Through the eyes of a Clinical PhD student: Balancing research and practice


My PhD is in clinical psychology. In a nutshell, my four year degree involves research component of a  PhD and the clinical training program of a Masters in Clinical Psychology. But what does it actually mean to be doing a Clinical PhD? How does it work? What does it look like? Well, that’s something I’m still figuring out but I will share my own experiences. Welcome to what I suspect will be a series of blog posts about what it is to do a Clinical PhD.

Balancing Research and Practice

Earlier this year I blogged about a ‘typical’ week as a Clinical PhD student. Now that I am (I can’t believe I am about to type this) six months into my PhD, I have something more to offer about the logistics of doing a Clinical PhD.  I’ve noticed that my weeks tend to fall into one of four categories: divided weeks, greedy weeks, fuzzy weeks and whirlwind weeks.

In divided weeks,  never the twain shall meet. My classes and coursework (the clinical program) and research separate neatly in terms of time and content. Unsurprisingly, these weeks usually fall at the start of the semester before momentum picks up.

In greedy weeks, the balance between research and the clinical program shifts as I focus my attention more towards one half of my degree. Typically, a greedy week can be brought on by an approaching deadline, or just the need to gain some more momentum, perhaps with data collection, reviewing concepts or thesis writing.  I’ll admit that weeks like these can leave me feeling a bit reproachful towards whichever half of my degree is ‘taking over’. At the same time though, these shifts in focus even out in the end and any guilt gets dispelled by  fuzzy weeks.

Fuzzy weeks represent what is truly great about doing a Clinical PhD, the blend of research and practice. In these weeks I can find myself having an epiphany in class because I’ve realised that something we’ve just been introduced to could help me better understand, extend or explain my research. Alternatively, I might discover that my research is going to give me the chance to practice what I’ve been learning in class, usually though data collection which involves psychological testing and interviews.

Finally, there are the whirlwind weeks.  These are the weeks when there is that much going on that I don’t know what type of week I’m having! The whirlwind weeks are perhaps the trickiest to negotiate. My current approach is to try and work out what is going to be the most valuable thing to do for each half of my degree and make sure that I work on that. Quality over quantity as they say. It probably isn’t any coincidence that I most often blog during, or immediately after a whirlwind week. It’s my way of taking stock of where I am and where I’m headed.

At times balancing the two components; the research and the clinical program (the clinical training) is a challenging juggling act, but that’s also what makes it interesting.

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Filed under A day in the life, Clinical Phd, Practice, Reflections, Research

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