Tag Archives: experts

How to Ace Your Internship Essays

If you are a clinical, counseling, or school psychology doc student and you’re at bat for the internship application process this fall, you naturally want to knock your AAPIC essays out of the park. Great — we’re here to help!

Set aside 25 minutes and watch this narrated friendly-professor webisode from Dr. Mitch Prinstein, co-author of the APAGS internship workbook Internships in Psychology Hot on the heels of our annual Internship Workshop at APA Convention, this video will walk you through the DO’s and DON’Ts for each of your four essays.

Also, be sure to see #internship on this blog for more videos, articles, and other resources.


Dear me, future psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Robert Sternberg

If I knew then what I know now… If I could do it again… If I could go back in time…

We’ve all had these thoughts: What we’d do differently if given the opportunity. Would we have spent our time the same way? Would we have entered/ended that relationship? Would we have studied psychology? Would we have gone to graduate school?

If you could send a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? What advice would you give yourself to prepare for the future? To my fellow nerds out there: Yes, we’re talking about parallel universes and warping the space-time continuum.

Dear me, future psychologist is a new feature exclusively on our blog. We will periodically publish a letter written by a prominent psychologist to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

sternbergOur first letter is from Robert J. Sternberg, PhD. Dr. Sternberg received his PhD from Stanford University in 1975 and spent most of his career as a Professor at Yale University. More recently, he served as a Dean at Tufts University, Provost at Oklahoma State University, and President at the University of Wyoming. He also is a Past President of the American Psychological Association. He is currently Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. He is best known for his research on intelligence, creativity, wisdom, thinking styles, leadership, ethics, love, and hate. He is the founder of the triarchic theory of intelligence and the triangular theory of love, as well as co-creator of the investment theory of creativity. For more info, please visit Dr. Sternberg’s Wikipedia page.



Dear Me at 16,

I am not sure whether you will receive this letter, at least in a timely fashion, but I thought I would give it a try anyway. Here are three pieces of advice I hope you will find useful, ideally, sooner rather than later.

1. You will underestimate the importance of family and friends. You soon will come to believe that, through your work, you can achieve immortality, and that the shot at immortality is the meaning of your life.  Wrong.  First, very few psychologists achieve immortality through their work—perhaps Freud, James, Skinner, Piaget, and a few more.  But most psychologists are forgotten quickly starting with the day they announce their plans to retire. You will watch many of your famous Yale colleagues retire and see that what is left to them is not their work, which is quickly forgotten, or even their friends from work, most of whom are busy advancing their careers.  Rather, what remains is their family and true friends, if they have any.  You will discover that your meaning in life is making the world a better place, and that the main way you will do that is through your family, especially your five beautiful children and their children and onward through the generations.

2. You will overestimate people’s willingness to change.  You will enter a field, intelligence research, in which many people believe that traits are relatively fixed.  You will argue, correctly, that people are far more modifiable than many intelligence theorists give them credit for.  But what you will not realize until much later is that the main problem is not people’s inability to change, but rather, their unwillingness to do so.  People, including you, will make all kinds of excuses to stay just as they are.  They cling to their weaknesses, often inventing stories to justify doing so, and for them, their stories are their reality.  Institutions are the same way:  Mediocre ones desperately cling to their mediocrity, often inventing stories about their unappreciated excellence, and excellent ones cling to what they have done before in the hope that what once made them great will continue to do so, despite the rapid pace of change in the world.  Creativity often is appreciated in word, but not in deed.  The problem for psychologists is not so much increasing people’s ability to change as increasing their willingness and courage to do so.

3. Intelligence is not the invaluable commodity you think it is.  You, like most of our society, believe in the great importance of intelligence, although at least you realize it is much broader than just IQ.  But what most is lacking in the world is not intelligence, but rather, creativity, common sense, wisdom, and high ethical standards.  So please, do your work on intelligence, but remember that what the world needs most are motivated, creative, wise, and ethical people, not just smart ones.

Hoping you get this letter soon,

Me at 64

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for curating these.

Writing for publication: Lessons from the trenches

Not too long ago I had a conversation with a recent PhD. graduate about career issues and the struggles we go through to get established in the competitive environment that is academic psychology. Having climbed a steep learning curve myself as a junior faculty, I’ve always enjoyed passing on the lessons I’ve acquired along the way. As is the case with many young PhDs and junior faculty in general, this young colleague described extremely common struggles with writing for publication and the accompanying pressures that we feel to produce when it seems that everyone around us is lapping us with their published work. After talking with this young colleague, I thought it would be useful to share some of the lessons I have learned about professional academic writing. My hope is that it will help other colleagues who, like me, have encountered many writing frustrations and have begun to feel as if they have lost their way.

I think the key issues plaguing writing productivity among junior faculty and new professionals fall in six areas.

They are:

(1) lack of confidence about writing

(2) lack of knowledge of one’s personal rhythm/preferences with respect to writing

(3) lack of skill in writing for publication in scientific journals

(4) lack of familiarity and experience with the peer review process

(5) time management struggles and….

(6) lack of an extensive professional network.

I’ll address writing confidence and writing knowledge/skills in depth. I will also provide the names of resources I have found helpful along the way.

Becoming a Professional Writer
Lack of knowledge about how to write for publication in academic journals and other outlets is a common barrier to publishing for junior faculty. In my journey and those of my young colleagues, I learned that several issues with respect to the young scholar’s identity as a writer must be addressed. This will lay the foundation for the novice writer to develop the thick skin needed to endure the peer review process and to make it work for her. Learning about the peer review process can be mastered, but only after the writer has resolved some of the other issues first involving confidence and knowledge of personal rhythm and preferences as they relate to the writing process. Until these underlying issues are identified and addressed, academic publishing will always be a frightening, demoralizing process that derails many an academic career. I think that many young scholars struggle with publishing because of fear of rejection, not due to lack of capacity to learn the skills needed to publish successfully.

Young academics must first recognize that being an academic means being a professional writer. This idea was first presented to me in a book called, The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Columb, and Joseph Williams. It seems like an obvious point to me in retrospect, but hindsight is always 20-20. I don’t think everyone views it that way at the time they decide to pursue a doctoral degree. I certainly did not. If you fundamentally do not enjoy writing, academia may not be for you. This may seem like a harsh statement, but in my opinion you must derive some intrinsic joy from the challenges of writing or it is not worth some of the sacrifices. There are many wonderful ways to be happy in your career. Why spend your days doing something you hate?

If you know that academia is indeed for you and you simply need some help figuring out how to be a productive writer, spend some time identifying your attitudes about writing. Write them down. Are they generally positive or negative? Also spend some time thinking about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes about writing. Do you dread the writing process? Or do you dread the critical feedback on your writing from colleagues, mentors, and the peer-review process? Or is it both?

As cognitive-behavioral theory tells us, attitudes about writing can be changed once they are made explicit. If you are struggling with your writing productivity, it can be helpful to sit down and disentangle any negative beliefs that may impede your writing efforts as manifested through procrastination, writer’s block, and other common writing challenges. There are many myths that surround successful writing that may infect your writing experiences and productivity. Robert Boice addresses many of these issues and provides exercises for young academics to address them in his book, Advice for New Faculty Members.

One critical habit to successful writing is finding and sticking to a regular time to write in your schedule. Make it a regular, preferably daily, appointment in your date book. Do not give that time away to other demands on your time. In his book, The Art of Writing for Publication, Dr. Kenneth T. Henson advises writers to keep the tools of a serious writer nearby in all of the places where you write regularly. The obvious tools are a dictionary, thesaurus, any reference material, and your trusty APA manual.

  • Have a good writing handbook available that addresses each stage of the writing process, including outlining, paragraphing, revising, and proper usage of grammar and punctuation. Such a handbook will help you break down writing projects into manageable pieces and also help you respond to feedback you receive from your mentors and colleagues about ways to improve your writing and to edit your own work. Having these tools on hand will also reduce loss of precious time actually writing by eliminating the need to hunt them down during every writing session.

Revising Prose by Richard A. Lanham helps writers deal with the structure of the writing on the page so that it is clear and pleasing to the reader. It helps writers evaluate whether the sentences and paragraphs in the work address a single idea clearly and successfully. Why is this an important resource? Have you ever been asked to review a manuscript or grade a paper littered with 2-sentence or page-long paragraphs? These types of writing problems are always a signal to reviewers that the authors are inexperienced. Professional scientific writing must be technically accurate and meet the standards of polished professional writing of any published work. The more polished your initial manuscripts are when you submit them, the more likely reviewers are to take seriously the scientific findings you wish to convey in your document. Poor writing mechanics irritate reviewers almost immediately and undermine the persuasiveness of your work, no matter how exciting your research findings may be. It requires more work for the reviewer to wade through a poorly constructed document to figure out what you did and what you want to say about it. Given the time pressures reviewers are under, poor writing can aggravate reviewers and, in some cases, lead them to critique your work more harshly. Revising Prose will help you to evaluate your writing systematically in prior to submission and in response to critical feedback.

The Guide to Publishing in Psychology Journals by Robert J. Sternberg is an excellent volume on professional writing for psychologists. Sternberg invited several prolific academic psychologists to write a chapter addressing each type of product an author might produce (e.g., empirical journal articles, book chapters, review papers) along with strategies for documenting your research, writing for your audience (e.g., reviewers), and handling the revise-resubmit process. I found the chapters on writing introductions to journal articles and on writing compelling results sections extremely useful as I made my way up the publication learning curve. I refer to the Guide regularly and assign chapters to students working on various writing projects.

Developing Writer’s Confidence
Many students and young PhDs find writing aversive because of negative and/or erroneous beliefs about writing and a tendency to engage in negative self-talk during the writing process. In talking to others and reflecting on my own experiences, writing confidence is the biggest hurdle to clear for young PhDs (or students) who are serious about publishing their research. As one of my major professors said to me during my earlier struggles, writing confidence comes in part from believing that you have “something to say to the field.” You have interesting, innovative ideas and findings that you want to contribute to the field and have them shape the way the field evolves.

Writing confidence can also come from gauging the support and interest you receive about your work when you present it at various conferences. Think about it for a moment. You know when you’ve generated meaningful findings. The audience is excited about your work. You receive great feedback and interesting questions about your presentation. Members of your audience encourage you to publish your findings. You feel energized by the presentation and know you’ve connected with your audience. This feedback is authentic—it is a preliminary peer review process that helps you gauge the relevance of your work. Trust that feedback, sit down at your computer, and write. Turn that conference paper or poster into a manuscript. Try not to focus on issues related to publication at this stage. Just write. And keep writing until the paper is done. (Now there are issues related to selection of journal outlets that have to be considered, but the unsure writer needs to simply gain confidence that he can express his research findings clearly and persuasively first.)

As you deepen your knowledge about the mechanics of writing and revising your work, you will become more confident about your writing. This will help you figure out how to revise the early drafts of your paper and respond to critical feedback about your written work. With experience, you will be able to tell if: (a) your ideas or findings are compelling but need clearer, compelling writing to communicate them, (b) your research ideas need more work or development, or (c) whether someone is simply hostile to your work no matter how strong the findings are or how well you explain them in your writing. In any of these cases, the feedback will probably sting, but hopefully not for long. And hopefully, it won’t keep you from moving forward with the necessary revisions in the appropriate areas when you have a chance to process the feedback with a clear head.

Life as tenure-track faculty member can be a significant challenge because of the pressures to produce a fairly large amount of published work in a short period of time. In order to develop as a professional writer, you have to be regularly engaged in the writing process. Write regularly and submit your work for review. Over time, you will figure out your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and improve on these using tools such as the ones I am outlining here. Rejection can be scary, but take a deep breath and submit your work anyway. You will learn more quickly and meet success earlier if you fully engage the process. As any published author will tell you, there are fewer sweeter professional rewards than seeing your name and scholarly work in print.

There is so much I could say about the writing process, but I hope there is something useful here that will help you move forward.

Happy writing!
[Editor’s note: This post was written Mia Smith Bynum, PhD; Associate Professor of Family Science; School of Public Health; University of Maryland. It originally appeared on the Multicultural Mentoring blog by the Society of Clinical Psychology’s Section on the Clinical Psychology of Ethnic Minorities. (APA Division 12, Section 6). It is reposted here with generous permission. Over time, you will see all eight original posts on gradPSYCH Blog.]


Are we producing too many trainees for internship—but not enough for the nation?

The psychology workforce is a numbers game. Are we winning or losing? (Source: Numbers by Stimpdawg on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

The psychology workforce is a numbers game. But with the internship crisis, are we winning or losing? (Source: Numbers by Stimpdawg on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Given that 1 in 4 students who enter the APPIC match do not actually match (and nearly 1 in 2 fail to match directly from APA accredited programs to APA accredited internships – see #11) it seems natural to entertain the idea that we have too many trainees. Or that we are producing too many psychologists who are flooding the market, cheapening the field, and so forth. But is any of this really true?

Researchers Parent and Williamson (2010) did find that some programs contribute disproportionately to the match imbalance by sending significantly more students on internship each year. That might be enough for some to jump to the conclusion that these programs are just too big. Although, I ask: too big for what?

See, I worry that the internship crisis is causing us to identify red herrings, or fake culprits. While lots of students are unequivocally a problem in the crucible of poor match rates and failed matches, this doesn’t say anything about the need for more or less psychologists in the workforce.

Whether you agree or disagree with Malcolm Gladwell, who said in his latest book that we should stop connecting class size with educational outcomes, it’s important to think through what a change in the number of healthcare providers means in the United States. As a baseline, I found that about 5,400 people sit annually for the EPPP, our profession’s licensing exam and on average, 3,800 pass the exam each year. And now I’ll provide three and a half data sources suggesting we may actually need more psychologists in years to come:

1)      New psychologists are finding jobs. According to the latest data we have available—the Doctorate Employment Survey (APA, 2011)—psychologists within one year of graduation had an unemployment rate of 6%, at least 2-3% points lower than the historical national average. More than two thirds of graduates had a job within the first three months of completing their programs and 72% said their current job was their first preference.

2)      NAMI estimates that 11 million people in the U.S. with mental illnesses lack insurance coverage. The Affordable Care Act (better known to some as Obamacare), combined with our earlier Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, will bring more people than ever before into our nation’s insured healthcare system, almost certainly increasing demand for mental health services.

3)      As of January 1, 2014, the United States counted 3,896 known, designated mental healthcare professional shortages across the country. These are shortages of core professionals—psychologists included—that by definition cannot meet the basic mental health needs of whole geographic areas, specific facilities, and/or underserved groups before there are so few practitioners relative to the population. Every state has a demand for more mental health care in some way or other. 

3.5)     As of this month, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates increased employment of 18,700 psychologists by 2022. They say, “Employment of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Greater demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social services agencies should drive employment growth.” Notes: This estimate doesn’t cleanly separate the need for doctoral-level psychologists from those with Masters training, and also includes non-health-service psychologists. This data point only gets a “3.5” instead of a standalone “4” because the newly released BLS numbers are not as strong as they were a month ago (a 2010 to 2020 projection), and I’m curious to see what this means for workforce demand. You can see how projections are calculated here.

If you are quick to ask for smaller class sizes, especially in light of the internship crisis, it is crucial that you have some understanding about how this could impact our nation’s ability to care for its people. For what appears to be a problem in one light may actually be a solution in another.

My data points are by no means a substitute for a workforce analysis, and one is needed to definitively answer the question: Just how many psychologists do we need?  (An even better analysis would tell us where in the country to send providers based on their training.) If we come to find that we actually need more psychologists than there are internship positions, what else can we do to responsibly get rid of this bottleneck in the internship match? That’s the real million dollar question.

6 Experts on Battling the Dissertation

Don’t let the dissertation bring you down. Six experts, including 3 former APA Presidents, provide their tips on how to manage the dissertation process in this month’s issue of gradPSYCH.

How are you coping with your dissertation or thesis? Share your ideas with your fellow students in the comments section below.