major project research

The Clinical Psychology Megapost, Or: What Is A Clinical Psychologist And How Do I Become One?

What’s a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist* is a person with a clinical psychology PhD or PsyD. Typically clinical psychologists focus on topics associated with mental health or psychopathology in any group, including children, people with chronic health conditions, older adults, forensic populations, families, people living in poverty, students, and people with developmental disabilities, among others. Often clinical psychologists work within mental health systems to improve care or other outcomes among people with mental health issues.

(*Although many of these things will apply internationally, this post is geared towards psychologists in the United States and Canada. If you are in another country, your mileage may vary.)

Clinical psychologists can work:

• In medical hospitals
• In psychiatric hospitals
• In research hospitals
• In forensic hospitals
• In state and federal institutions
• In private institutions
• In prisons and other forensic settings
• At Veteran’s Affairs
• At the Department of Defense
• In community mental health settings
• In outpatient clinics
• In private practices
• In universities
• In rehabilitation centers
• In halfway houses
• In residential settings
• In research settings
• In advocacy settings
• In policy settings
• In administrative settings

Clinical psychologists work with:

• People diagnosed with mental illnesses
• People diagnosed with physical illnesses
• People currently experiencing distress or dysfunction
• The families, loved ones, or other people associated with the people mentioned above
• Other people for lots of reasons. Typically clinical psychologists work with a more severe population (people experiencing more significant problems) compared to counseling psychologists (who often focus on things like wellbeing), but not always.

Clinical psychologists can work with:

• All ages
• All genders
• All sexual orientations
• All cultural and ethnic backgrounds
• All abilities
• All educational levels
• All socioeconomic backgrounds
• All religions
• All people in general, as long as the particular clinical psychologist is competent to treat that particular person and their particular presenting problem(s)

Clinical psychologists have extremely varied responsibilities and day-to-day tasks, including:

  • Clinical work
    • Individual therapy
    • Group therapy
    • Couples’ therapy
    • Family therapy
    • Diagnostic assessments
    • Neuropsychology assessments
    • Disability assessments
    • Functional assessments
    • Legal assessments
    • Aptitude assessments
    • Intellectual assessments
    • Needs assessments
    • Creating treatment plans
    • Monitoring treatment progress
    • Coordinating care
  • Research
    • Creating research ideas and questions
    • Conducting literature reviews
    • Applying for grants
    • Conducting research
    • Conducting clinical work within research projects
    • Analyzing data
    • Writing journal articles, books, and chapters
    • Presenting findings at conferences and other events
    • Disseminating research to non-academics, including mental health clinicians
    • Applying research in real world settings (for example, implementing a new treatment found to be helpful)
  • Teaching
  • Mentoring
    • Mentoring undergraduate students, graduate students, interns, postdoctoral fellows, early career psychologists, research assistants
  • Supervising
    • Supervising clinical work
    • Supervising research
  • Training other clinicians
  • Administration
    • Leading a mental health team
    • Leading a mental health treatment program
    • Leading a research lab
    • Leading a psychology department
  • Developing new treatments
  • Developing new treatment programs
  • Developing new policies
  • Evaluating treatments
  • Evaluating treatment programs
  • Evaluating policies
  • Consulting

13 not-easy steps to becoming a clinical psychologist

1. Complete a bachelor’s degree
You will need a bachelor’s degree to get into graduate school. The easiest route to a PhD/PsyD in clinical psychology is a psychology BA or BS, possibly with another major or minor in something like biology or sociology (meaning, something connected to your interests in psychology). However, a degree in psychology is not required to get into a PhD/PsyD program in clinical psychology. If you do not major in psychology, you may need to take post-baccalaureate classes later as most PhD/PsyD programs require specific psychology classes, usually including intro, abnormal, and research & statistics.

2. Get research experience
You will need research experience to get into a PhD/PsyD program in clinical psychology. I recommend at least two years and at least two presentations. You can do this while in undergrad or afterwards. You don’t need to do research full-time (5-10 hours/week is okay) but you do need to learn about research while doing it. Don’t accept a position where all you do is data entry or mundane tasks like that. Be a part of the action- developing research ideas, conducting research, analyzing data, presenting findings. Learn all that you can from your supervisor and other people involved. Use this time to develop research skills and become better at understanding other peoples’ research and developing your own.

3. Get clinical experience (optional)
You do not need clinical experience to get into a PhD/PsyD program, but it might help. I tend to recommend it so that you can get experience in a clinical setting and/or with a clinical population so you understand better what you’re getting into. 

4. Get teaching experience (optional)
You do not need teaching experience to get into a PhD/PsyD program, but it might help. 

5. Get a master’s degree (optional)
Some people choose to get a master’s degree in clinical psychology, counseling, or experimental psychology before applying to PhD/PsyD programs. I only recommend this if you need to show you have an improved GPA and/or you want to use a master’s program to get research experience. In either case I recommend a experimental psychology program first, and then clinical psychology. 

6. Apply to PhD and/or PsyD programs in clinical psychology
You need to get in to go! (here is a post about applying to PhD/PsyD programs and a post about picking the best programs)

7. Complete a PhD or PsyD program in clinical psychology
This is the key thing. While you are in your program, get varied experience in different clinical settings with different clinical populations. Get involved with research. Say yes to many opportunities but say no to things you’re not interested in or don’t have time for. Don’t stick only to your number 1 interest- try different things, explore the possibilities. Listen to feedback and use it to get better but don’t take criticism as a comment on you as a person. Publish. Get involved with leadership and/or administrative roles. Essentially, build an impressive CV that shows that you have well-rounded skills and experience, but also are creating a niche of your own expertise. See this ask for more.

8. Complete a dissertation
The major research milestone in a PhD/PsyD program (of any type) is the dissertation. This is your major research project, where you start to carve out your area of expertise in your field. You use the dissertation to show what you’ve learned, to learn new things, and to add something important to your field. It is an enormous and difficult undertaking, but so worth it. I recommend you pick something that is achievable in the amount of time you have left (don’t make your goal “discover all genes that cause depression,” make it “determine whether cortisol is higher among people with chronic depression compared to acute depression”) and something that you will enjoy enough to keep you motivated during the years you will be working on that project.

9. Apply for a predoctoral internship program
The last clinical milestone is a pre-doctoral internship. A match process is how it’s determined where each student applying for an internship goes (similar to medical school residency programs). Students apply for internships around the United States and Canada in the fall, and interview in December and January. Students each rank the places they interviewed at in the order of their preference, and put that ranking into an online system. Each internship does the same- ranks each student in order of their preference. The system “matches” each student with an internship, attempting to match each student with the highest ranked internship possible. However, there are more students applying each year than internships, so every year students go unmatched. This year about 82% of students matched, and of those, 80% matched to an accredited internship. Accreditation is very important for future licensure and employment. This gap in matching is one reason to go to a really really good graduate program- better programs have better match rates, and many internship programs won’t review applications from students who go to unaccredited or low quality schools. See this ask for more. 

10. Complete a pre-doctoral internship program in clinical psychology
This is your last big chance to get clinical experience. So my advice is to look for programs that will help you fill important gaps in your training (for example, are you interested in PTSD but don’t have experience in Cognitive Processing Therapy? Find a program that trains in CPT) and helps you fill out your area of expertise. So, both broaden and deepen your experience. Find programs that are really interested in training you and not just getting a cheap therapist for a year. Look for places that often hire their interns as postdocs or staff psychologists, and for places that send interns to the sorts of postdocs or jobs you will want. 

11. Receive your PhD or PsyD
You’re done! Congratulations! (Remember to do your exit counseling!)

12. Apply for and complete a postdoctoral fellowship (optional)
Many (maybe most) psychologists do a postdoctoral fellowship. A postdoctoral fellowship or residency is additional training after you finish your doctoral degree.  Typical clinical postdocs are 1 year, research postdocs are 2 years, and speciality training postdocs like neuropsychology are 2 years. However some postdocs might be longer or shorter. You might do one so you can gain specific training you want or need- for example, clinical psychologists specializing in neuropsychology nearly always do a postdoc in neuropsychology (and have to in order to be boarded as a neuropsychologist), or you might want training in a particular area of research you don’t have. You might do one so you can get licensed because many jobs require applicants to already be licensed or license-eligible (and many states require supervised hours post-degree and/or other requirements). You might do one because you want a research job and it’s difficult to get one without a postdoc, particularly in academia or academia-adjacent positions. You might do one because you want to get in with a specific institution and they don’t have a job for you that year (many places hire from within, particularly from their intern and postdoc pool). 

13. Get licensed
Clinical psychologists generally get licensed within a 2-3 years of graduating (but it’s possible to do it sooner). State requirements vary a lot, so do your research so you can a) get licensed in the state you want to right now, and b) make it possible to get licensed in other states you might want to in the future. Licensure in the US always requires passing the EPPP, the national licensing exam and graduation from an APA-accredited or equivalent graduate program and internship. Many states have additional requirements like 1500 post-degree supervised clinical hours, a state exam, or additional coursework. The process is long and expensive (like everything else in this process). 

14. Get a job
This is when you finally get to be a full-fledged clinical psychologist! There are many jobs available for psychologists, but the biggest areas of need are rural and other poorly served areas. Think about what’s most important to you- type of position, type of institution, money, location, etc. –and find something that’ll work for you. 

So how long will this take?

A typical path to being a clinical psychologist looks like this:

  • Bachelor’s degree: 4 years
  • Postgraduate research experience (optional): 2 years
  • PhD/PsyD: 4-6 years
  • Predoctoral internship: 1 year
  • Postdoctoral fellowship (optional): 1-2 years (get licensed during this)
  • Job! 

So an average range is 9 to 15 years from beginning your undergraduate degree to starting your first job as a licensed clinical psychologist. Some people will need more time but it’s very unlikely to do it faster than this.

You keep mentioning “APA” and “accreditation.” What’s that?

APA is the American Psychological Association, and it is the main body that accredits (recognizes as quality and meeting minimum standards) graduate programs, Predoctoral internships, and postdoctoral fellowships in psychology. The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), California Psychology Internship Council (CAPIC), and Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) are also reputable and professionally recognized accrediting bodies.

It is essential to go to an APA-, CPA- and/or PCSAS-accredited graduate program and a APA-, CPA-, CAPIC- and/or PCSAS-accredited internship. It will be difficult to get licensed and get a job if you don’t. Accreditation also protects students. (Also, unaccredited schools are unaccredited because they are not good schools. The accrediting standards are not very high). You don’t need an accredited postdoc, but you might choose to get one because it’s likely to make it easier to get licensed and boarded, and it may make you more marketable.

Three Small Words

Note: This is a one-shot John/Dave and Dirk/Jake happy fluffy feels fic that has nothing to do with Hopeless and Heartless.  Enjoy!

Three Small Words

When you were little, your kindergarten teacher gave you a homework assignment.  Write three sentences, three things that you love.  Your sentences only needed to be three words long.

Spelling didn’t matter.  Periods were optional.    You wrote the entire thing in blue crayon.




You still remember the look on your dad’s face when you proudly showed him that you could write.  When he first looked at you, there was something in his eyes you didn’t recognize.  You were confused and a little worried that you did a bad job writing.  But your unease melted away when he swept you up into his arms.  With a big smile on his face, he told you, “I’m so proud of you, son.”

When you were little, you told Dave you loved him all the time.  Dave told you he loved you too.  Dave was your best friend. Of course you loved him.

And when you were little, nobody seemed to care.  Your teacher just smiled at you.  The other kids were too busy eating paste to think about you two.

Dave’s older brother heard you tell Dave you loved him once.  He used a word you never heard before when he said, “too fuckin’ cute.”

After you asked your dad what a “fuckin’” was later, you weren’t allowed to play over at Dave’s house for a while.  But Dave still came over to yours every day after school.

Grade school flew by.  You and Dave were inseparable.  You did everything together.  By some stroke of luck, you were in the same class with each other every year.

And though some things never changed, one thing did.

Somewhere along the line, you stopped telling Dave you loved him.  Dave stopped too. 

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Bishies in My Project

Me - Hi, I feel second-hand embarrassment easily.

Aquarius - My BFF, a rather gentle and artistic band geek, and my extrauterine sibling, into one or two manga series at the time

Kagome - Aquarius’ weeb friend from band class, boisterous but well-meaning, into all those “big” anime series from the mid-2000s with doodles of her husbandos on her folders

Commando - Tough athletic girl and friend of Kagome, thus tangential friend of Aquarius and me. Into video games, probably aware of anime and manga.

My experience was very brief but still gives me that uncomfortable feeling in my guts when the instance crosses my mind. Several years ago, when I was still in high school, I was into anime and manga style art. I liked to draw it. Wasn’t good, but wasn’t the worst, and at least the subject matter isn’t anything I’m embarrassed to speak of nowadays - mostly just people with superpowers, what I thought were neat clothing designs, whatever. No hardcore porn or overly busty self-inserts. At the time, I’d never watched nor read many series - Zoids and YuGiOh from my childhood were about the extent of my Japanese serial knowledge, with a few factoids about the current series of the time thrown in thanks to my friends.

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What does Brexit mean for you?

I’ll try and keep this brief (no chance, this will be long) and only highlight a few points. It’s the day after now and I’ve calmed down a little bit. But this Brexit decision is massive, for the whole of the UK, but particularly for a European immigrant like me. So yes, this is affecting me majorly. However, it’s important to note that leaving the EU is a very long process. Most estimates are that it’ll take at least two years before Britain is actually out. Right now, relatively little changes.

Immediate issues:

·      Financial loss: This has been an overnight pay cut as the £ plummeted to its lowest value since the 1980s. I effectively have 8% less savings and earn 8% less now. The stock market also crashed with approximately £120 billion wiped off the value of the largest 100 UK companies. As somebody who travels abroad a lot, exchange rates are quite a concern for me.

·      Political instability: The prime minister resigned on Friday morning, his successor will not be elected by the people, but simply announced by his party. Other important members of the government are likely to resign as well.

·      Disunited kingdom: Two years ago 55% of Scots voted not to leave the UK, many of them because they feared having to re-join the EU as an independent nation. Every single part of Scotland voted in favour of remaining in the EU, the country is now being dragged out against its will and calls for another independence referendum are rife. Northern Ireland is following suit, and some people have even called for an independent London. While this is unlikely to happen, the country is deeply divided, making the future very uncertain.

What this doesn’t mean is that I’ll be kicked out of the UK. There are currently no plans to deport EU nationals who are already living in the UK or change anything in our status. After those two years are up, we’ll see. We could face visa regulations etc. that would make it less attractive to live and work here. Personally, I was planning on moving to Finland for a year or two for a major research project. Now, doing so would mean risking not being allowed back into the UK.

Some expected issues over the next few months and years:

·      Higher Inflation: With a lower £, imports become more expensive, so the cost of things like food and clothes will rise. From there, inflation is likely to spread to other goods. The Bank of England has to react to that and will likely raise interest rates, thus reducing the amount of borrowing and in turn investment in the UK.

·      Recession: The expectations for Britain’s economic future have changed significantly. While no company will just stop trading with Britain and close down their operations immediately, it’s likely that money will be moved out of the UK and investment will be made elsewhere with all the usual repercussions for the economy.

Working at a university this has some pretty serious repercussions:

·      EU students: Approximately 10% of our students are from the EU. That is predicted to decrease significantly as insecurity spreads. Currently these students are charged lower fees, which is likely to change, in all likelihood leading to a significant permanent decrease in EU student numbers, thus affecting university income and student mix.

·      Research funding: The EU has invested a lot in European academic mobility and cooperation with major research funds available across all disciplines. The UK is the second largest recipient of EU research funding. Given how many other issues there will be, an “independent” UK government is unlikely to invest at a similar scale and international cooperation will be seriously hampered, thus limiting the exchange of knowledge and research progress. We’re side-lining research and the higher education sector as a whole with this vote, so purely for career reasons staying might not be the smartest idea for me.

Likely wider issues after those two years are up:

·      The EU has very little interest in making this break up easy. The UK will likely be made an example of to discourage other states from leaving. There are a lot of deals to be struck in terms of trade, travel etc. and the UK is not in a great bargaining position.

·      Access to the single market of the EU is imperative for UK trade. This will have to be negotiated and is likely to result in major concessions being made. For example, it is likely to be tied to freedom of movement for EU citizens, which would negate one of the key points of the entire Leave campaign, their “immigrants out” pitch.

·      There’s a whole host of laws that simply have no equivalent in the UK because they were taken care of by EU law for the past four decades. These include environmental protection, women’s rights, workers’ rights etc.

·      Cooperation in other areas is eliminated unless deals are struck. This includes areas such as medical cooperation especially for rare diseases and cutting-edge research, police cooperation with European arrest warrants etc., intelligence cooperation especially important in the light of recent terror attacks…

·      Ultimately, the EU was created to give this continent peace after millennia of rather effectively slaughtering each other. It has lead to the most peaceful and prosperous time in European history. In breaking apart and going back to nationalism we are risking that. Russia is certainly enjoying that. As mentioned above, Northern Ireland is not happy and voices calling for a re-unification with the Republic of Ireland are much louder than usual. The fierce civil war over that very issue only ended in 1998.

Ultimately, we don’t know what is going to happen.

The above are my best guesses. There is no precedent for this and I don’t claim to be right about the points I’m making. There is too much uncertainty around. Even if all of these things happen, this is obviously not the end of the world. These are all major storms that can be weathered. With much difficulty and —in my opinion at least— completely unnecessary losses, but after all, big politics happens, big catastrophes, big wars… but in the end, humanity prevails. We have seen this for millennia and it is not going to stop now.

I needed yesterday to be upset. I was not smiling or joking or doing a good job being friendly yesterday. Not at all. I was sad and scared. But today I get up and face a new day. And I will continue to make life a little better in my surroundings. And that’s really all anyone can hope for.

What worries me, and what affects me the most right now is xenophobia. Make no mistake, this campaign was based primarily on a fear of foreigners with the same horrible old arguments that have been rehashed time and time again about immigrants stealing jobs, causing trouble, being lesser people.

I’m one of those people.

Over the past seven years, I have created a new life and a home here for me. I have worked hard, I have perfected my language skills, I have paid way more in taxes than I’m ever likely to get out of the system because this is my home and I’m eager to contribute to its health system, its schools, its roads etc. even if I don’t use them much.

Where I live now is one of the areas that voted more heavily in favour of Leave. The rhetoric on the streets has been disgusting. Personally, I can hide my immigrant status. I look like a Brit, I speak like a Brit, nobody notices and even the ones who know would be mad to suggest I leave. But the atmosphere has changed in such a way that it is very worrisome. I have always felt at home here, in all the places I have lived in across England and Scotland. Today it feels a bit like staying in an abusive relationship to still be here.


As some of you may know, I am a senior Biochemistry major, and the research project I have been working on for the past two years has been accepted for presentation at the National American Chemical Society Conference in March. This conference is in San Diego, California, and I now have to figure out how to afford a plane ticket, hotel costs, and other expenses that come with traveling across the country. It’s looking to be about a one-thousand dollar trip.

To help cover costs, my research group is selling Yankee Candles. If you are at all interested in helping me get to San Diego or if you just want some new candles, please contact me via ask box or the messaging feature, and I can send you the link to the website. It’s all online, and can ship virtually anywhere. If you can’t buy anything, I would appreciate if you would help signal boost this!

Thanks so much!