You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure.
February 15, 2011 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Around Thanksgiving, I was given a temporary full-time staff position at a well-known university research lab. (See this question.) Well, I've been officially offered a job as a proper member of the lab, tuition benefits and all. This is quite literally the best opportunity I've ever had. I'm extremely interested in the field of clinical psychology and eventually becoming some kind of therapist. Where do I go from here?

The job is contingent on funding, which is 99.9% a sure thing. I am currently sitting in on my boss's class (Human Memory), and although it's extremely math-heavy (definitely not my best subject), I'm doing the assignments and doing well. My boss offered to "mentor me" as far as which classes I should be taking, etc. I should be able to start classes in the Summer. Currently, I have an associates in General Humanities, and I've taken Psych 101 and Developmental Psych.

So, what should I be reading? What are the most important clinical psychology (or just general psych?) books or papers?

Aside from getting my PhD, what other advanced certification options are available? Where can I find information about them?

What are the best conferences for Clinical Psychology?

If you have any other information about the field, I'm certain it would help me. I know my heart is in this for the very, very long run (at least two years until I finish my BA!), but I want to be mentally prepared for this long journey. Knowing where I want to end up will make it much easier. And right now, I'm clueless as to what my journey will actually be like!

posted by two lights above the sea to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Where do you go from here? Er, first of all, you take the job.

Second, how long have you been working there? After three (vacation-interrupted) months, you probably aren't entirely into the swing of things in the lab yet (but I am not in your field, so I could be wrong, obs.).

Third and similar to second, worry first about really getting the job down. You're basically 9 months away from even applying to grad school this time of year, so let that gestate a bit.

Fourth and finally on a re-read of your question before posting... worry about finishing your BS before worrying about the PhD. Most PhD programs won't even consider your application until you are in your final year of undergraduate. Other than that, I think you are still early enough in the job that most of the advice in the previous AskMe still holds true.

Sorry I can't help more with specific advice! Asking your boss (or a coworker) to recommend a specific textbook might be helpful. Oh, and read things around the lab! If you see a journal sitting out with an article that looks interesting, try to read it!
posted by maryr at 6:47 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Congratulations!! This is truly excellent, I think you're in for a really great time!! Jeez, tuition benefits too, for undergrad? You lucky dog. :)

My last two years of undergrad happened under very similar circumstances. I got a job on one of the research projects and got paid to do it. The best and most important thing about it, I think, was the relationship that I developed with my mentor, who is now also my MS thesis advisor. But, two months into the thing, I didn't have any idea what I was doing or where I'd end up. I was planning to be an 8th grade science teacher after graduation. Now I'm writing a thesis and doing an internship across the country.

Don't worry about where you're going to end up-- I mean, don't worry overly. It's good to plan, and to have goals, but realize that they will probably change as you progress. Take things one step at a time, be excited and thrilled with where you are, and work hard and learn lots.

As for the rest of your questions -- best things to read, best conferences to go to -- your mentor really is the best source. You might also see if you can talk to some grad students at your institution (if it has a grad program). They'll know exactly what you need to do; maybe they'll invite you to their reading groups.

Good luck, and seriously, take the opportunity and run with it. There's nothing that good advisors like more than watching a student make good on their (really rather modest!) investment.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 7:02 PM on February 15, 2011

This is seriously awesome news. Congratulations! Champagne all around.

I think the spirit of my advice from November still holds: make yourself indispensable. Even if you're still doing that mind-numbing task you were hired to do, you can still learn to kick ass.

Since it's a research lab, I assume it does some sort of experiments. If they're cognitive psych experiments that use a computer, consider learning the ins and outs of the stimulus presentation software. It's usually PsyScope, SuperLab, or E-Prime. Assistants and grad students hate its guts and are loath to touch it. If you become your lab's experiment script-writer and code monkey, you'll be worth your weight in gold to them. There are usually some tutorials and sample scripts out there. Professional development is also available, but pricey and not really worth it.

Also, my suggestion to become conversant in basic experimental stats still stands: correlation, the t-test, ANOVA, linear regression. There are books and classes dedicated to each of these separately, but at your level they're frankly a waste of time. Knowing the intuitive basics of these analysis methods is what you're after. Consider O'Reilly's Statistics in a Nutshell. An "applied" knowledge of basic stats requires very little math.

Also, become familiar with your university's IRB procedures. Dealing with the IRB is also something everyone hates. If you offer to keep track of protocol renewal dates, submitting addenda, adverse event reports, and other tedious crap, your PI will love you.
posted by Nomyte at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2011

Congratulations! I remember reading your post a few months ago. I am really happy for you. :)

My advice.

a) ask questions. Ideally, you should have a question a day (if not more). They don't have to be deep, insightful questions. In fact, most questions are mundane and helps you understand the topic well by filling gaps in your databank.

b) read widely and attend as many talks as you can. They don't have to be in your area, in fact I will highly encourage you to go to at least one talk in your dept a week.

c) network. be nice to everyone. show(or feign) interest in everybody's work, regardless of how dumb, mundane, or esoteric.

d) join reading groups.

There are probably more, but I think these are very important.
posted by jchaw at 7:21 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh by the way, concerning statistics (descriptive and inferential), I highly recommend the CFA level 1 textbook by Schweser (quantitative methods).

The book is written clearly, concise, and hits the major stuff.

Look, if most(if not all) financial analysts can get by with the CFA level 1 text on quantitative methods, I am sure you can get a lot of mileage too!
posted by jchaw at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know someone who has a job similar to yours in a lab similar to the one I think you're in (based on your description and location; I know the field). He recently has been hugely successful in applying to clinical psych grad programs. The main things I've observed that may have contributed to his success (aside from being smart and really good at his job):
1) asking lots of questions, during talks, casual conversations, etc, 2) networking, and 3) getting involved in community outreach initiatives, e.g., science education. The latter seems like an oddball, but I think that differentiates science nerds from science nerds who want to help people.

Also, be aware that your experiences in your current lab will set you apart from other clinical psych applicants, who may not have as strong of a cognitive psychology or quantitative background. Take full advantage of that.
posted by dino might at 8:28 PM on February 15, 2011

Hmmm...maybe I 'm wrong about this---but isn't clinical psychology heavily oriented toward research? You might consider a counseling psychology degree (PSY D) if you want to be a therapist.

Clinical psychology --especially cognitive---will make you an expert in some small tiny mechanism that may or may not exist but which is, somehow, measurable nonetheless (ie. The focus of your research) and you may become great at assessment using standardized tools. Research and assessment are not the skills of a great therapist.

Research, as a career, has much to recommend it and it sounds like you enjoy it. Be sure to ask questions about career paths as you develop a better understanding of what interests you.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:11 PM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: Mitch Prinstein, a clinical psychology professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, has a ton of great information on his professional development website about careers in clinical psychology and related fields. Of particular interest will probably be his "Uncensored Advice for Applying to Graduate School in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology" (PDF link). Although this is nominally aimed at child and adolescent clinical psychology, the advice in it is applicable to clinical psychology in general. Getting into clinical PhD programs is intensely competitive, so it is worth exploring alternative paths to a career as a mental-health professional. Research experience like you are getting will help make you more competitive, but things like GPA and GRE will matter, too, for better or worse.
posted by anaphoric at 8:08 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

This might not apply to you, but just in case: I would suggest that you look into exactly how your employee tuition benefit works. At some universities, courses taken by employees with tuition remission aren't allowed to count towards a degree. Since your goal is to get your BA or BS, it would be important to know how the tuition benefit works.
posted by medusa at 9:00 AM on February 16, 2011

« Older Limited Liability Company   |   What would you ask if you had just one question? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.