Clinical or research career?

Many school leavers choose a psychology degree because it is clinical psychology that they are interested in. Unless you’ve done psychology at school, clinical psychology in the media, and the appalling Robert Winston’s Child in Our Time, is probably the only exposure they’ve had.

So, it is not surprising, that many final year students want to go on and become clinical psychologists.

And, as they’ll be aware by then, this is not an easy path.

I have noticed, however, that a lot of students’ interest in clinical is from a theoretical perspective, as in, it is the ‘why’ that they are interested in rather than the ‘therapy’ angle.

I’ve known quite a few students go onto clinical who’ve regretted it.

And, I’ve found a really easy rule of thumb as to whether it is for you.

Do you want to help people recover from the worst time in their life? Are you interested in talking to them and working through their problems? If you genuinely want to help people, then clinical is for you.

Please realise, though, that clinical can be extremely frustrating. You can’t go into it expecting your clients to do what you tell them. Telling people what to do is not the sign of a good therapeutic relationship. You may spend the rest of your life wacking your head off the wall in frustration.

But if it is the “why did this occur?”, “what’s going on?” that you are interested in, the theories behind mental illness, then it is research you should be pursuing. Clinical will make you miserable. If you go into research you may be able to work with patient groups, but you will do so at a distance.

You’re also less likely to get sued….just don’t sleep with the students.

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