I, like many other interns, started my internship year without having completed my dissertation. I knew it wasn’t ideal to be a full-time intern and work on my dissertation, but I figured since I made it through 5 years of graduate school simultaneously juggling other responsibilities and survived, I would be “okay” managing both of these tasks. Upon reflection, I wish I would have considered just how different and more demanding the internship year really is. As such, here are my top 10 reasons to complete your dissertation before internship (in no particular order). Please feel free to share your reasons in the comment section below!
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would one day work at the American Psychological Association, I would have laughed and said, “No way!” I was committed to one day working in a hospital as a pediatric psychologist. But after 8 years as Associate Executive Director of APAGS, I can say that this is a job that I have relished. Who knew?
How did I get to APA as a staff member? Primarily, it was because I got involved. I served 4 years on the APAGS Committee as Member at Large and Chair of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns. I also was the student representative on the Ethics Code Task Force, revising the APA Ethics Code. After 4 years as a student leader, I took some time off from APA while I started my dream job in a department of pediatrics at a county hospital. I returned to APA leadership a few years later as a founding member of the Committee on Early Career Psychologists, followed by a term on the Board of Professional Affairs. It was halfway through my term on BPA that the AED position opened up at APAGS. My leadership experience at APA and other organizations (primarily Ohio Psychological Association and the Society of Pediatric Psychology) opened up the doors.
With the growing wave of health psychology and integrated primary care taking the psychological world by storm, I have often been met with the question…
“WHY did you choose to train and work in integrated care?”
I find myself answering this question by merging my personal experience and passions with my professional goals of advocating for the most vulnerable people in our society.
Need. A chasm exists in the mental health world, with some of the most at-risk people in our community on one side and professionals equipped to serve them on the other. I have seen first-hand how gaps in access can ripple through entire families and communities. Real suffering is echoed in the clinics and doctors’ offices throughout our country with people facing chronic health issues such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, addiction, cancer, dementia, and more every day.
Meeting People Where They Are. Two years ago, I joined a busy integrated primary care clinic and realized the reach and impact of bringing services to patients, rather than having them navigate a complex mental health system on their own. It has been extremely energizing to engage within a multidisciplinary team with the sole goal of providing care to all patients who walk through our clinic doors.
Never a Dull Moment. This short-term, evidence-based care occurs within a fast-paced environment of twenty-minute visits, concurrent documentation in the electronic medical record, warm hand-offs, curbside consultation with providers, and completing diagnostic clarification and treatment planning with other departments in the hospital. Often meeting with ten to sixteen patients per day, my perspective on health care has drastically changed.
First Contact. At least once per day, I meet with patients who have never interacted with mental health professionals. Especially when working with older adults, I hear the phrase “I’ve never talked about this with anyone.” People are being exposed to behavioral health and therapy for the first time in their lives within their doctors’ offices; they are finding hope. Even when patients are in need of a higher level of care, it is an amazing experience to help people access therapy in their local communities and expand their network of support.
Moving Forward. My experience within integrated primary care has shown me the amazing impact a team of professionals can make in the lives of hundreds of people. Although there are always problems to solve within a system like a primary care clinic, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with so many unique, creative, and resilient people on a daily basis. I look forward to joining my peers in research, assessment, neuropsychology, community mental health, and private clinical services as we find new and innovative ways to serve our communities in the future.
What’s Your Story? Feel free to share your own reasons for choosing to train in your area of expertise within psychology in the comments section below. What motivates you? How do your personal passions and interests come alive in the work you do every day?
Roseann Fish Getchell is a graduate student of clinical psychology at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. She is a member of the APAGS Committee and serves as the APAGS Member-at-Large for Membership Recruitment and Retention.
It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter 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.
This letter is from Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University. At Yale, he has been Chairman of the Psychology Department and Director of the Child Study Center at the School of Medicine. Currently he is Director of the Yale Parenting Center. His 750+ publications include 49 books that focus on research methodology, interventions for children, parenting and child rearing, and interpersonal violence. His parenting work has been featured on NPR, PBS, BBC, CNN, Good Morning America, 20/20, Dr. Phil, and the Today Show. In 2008, he was President of the American Psychological Association.
FROM THE DESK OF ALAN KAZDIN:
I am sorry to have taken so long to write you. Writing to you was on my to-do list, which I misplaced several months ago. I finally found the list when I decided it was time to do my laundry. In any case, I am here now and so pleased to be in contact with you.
A task set out for me is to offer advice based on the perspective of time that has elapsed from when and where you are at age 16 to when and where I am now at age 71. As you will know in some distant future, as a general rule I am reluctant to give advice to anyone but I really love to receive the input of others, whether I follow that or not. With that in mind, I am not going to give you advice now even though I care about you deeply and actually am tempted.
I know you are really caught up in the present and truly enjoying yourself. As it turns out you will look back on this period with enormous warmth, joy, and amusement but also it will have enduring impact in relation to your very modest roots. Your style in the next decades will continue to focus on each present period without a long-term plan or even seeming goals beyond the immediate horizon. As odd as that may sound, I urge you to stay with that style—it will serve you well. Moreover, you will always be pleasantly baffled as to how you ended up here and there in your personal and professional lives, given that you were not thinking very far ahead.
There are some things you might consider as guides as your life and world continue to expand. Perhaps keep in mind that one (you) can (almost) never be:
- Too kind to others;
- Too forgiving and merciful;
- Too helpful for those less fortunate, whether through no fault of their own or who have seemingly played a strong role in their own plight;
- Too caring, intense, and loving;
- Too connected to family; and because I know you and how you think,
- Too funny.
After a very long and wonderful life, your mother has passed away quite recently, but she was fond of prizing you throughout your life for your enthusiasm and said that was the best gift she gave you. (She, and for that matter her entire cohort, were not genetically or epigenetically informed and knew little of the many domains [e.g., microbiome, connectome, environome, interactome] that influence affect, behavior, cognition, socialization, and health. Consequently, she pretty much took credit for your having that enthusiasm, and she had that as well.) Along with that, you have a somewhat naïve and occasionally Don Quixote feature about you. (I think next year you will be assigned to read that book—the real one, not those yellow Cliff Notes of which you are especially fond.) Soon, college will start to sculpt and then polish these features of you and eventually help you integrate them. (Apologies for the life spoiler—yes, believe it or not despite your fooling around so much now, you are going to college. I know you will provide an acknowledging smile when you read this—at this time in your life; you are taking high-school extremely seriously, except the part about classes and academic work! There is a potential spoiler here too but I will hold back. If you can save this letter and read it again in 3 or 4 years from now, you will understand and be happily astonished.)
As you move forward to your job and career (I am not telling what that is), direct any training, talent, or skill you have to helping people at the level of the individual but also at the level of society more broadly. There is enormous suffering and astounding inertia, indifference, and illusory efforts (all talk) to help. On the other side, there are many people already working to help and in amazing and creative ways that can and do make a difference. Use your enthusiasm, Quixotic naiveté, and intensity to connect with like souls, and join the battle in whatever way you can. There is so much to do and so much need, it is easy to find ways to contribute.
Above all, enjoy yourself and your family and keep your natural focus on the present. The main insight of your distant you (me) is how quickly life can unfold and pass. Probably the last thing on your mind at this moment is the prospect that in a relative flash of time, you may be old and asked to write a letter to your 16-year old self. By that time, quantum states may have been mastered and you could be in the same room at the same time and be both the 16-year old and the older wrinkled version who writes you now. Quantum computing is almost here and probably there will be quantum Skype or FaceTime right after that so if you are not in the same room, perhaps you and I can still chat and see each other. Either way, I am so pleased to be entangled with you now. Enjoy yourself.
Un fuerte abrazo,
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 creating this series for the gradPSYCH Blog. Please check out other letters in this series:
By Christine Berry, M.A.2
When I began grad school in 2008 to pursue a degree in Counseling Psychology, I planned to become a practitioner, possibly a professor and academic researcher. To be honest, that’s all I knew about psychology – I didn’t realize there were so many more career options. But as I finished my M.A. in Counseling Psych at Loyola University Chicago, I knew that therapy wasn’t for me. I decided to pursue an additional research-focused degree and enrolled in another M.A. program, this time in Human Sexuality at San Francisco State University. If you’re going to learn about research it might as well be on a fun topic.
As my second degree came to a close, I was tired of being a broke student. I loved doing research, but the thought of another 4-6 years in grad school pursuing a Ph.D. was too much. Living in the most expensive city in the country was taking its toll, and my student loans were already sky-high. I needed a job – preferably one that pays well.
I was also disenchanted with academic research. I disliked that it took years to finish a study and it seemed the results, while meaningful long-term, weren’t immediately making an impact. But what I really hated were lit reviews – designing studies and analyzing data were much more fun. I dreamed of a job where research moved fast, results were immediately clear and actionable, and lit reviews were a thing of the past. I didn’t think such a role existed, but I was about to stumble upon it.