Category Archives: Self Care

APAGS-CSOGD Chair Julia Benjamin reacts to receiving "Proud and Prepared."

APAGS Releases a Brand New Guide for LGBT Graduate Students

“Proud and Prepared: A Guide for LGBT Students Navigating Graduate Training” was printed in limited release last month, and is now available to all members and affiliates of APA for free download!

APAGS-CSOGD Chair Julia Benjamin reacts to receiving "Proud and Prepared."

APAGS-CSOGD Chair Julia Benjamin reacts to receiving a copy of “Proud and Prepared,” which her committee worked on tirelessly for several months.

This exclusive resource guide was produced by the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (CSOGD). Despite the popularity of the committee’s first edition — it had been downloaded and shared thousands of times — it was nine years old. The new guide places emphasis on more subgroups of the LGBT community and offers  broader discussion of this community’s modern training concerns. It also embeds dozens of in-depth quotes, pictures and candid perspectives from real students on a multitude of topics.

Authored by current graduate students from a diversity of backgrounds, training programs and viewpoints, “Proud and Prepared” aims to capture the energy and vitality of LGBT graduate students to the profession. Artistically, the guide was designed in-house by talented APA staff and showcases our dynamic content in a colorful 67-page package.

Go ahead and take a sneak peak

Check out some of Proud and Prepared’s awesome new sections:

  • Assessing Your Program’s Climate
  • Self-Disclosure in Graduate School
  • The Importance of Social Support
  • Mentorship and LGBT Students
  • Tips for Transgender or Gender Variant Students
  • Tips for Bisexual Graduate Students
  • LGBT Advocacy and Confronting Discrimination
  • Conducting LGBT Research
  • Resources for LGBT Students
  • APA’s Ethical Codes of Interest to LGBT Students

If you are looking for relevant information related to climate, mentorship, self-disclosure, research implications and much more, download the full guide (PDF, 3.3MB)  for further reading. Your APA Member login is required. If you are not a member, consider joining today.

You are not only a student but a professional in training--don't be afraid to own it! (Source: University of Exeter on Flickr; Some rights reserved).

Year-by-Year Self-Care for Graduate Students: Part 2 of 4

For Second-Year Students: One year into graduate school, you are likely to meet feelings of adjustment with recognition that you are (somehow) only getting busier. Here are some tips on how to manage your new-found groove while facing even newer challenges and tasks–you can do it! (View Part 1 of this series, dedicated to the first-year graduate school experience.)

Change up where you work.

Studying may not sound like it has much to do with self-care, but after a year in a doctoral program it is as important to continue to stay diligent as it is to make time to play and have fun—this means it is it’s a good idea to match your growing focus with an occasional new discovery, such as a new place to hit the books! There are several gains associated with finding new study spots.

Many students like to find new and interesting places to hit the books (Source: Neo II on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Many students like to find new and interesting places to hit the books. Studying in various locations can help with focus and recall. (Source: Neo II on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Research has begun to consistently point to evidence that switching where you work or study can be helpful for your memory, concentration, and performance habits.  In addition, finding different places to work familiarizes you with where you live, and can build in organic breaks to your work (for example, a coffee shop closing, the proximity of your local library to a friend’s house or movie theater).

It’s of course important to have a good work space at home and at school, but having other options may allow you to perceive working as less of an inevitable chore and as more of a chance to explore where you live while you develop more flexibility and resilience in your work style. An important disclaimer to this, however, is to be mindful of privacy issues in relation to data, clinical work, and teaching courses!

Begin to shift your focus from “student” to “trainee.”

You are not only a student but a professional in training--don't be afraid to own it! (Source: University of Exeter on Flickr; Some rights reserved).

You are not only a student but a professional in training–don’t be afraid to own it! (Source: University of Exeter on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Whether training to become an academic, a public servant, or to work as a clinician, your passion and commitment to your training is your first priority in graduate school. For first year students, this commitment can be daunting to focus on with such primacy amidst moving to a new place, meeting new people, and forging new professional relationships, all while managing a course load.  It can feel counter-intuitive (and ultimately can be counterproductive) to try and immediately fully align your priorities to your research, clinical work, or other professional training opportunities during you first year. It may be wise to acquaint yourself with the level of difficulty and expectations around coursework in your doctoral program.

Once you have two terms worth of grades under your belt, however, it is time to make the sometimes awkward shift from over-achieving student to ambitious scholar. This means that caring for yourself while in training will mean caring about what you are there to be trained in.

Let go of perfectionism. Embrace the stumbles, risks, and uncertain steps forward.


By the time you are a doctoral student, it is likely that you are already a high-achieving student, and consequently the tendency may be for doctoral students to initially care more about their performances in their courses than anything else. You should find, however, that your advisors, supervisors, and mentors care about your professional development and scholarship more than they do about your grades. This means it will be up to you to manage coursework with your other responsibilities.A part of this management will mean letting go of the perfectionism common to aspiring graduate students and embracing the stumbles, risks, and uncertain steps forward affiliated with training on the doctoral level.

Uncertainty will not always make you feel good right away but it is far from your enemy. With your sense of self on one side and social support in the other, lean into your training and allow yourself some distance between you and your image of what it means to be the best student—you have bigger fish to fry.

Year-by-Year Self-Care for Graduate Students: Part 1 of 4


Year-by-Year Self-Care Tips for Graduate School, Part 1 of 4

For First-Year Students, Make time: Your first year of grad school can be be a big adjustment but being prepared and keeping some self-care strategies in mind will help you transition smoothly. In your first year, make time to

Disconnect electronically.

It may appear counter-intuitive, but planning time where you do not work is as important as planning time for when you do work. Making time for yourself can be facilitated by signing off of all chats and other mobile devices at set times each day so that you are not inundated by messages you feel obligated to respond to at odd hours of the day or night. Although it is true you will have ongoing work while in school, it is also true your productivity benefits from unplugging. During your first year make friends with the idea of having professional boundaries, and put them to work!

Read your program’s handbook.

Most programs or departments will have a handbook, manual, or guide that details anticipated goals broken down for your program of study. The handbook’s aim is to acquaint you with the expectations of your program for each year or term you are enrolled as a student.  Despite the aim of the handbook being welcome students to their graduate program, these guides are often long and can feel overwhelming at first –this results in students holding off on reading through important information. One way to evade the temptation to avoid when reading your handbook is to think of it as an indexed syllabus that you will never need all of at once. Trying breaking it down month-to-month, read what you need, and bookmark the rest. Don’t be afraid to find out what’s expected of you by doing your own research, and taking it one term at a time.

An added benefit of knowing the handbook well is that it can also help you to break ground with your advisor. By confirming with your advisor what is expected of you in accordance with the handbook, you are showing her/him your investment in the program, A discussion with your adivsor over the handbook can also help you begin to carve out a plan for managing time in your advisor’s research lab with other program requirements.

Get to know your cohort.

The reality of graduate school is that members of your cohort will not remain completely in sync or on the same schedule for every moment of your doctoral program. It is equally unlikely, however, that anyone else in your life will quite understand what that first week, month, or mid-term exam was like for you. Cohorts are like families in that everyone is an individual, but shared experiences can bring and keep you together. You will always have your first year to look back on, so do not be afraid to connect with your fellow students during your first year.

Take time during this first year on at least three different occasions to meet for a happy hour, a game night, or some other non-academic activity. It is true that much of what doctoral programs include involve long hours of work, but it is also true that students are not people without senses of humor, enjoyable quirks, and necessary inside jokes. Develop these traits and experiences in your new surroundings, find out more about yourself with your cohort by your side.

Keep in contact with close friends and family.

The people who likely saw you through your application process will likely be some of the same people who see you through graduate school. It’s a good thing to immerse yourself in what is happening with your program but remember you were interesting and important before beginning this graduate school experience.

Whether those bonds involve platonic, familial, or romantic partnerships, continue to be mindful of how friends and family show up in your life as you embark in your doctoral program. Go to these relationships for support, and remember to show up for your supporters when and how you can. They are likely an important part of who you are, and who you will become.



Keep Calm and Beagle On

My heart belongs to a beagle. And considering his desire for attention/affection, he will be delighted to know he’s the topic of discussion in this post.

My dog’s name is Beckett and my husband, Craig, and I rescued him three years ago this summer. As a graduate student in psychology, Beckett is a vital facet of my self-care. He is sweet, chill, and smart as heck. He loves belly rubs, long walks, and baby carrots. He also loves me unconditionally and serves as my unofficial therapy dog. I’m pretty much obsessed:

I should mention Beckett is spoiled. Spoiled. Rotten. I mean, his bed is nicer than ours. I dare say he’s unabashed by the steady stream of attention, grain-free treats, and seasonal collars. He comes by it honestly.

Being strong-willed/spoiled, Beckett can also be naughty as all get out. I’m serious. Within the last month, he has knocked over trash cans (thanks, dude), escaped from my parents backyard by climbing poultry wire (three times!), marked his territory on a girl’s backpack at the park (#mortified), and ate seven dyed Easter eggs.

“You’re welcome,” said the hound to the Mel.  

Currently (and until we are 80+ years old), my husband and I are both students in the counseling psychology doctoral program at WVU. Despite his #beaglemonster ways, Beckett is a constant source of joy for us. That said, and nothing personal to my baby boy, he’s an additional responsibility on top of our academics, research, clinical work, finances, and jobs. In this post, I wanted to provide my perspective on having a dog in graduate school. Frankly, my perspective is one of many but if you’re considering adopting a pet in graduate school, you may find the challenges/benefits below helpful.

Side note, they teach us in psychology to be aware of our biases. Therefore, I will own up front that my opinions about pets will always lean toward the benefits.

Challenges (“Growth Edges,” as we say in psychology) of Pet Ownership:

  • Time commitment – feeding, quality time/attention, taking them out, cleaning cages,  training, etc.
  • Financial responsibility – vet visits, annual exams, nails, baths, supplies, adoption fees, etc.
  • Pets, like humans, can sometimes be on “bad behaviors” (as Craig says) and need to lose some privileges (e.g. my dog)
  • Much more difficult to coordinate care of the animal if you don’t have someone to help you (= me during my first year when Craig and I lived 10 hours apart)
  • Can’t just pick up and leave, always need to arrange accommodations (which can be pricey)
  • Minor annoyances – dog takes forever to do his business, dog wants to sniff EVERYTHING, dog refuses to do his business in the rain/sleet/snow, dog fakes an injury when owner makes him go out in the rain/sleet/snow, etc. (not that Beckett would ever commit any of the aforementioned misdemeanors.)
  • The answer to, “Did I turn off the straightener?” becomes more important
  • Losing a pet is so hard, I know this from personal experience
  • Dog may pee on backpacks (ugh)

Benefits of Pet Ownership:

  • The feeling of unconditional positive regard (see what I did there?) you receive from loving a cuddly (or scaly, fishy, feathery, etc.) being
  • Promote self-care and wellness
  • Provide entertainment/laughter
  • Help you keep a routine
  • Have someone to binge-watch Unbreakable with Kimmy Schmidt and Workaholics with regardless of the time/day
  • Can motivate you to stay active if your pet enjoys walks
  • Companionship/loyalty
  • Keep your feet warm
  • Can assuage feelings of loneliness/isolation
  • Always have someone to talk to even if you’re just talking to yourself
  • Can promote better time management (though I still feel I’m always running from one thing to the next)
  • Can cause you to be less “me-focused” in graduate school
  • Great distraction for long paper writing (cough, dissertation, cough, cough)
  • Owning an animal can be a solid/go-to topic of conversation (e.g. this post)
  • Socially acceptable excuse to take/post lots of pictures on social media
  • Can connect you to a fun/supportive community of fellow helicopter parents (e.g. the dog park)
  • Potentially rehabilitate an animal (you wouldn’t believe it now, but Beckett was skittish, withdrawn, and anxious when we first got him)
  • Contribute to positive social change by demonstrating responsible pet ownership
  • And of course, the opportunity to rescue

Welp, those are some of my thoughts on pet ownership in graduate school. Above all else, if you’re considering adopting a pet, please make it a thoughtful and responsible decision. And to all my fellow animal lovers out there:

Keep calm and love animals on.


Editor’s Note: Melissa Foster is a second year doctoral student from Virginia Beach, VA. She is studying counseling psychology at West Virginia University. Check out her lifestyle blog, Method to My Melness.



How to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution Using Psychology and Harry Potter

Check out the first episode of The Psych Show where Ali Mattu, PhD, walks viewers through the psychology of sticking to your New Year’s resolution using Harry Potter.

Dr. Ali Mattu is a former APAGS Chair and is currently a clinical psychologist at Columbia University. He hosts The Psych Show, which launched in January 2015 and aims to make psychology, the brain, and behavioral sciences fun and easy to understand.