Election Announcement

Hi All,

We’re very excited to announce that COPAGS elections are right around the corner! We have several positions on our board that will be opening up, so this is a great chance to get more involved with our organization. Positions include Chair-Elect, Diversity Chair, Research Chair, Programming Chair, and Communications Chair. The deadlines for applications is May 15th, so be quick! All that you need to include in your application is your CV and a one-page cover letter. You do need to be a member of CPA to be on our board. You can apply for membership when you apply for the board position, so don’t let that hold you back if you haven’t joined us yet! For more details, check this out: Election announcement


Don’t Be Afraid of Your Anger – Use It

By Shane Saenz

Disclaimer: Opinions and some humor below

My whole life, I have been known as “the nice guy.” There’s nothing more pitiful than being called “the nice guy.” Society taught me at a young age that girls don’t date the nice guy- they settle for the nice guy. For starters, there is the saying that never seems to die: “Nice guys finish last.” Although it has been debunked time and time again, it also seems to arise at the sign of any danger- real or imagined. The current political climate seems to suggest that a person who bullies others and creates an image of himself as someone who does not take flak from anyone is suited to be our President. Although I do not support this abusive platform, it got my wheels turning nonetheless. Is anger always such a bad thing?

I pride myself on only ever getting into one fist fight as a child. There were many opportunities to fight, but I consider myself a pacifist. I do not feel as though I missed an opportunity to get my ass kicked, but I do feel as though I suppressed my anger because I was too nice to fight. I thought to myself, if I was not nice, I clearly had to be angry. Funny enough, I found a job as a bouncer my last couple years of college. (I’m secretly hoping Larry David reads this post and makes a sitcom about me being the world’s first pacifist bouncer.) It was a cool job to say the least. It helped pay the bills, it was a fun place to work, and it served as a great pick-up line. When I tell people now that I used to bounce, I often get chuckles because they “could never see that happen;” I am “too NICE.” Well, it did happen. It was a great job for what it was and I learned a hell of a lot about therapy by working at a college-town dive bar. Although I came close to many altercations, some of which could have been life-threatening, I learned that there is a level of respect (and sometimes anger) that comes with positions of authority. I never really enjoyed monitoring the inside of the bar. It was muggy and loud, and I often felt uncomfortable with so many people surrounding me while they were inebriated. I enjoyed working the door because I could schmooze people as they came in, they often tipped me for being nice, as I was the gatekeeper to the place they all wanted to enter. I “controlled” the entrance to the $2 PBR’s and $3 Margarita slushies. In our position as therapists, we are also perceived as the gatekeepers to what clients want – insight into whatever brought them to therapy. We don’t actually have the answers that they are looking for, but we have the tools to help explore what it is they are seeking.

Anger is always such a touchy emotion to discuss in therapy because it is commonly referred to as a mask for other emotions. As the kids in my socialization group would say, it is the “Anger Iceberg” where you only see a bit on the surface, but there is so much more below. What is wrong with solely being angry? Do we need another justification besides that emotion or are we too subconsciously fearful of being  thought of as being insensitive or malicious? Anger can be relieving. It can be the catalyst to accomplish the thing we said we would never do, and it can also be the spark to change what we need. Anger can be a good thing. The most important question that must be addressed is: where we should draw the line with anger?

Of course, many people take anger too far. We see this as professionals in the field. People are unjustly abused (e.g. physically, emotionally, and sexually), they will use a variety of substances to try and suppress their anger, and others will solely deny any emotions at all. The list goes on and on. In my opinion, there is never an excuse for violently attacking another person. Anger cannot and should not be the excuse to be used for abusing other people. There are too many in-person and online resources that can assist with the control of such blinding temper. However, beyond being psychological professionals, we are also unfortunately human and have the ability to succumb to such debilitating temper.

What can we, as therapists, do about our own anger? I mean, I mentioned that there are countless resources. I personally love Mindful meditation to release anger that is unwanted and it becomes a nice tool for any type of emotion that is sitting with you uneasily. But even after a while, I still have that anger that arises both emotionally and physically. Thankfully, I have a classmate who reached out to me after a particularly anger-inducing day and asked, “Do you want to go hit something?” The answer, of course, was yes. I have collected and held onto so much aggression that it began to impact my work negatively. He showed me some techniques and spent about the next 30 minutes punching and kicking a bag as hard as we could and I do not think I have felt better since becoming a graduate student therapist. All the long hours, the sitting, the emotions, the annoyance. I punched away all the rejections, the “nice guy” comments, and made peace with my anger. I channeled it and released it like Mindfulness teachings expect. So, there you have it; the sage-like advice from this lowly graduate student: go hit something. Or do something within your limits that is physically different than sitting in a chair with one leg crossed over the other, nodding your head, making your face appear inquisitive, and saying “mmhmm” repeatedly. You know, everything you learned in your intro to Counseling Skills course.

Thus, when it comes to anger, use it toward something productive. For my Behavioral folks, consider this an activity more aligned with one’s values. For my Psychodynamic folks, consider this another example of Sublimation. However, in all seriousness, it will be beneficial for you and the clients you work with. After all, we are only human. We are integrated wholes and should not avoid thoughts and feelings that may arise in us as if we are anything more. If you take only one lesson away from this blog post, remember this: temper blocks insight.

The Wait

By Andrea Alvarado

Waiting to hear back from internship sites is really difficult. It’s not the waiting really, but the rejections. Did you know that you could get waitlisted for an interview? If not, now you do. What’s even worse is the waiting for Match

Day and the fate that waits you. This year, Match Day for psychology internships is February 17th. Since I am waiting, I have decided to enlighten you on my experience of the interview process and provide you with some helpful tips.

First of all, just know that you are going to be tired. Traveling to and from your interview sites, all the while maintaining your various jobs back home, will make you exhausted. You may forget what day it is, and even maybe what city or state you are in. I met a few people who had this happen to them. By the end of the interview process most people have the same worn out-always stressed look on their face. Don’t worry, as your regular face will return soon.

During the interview process, make sure to pay attention to how you physically feel at the sites. Are you getting a stressed out feeling from the current interns? Do they seem overworked and too tired to function? When you interview with staff psychologists (who may one day be your supervisors) pay attention to how supportive they feel to you. You will get a flavor of the site and the people who make up the internship. I don’t think this was stressed enough to me. I know that at one site I was nervous the whole time and the interviewers all seemed on edge. At another site, I felt welcomed and relax as soon as I walked in. I personally don’t want to intern at a site that make me feel uncomfortable all the time or that uses me as a work mule. I want a site that will help me grow as a psychologist and will support me in that journey.

You may have to submit to a group interview. I only had one of these, but I thoroughly did not enjoy it. However, you can really see the personalities of people come out. I think I interviewed with 11 other people. We all had to answer and in no particular order. That means that there people who were always jumping to answer first and then there were ones who waited more towards the end. I think it’s best to mix it up and demonstrate that you are well rounded and can lead and follow in a group setting. I found it annoying when an intern candidate would say their answer and the next person would say, “to piggy back off of that…” and then continued to pretty much say the same thing. There were a lot of answers that were just repeats. I think it’s helpful to use real world examples in your explanation. There usually was not a right or wrong answer. The interviewers want to see how you interact in a group and the perspectives you can bring. Some people would also tack on to the end of their answer “and this is why this site is a great fit” or stress that they really wanted the site because it was APA approved. I think mentioning this once or twice is ok. I think it’s better to mention that the site is a great fit in your individual interview.

Now onto clothing. Wear something that is comfortable and professional. However, I found it helpful to put a little personality with my outfit. Many of my interviews I attended seemed like the sites had ordered interview candidates from a factory. Each person wore black slacks, a black blazer, a blouse, and black flats or short heels. Everyone looked exactly the same. Even wearing a gray suit set people a part from the masses. I wore a tie to two of my interviews. I was comfortable and still professional, but I stood out a little bit. Not too much. In one of my interviews, I was complemented on it by the training director as soon we all filed into the conference room.  It was unique but not in a bad way. So find something that can make you stand out a little, but not too much. That can make you memorable. One of my friends was asked during their interview, how the site would be able to remember them from everyone else. Wear something a little unique, or wear a piece of jewelry or clothing item that has a story with it.

My last tip is to make sure you have support. There are so many people that are rooting for me, many of which I did not think would care that much. I keep all of my 4 supervisors informed, as well as my family, close friends, and girlfriend. Even if you don’t want to tell them about the rejections, I found that they help keep my spirits up and encourage me. Especially after I receive bad news.

Overall, I think that applying for APA internships and going through the process has been the most challenging part of graduate school. I hope I have shed some light on the process and hope some of these tips help.

Finding the right place for you

By Hannah Katz

As many graduate students start to interview for internship, others are getting ready to apply for practicum sites, and then there are undergraduate students applying for graduate school or starting to search for schools to apply to next year. With all of these there is a lot that goes into applying. One must think about what they want to get out of the experience. The best advice I was given is find the place that is the best match for you. Looking back at my graduate school experience and my practicum experiences I grew most from the sites that best matched my goals for graduate school. While I certainly learned from the experiences that didn’t match my goals, the experiences that best matched my goals pushed me to grow as a psychotherapist, to think outside the box, to become a better leader, and to leave that experience more developed.

So when you are looking at applying here are some things to keep in mind:

*Did you enjoy your interview/ visit at the school or site?
*Were there faculty or supervisors you felt like you could grow and learn from?
*Did you feel like you could be challenged?
*Does the school or site help you with your career goals?
*Could you see yourself in that site/ city for a year?
*Will the site build my confidence and create a leader in the field?

And most important, could you feel supported in your journey?

Thinking about all of these questions is important. But most important is staying true to yourself. Find what you are passionate about and express that passion. If you are still finding your passion explore as many things as possible.

Good luck to everyone as your approach your next step in your journey to become a psychologist.


One Psychology Grad Student’s Thoughts on Election 2016

By Elizabeth Shum

Disclaimer: these are my opinions and are not intended to offend.

Let me start this post by saying, I don’t consider myself to be politically-minded. In fact, I often find myself confused by American politics and am frequently the person in a group talking politics who nods my head knowingly while secretly wondering what super delegates are. In a sense, this campaign season has been a relief for me. I have been able to reasonably follow the happenings, and have been able to interject my views (at times passionately) into political conversations. On the one hand, I’m grateful that this election has been so straightforward to me (to summarize my views, I hate Trump…for lots a’ reasons.) On the other, I feel as though this race has stripped me of my democratic liberty. I don’t feel like I have a choice: vote for a racist or don’t, that’s my choice.

Again, I want to reiterate that I am not political. I don’t mean for this post to be a declaration of my party values or an invitation for an online debate. I want to jot down some of my feelings about this election, if for no other reason than to have an outlet. Another aspect of my personality that I feel inclined to share is that I do not anger easily, about the political or personal. However, Trump makes me angry. This election makes me angry. And I can’t shake it. I know you don’t know me, but that alone tells me something is wrong.

Trump is a narcissist. You know it, I know it, what else is new? He’s diagnosable. I won’t bore you with the DSM-5 criteria, but he meets them all and then some. And if the DSM included a specifier “with antisocial features” I would throw that in too for good measure. Thinking about what Trump has said about women, Latina/os, and Islam gives me a visceral reaction of hatred, which, like I said, is a feeling that is relatively foreign to me. I grew up believing that America was a utopic melting pot, a place where tolerance and acceptance of differences was the norm (although I become more disillusioned with this conception as I get older, I think many Americans would still paint our country this way despite our various social and political missteps.) Unfortunately, Trump’s nomination as the Republican candidate paints a different picture. Yes, Trump as a candidate enrages me, but he didn’t get to where he is by being unlikeable or by causing the same rage in others that I feel in myself. For many, he is an icon of hope and change, which any presidential candidate should aspire to be. For the life of me I am struggling to understand why.

The conclusion that I have reached is this: Trump is a charismatic (albeit pompous) speaker who has a knack for exacerbating our natural fear of the unknown. By using buzz words and toting traditional American values (think exceptionalism, isolationism, and capitalism), Trump has become for many the potential life raft for a flood he has started. It’s human nature to fear the unknown and to search for answers where there are none. It’s apparent everyday in our attempts to classify each other into racial, sexual, and political categories, and our resistance to the idea that a person does not neatly adhere to our social constructions. As a student of psychology, I get that (or I like to think I do.) What I see occurring with many Trump supporters is a textbook example of cognitive dissonance. People think, “hey this guy Trump has some good ideas.” Cue Trump’s racist and/or sexist comments; person (subconsciously) thinks, “I like Trump, but I don’t feel racist…hmm…discomfort.” The resolution of this conflict results in a person justifying Trump’s behavior and grow in their support of him, unconsciously engaging in a self-sustaining feedback loop of dissonance reduction.

I sound very intellectual don’t I? Thanks, I try. I think another reason for me writing this post is the hope that some other quasi-intellectual comes along, reads what I wrote, and maybe thinks “huh, maybe I should reconsider voting for Trump. I mean, he’s a guy with great hair, sure, but what else does he have to offer besides fear-induced panic? Let me ponder that some more.” That’s the goal. I started this post by saying that I don’t feel like I have a choice in this election. However, there is always the choice to be more thoughtful rather than thoughtless, to be more deliberate rather than impulsive, and to choose one’s own path rather than blindly follow (inspired yet?) If you are a Trump supporter with a logical rationale and a clear vision of how he will serve your needs, more power to you. My only hope is that fear and indifference are not the driving forces behind our votes as young adults, and that we are able to employ careful consideration in how we choose to write our own history.

My Very First External Practicum

Kiersten Eberle

I have officially started my first external practicum (aka ‘externship’ or ‘field placement’). There are a dozen ways to say it, but the deal is as a UNC doctoral student, I am now working off campus at a university counseling center.

First things first – the application process was insanely stressful, probably more stressful than it needed to be because I was coming off of comprehensive exams and awaiting my results throughout the entire process. Shockingly, I was still a bit stressed from that. On top of this, there is no match process for external practicums and this means applications are due whenever, interviews scheduled across multiple months, and offers being made before other interviews may have even been scheduled. But that is a whole other conversation. I want to talk about the other side of the process, the practicum that I got!

I’ll start off with the negatives – because I want to get them out of the way and there are not many. Well really—there is only one. I wake up at 5:30 twice a week to ensure I get to my site on time. I get home those days at 7:30 and proceed to collapse on my couch when I get home. In order to only have to commute two days, it required that I work 10 hours both days. Add to this over an hour of commuting and you’ve got yourself an exhausted grad student who now needs to get some more work done before bed (yeah—that doesn’t always happen). On the other hand, I have my back to sunrise and sunset during both ends of my commute and get a view of the sunrise on the Rockies each morning. It’s the small pleasures.

But I dread winter commuting.

Ignoring the commute and the exhaustion that has become my permanent companion, I love my site. And I’m not just saying it because they could totally find this online by googling my name (Hi!). But there is something truly wonderful about getting off campus, away from the place where I am “student” and “teacher” and “clinician” and “researcher,” and going to a place where I am just … “counselor.” I am part of an amazing team, doing exactly what I’ve been wanting to since middle school – and only that! There are no papers or reading assignments, just work. On top of this, the culture at my site is welcoming and I truly feel like I belong on the team.

There are some things I have learned though, leaving my campus for the first time (like literally, it feels like I never leave UNC!). For one thing, the whole system is completely different. The electronic medical record system is different (and gives me a bit of a headache), the note templates are different, and the session limits and types of sessions you have are new. I am also being supervised by a whole new set of people. There is a difference between changing between professors/supervisors who all fall under the same umbrella and going into a completely new program/system. It feels weird and you are bound to make mistakes—trust me.

Even seeing clients feels different. I never expected to be so nervous for my first client at my external practicum. I have now been doing this for years! And yet, I was sweating and shaking and trying to remember everything I had to ask and do. I was painfully aware of the camera taping me. Yet, thanks to this practicum, I have also already been exposed to clients and presenting concerns I have never dealt with before. And I am learning to work with them in new ways and from new perspectives.

I believe these new experiences have stretched me and challenged me in so many ways. And they will continue to do so as I move through my experience. And it has been completely worth it. It is making me a strong clinician and a stronger note writer J.

The fact is, there is something simply unique about leaving the shelter of your program clinic and entering – for all intents and purposes – the real world. Nothing can mimic the experience gained simply from leaving your bubble. My advice: be ready for the newness, accept that you are going to make mistakes and stumble, and be ready to take feedback. New place, new rules.

Also, make sure you are willing to make the commute you sign up for! And find a good podcast, or six.

A Conversation With The Part of Myself That Doesn’t Want to Work on Doc Paper

By Shahrzad Sadighim

Executive Homunculus: Alright. It’s Friday and we got the whole day free. Let’s make some headway on doc paper

The Part of Myself That Doesn’t Want to Work on Doc Paper : No.

EH: Why not?

TPOMTDWTWODP: I don’t want to.

EH: But why?


EH: Think about it: there’s so much free time this year, and we can actually dedicate ourselves to this thing. We’ll be working full time next year, and you’ll wish we had finished it.

TPOMTDWTWODP: It’ll get done before then.

EH: How? We’ve barely made progress in the past six months. How will it get done?

TPOMTDWTWODP: It just will.

EH: That’s magical thinking. Look, just put in two hours today. That’s it. Just get something rough on a Word document. We can always go back and revise it later.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know where to start. There’s so much.

EH: Well, we’ve already done some reading, so let’s just start writing the lit review.

TPOMTDWTWODP: There’s so much more to read. You’ve just scratched the surface.

EH: Fine, then let’s find and read a few more articles.

TPOMTDWTWODP: But when will we know when to stop? There is so much on shame out there. You can never read all of it… Doesn’t this remind you of the futility of existence?

EH: No. Come on, let’s hop on PsycInfo. 3 articles.

TPOMTDWTWODP: I gotta clean our room first.

EH: No, you d-

TPOMTDWTWODP: And the living room, the baseboards haven’t been cleaned in ages.

EH: You can do that later. Just do two hours of this and then we can do whatever you want.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Wait, don’t we have an assessment report due this week? That’s more urgent, let’s do that first.

EH: It’s not due until Wednesday, and I’m sure we’ll get it done. Whereas this…

TPOMTDWTWODP: Alright, how about this: we do the assessment report today, and then starting next week, it’s doc paper town all the way. By then we won’t have to think about the report, and there will be nothing else to do, and I’ll want to do it. It’ll be great.

EH: Has that ever worked?

TPOMTDWTWODP: Just because it hasn’t before doesn’t mean it won’t this time…

EH: Talk to me here, what’s this really about?

TPOMTDWTWODP: What if we picked the wrong topic?

EH: Why do you think that?

TPOMTDWTWODP: Because it’s hard. If I were passionate about what we were doing, it wouldn’t be hard. I would want to work on it all the time.

EH: That’s not t-

TPOMTDWTWODP: Also, I don’t know how to conduct research. I’m a PsyD, for Pete’s sake.

EH: It’s not rocket science. We know how to do this; you need to trust that. And we can talk to our committee, or read up on CQR, or just look at some other qualitative articles.

TPOMTDWTWODP: That’s a lot of work. I shouldn’t have to do this much work.

EH: You really should. We’re earning a doctorate.

TPOMTDWTWODP: No one else is taking this long. You take forever to do everything.

EH: You probably have something to do with that. We got this: it’s a thirty page paper, not a full dissertation. It’s really not going to take that long.

TPOMTDWTWODP: That’s just the point: if it’s not a dissertation, and I won’t get to say I wrote a dissertation, then why do it?

EH: Well because you have to, and because shame is a topic you’re passionate about, and you might learn a lot doing this project.

TPOMTDWTWODP: I mean yeah, I guess I am passionate about it, but are we really going to be contributing that much to the field with our dinky qualitative research with grad students? Such conceit, it’s embarrassing to even try.

EH: One might say…shameful?


EH: But that’s research: everyone contributes something small and specific, but the aggregate is something much greater. Besides, this is our first real research project. Just do it to learn about the process.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Fine, but what if I’m not actually interested in this topic?

EH: We’ve been through this.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Oh. Right. Ok, but what if this isn’t the topic I’m like, most interested in?

EH: Do you have any other ideas?

TPOMTDWTWODP: Well, no. But like, what if it turns out that there is some topic out there that I’m so passionate about, that it won’t feel like work at all, and it’ll just come pouring out of me…

EH: You know it doesn’t work that way. It’s just a 30 page paper. We have the rest of our career to do more substantial research…

TPOMTDWTWODP: Ok, fine. But even though it’s short, can I make it good?

EH: Of course!

TPOMTDWTWODP: Like, really good?

EH: Sure.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Like, so good that I find a way to do a lit review that manages to cover everything there is out there about shame, and the language is super precise, and there isn’t one superfluous word, and the whole thing flows like nothing has ever flowed before and—

EH: You’re getting carried away again. This kind of pressure is what makes this hard to do this in the first place. Good enough is good enough; just get ‘er done.

TPOMTDWTWODP: So what you’re saying is, put in the least amount of effort that we can get away with?

EH: Nope. Something in the middle of those two extremes.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Oh. But I don’t like the middles.

EH: I know you don’t.

TPOMTDWTWODP: So let’s wait until next week, so that we can resolve my aversion to moderation in therapy first.

EH: Come on.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Or at least like, let’s journal about it today, and start tomorrow.

EH: Work first, journal later.

TPOMTDWTWODP: What’s in it for me?

EH: Just think of how good we’ll feel in two hours if we start now.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Eh, no deal.

EH: Fine. A hunk of Gruyere and two episodes of Girls.

TPOMTDWTWODP: House of Cards.

EH: You got it.

TPOMTDWTWODP: Alright, let me just make a doc paper playlist first.

Me: Okay.

TPOMTDWTWODP: For the record, I still don’t really want to do this.

Me: I know. It’s okay.


The Value of Being Involved

By Hannah Katz

As a graduate student you have a lot of responsibility: classes, clients, field placement, doc paper or dissertation, teaching, and more, and that is just your graduate responsibility. There is also the responsibility you have at home. With all that said, where is there time to add more and why is it important to get involved in the community. As the COPAGS elections have started for the next year COPAGS board positions-page-001

I decided to write about how contributing time to organizations such as COPAGS have added to my graduate training.

I want to start out by saying that leadership is not for everyone, however, you don’t have to be a leader to contribute to an organization. Being involved means committing to receiving information about what the organization is doing, maybe paying dues, and if you want, getting on the leadership boards to help with the organization. These organizations are ways to network. You learn about what other graduate students are doing or how they are handling their programs, get training on a topic that might be of interest to you, go to conferences, and also have a social outlet to relax and enjoy the life you have chosen. These organizations can be small, such as a club at your school, or large, such as APA or other professional organizations. Whatever you pick, contributing to organizations will add valuable information and knowledge expanding on your graduate learning.

If that sounds interesting to you and you want to get more involved, there are always leadership opportunities in these organizations.  Learning to be a leader helps a person to grow and adds skills that will benefit them in the long run when finding jobs. Through working in leadership roles on different organizations, a person can learn to plan an event, delegate, create new protocol, practice multiple relationships, time management and organization skills, and being the voice of your colleagues. As John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” The feeling of inspiring others and learning more is part of the reason we all got into this field.

So how has being involved added to my life and graduate training? It has added value in so many ways. I think the most important part is the networking and meeting different graduate students from different programs, as well as professionals. Learning about how they are now getting through or got through their programs has been so helpful to me. I get to learn their paths and why they chose the path they did and that ultimately helps me make the decisions I make about my career. Learning through conferences I have attended or from speakers these different organizations have brought in adds to the learning I am already getting from my program. Not only am I learning, but I typically have the opportunity to meet the speakers and again, network and learn about their career paths. Time management, organization, self care. I am able to have fun at different social events that the organizations put on, learn how to add these organizations into my already busy life and learn the effectiveness of balance. FUN! While there is a lot of work that goes into the organizations, every experience I have has been fun. I can say that these organizations have brought a lot of value to my graduate experience.

So if you are interested here are some great organizations to get involved in:



-Your school student government

-Your programs student government

-Academic clubs

-Organizations that might spark your interest outside the field of psychology

Dating, Romance, and Grad School

By David Gretz

This was the topic of probably the most interesting conversation I had with an interviewee when our program hosted its interview several weeks back. I’m used to being asked about the program, my feelings on professors, and on finances. However, this was new; during our unofficial outing after the interview, I was asked by an interviewee about dating in a PhD program.

It is certainly not a new topic among cohorts; this has been a subject broached with fellow students before, both inside and outside of the department. Our professors were quite thorough in repeatedly informing us our first year that something like 50% of romantic relationships do not last through grad school. This apparently holds true even though we’re learning a profession that relies on building and repairing relationships just to do our job.

Something that stuck out to me initially was the lack of new relationships. Those of us who came in single tended to stay single, or to get back together with people we used to know. I found this depressingly humorous, as it struck me as a direct consequence of how few opportunities we have to leave our building and actually meet people outside of professional settings. This was a reality that the interviewee and I talked about; meeting new people in a PhD program is challenging. It’s probably not going to happen by accident. Going out and meeting new people takes time, and even if you meet someone, the relationship itself requires even more time. This is time that could be spent making progress on that latest paper, on your dissertation, or on getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night.

However, things have seemed to change during our second year; people have formed new relationships with others they have met since joining the program. I’ve been impressed and surprised by the effort some of my colleagues have put into this. I had thought it was something most would gripe about but simply view as unavoidable, but it would appear I was wrong. A few classmates are even getting engaged and married, although I do not envy them carving out the time for such arrangements before graduation.

Honestly, I think that pursuing a relationship in a graduate program takes a lot of determination. My classmates who do this seem to spend the majority of their free time with their partners. I don’t often see my married colleagues outside of class. Just entering the program can end relationships; not everyone wants to move around the country as their partner gets more degrees. Internship can present similar challenges, particularly since you don’t know where you’ll end up until six months beforehand.

I don’t have a conclusion to this, or a take-away. I’ve shared my experiences and I hope they’re helpful, particularly to those of you looking to attend grad school. I can say that I haven’t seen anywhere close to 50% of relationships fail, but technically my cohort isn’t even halfway through yet. Feel free to share your experiences as well; an n of 1 can always use more observations.

A Research Survival Guide


Chesleigh March blog pictureBy Chesleigh N. Keene

This is a small compilation of things I wish I’d known about research as it relates to advancing in the field and some new realizations as I find myself mentoring master’s and doc students.

  • It all counts. That research section on your CV only grows if you do something, anything research-related. Monitoring pigeon mating behavior in college launched my research experience. Pigeons and their mating habits don’t have a whole lot to do with my intellectual curiosity and investment in understanding how Native Americans are best served by psychotherapy, but those hours watching pigeons ignore or respond to mating bids secured a later job in a neurotrauma laboratory, which I feel secured multiple offers to PhD programs.
  • Identify a burning question. If you want to get a PhD, you really should have a burning question and you’re going to be asked to convince people of it repeatedly. Programs want to be convinced that you are internally motivated and driven to read, think, write, and read a whole lot more on a specific topic and that you will be committed to it for quite a while.
  • Join a lab that is exploring topics you find interesting. You’re going to work better and be more productive if you’re interested. I coded dozens of videos of mother-infant interactions and it was a slog. I wasn’t interested in studying infant emotions and dreaded sitting in a semi-dark, dusty room watching VHS tapes of babies reacting to their mothers. It sounds cute and adorable, right? Well, it was, for a while, but I wasn’t just watching tapes of babies, I was intensely watching an infant’s face for any expressed emotion… It was a valuable experience, but I would have been such a better research assistant if I’d been interested and I would have learned a lot more if I’d been interested.
  • Attend conferences. Find posters or sessions that focus on your topic of interest. I kid you not, your brain is going to take in that information and give you all sorts of ideas. Ideas are brain gold!
  • Publications are pure gold. Contribute to a manuscript or book chapter, if you can.
  • Write those ideas down somewhere. Generating ideas is fun and you’re going to wish you’d written some of them down… Especially around the time you need to come up with a thesis or dissertation!
  • Find a lab partner or mentor who can help you finish projects. I am amazing at thinking up projects. I’m decent at starting projects. I’m lousy at finalizing projects. This might be due to taking on too many or resisting endings/goodbyes, who knows? Luckily, I have a research advisor who is awesome at helping me organize and motivate myself to complete my projects.
  • Submit that research to conferences! Seriously! Presenting your research can be highly rewarding and it helps the ego to hear positive feedback and genuine interest in something you did! Something you concocted with that big old brain of yours!
  • Read PhD Comics. It’s so funny because it’s true. http://phdcomics.com/comics.php
  • Find someone who loves research and is awesome at research. My boss in the aforementioned neurotrauma lab is so incredibly committed to research as a means of knowledge dissemination that I always left our lab meetings so dang excited to be investigating and discovering He got so excited about results that you couldn’t help but want to make more! He could also churn out a research proposal and manuscript like nobody’s business. Find and work with someone who makes research exciting.
  • Read those clinical books. Most of us in psychology will have some clinical responsibility. Absorbing those clinical sources of information: 1) keeps your psychology IQ up to speed; and 2) starts to open thought channels about which topics still have gaping holes. There’s still so much to explore in psychology! Burning questions come from finding research gaps. Go close some gaps!
  • If you can’t find a research opportunity in your department, look elsewhere! Research universities, especially, have extensive research opportunities in other departments. Check out social work, biology, business, and anthropology departments for opportunities. Like I said, it all counts!
  • Share opportunities with the next group. If you landed an awesome position, pass it on to a new person! Research karma is real. It will come back to reward you when you need participants for that thesis, dissertation, or that multi-million dollar grant you just secured!

Contribute to the research survival guide below! Also, if you’d like to discuss specific research topics, let me know!