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What can I do now to become a therapist or psychologist?

I am in 9th grade (14 yrs old), and I want to major in psychology or neuroscience in college. What are things I can do know to get into good psychology or neuroscience programs for college. I know that I need good grades, but what are some specific internships or research opportunities I should look out for? psychology clinical-psychology therapy neuroscience

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David J.’s Answer

Hi Archana,

Clinical psychology and neuroscience (especially cognitive neuroscience) are wonderful fields! I am an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist by education. This field is not as intense as clinical psychology or neuroscience so you are asking some excellent questions! One recommendation is to explore volunteer opportunities at community agencies or mental health service providers to make sure that you would enjoy the field. There are two routes to becoming a clinical psychologist: Bachelor's degree and Master's degree or Bachelor's degree, [Master's degree], Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology. The most important factor is to identify a program that has been accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA has an entire section of their website dedicated to education. This includes information on undergraduate and graduate education. One area that is highlighted on this site is community service. This is a great way to build experience and add to your resume before you enter college.

Once you are in college try to work with faculty who are conducting research in the areas you interested in. My middle daughter is an undergraduate and wants to be a clinical psychologist. She volunteered to travel to Thailand to help work with young children and teach them English. She also assisted with prison inmate exit interviews for prisoners, diagnosed with a psychological disorder, who were going to be released. These types of opportunities and activities will look great on your applications to graduate school in the future.

Dr. Ross

David J. recommends the following next steps:

Identify community service and volunteer opportunities in your area related to psychology.
Visit the APA's website on education.
Start to build your resume now and also research potential graduate programs that are APA-accredited (this is very important for clinical psychology).

Thank you! This was really helpful, Dr. Ross. I will be sure to check out the APA's website. Once again, thank you. Archana V.

You're welcome Archana! I am glad the information was helpful. Keep up the good work! David J. Ross, Ph.D.

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Victor’s Answer

Psychology has different hats and it all depends on what you want to focus on. You can look at number gathering/ statistics approach if you prefer numbers or the counseling aspect of things. Private practice can prove more lucrative but working as part of a team in an agency can be more stable financially. I guess the bigger question you need to ask yourself would be, what part of this profession do I feel most passionate about and can I see my self there long term. Remember, if you love your job you never work a day in your life. Good luck and happy hunting.

Thank you so much, Mr. Claudio. I found your advice very helpful! Archana V.

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Dr. Rodney E.’s Answer

To become a therapist or psychotherapist as we are sometimes called you only need a master's degree in counseling and licensure in your state. If you want to teach and do research in the counseling field you will need a doctorate degree. To become a psychologist you will need a doctorate and licensure in your state. Some people who have a master's degree in psychology can become a psychometrist administering assessments under the supervision of a psychologist.

Dr. Rodney E. recommends the following next steps:

I would definitely explore the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association websites to get a feel for the profession and how they each differ. Also, go to your local library or to find books on the professions.
I would contact local professionals in your area via email and let them know you are interested in the field. If you are able to set-up a 1:1 meeting at their offices that would be ideal. Prepare a list of questions that you want answered.
Visit the counseling and psychology departments of a local college or university and talk with faculty about your interest in the field. This could be accomplished through the Admissions Department who are eager to help you explore their campus and the field.

Thank you so much, Dr. Pennamon. I found your answer really helpful! I will be sure to check out books about psychology as you advised. Archana V.