I read a blog post the other day and was like YES!
I rarely hear this perspective from others.
When people tell me they want to get a doctorate in psychology, I ask WHY?
Getting a doctorate is expensive and exhausting. I literally saw classmates die during the process. One thing that was on my mind often was you have 7 years to get it done. That seems like a long time, but with the 90+ hours it entailed, adding in the practicums and internship, I know I made it juuuuust under the deadline.
Things happen along the way. My very first semester, right before finals, I was told I lost my financial aid because the school fucked up and I owed 8,000. I was out of mind. How the hell do I find 8k and pass finals next week? I thought heavily about dropping out, but I really wanted to do this program. I was starting my masters/doctorate at 30. This is why I went to the school I did. My education was excellent because the instructors were actual clinicians, but it was brutal.
We didn’t learn about the business world at all. Education prepares us for agency work at best, which can suck hard, too. I remember I was making something like 50k at a job before I started grad school. After graduating with my doctorate 7 years later and struggling through a post-doctorate gig, I took a job for 50k, which was pretty much industry standard for not being a fully licensed psychologist. I thought what the fuck!?! This would not be so bad had I not just gone through hell financially and physically.
So when people tell me they want to get a doctorate, I want them to defend that decision. If they can’t defend it to me, they probably can’t defend a dissertation. It’s coming. It’s part of the process. Defending your position. Get used to it.
So for the most part, I think a lot of goals can be accomplished with a master’s in counseling. In Texas, licensed psychological associates can practice similarly to licensed professional counselors. A few years ago, things changed in Texas. Before that time, LPAs had to be under supervision FOREVER. They could not be in private practice or bill Medicaid. Now, they can be in private practice after a process similar to LPCs. Medicaid is coming, but not quite there yet. Not everyone wants to take Medicaid as I do. I work with pregnant people and in Texas, if a pregnant person does not have health insurance, they qualify for Medicaid. In this population, being on insurance is key to caring for them. A birthing parent will give their last breath to a child, so you better believe attending therapy for themselves is low on the list until they start seeing the effects in their children. It is what is, unfortunately. So I take insurance.
And let’s talk about the EPPP. The national exam for psychologists. It’s a mother. For. Sure. I passed the exam for the LPC after studying for a weekend while I was still in grad school. It took me 7 years and 4 tries to pass the EPPP after graduating. Let’s be clear, I’m not the best test taker and certainly have barriers to testing, but the contrast in examinations is striking. So I like to talk about what kind of student you can be and what barriers to learning you have going on. I have ADHD, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Those are some strong barriers to success. Which is why I’m a damn fine clinician, less fine test taker for sure.
Let’s talk about money. The pay is slightly better but not when compared to the loans you will take for education unless you are gifted with your education. It probably evens out to be the same unless you are pretty young, plan off to pay off your loans, and work a long time. As it stands today, March 2020, my student loan is 330,000. It goes up about 700 to 1,000 bucks a month because I have income-based repayment (thankfully). I will certainly die with a large student loan. I cannot buy a house due to my debt to income ratio being so off-kilter. That’s fine. It doesn’t feel fine, but it is fine. This also means my business can’t buy a cute little house to work out of, which was always a dream (my program is designed to educate clinicians, not teach or do research). I have figured out some workarounds on how to create private practice workspace, but they are still in development…so stay tuned???
So all this to say, ask yourself. WHY do you want to become a doctor? Will it make that big of a difference in your life? Is it worth the pain and suffering of your health? Is it financially beneficial? I don’t regret it because it fits my plan to retire by working completely virtually which will likely easier with a doctorate, but that too is to be seen.