Things I wish I knew before I decided to do a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

  • Going in this field makes it harder to get mental health treatment for yourself. You can’t get treatment at the place you work and you need to avoid getting treatment at places you might want to work in the future.
    • When you get treatment it can add a weird dynamic that not all therapists are equipped to handle. It’s hard for my therapist to get the right balance of pointing out a way to apply a useful skill to my situation and irritating me from telling me something I know well from my own clinical work.
    • Graduate school was the worst thing I could have done for my mental health.
  • The stakes are so high for me to not get to the point of needing a psych hospitalization. In those situations so many different people are involved in you care and that means losing control over who has my information.
  • Most people are doing “me-search” but within field stigma against mental illness among people in the field is extremely high. Frankly I think there is more pressure to hide mental illness in this field than in almost any other career.
    • Some mild anxiety or depression is okay. But things like my self-injury would turn some serious heads.
    • There are some high profile people who “come out” about their personal mental health struggles but until you are a top tier famous researcher you have to hide mental illness or risk being discriminated against.
  • Some supervisors  conduct clinical supervision in ways that is dangerously close to therapy. Avoid Avoid Avoid.
  • A PhD takes a looooong time. I know so many people in other careers who have paid off the student loans while mine are still sitting in deferment. I am over this situation of not being in a “real” job. I want to settle down but there are years of additional tasks ahead of me before that.
  • So much of your fate is in your advisors hands and they have zero consequences when they let you down
  • Graduate school is not like school. At the beginning yes you take classes but later it becomes an apprenticeship.
  • In late graduate school you’re functionally holding a job but you don’t get the rights that you would have in a normal job. In fact your university probably will block you from getting the employee benefits they give to their staff.
    • In a normal job if you are treated poorly you can quit and probably find something in the same field. In graduate school transferring is very rare. I am unhappy with my program but my choices are to leave and abandon this field or stick it out.
    • My program feels they even have the right to control our ability to volunteer in activities unrelated to our professional work
  • The longer I am in this program the less of an idea I have about what I want to do with my life


I am lost and floundering. I don’t know how I will present my accomplishments positively for internship applications when I am so angry over the ways my program let me down in both my clinical and research training. Reality did not match the advertising.


I just so desperately want a job that does not have a time limit on it. Every year my funding is assigned for the year. Every year a new practicum to learn the ropes of. Whenever I get my footing the year is over and I start over. It’s a endless cycle of CV updates and new computer logins.

I have to do internship and a postdoc.  And even after postdoc I’m not guaranteed job stability if I go an academic route.

I could be 40 by the time I have security in the position I hold.

I want a real job

I do not recommend getting a Ph.D.


One thought on “Things I wish I knew before I decided to do a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

  1. Hang in there. I can’t personally relate to this, other than having a mental health illness, myself. I can appreciate how at times, MI/MH can make work and education more challenging; as I’ve experienced doing both.
    However, a good friend of mine started schooling in her 30’s. She started out in psychology. She didn’t plan at the time to work towards a Ph.D; however by the time she was in her 40’s, had obtained her Ph.D, as an academic and taught psych, psychosocial rehabilitation, object relations theory, etc.
    She did all of that while dealing with her own mental health issues and seeing a therapist. She found someone she trusted. By no means is it easy… it’s some of the hardest stuff to manage, but you’ve got this. Granted I do not know you personally, but I feel that through your blog, I’ve been able to know at least a little about you. You’ve come this far.
    Did you think a decade ago, you would have come this far? Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re doing well. Hang in there.


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