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what was the biggest struggle to become a psychologist?

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Dr. Ray’s Answer

Dear Lesly,

Thanks for your interesting question. It brought back a lot of memories of my graduate school days, which were many years ago. For me having to do a master's thesis and doctoral dissertation were the hardest parts of the process. In my case they both involved data collection and analysis, which were a huge pain. Somebody once said that research is two percent inspiration and 98 percent perspiration, which certainly was my experience.

I also had to pass a standardized exam to be licensed as a psychologist, which I believe is now the case in all 50 states. However when I took it in 1974 the cutoff score for passing was much lower than it is today, so I didn't have to work very hard to prepare. Also there were no preparation workshops, which can be very expensive.

My biggest continuing frustration through my 35 years in private practice ( I am now mostly retired) was the declining reimbursement rates for psychotherapy and evaluation, which continues to this day. Despite all that I love my work and have never regretted my career choice.

If you are interested in a career in psychology don't let these things deter you. I wish you the best in your search.

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David’s Answer

I agree mostly with the other two answers (Dr. Ray and Corinne), but there have been some developments in the education and training of psychologists over the years. Although it's true in most if not all states, to become licensed as a psychologist at the independent level of practice, you will need a doctorate. Up until the 1970's - 80's earning a doctorate (Ph.D.) included becoming research-capable, and that meant conducting and writing up a dissertation research project, and then passing a "defense" (oral examination) of the results. This was true rather or not you planned on only doing clinical practice and not research, teaching, etc. (academic psychology). Beginning in the 1970's an additional kind of doctorate was developed for those people who were interested only in "applied psychology," which emphasized the actual practice of psychology (e.g., clinical, counseling) and which required a year-long internship. This "Doctor of Psychology" Psy.D. de-emphasizes conducting a research project and emphasizes hands-on supervised intern training. Many schools now offer either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., and some offer both. But in terms of the "struggle" involved, I would say doctoral programs are long and expensive, so you probably should really want to be a psychologist in order to make such an investment. There are some things psychologists can do that others cannot, and the career earnings probably are higher and there are more varied opportunities available. In a given setting, however, will be fewer positions available for psychologists than for masters level clinicians because they typically are more specialized and more expensive. There are many essentially two-year masters level programs, degrees, and disciplines that would allow you to work in mental health programs, clinics, hospitals, schools, providing assessments and treatment to all ages, regarding a range of presenting problems, and also in private practice. So I would recommend first figuring out what kind of work you'd like to do, in what kind of setting, and with which clients or patients, and then see what the minimum degree and licensing requirements are to get jobs in those areas. If you can do it with a masters level degree, it will take less time and money. In California, for example, you can become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or Licensed Professional Counselor with a masters degree (plus other training requirements), and also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Also masters degree programs seem to be more plentiful and frequently are at state universities which may be more affordable.

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Corinne’s Answer

Well, writing 30 page papers every week was no picnic. The dissertation was a chore. The EPPP was very challenging. In Michigan, you cannot call yourself a Psychologist unless you have a doctorate.

I would say the biggest struggle was finding a job that would pay me enough to make it as a single woman. Where I live, jobs with benefits and a salary are rare. My student loan payments are $800/ month.... gulp!

I’ve made it, however and I love my work. I’m a good therapist. I cannot imagine doing anything else.