal finance blog geared toward psychology trainees and early career psychologists: The Debt Shrink.

References:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (2018). Occupational Outlook Handbook, Psychologists. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm

Doran, J. M., Kraha, A., Marks, L. R., Ameen, E. J., & El-Ghoroury, N. H. (2016). Graduate debt in psychology: A quantitative analysis. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 10(1), 3-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tep0000112

Where Science Meets Policy Part 1: Involving Stakeholders in Every Step of Your Research

Where Science Meets Policy

Part 1: Involving Stakeholders in Every Step of Your Research

Melanie Arenson, Renee Cloutier, Travis Loughran, Mary Fernandes

There is a well-known lack of consistent translation of scientific research into public policy. To address this, the scientific community has instituted a substantial push to involve “stakeholders” in our research, in order to make it more targeted, translatable, and impactful. But what does that mean practically, and how do we do it?

What is a stakeholder?

According to the American Psychological Association, stakeholders include anybody that could be influenced by the research you conduct (e.g., they have a “stake” in it). What does that look like? Well, imagine you’re developing a new intervention for adolescents. Stakeholders for such a project might include the people receiving and providing the treatment (e.g. the adolescent and therapist), as well as the child’s parents, teachers, and peers, the administrators in both the treatment setting and the school, and the policy-makers dictating the allocation of school-based resources. Depending on your area of research, this group of stakeholders may expand to include businesses, insurance companies, curriculum writers, and nonprofits.

Why involve them at all?

Too often in academic settings, we formulate a question, conduct the research in our labs, find exciting results, publish a paper in an academic journal, and then that research gets cited by other academics in other academic journals. The problem with that? The information we’ve discovered doesn’t ever actually leave the world in which it was created.

Stakeholders, if engaged properly, are uniquely positioned in two ways to help change that: (1) their opinions can be sought to ensure that the questions we ask, the research paradigms we create, and the treatments we develop appropriately reflect the real-world applications that interested us in the first place; and (2) they hold connections that can help with dissemination when we find those really cool results. They are mired in the frequently messy reality that we try to emulate in our labs, and understand what is feasible and what isn’t because they live it, day to day, in a way we as researchers rarely do. They also hold connections in the community and have specialized insights into the most appropriate and impactful way to translate our research to the populations that need to hear it the most.

So how do we involve them?

This can depend on your setting, but below are a few options:

1)    Use your existing network. Most likely, you can think of a few stakeholders you already know, whether in a professional or personal context. One of the easiest ways to get stakeholders involved is to ask those people to have coffee with you and chat. If they’re interested in what you’re doing they might be a good person to get involved, but they also can likely suggest people they know that might be able to help.

2)    Focus groups are extremely helpful. They can be used as sources for more permanent stakeholder involvement (e.g. you can recruit stakeholders that will remain involved for the duration of the project), but they also are formalized way to engage stakeholders just as they are.  Recruit as broad of a range of stakeholders as you can, know the questions you want to ask, and be prepared to lightly guide a discussion. Keep in mind that it may be helpful to group participants by stakeholder type, depending on your project and the diversity of stakeholders. If someone seems particularly insightful, motivated, and you think they may be good fit for your research team, talk to them about the possibility of getting more involved (and keep a list of these types of people as possible stakeholders for future projects!).

3)   Use conferences to build connections. When you’re talking to colleagues about your research, don’t forget to talk about recruiting stakeholders (they may know someone that would be a perfect fit!), and attend talks that are related to the research you want to do as they may give you an idea for stakeholders you haven’t thought of. Check the program for any stakeholder-related gatherings, which may include a talk by patients, booths run by educators and/or companies, or division-specific events related to specific providers.

4)   Don’t forget about your professional organizations. Many organizations have committees and departments dedicated to influencing and crafting policy. These sub-organizations can connect you and your academic work to the policy arenas you want to influence. Reach out to committee members and tell them about your research and the implications you think it has. They’ll be perfectly positioned to help you translate your findings to the community stakeholders you want to reach. They also may be able to direct you resources and stakeholders you haven’t thought of.

5)   Finally, use your research. Talk to your participants, their parents, and the community connections you use to recruit your sample, and ask them if they would like a summary of your findings once your research is complete. If you haven’t already built a relationship with them, offering to reach out (and taking the time to do it!) is a great foundation. Similar to focus groups, if you think any of those people would be a good fit for your research, offer the opportunity for them to get involved in future projects.

Breaking the academic loop:

Once you have successfully designed, executed, and analyzed your research project, how do you convey the findings to a broad range of stakeholders? Researchers and policy makers often have different decision-making processes, time-lines, vocabularies, and incentives (Brownson, Royer, Ewing, & McBride, 2006; Grande et al., 2014), which create barriers to effective communication. Overcoming these barriers requires several, multi-level actions, many of which will be addressed in this series. Follow us for our next piece on how to write academic papers for a broad range of stakeholders.

 

References:

Brownson, R. C., Royer, C., Ewing, R., & McBride, T. D. (2006). Researchers and policymakers: travelers in parallel universes. American journal of preventive medicine, 30(2), 164-172.

Grande, D., Gollust, S. E., Pany, M., Seymour, J., Goss, A., Kilaru, A., & Meisel, Z. (2014). Translating research for health policy: researchers’ perceptions and use of social media. Health Affairs, 33(7), 1278-1285.

 

APAGS Funds Five Programmatic Grants to Boost Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Doctoral Students in Psychology

At the end of 2018, the APAGS Committee invested in a brand new award program to support institutional recruitment and retention of diverse doctoral students in psychology and closely related programs by engaging current graduate students in such efforts.  The number of applications received for the “APAGS Student Diversity Initiative Award” surpassed expectations and made this APAGS award highly competitive. A team of committee members awarded five institutions approximately $3,000 each to help them implement new initiatives or support existing programs, committees, and resources. APAGS defined diversity to include identification by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability/disability, religion, language, socioeconomic status, and age.

The following five winners are to be congratulated for their efforts and wished every success as they move forward on proposed initiatives:

Authors from Emory University School of Medicine proposed a training and mentoring program for students of color pursuing graduate education in psychology. The funding will support a weekend workshop for undergraduate students of color interested in pursuing a career in psychology, materials for attendees, and follow-up evaluation of the program’s success. Faculty from across Atlanta will provide training to attendees on the graduate school application process and pertinent issues of discrimination and social justice, and attendees will be paired with graduate student mentors.

Old Dominion University and the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, through the ODU Research Foundation, secured funds to repeat and expand a successful workshop to assist local minority students in developing and preparing a successful application to graduate programs in clinical psychology. Funding would support the workshop by providing attendees with transportation to and dinner at the workshop, GRE preparation materials, and other resources.

University of Houston’s School Psychology Program proposed an immersion program to cultivate culturally responsive service. Funding will go to students who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse to support their participation in training experiences associated with the multilingual training track, specifically an immersion trip to Mexico. This program has the potential to help the program’s reputation for its emphasis in supporting school psychology trainees who are fluent in languages other than English.

University of Massachusetts Boston’s Clinical Psychology Program secured funding for a Student Diversity Coordinator, a current graduate student who will be hired to update recruitment materials (including brochures and digital narratives), serve as a consultant to faculty members looking to share external funding opportunities with admitted students, and coordinate a greatly expanded peer mentoring program to ensure the successful transition into and through doctoral study.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Clinical Psychology Program secured funds to support various purposes aimed at recruitment and retention, including: An informal meeting between applicants and doctoral students from diverse backgrounds during admission interviews; providing applicants from diverse backgrounds with travel funds to facilitate their participation in this informal meeting; forming a group to foster the professional development and social support of underrepresented students; and bringing in a speaker to address the intersection of clinical work, cultural humility, and social justice to improve the inclusion of diverse perspectives in clinical training.

The APAGS Committee hopes to issue similar awards in future years.

CARED Perspectives: Voter Suppression and Wellbeing

By Lincoln Hill, MA

This blog post is a part of the series, “CARED Perspectives,” developed by the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. This series will discuss current events and how these events relate to graduate students in psychology. If you are interested in contributing to the CARED Perspectives series, please contact Lincoln Hill.

polling stationThe 2018 United States midterm elections ushered in record-breaking voter turnout with 49.4% of possible voters casting a ballot in the elections compared to just 36.7% in 2014. Following the election, media coverage heavily focused on this notable turnout and the many progressive policy proposals and surge of diverse candidates. However some of the biggest news stories that emerged from the election period centered on voter suppression. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defines voter suppression as “measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot.” With increased attention to claims of voter roll purges, poll closures, gerrymandering, and biased voter ID laws, voter suppression poses a violation to constitutional rights as well as human rights. These measures disproportionately affect racial minority and other marginalized communities, obstruct healthy democracy, and challenge the dignities and well-being of those directly impacted.

When individuals are denied opportunities to actively participate in decision-making processes that impact their well-being and environment such as democratic elections, they are deprived of their basic human rights. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Hence, voter suppression and disenfranchisement (the state of being deprived the right to vote) remain in discordance with these universal standards.

From a social ecological perspective, health is not solely influenced by individual traits and factors, but also the social environment within which individuals reside. Common political issues such as education and healthcare policies directly influence an individual’s social world. As such, voter suppression tactics that hinder civic engagement also hinder opportunities for individuals to participate in altering their environments by voting on integral issues –which quite literally impacts their health and well-being.

As psychologists-in-training, we should position ourselves as staunch advocates for voting rights and protections. We must ensure that all citizens have the ability to participate in decision-making processes, thus preserving their dignity and value as citizens and community members.

Steps you can take as a graduate student to advocate for the preservation of voting rights:

  • Educate yourself and others about restrictive voting laws and policies by state
  • Contact your local government representatives and hold them accountable for suppressive voting measures
    • Advocate for voter registration expansion
  • Create voting information guides
  • Participate in community outreach opportunities to inform citizens of voter suppression tactics and pressing issues that may influence their health and wellbeing
  • If you are concerned about yours or others’ voting rights being violated, the ACLU recommends contacting the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE), the Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline (800-253-3931), or an attorney
  • Volunteer at your next local election poll and advocate on behalf of other voters for equitable treatment

For more information and additional advocacy tips: