I would LOVE some advice from anyone! First off, I am 35 yrs old and have three kids... 12, 10, and 8. I work part time from home and my husband works out of the home. I am currently a psychology student. I am going to Thomas Edison (an online college) and will complete my BA at the end of August next year. I got my AA at my local community college and tried going to get my BA at a traditional 4 yr school but it was too demanding with young kids. I took a couple years off and then tried again. I love online classes (please no criticism for getting my degree online). I would like to be something along the lines of a marriage and family therapist and I realize, that to practice, I need an advanced degree. I am almost positive I need only a Master's. While getting something beyond that sounds appealing, it also sounds like an insane amount of work and I'm not sure I want to invest that amount of time and money.
Here's my problem. I would like to get my Master's at a brick and mortar school. I don't want to get it online. But no one around me offers a Master's program in a field I want to be in. There are PhD programs. And then I get confused over PhD vs. PsyD. I read PsyD was more for practical application and PhD was for research and academia. Am I correct?
What did other moms do when they wanted to work on an advanced degree and moving to an area where there was a certain program wasn't an option? Should I try to get into a PhD and then, along the way, would I earn my Master's? How much work does it take to get a PhD? I have this mental clock ticking that says I would like to not be retirement age by the time I start working. ;)
Any advice or help or even sharing your experience would be helpful. I am not particularly interested in teaching. I want to counsel. Thank you!
So jumping right in, you should know that your degree doesn't have to be in psychology in order to be a counselor/therapist. Psychology is one possibility. Other options are : masters in social work (known as MSW) or master's in clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) and then master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, known as MFT. In addition to that there are school counselor tracks as well. For each of these, there is the degree program and then on top there is licensure. It's important to think about licensure, because depending on the state you are in, the licensure process may be harder/easier, more expensive/less expensive, or there might not even be licensure for a particular degree in your state. Most states do have licensure for MSW's and CMHC, as well as psychologist. But for example, I think in my state Master's in psychology sit for the CMHC licensing exam. Without a license you can't really bill insurance for your services, which is how you'd need to get paid for doing this. You'd need someone to supervise you for 2-3 years in order to get your license.
You are correct (IMO) that you do not need a Ph.D. in psychology to do therapy. You do not even need a Psy.D. A Ph.D. is a research focused degree and prepares you for research and academia.
I'm not going to pick on you ( ) for getting your degree online, but at some point most quality programs require 1-2 internships so that you can practice (under supervision) putting the academic learning into practice. Without this experience, it would be difficult to move forward. Internships require you to work 2-3 days per week, usually without pay (but not always), taking on a small caseload so you can learn how to do your craft. This is indispensable for learning, so if you are in a program that doesn't require this, it may not be a very good program.
I hope this is helpful and feel free to ask more questions!
Just doing a quick search, if you are anywhere near VCU, they offer an MSW program with a clinical concentration, which would equip you to do family counseling (and a whole lot more; an MSW is a very marketable degree).
I'm in Northern Virginia. About 30 minutes outside of DC and about 2 hours from Richmond. It might be a bit of a trek if I had to go every day. Would a MSW allow me to counsel individuals as well? My friend mentioned a MSW. I haven't had a chance to research how it differs. Thanks for the suggestion!
MSW's can do anything that the other master's degrees can, especially with a clinical license. The MSW differs only in philosophy. Social work is geared more toward the person in the context of their family, community, or society and takes a systemic, almost ecological perspective on people's problems and/or ability to function, as opposed to seating all of the "pathology" just in the person. An example would be, a woman in an abusive relationship might look "crazy" to an outsider who doesn't know what she is dealing with, but her "symptoms" might make perfect sense and even seem clever in the context of the abusive relationship. Taken further, a family or neighborhood might be open to change once a practitioner fully understands the systemic reasons for any negative behavior. The typical concentrations in an MSW program are: community organizing/community practice, clinical (which equips practitioners to serve individuals [including children], couples, families, groups), and policy/macro level intervention. There are also research concentrations but usually with the Ph.D., as with psychology.
Full disclosure: I am biased toward the MSW because I have one!
That said, the other degrees are great too! I have hired lots of folks with a clinical mental health masters and occasionally an MFT (these are a little less common).
National Assoc of Social Workers list of programs with an MSW in your area:
Here's some more resource information. THis list is from the website of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, which actually is conveniently located in Alexandria, VA!
What is the difference between a family therapist and other mental health professionals?*
1. Marriage and Family Therapists:
o Master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy
o Two years of supervised clinical experience
2. Clinical Social Workers
o Master’s or doctoral degree in social work
o Two years of supervised clinical experience
3. Professional Counselors
o Master’s degree or higher with a major study in counseling
o Two years of post-master’s supervised counseling experience
4. Psychiatric Nurse Specialists
o Registered nurses
o Master’s degree in nursing with a specialization in psychiatric/mental health care services
o Two years of supervised clinical experience
5. Clinical Psychologists
o Doctorate in psychology
o Two years of supervised clinical or counseling experience
o Doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathic (DO)
o Certified as a psychiatrist or child psychiatrist by the American Medical Specialties Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, or by the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
112 South Alfred Street Alexandria, VA 22314-3061
Phone: (703) 838-9808 | Fax: (703) 838-9805
THese two programs offer clinical mental health counselor master's: George Washington University and Marymount.
If you poke around you can see which types of programs appeal to you!
Lauren.. THANK YOU SO MUCH! You have been incredibly helpful. I was so overwhelmed and I didn't know where to start with researching. I have had my head down and immersed in keeping up with studying and my kids that I haven't really done much thought as to what will happen after I get my BA. With it being so close now, less than a year away, I'm starting t realize I need to think about after my BA. You have given me a direction to research in. I really appreciate it!
You are very welcome! I can remember being confused enough about all of it and that was way before also having kids and a household!! You will figure it out. Feel free to continue asking!
OK, one more question... Is there an advantage of getting a PhD or a similar degree over just getting my Master's? What would getting a PhD offer that getting a Master's can't? I'm asking this purely out of curiousity. Can I apply my Master's towards something higher if I ever chose to go that route? This is all in terms of psychology, MSW, etc. Thanks!
If you want to do clinical work, there is no advantage to getting a Ph.D. in either Psychology or Social Work. Hardly anyone has it among my colleagues. Most folks who go for the Ph.D. really want to do research and be in academia; they want to teach in colleges and universities in their field, or do research (or both). You are licensable as a practitioner in either field without a Ph.D.
If you got an MSW or Master's in counseling or psych, you could always go back and get a Ph.D. later. The only disadvantage to going back later is that if you were in a master's program and you showed your intentions to get a Ph.D., you'd have all these connections and professors that were trying to help you advance your research. Folks who get a Ph.D. kind of blend their master's level work and morph straight into their Ph.D. work. For example you might do a master's thesis on(picking out of a hat) the effects of poverty on children and as you finish it some professor who knows you are Ph.D. bound would ask you to be part of some related research that you could slide right into. You'd have all your connections. If you finished your master's and then went back to get the Ph.D. you'd have to establish all your connections from scratch (or again, if the same school).
Hope this makes sense!