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I want to apply mental health related PhD , and what experiences are good for application?

My undergraduate major is Nursing, and minor Psychology. Then I got a master degree in Neuroscience. Now I want to apply PhD in mental health related major, like social work, clinical psychology, public health or mental health nursing. Do you have any suggestion for me? for example, how to prepare my CV and how to professor matching with me? Thanks a lot #july20 #mental-health #public-health


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Mary J’s Answer

Kudos for your education and desire to continue same with a more specific area identified! I would suggest looking into possibly becoming a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry, if your interest is in clinical practice. Public Health nursing is probably huge right now with the current pandemic and in the future I can see this field becoming big in nursing; providing on-going "well" or primary care is an area where properly prepared nurses can make a huge impact. With your degree in Neuroscience, research is also a possibility.
I think you need to refine your end goal first and then investigate what educational institution would best suit your goal. During that investigation would be a good time to also search for a mentor either in the university or if they can recommend someone for you.
As far as preparing a CV there are services that can help you with that or actually do it for you--just check the internet.
I wish you much success and am glad to see someone with your drive in the Nursing profession!

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Jean’s Answer

Working in a mental health facility in some capacity might be a possibility or perhaps you could be a grad assistant. It's hard to get directly related experience before you have your degree and necessary licensing. Finding someone to talk to about your career goals that is actually working in the field would be eye-opening -- many folks are willing to grant brief informational interviews to well-motivated and prepared students like you. Your undergraduate or graduate Career Services Center will be able to help you with you CV, cover letter, job search, etc.at no cost. These professionals will not "find you a job or internship" but they will coach you. Talking to faculty is important because faculty often can give you relevant information, refer you to others, talk through your plans, and generally steer you in the right direction. Some faculty are better at this than others so you might want to approach several. Good luck!

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Alexandra’s Answer

Hi! There are a lot of great options out there to gain experience before starting another degree that will get you to your goal of conducting psychotherapy with adolescent and young adult groups. The most important thing is to just ASK, even if you're not sure you're asking the right question or not sure you'll get a response. If you're anxious about inquiring if you can volunteer/work with someone, just try to think about it from their perspective, as if you were in their position years from now and someone was asking you if they can work with you to get some additional experience or advice. Many people will be happy to help because they were once in your position too!

Here are a few ideas:

1) Join a research lab as a research assistant/lab manager. Many psychology research studies involve psychotherapy as a component (e.g., investigating individual cognitive behavioral therapy vs. group skills therapy among teens with depression), and you can get great exposure to specialized types of clinical treatment while also learning more about how these therapies are studied and validated. Other clinical psychology research studies may involves brain scanning different psychiatric populations, or conducting neuropsychological assessments for individuals with schizophrenia or other psychiatric difficulties that impact cognition. I would check with universities around you, particularly the ones that have graduate programs (as these will have more opportunities to join as a research assistant). You can go to their website, look at the pages for certain labs or professors to find one that interests you, and then email them to ask if they have an opening for a research assistant (paid) or as a volunteer.

2) Volunteer with a crisis phone/text line. This option is great because you can work from the comfort of your own home, and you gain really valuable experience communicating with individuals who are in a crisis (e.g., thinking of harming themselves) and practicing your empathic listening skills, which will be essential if working in a mental health PhD. You'll also receive supervision from someone with more experience, which again is something you will have to do as you train in a clinical PhD program.

3) Shadowing a therapist (i.e., following them around for a day or two) can be a great way to learn about different types of career paths that are available while also being able to ask the therapist questions about their experience and training. You could shadow someone working in a children's hospital, in a specialized treatment center (e.g., eating disorders intensive outpatient program for teens or a residential facility for youth with severe depression), in a memory care facility for older adults, in a center providing treatment to foster youth, in an LGBTQ+ center, in a university student mental health clinic, etc.

Best of luck! Find what your passionate about and don't be afraid to ask for what you want (the worst that can happen is they say no)! :)

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