September 9, 2017

Navigating Internship as a Research-Oriented Clinical Psychology Student


Navigating Internship as a Research-Oriented Clinical Psychology
Student

Andrew D. Peckham and Jessica Hamilton

Match Day has come and gone, and between July and September of 2017, more than 3,500 students will begin the challenging and exciting experience of beginning their clinical internships. Internship entails a number of challenges, including learning new clinical skills, developing new relationships with mentors, colleagues, and training directors, and for many, relocation to a new region of the country. For research-oriented clinical psychology students, the transition to internship comes with the added challenge of maintaining research productivity while simultaneously undergoing full-time clinical training.
Fortunately, there are many internship sites that provide research-friendly opportunities such as dedicated time to work on scholarly projects, mentorship from research-oriented clinical psychologists, and opportunities for new research collaborations during the internship year. The match process allows research-oriented students to identify and apply to sites that openly allow for such opportunities alongside clinical training, and there are a number of resources (such as the APPIC website and individual program brochures) that allow students to select sites that will maximize their research potential. Yet, even interns at “research-friendly” internship sites often struggle to find the right balance between internship training responsibilities and their ongoing academic pursuits.
In the article below, we provide the results of a series of interviews with current and former research-oriented interns from a number of internship programs located in the Northeast and Midwest. While this is by no means a representative sample of all research-oriented psychology interns, the perspectives they offer represent some common themes and pieces of advice that we hope will be helpful for new interns to hear.


1. How would you recommend interns balance their clinical, research, and personal/life responsibilities?

Intern: Set small research-related goals for yourself that you think will be manageable given your intern schedule. If possible, ask around and choose the rotations that are less demanding if you have a particularly stressful research-related deadline or project you'd like to be working on. However, I would say to keep in mind that this is a demanding clinical year, and you will likely not be able to be as productive as you would like! Also--a huge thing I would recommend if possible is to have your dissertation defended. If possible, try to submit for publication as many of the ongoing projects from graduation school prior to going on internship. It becomes hard to balance old projects with new projects, especially with the limited time!

Intern: I found it important to carve out specific times or activities that I enjoy for each week. For example, putting a fun community activity on my calendar for the weekend to make sure I got out of the house, rather than just lounging in PJs all day feeling guilty about research work! It was also important to me to leave as much of my work “at work” as I could, even if that meant staying a little later to finish up rather than bringing work home with me. 

Intern: This is an exciting and challenging year. Regardless of how much research you want to do (or have done in the past), remember that it is a clinical year even at the most research-oriented sites. I definitely expected to have more research time on internship than I do. However, that is not because of the grueling clinical hours, but rather prioritization of my personal life in a very busy year! It was really important to me to explore my new city, build solid friendships with my fellow interns and postdocs, and maintain my connections with family and friends living farther away. I would say that flexibility is key—and that you should focus on what is important to you and accept that it will change based on the time of year, deadlines, and whatever life throws at you. The biggest thing for me is to remember that this year is a unique balancing act and it does not necessarily reflect anything more than that!

2. What have you learned about yourself from internship? 

Intern: I had some unique clinical experiences prior to internship, but the ability to try working with new types of presenting difficulties, in different settings, and with different therapy modalities has made me really appreciate clinical work! I found that I really enjoy working with clients in intensive outpatient programs, for example. On the flip side, I’ve also learned that I have a very hard time saying no, especially when I’m being asked to do things by multiple different people in different domains (clinical work, research, administrative), so that has been a challenge.

Intern: The internship year confirmed and intensified my desire for a research career, which has been helpful in clarifying my training goals for post-doctoral training and beyond. In addition, my internship provided many opportunities to work with diverse and varied clinical populations, which further opened my eyes to what I do and do not enjoy about clinical work as well as new populations I might be interested in conducting research with in the future.

Intern: I have learned that I know way more than I thought I did prior to coming on internship! I have also learned to be more reliant on and confident in my own decision-making skills. In graduate school I had a really supportive mentor who I would run most decisions by. I still have her guidance, but have had to learn to make more decisions on my own. It's unsettling but with practice and time I'm learning to navigate this better.

Intern: I have learned that it really is possible to balance clinical and research responsibilities in the same career. So often in graduate school, it seemed like clinical work and research were completely different parts of my life, but I’ve learned from internship that it is possible to have both of these roles fully complement each other.

3. How have your own expectations shifted over the course of the year, in terms of your expectations about how much research you expect to get done during internship?

Intern: I think overall my expectations haven't shifted much. In fact I may have had more time than expected to do research. But it takes flexibility - using a couple hours here or there rather than expecting to have half a day. 

Intern: Although the internship program I attended is primarily clinical, there was an emphasis on and time dedicated to research. At the beginning of internship, all interns were required to set research goals for the year, which helped set my expectations for the year. Overall, my expectations were met or exceeded in terms of how much research I expected to get done during internship. 

Intern: Manage your expectations about how much research you can get done during internship! While it is certainly possible to stay productive, there is no way around the fact that you will have fewer hours in the day to work on research. This is a fact that deserves some radical acceptance at first, followed by strategic planning. Once I accepted that there is less time for me to devote to research than I would like, I found that it was easier to pick a few specific projects to focus on.

4. What advice would you give to new interns about settling into a new place, institution, and/or position?

Intern: I think I have a few pieces of advice: 1) Give yourself some time to settle in! If you can move to your internship site’s city before the start of internship, do it. It’s stressful to start a new full-time position regardless, but it’s more stressful when your whole apartment is in boxes and you don’t know how to get to the grocery store! 2) Ask for clarification (from all supervisors - research, clinical, training directors) about expectations up front. It’s much easier to have those conversations when you’re starting a new rotation or working with a new mentor than it is to address miscommunications later on. 3) Don’t sign up for too many projects, patients, etc. right away - it’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy store with a lot of new opportunities in front of you, but it’s much easier to add something a month in than it is to stop doing something you’ve already agreed to. 4) Recognize that you’re new, and that just because things have always been done a certain way in your previous experiences doesn’t mean that will necessarily fly at the new place. Also remember that people may have very different opinions than you (about certain theoretical orientations, for example), especially if you’re starting at an institution or in a city that’s very different from the one where you did your training. Acknowledge the experience and expertise of those around you!

Intern: Enjoy and explore! I found that my internship mentors have been much more likely to encourage me to spend my free time pursuing activities that bring me pleasure and adventure. This exploration led me to feel much more enmeshed in the larger community of my city than I felt in graduate school. 
Intern: Try to find those supportive people, whether it be friends, family, or mentors, especially if you are moving somewhere new. For me, building a supportive network has been the most significant piece of adjusting to a new place, job, home, and people.

Intern: Embrace your cohort! I found that my strongest supports this year came from having a close-knit group of fellow interns who were going through the same challenges that I was. Even though internship doesn’t leave much time for socializing, take advantage of lunch breaks, downtime, and happy hours to get to know your co-interns.

5. What advice would you have for navigating different research mentors (including current and past advisors)?

Intern: I think it’s helpful to have a conversation with your graduate advisor before you go on internship about what their expectations are for you (and what your expectations are for them) during the internship year. Do they want you to write up your dissertation into a manuscript? Do they want you to be Skype-meeting with them weekly? Do you want to be meeting with them a lot when maybe they would prefer to be in less frequent contact? Will you have any responsibilities to your old lab? I think that, if you’ve had that conversation before internship starts, you’re in a better position to set up reasonable expectations with your internship research mentor. I also think that my earlier advice (don’t sign up for too much too early) applies here - it’s better to set limited, reasonable goals for yourself with your internship research mentor and then be pleasantly surprised by being able to take on more later than it is to say you can do 5 projects but only deliver on 2!

Intern: Broadening your research network is both amazing and challenging. Specifying your training goals to your mentorship team is essential as well as making explicit the role you see each mentor playing in achieving those goals. Putting things in writing always helps.

Intern: Your new mentor will undoubtedly be different from your grad school mentor, who you have now known for 5-6 years, at least. So, it takes some time to adjust to a new mentor's style and personality. If a meeting doesn't quite go how you wanted it to, take some time to reflect on how your learned interactional style in these meetings might contribute to any miscommunications. Problem solve about how you might structure the interaction or approach your mentor differently so that you can have a more productive and clear meeting. That being said, from the outset make sure to ask around about the mentor's style and personality prior to making any commitments--it is stressful to have a difficult mentor, especially during internship!

Intern: Don't over-extend yourself. It's good to make some new connections, and keep the old ones in good shape, but don't promise too much too soon. It's easy to get excited and agree to lots of different projects, but you have to protect your time and be realistic. Most mentors understand that. Importantly, just be honest about your time up front. 


6. How would you have approached this year differently knowing what you know now?

Intern: I think I would have set clearer plans for myself about how to balance my own research projects with the clinical work. Even when I’ve had rotations with relatively lower clinical workloads, it’s just very mentally taxing to be working clinically all day, and then try to “switch” your brain to a more research-focused line of thought. I might have done better with research productivity if I’d set specific goals for myself on a weekly basis, with the hope of staying more on track.

Intern: I would have approached the internship year with more purpose from the very beginning. Because I was initially ambivalent regarding the value of a purely clinical year, my approach was to let experiences come to me rather than specifically seeking out certain experiences. This year has made me re-evaluate that approach and led me to be more explicit in my goals for post-doctoral training.

Intern: In retrospect, I would have given myself “permission” to take more time off from the clinic to work on research projects earlier in the year. I was surprised at the amount of vacation time and “professional” days off that my internship site allows, and once I learned how easy it was to ask for a day off to work on writing, I definitely took advantage of that opportunity. I would have approached my training director about taking time off for research earlier in the year if I had been more confident about making this request.

7. How did you decide the next steps in your career? What advice would you give for people in their internship trying to figure out the next steps? 

Intern: I was pretty sure going into internship that I wanted a career focused on research. I think if people are unsure, it's good to think - "could I do this full-time?" or "do I actually miss research?" Because for me, I missed research quite a bit, and I knew that while internship was a good training experience, it wasn't what I wanted to do for my career. I also relied significantly on supervisors for career advice - I highly recommend getting multiple different opinions and perspectives. 

Intern: I decided on the next steps of my career based on balancing my long-term career goals with my personal/family goals. I recommend that future interns consider the setting, location, and fit of their next step (e.g., postdoc) as it could provide opportunities for future employment. 

Intern: So much of the internship year can be thought of as “networking” for postdoc, particularly if you are able to stay at the same institution. So don’t be afraid to set up meetings with researchers at your internship site and ask about ways to get involved with their team, even if you may not have the bandwidth to join their team right away. Go to lab meetings, go to grand rounds or other talks, and see if there are people at your internship institution that might be a good fit for your next steps. It’s also never too early to start looking into postdoc options. It’s a remarkably fast turnaround between starting internship and applying to postdoc positions, so be sure to set aside time early in the year to think about what your next steps might be.

8.  Any other advice that would you give to new interns? 

Intern: Take the clinical opportunities available to you, even if you don’t intend to pursue clinical work as a primary career! First, you might find you really like certain kinds of work, which can inform your career plans or at a minimum where you want to focus your hours for postdoctoral requirements. Second, even clinical work in populations that didn’t seem relevant to my research has helped me develop new hypotheses and new ideas that will benefit me in research in the future. Third, it’s the last chance you get to be fully focused on your own training!

Intern: Be open-minded, use cognitive reappraisal often, and have fun!

Intern: Be open to new experiences, but also remember that you can’t do it all! Prioritize what is important to you – it’s okay to politely decline an offer (clinical/research). Also, remember that this is your training, so you should not hesitate to experience it fully and make it what you want/need!

Intern: Don’t be afraid to (respectfully) rock the boat a little. At many internship sites, you are coming in for only 12 months to work with people who may have been working there for decades. Be open to learn from people who do things a little differently than your training, but also don’t be afraid to speak up if you see ways to make improvements in the way things are done. As clinical scientists, we have a lot of training in evidence-based practices, and it’s important to share that knowledge broadly.

Summary: The interviews in this column represent what many people who have completed internship understand: that despite the stress and challenges associated with this year of clinical training, it is absolutely possible to make progress on your research, to learn new clinical skills, and even to enjoy yourself all at the same time. While everyone’s experiences are different, there is also remarkable consistency across these interviews: many interns would agree that managing expectations about your ability to get research done during internship is important, but that internship includes many chances to elevate your research career. We believe that managing this dialectic is essential to staying happy, healthy, and productive during this exciting time.

Andrew Peckham is a postdoctoral fellow at the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Clinical Research Program of McLean Hospital, and a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School. He is a recent graduate of the McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School internship program.


Jessica Hamilton is a predoctoral intern at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, PA. Beginning September 2017, she will be a postdoctoral fellow on a T32-funded fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.

An Applicant’s Guide to Research-Oriented Postdoctoral Fellowships

An Applicant’s Guide to Research-Oriented Postdoctoral Fellowships
Jonathan P. Stange, Ph.D.

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  I completed my PhD in clinical psychology at Temple University in 2016.  I’m writing to provide one perspective on different types of research-oriented postdoctoral fellowships that are available, since finding a postdoc and understanding the different types of positions can be confusing. 

As a brief caveat, this is not an exhaustive list of information about postdocs, so I recommend checking with other people you know who may have had different experiences.  This also is targeted for people who are aiming to have primarily research-oriented careers.  Therefore, I do not consider full-time clinical postdocs (in which the majority of your time is spent doing clinical work) here in detail, nor do I consider sub-disciplines (e.g., neuropsychology) in which there is a postdoc match process.

1. Investigator-Funded Research Postdoc.  This is probably the most common type of research postdoc, one in which the PI provides funding via a grant (e.g., an R01) for you to work in his/her lab.  The specific duties of the job may vary but typically involve data collection and analysis, manuscript preparation, assistance in managing the lab, and helping the PI with grant writing.  There are several ways you might find out about these positions.  PIs often will post advertisements on listservs (e.g., SSCP, SRP, APA Divisions, ABCT), or they jobs may be listed on the Wiki Psych Jobs or APS postdoc exchange websites (links below).  However, not all postdoc jobs are posted.  Some investigators may even have funding that they would choose to use on the right postdoc but would not advertise such a position if they do not need to fill it.  Alternatively, PIs might be expecting to have a vacancy for a postdoc position coming up even if they have not officially posted an ad yet.  So, it pays to do some networking to find out if you might be able to make a position work with a PI whose work interests you.  You could work through your graduate mentor’s contacts (e.g., asking your mentor to contact PIs you’re interested in but do not know, if your advisor knows them), or even cold-email people to express interest.  If you have a strong research match with a PI at the location in which you are completing your clinical internship, this may give you a foot in the door to obtain a postdoc should the PI have funding when your internship ends.  (For some research-oriented internship applicants, consideration of whether internship sites have possible research mentors with postdoc funding could influence internship rankings. Among other reasons, it is nice not to have to move after a year of internship!)

2. National Research Service Award Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (F32).  A second form of research postdoc is the F32/NRSA grant.  These grants pay for your salary for up to three years of postdoc.  They are designed to “enhance the research training of promising postdoctoral candidates who have the potential to become productive, independent investigators in scientific health-related research fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes.”  Applicants often take a new angle in mining a PI’s existing data while obtaining new relevant training.  These grants can be a great way to get the additional research training you need before starting an independent research career.  They also can provide good training to set you up to apply for an NIH K award, if you don’t think you will be ready to submit a K award in the first year or so after your internship.  One major benefit of the F32 is that for the most part, your time should be protected to work on the project you proposed and to acquire the skills you need.  In contrast, in investigator-funded postdocs there may be more pressure to work as an employee of the PI, doing administrative tasks that are not always oriented toward your career development.  In theory, for an F32 you could apply to work with any PI (at any institution) who is willing to serve as your mentor on the grant, which gives you considerable flexibility.  The difficult thing about F32s is the timing, and the need to plan well in advance.  If you start thinking about submitting an F32 during your internship year, most likely you would need to submit in the first half of the year (e.g., by the December deadline) in order to find out if your score on the first round will be fundable in time to start a postdoc on July 1 (depending on when your internship ends).  If your F32 isn’t funded on the first round but you want to resubmit, you may have a gap between the end of your internship and the start of the grant, if it gets funded the second time around, and you would have to find some way to pay your salary for that gap (or go unpaid until you find out about your revision score, which is a risky proposition).  The safest way to apply for an F32 probably is to first obtain an investigator-funded research postdoc (as I described above), and then to apply for the F32 knowing that you have the investigator-funded postdoc as a safety net in the event that your F32 is not funded (or if it is not funded on the first round).  To find out more about F32s, you can ask around in your professional network to see if you know anyone who has applied for or received one.  You also can check out the NIH Reporter website and search for individuals who have received F32s from the institutes you’re interested in (e.g., NIMH, NIDA, etc.) to get a sense of what kinds of things have been funded: https://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm.  For more information about the F32, see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-16-307.html. 

3. Institutional National Research Service Award (T32).  The T32 is another form of postdoc that is a grant that an institution receives for the purpose of training individuals in research in areas in which NIH has specified that there is a shortage of young investigators.  To obtain these positions, the applicant applies to the institution, rather than applying to NIH.  I have heard that it often helps to have established a relationship with the mentor for the grant.  Perhaps for this reason, many individuals who receive T32 postdocs had been working at the institution already before they received the fellowship.  For example, some clinical internship sites also hold T32 grants, which allows some interns to transition from internship into the T32 postdoctoral fellowship, particularly if the intern was able to establish a relationship with the mentor by working on a research project together during the internship year.  Although not necessarily stated explicitly, institutions seem to use T32 grants to transition psychologist trainees from interns to postdocs to faculty members.  In many cases, individuals who successfully obtain a T32 position plan to write a K award application, which facilitates the transition to faculty if the K is funded.  Some T32s may also involve clinical training components or providing research training in the contexts of treatment settings.

4. Foundation Fellowships.  There also are a number of opportunities to have postdoctoral fellowships funded by private research foundations that are funded by donors.   For example, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has postdoctoral research fellowships that pay for your salary for two years at an institution in which you have a research mentor: https://afsp.org/our-work/research/grant-information/.  The Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation also provides some funding for postdocs in the areas of child depression, ADHD, and access to care: http://www.ktgf.org/fellowship_prog.html.  These types of applications also take some time for planning as they may be due in the fall in order to allow enough time for review of applications prior to July 1 start dates.  It is worth keeping an eye out for these types of opportunities. 

5. VA MIRECC fellowship. 26 VA sites offer this research-oriented fellowship, and it's a great fit for people who are aiming for VA-based research careers.  You can learn more here:  http://www.mirecc.va.gov/mirecc_fellowship.asp (Credit to: Dr. Ann Marie Roepke)

Other issues to consider:

What is your ultimate career goal?  Your ultimate goal for your career (e.g., a tenure-track faculty position) should influence what type of postdoc you take.  If you want to obtain a faculty job but you have not published much, you may want to seek a postdoc in which you will have time to publish or in which the PI will allow you to publish with his/her data.  If you already have substantial publication experience but want to learn a new skill set to use in your ultimate job, look for postdocs that will allow you to do something new while building on your existing skills, rather than continuing on in an area in which you already have demonstrated competency.  If you want to work in a Psychiatry department, in some cases postdocs may provide an opportunity to establish relationships with a mentor and to apply for training grants such as K awards that would facilitate transition to faculty at the same institution.  These are factors to consider when selecting postdoc.

Do you want to obtain licensure?  Most states require supervised post-doctoral clinical work prior to being eligible for licensure.  If you want to be licensed, if you choose to take a research postdoc, you will want to find out about how much time is available for obtaining the required clinical hours for licensure.  You also may want to know whether you can use your regular working hours to do clinical work, or whether your PI expects that all of your clinical work will happen outside of typical work hours (which makes for long work days).  Often, this is negotiable, as PIs understand the desire to obtain licensure, as long as you fulfill your employment obligations.

Additional resources:
APS Postdoc Exchange – aggregates psychology postdoc job ads: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/post-doc-exchange
Wiki Psych Jobs – also aggregates psychology postdoc job ads:
http://psychjobsearch.wikidot.com/#toc17
Other postdoc guides that may be helpful (for full disclosure, most of these I found only after writing the above):


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Good luck on your search! While there may not be a perfect solution, I hope the above information helps you to balance the many different factors in making the best possible choice.

August 16, 2017

Call for Submissions: SSCP Outstanding Student Researcher Award

SSCP is accepting nominations for the SSCP Outstanding Student Researcher Award. This award is intended to recognize outstanding graduate students who are providing exceptional contributions to the science of clinical psychology. SSCP encourages candidates from all underrepresented and minority groups to apply. Winners will be selected based upon his/her research contributions to the field (see below for examples). Selected students will be featured in the Outstanding SSCP Student section of the SSCP Newsletter.

Applications must be received by September 15, 2017. Notification of award made in October 2017.

Eligibility:
Only graduate students (including students on internship) will be considered for this round of nominations. Graduate students must be student members of SSCP. The annual student membership fee in SSCP is $15. The membership application form can be downloaded or submitted on-line at: http://sscpweb.org/Membership

Nomination packages: Students may be nominated by their advisor, or may self-nominate. Please send nomination packages to SSCP Student Representatives Jessica Hamilton and Kelly Knowles (sscpstudent@gmail.com). The application should include the following:

  1. The Outstanding SSCP Student Award Cover Sheet
  2. A letter of recommendation from the nominee’s advisor. The letter of recommendation should specifically speak to characteristics that make this individual stand out as an outstanding researcher.  
    1. Examples include:
      1. Student has published articles in peer review journals that advance the science of clinical psychology.
      2. Student has received grant(s) to conduct research that advance the science of clinical psychology.  If student has applied for grant(s) or aided advisor in applying for grant(s), this can also be noted.
      3. Student has received award(s) for their research or presentations of research at the university, regional, or national level.
      4. Student has presented poster, paper, or symposium presentations that advance the science of clinical psychology.
      5. Student helps serve as a reviewer in the peer review process.
      6. Student has made an unusually advanced theoretical contribution in their work.
  3. A biography written by the student summarizing the student’s research contributions (500 words maximum).
  4. The nominee’s current Curriculum Vitae

Please include the entire application, including cover letter, in one document file. If your letter writer wishes to send their letter directly to the Student Representative listed above, your application will still be accepted.

January 16, 2017

SSCP Poster Competition


SSCP students the call for abstracts for the 2017 Association for Psychological Science is open until January 31

APS will be held in Boston from May 25-28th and we would love to see you and your data there! SSCP mentors, please let your students know about the perks of SSCP student membership and this poster competition.

Multiple $200 and $100 awards will be given for the winners and distinguished contributions after posters are presented to SSCP member judges. If you would like to have your poster considered for the SSCP student poster session, select ‘SSCP Poster’ in the first step after you select poster and start new submission.

To be eligible to submit an SSCP poster, the first author of the poster must be a student and must be a member of SSCP at the time of submission. Submissions to the SSCP student poster session must be completed by January 31. You will also be asked to provide a copy of the final version of your poster by May 12, 2017 so judges will have an opportunity to review your work before the live session.

The SSCP poster submission can deal with any area within scientific clinical psychology (e.g., the etiology or correlates of psychopathology, assessment/diagnosis, clinical judgment, psychiatric classification, psychotherapy process or outcome, prevention, psychopharmacology). The research and analyses presented in the poster submission must be completed (i.e., submissions containing such language as “Data will be collected….” will not be considered). Please be sure to provide enough relevant detail in the summary so that reviewers can adequately judge the originality of the study, the soundness of the theoretical rationale and design, the quality of the analyses, the appropriateness of the conclusions, and so on. Complete submissions include a brief 50 word abstract and up to a 500 word summary of the work.

If you have any questions please contact Thomas Olino at thomas.olino@temple.edu. Please put “SSCPPoster” in the Subject line to ensure your question is answered promptly.