Category Archives: classes

You know you’re studying to become a psychologist when…

  • You catch yourself identifying the automatic thoughts and core beliefs of soap opera characters
  • You use WISC/WAIS/WIAT/WMS/WPSI (intelligence, memory and achievement tests) as verbs, i.e. I’m WISCing today
  • Your clinical psychology “handbook” text would give the Gutenberg bible a run for its money, it’s huge!
  • You know what Dx, Ax and Rx mean
  • You’ve actually used the phrase “so what brings you here today?”
  • You know your psychological ABCs
  • You’re in touch with ‘what’s in’ with primary and high school kids again
  • People start asking you to weigh in about all sorts of things i.e. schooling, parenting, relationships, work etc., with “great power” comes great responsibility
  • Your class-size has shrunk from 150 to 15.
  • You understand percentile ranks
  • You know that we don’t actually “psycho-analyse” everyone we meet!
  • You realise that designing a therapy program is equal parts theory and creativity
  • You know who Padesky, Carr and Sattler are
  • You paraphrase, reflect and validate during  everyday conversations
  • The number of acronyms you know has increased exponentially: GAD, SAD, BD, PD, CD, ACT, ECT, CBT, FAB, DSIQ, PRI, VCI, DMI, RCT, I/C…
  • Everyone who knows you offers to be one of your clients, a great boost for the morale, until you have to explain to them why they can never be your clients!
  • You’ve endured watching tapes of yourself conducting assessments and therapy
  • You know what the NICE and the Cochrane Collaboration are
  • You’ve practised what you’re (learning to) preach i.e. meditation, behavioural experiments etc. because you can’t really ask a client to do anything you wouldn’t!
  • You won’t be selling your textbooks at the end of the year because you’ll be using them for years to come
  • You have an opinion about the DSM-5
  • You start collecting therapy resources
  • If you’re doing a Clinical PhD, you always have to explain what that actually is
  • You’ve discovered that as with any health profession, there’s a lot of paperwork involved
  • People don’t ask you what the difference between psychology and psychiatry is any more 
  • You have muscles from carrying psych tests around – you really could make a mint designing “Lite” versions!
  • You’ve sat behind a one-way mirror
  • And if my experiences are anything to go by, you get to hang out with a really perceptive and caring bunch of people from all walks of life

Anything to add?

A photo of a group conducting psychotherapy.

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Filed under A bit of fun, A day in the life, classes, Clinical Phd, Practice

A day in the life…of a Clinical PhD student

Wordmark of The Beatles, originally painted di...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, what does a typical day in the life of a Clinical PhD student look like? Quite frankly, I don’t know. In fact, I’ll tell you a little secret. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a ‘typical day.’ If you asked me, my answer would depend on the day of the week and how my thesis and assignments were progressing. I’d also wager that if you asked my comrades who have the same coursework and thesis commitments, you’d get a different answer again.

I will concede  that  a ‘typical week‘  exists. On a weekly basis I attend a day and a half’s worth of classes, a faculty seminar and  a meeting with my supervisor. In between these bouts of structure I can be found doing ‘homework’ for my classes, working on assignments, reading, writing, bouncing ideas off the others in the ‘Nerve Centre’ and of course, thinking. But this bland description doesn’t capture the half of it: birthday cake days, campus wildlife spotting, occasional escapes to the grand piano round the corner, a-ha moments, thesis/computer/coursework/admin trouble shooting sessions, training seminars, inductions, lunchtime rituals and social get-togethers also punctuate my typical week from time to time. And then of course, there is my life outside uni: my casual job, family and friends. Variety is the spice of life and ironically, the one constant in my life as a Clinical PhD student.

Take today, it started out with me driving to uni belting out ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay in my car, and ended with me writing this post while munching on a chocolate snowball (for the uninitiated, this is a chocolate and coconut coated marshmallow). In between, I attended classes – applying ethics concepts to counselling scenarios, listening to others’ research progress and discussing statistical power; worked on my thesis – reviewing the latest articles in one of my ‘pet’ journals, writing my research proposal and having an a-ha moment about where my thesis is headed  and, lastly, the ‘miscellany section’ of my day today – debating the inner workings of EndNote, why I like research, why some academics wear blue robes and why the writing on the bottom of lipstick is ridiculously tiny. My theory is that they try to save money on ink!

All in all, the unstructured elements of a Clinical PhD aren’t a bad thing. They’re an opportunity for flexibility, to call my own shots within reason, and to develop a system that works for me. I’ll probably blog about my day to day experiences from time to time now, so watch out for my ‘a day in the life’ category if you’re interested.

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Filed under A day in the life, classes, Clinical Phd, Piano, Reflections, research proposal

Moving from the general to the particular

Master Yoda - origami.

Master Yoda – origami. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just over a year ago I blogged about a challenge I was facing with my writing; I was struggling with moving from the general to the particular. Essentially, I’d dive straight into the details, neglecting to tell you why they were relevant and then move on to other ideas without making the connections between them explicit. Guess what? I’m still doing this and it annoys me no end! So, I have decided that enough is enough, I’m challenging myself to master moving from the general to the particular.

Now, I love a good challenge and I’m not alone in saying they need to be faced head on and that this experience can be rewarding:

  •  “Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda
  •  “Kites rise highest against the wind” –  Winston Churchill
  • “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible” – Arthur C. Clarke

But whether you agree with Yoda, Churchill or Clarke, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Over the years I’ve noticed that I tend to deal with challenges in a formulaic way: First, I find out everything I can about the problem – what it is, and when and why it happens. Second, I look for strategies to overcome the problem and consider what has worked for me in the past. Finally, I implement the strategies and monitor my progress. I’ve learnt from a friend of mine this is a problem focused coping style as defined by Lazarus and Folkman and it’s what I plan to use this time to improve my writing.

So, what am I doing wrong, when and why?

I have been telling the story of my thesis without setting the scene – I present the specifics without introducing or connecting my ideas. The only time I don’t tend to do this  is when I write speeches or tell someone a story. I don’t know about you but I’m sensing a theme here, something mysterious happens to my arguments when I transition between oral and written expression.  WHY?! Well, I have a few hunches. When I express something orally I can see my audience, I can tell if I have ‘lost them’ and it seems more natural to take the time to introduce my point when I am speaking to someone. However, when I express something in the written form I immediately think – how can I back up my argument with facts?  I think this is due to years of studying history and writing  in the ‘start with a brief topic sentence, introduce your evidence, make a conclusion and move on to the next point’ style. It also probably has something to do with my tendency to get hung up on the details and delay giving an opinion until I have ‘all the facts’.

What can I do about it?

Thinking back to the previous strategies I have used to avoid forgetting about the bigger picture, some worked better than others. Being aware of my tendency to dive into the details didn’t help my writing.  However,  I did have more success when I concentrated on telling the story and thought about what my audience needed to know. I will try these approaches again but evidently if I’m to succeed in moving from the general to the particular in my writing, I need some new strategies in my arsenal. Please feel free to offer your suggestions.

At present, I have decided that I am going to:

  • Spend time explaining the background and outlining my ideas and opinions
  • Check that my argument still makes sense when I remove sentences about the specifics (e.g. if the ‘So and So found X’ sentences are gone)
  • Write for my audience: researchers and clinicians in the field who want to know the implications of current knowledge and my findings (when they emerge) for research and practice

And finally, research and practice intersect again…

I’ve been learning about and practising motivational interviewing in class, a technique used to support clients through making a change.  It took only five minutes of writing this post before I started evaluating my own change talk and what stage I’m at! I’ve decided I’m in  determination because I’m well aware of my need to change and I have some plans in place. Yet more evidence of how practice can inform research.

Wish me luck

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Filed under classes, Clinical Phd, Practice, Research, writing