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How do you build experience as a recent graduate with a HBSc in Psychology, wanting to pursue psychotherapy working with teens and young adults?


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Ipalla’s Answer

You can try contacting a practicing therapist who may be able to mentor you and share details on how they gained experience soon after graduation. They may have networks to connect you with as well.

This step can be followed for any discipline. You'd be surprised how many people are willing to assist you in getting started in your given field.

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Mona’s Answer

I graduated with a degree in Psychology and one thing I noticed during my time in college was that Psych units really need more workers. I worked at a Children's Hospital in the Pysch unit and it was very rewarding but also they were very short staffed. The work is difficult but teaches you a lot. I would reach out to local hospitals who have psych wards and apply.

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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 in addition to the great ones that others have mentioned:

1) 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 with psychotherapy among youth (or any other age group). You'll also receive supervision from someone with more experience, which again is something you will have to do as you train to become a psychotherapist.

2) 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. 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.

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.

Know that there are many options for degrees that can lead you to a psychotherapy career. I'm from the states so I'm not sure how many of these apply elsewhere, but you can conduct psychotherapy with a PhD (doctor of philosophy), PsyD (doctor of psychology), MFT (marriage and family therapy), LCSW (licensed clinical social worker), or MD (doctor of medicine). Each involves different training and leads to different career options. For example, with an MD you can prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy if you specialize in psychiatry. With a PhD you typically have to go through at least 5 years of training, including a clinical internship, and sometimes a 1-2 yr postdoctoral fellowship after that, and there is often a strong research component. PhDs are usually paid for, at least within the US. PsyD is also a fairly long training period, but there is a much greater focus on clinical training rather than research, and this degree often requires paying tuition. I'm not as familiar with MFT and LCSW options, but they will involve a shorter training period so that you could start practicing on your own sooner.

Best of luck! Keep your head up, explore to find what you're most passionate about, and don't let anyone tell you you don't belong.

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John’s Answer

How about contacting a mega church and ask if they have a ministry around helping troubled teens? Normally they have leaders and seasoned professional on staff to guide you and possibly also open up career options and opening not advertised.

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