Graduate School Q and A

Q: If I go to a clinical or counseling psychology program will I have to conduct research?

A: I mentioned in a previous answer that I would address this issue in more detail. Let me remind you again that the PhD is a research degree. Yes, schools typically blend research and practice to prepare you properly for a career in psychology, but you will have to do research. What does this mean? Well, if you go to a clinical psychology program:

  • You will have to master statistics
  • You will have to master research methodology
  • You will have to conduct scientific research using the Scientific Method
  • You will have to complete a thesis and a dissertation (usually, but not always)

The reason I'm emphasizing this is because I want you to make the right decision about graduate school. If you want to be a therapist and you find research completely aversive you probably want to get a PsyD. Don't be one of those people that goes to a clinical PhD program and then acts surprised and disgusted about having to conduct research. That's what you sign up for when you enter a PhD program.

There's also a critical reason for learning about research that many clinical and counseling students ignore. Let's say you become a therapist. You will use a variety of therapeutic techniques to help your patients/clients. These techniques that you learned in graduate school are based on research - research that scientifically validates their use and effectiveness.

New techniques are being explored all the time, which is a great thing. But if you are not well versed in research, how will you know which of these new techniques are effective, safe, and worth using to help your clients? Are you just going to rely on others to tell you? The reality is that you need to be understand research to stay current in your field, to help your clients properly, and to know how to do your job effectively.

Research is the foundation of good therapy - if you don't understand research you really don't understand therapy. Okay, enough preaching.

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