Why The Clinical Doctorate Isn’t For Me….Serkan’s Story

Hello and WELCOME to PsychAssist. Recently, our friend Serkan has gone through a huge transition in his life. He decided to no longer pursue the CLINICAL DOCTORATE! However, his reasoning is quite a sound when you take into consideration his thought processes. This is why within his article, he explains why he came to this decision and why others should consider the same.

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“Risk-taking” isn’t a novel thing for me. From my academic choices to personal ones it’s fair to say that I’ve had few regrets or fears since there’s always been some guidance available. Now, however, I’m taking one big risk and there are few people (mainly friends) that actually understand why. I no longer want to become a Clinical Psychologist so will not be applying to the Doctorate. In retrospect, I don’t think I’ve ever truly wanted to become a Clinician. Here’s why…

“by graduation, it felt as though I was predestined to become a Clinician”

  Serkan (2018)

The moment anyone says “Clinical” to a Psychology undergraduate they think of the Clinical Psychology Doctorate. This was the case with me too during my 3rd year, yet did I have a clue about what a Clinical Doctorate was? No. Nevertheless, uncertainty around career prospects and cultural expectations pressurised me to begin a Clinical Psychology Masters after my undergraduate degree. Regarding culture, I am half Turkish and having a “prestigious-sounding” job (e.g. Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer etc.) is viewed as a necessity by a section of our tight-knit community. I say “prestigious-sounding” because the worth of your job isn’t rated by how fulfilling you find it. It’s rated by the typically poor judgments of others. For example, take the misassumptions “Clinical Psychologists are highly important because they know what you’re thinking, the mental illness you have and can give medicines to fix you. They are Medical Doctors.” I’m constantly hearing these over-simplified and incorrect statements and they’re making my blood boil! 

Anyhow going back to the Clinical Psychology Masters 😊, I enjoyed the degree, achieved a distinction and most of my course mates were zoned onto the Doctorate. Thus, by graduation, it felt as though I was predestined to become a Clinician. Even in my recent job a new Assistant Psychologist’s second question to me (thankfully after introducing themselves) was “Are you applying for the Clinical Doctorate?”.  Shocking! I’ve met so many Psychology graduates who appear to be in a thoughtless competition to get onto the Clinical Doctorate! Seriously, how many have actually sat down and asked: “Do I truly want to become a Clinical Psychologist?”. I HAD TO MAKE A PROPER DECISION just two weeks ago…when finding out that a work colleague secured a Step 2 Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner role…an individual whose eyes light up when speaking about clinical work in mental health. Unfortunately, I currently don’t have his passion.

“Clinical Psychology IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO utilise my academic or work-related experiences”

  Serkan (2018)

Besides the stress and trauma, Clinical Psychologists are exposed to, a reason for my decision to push aside the Doctorate is my irritation of the reality dominating the sector. FINANCIAL CUTS. Regardless of the service I’ve worked in, the business model has been discussed excessively…more than the holistic model of recovery. To put this into perspective, in an ideal world a full-time student takes 3 years to complete a Psychology degree, potentially does a post-graduate qualification of some kind (Masters or PhD) over 1-4 years, works in multiple Clinical institutions and then undertakes a Clinical Psychology doctorate for 3 years. To be frank, that’s 6-10 years or more of training before entering a profession where the mental health care you offer is business-centered, not person-centered. An appalling situation if you ask me. Now, of course, more budget must be devoted to mental health services and this can only be implemented at a governmental level. But hey, there’s no harm in drilling in this message, right?

Currently, I know that being a Clinical Psychologist IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO utilise my academic or work-related experiences. As I told you before, my motivation is to keep asking questions about humans… those including, but not limited to, mental health. This is another reason I’ve chosen to not do the Doctorate. By nature, few work experiences I’ve completed gave me an insight of research beyond those on mental disorders. However, I miss the Serkan at University who was fascinated by research linking diverse fields of Psychology (e.g. Social, Behavioural, Developmental, Nonverbal etc.). That Serkan even designed, implemented and presented research linking Schizophrenia and cognitive ability! How much scope is there to do any of these as a Clinical Psychologist? From what I’ve observed over the years in Clinical jobs, it’s very limited. Surely I may still aim to become a Clinical Psychologist whilst entertaining myself by reading articles outside work? Nope. I’d rather integrate research into my life in a way that reflects my passion instead of skimming the odd article here and there. OK then. Maybe I could somehow bring interesting articles to work and have a fruitful debate about them with colleagues? With an ever-increasing workload, I don’t see this idea materialising successfully either. So is the route for me academia then? I won’t say absolutely, but it’s definitely an option. To be honest, the idea of undertaking work in the lab and community that embraces my personality and life philosophy is appealing. Anyway, it’s early days to decide. In the meantimeI will keep you posted about how things progress and you wish me luck. Life is getting exciting! 


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Zahr says:

    This is literally my struggle right now – I keep being pushed towards a Clinical Doctorate by all the professionals (and family, similar cultural background too) around me but I’m a little half-hearted as the competition is steep and the reward is not truly guaranteed.

    I loved academia, but again, it’s not my be all end all. Plus I had a scare from a really terrible supervisor which has made me slightly apprehensive about applying to certain PhDs unless I know the supervisor on a personal level. Alongside the PhD struggle is the amount of differing PhDs, some are super broad, others so focused. I feel like taking a break and re-focusing myself – but then the fear of seeming half-hearted and not focused by potential supervisors/courses is on my mind. I feel like I’m going to explode in confusion soon enough.

    I decided to try once more for the Doctorate, I got to interviews last year – so hoping to do better this year, as last year was quite last minute decisions (I didn’t feel like I had enough experience). If I don’t get it I’m going to explore different areas and just see what clicks for me. Fingers crossed a good job comes along! I’m really happy to read something like this, would definitely love to have more posts detailing your career endeavours.


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