"Welcome to Psychology Grad School..."
Updated: Sep 26
Whether you are getting a Masters degree in Social Work, Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, or starting your doctoral program in Clinical Psychology, I imagine the experience of the first day of school is pretty universal.
Anticipation. Excitement. Anxiety.
You are probably asking yourself (and the Universe) a lot of questions…
How do I show up? Should I dress professionally or casually? Am I too young? Too old? How do I narrate my story when they go around the class for introductions? Do I share my actual reasons for going into this field or will I sound too screwed up? Maybe my life has been too sheltered, too cushy. What if I haven’t suffered enough to be able to relate to my clients?
Do my credentials measure up? Am I smart enough to belong here? Do I have what it takes to complete this program?
How the hell am I going to help other people when my friends never follow my astute advice? Well, come to think of it, I never follow my own advice.
Are the professors going to see right through me? As far as my classmates, will this be a bad fit where we can't really connect or will they turn into life-long friends?
Not all grad students are as lost as I was when I started my PhD program in Clinical Psychology over thirty years ago. By the time I started at the University of South Carolina I had attended three different colleges, taken a year off and worked in a Volkswagon repair shop, had three different majors (including theater and Middle Eastern politics), got married, had a child and got a divorce.
My life had been an adventure up to that point, but on Day One of grad school things were about to get even more interesting. I was introduced to the cast of characters that would shape my next five years and beyond. I am grateful for those people and experiences, the mistakes and mis-steps, the moments of beauty and tragedy, that characterized my grad school years. They helped turn me into the person I am today.
Graduate school will push you out of your comfort zone, personally, professionally and spiritually. That is where your growth as a person and future therapist will occur.
Embrace it all.
My experience of graduate school was so memorable that years later I decided to write a novel, a slightly fictionalized version, based on my experiences. If you’re curious about what graduate school was like for me, read the description of my first day at (the fictional) Georgia University in Atlanta. Click below and enjoy Chapter 2 of “Bird Gotta Land: The Education of a Young Psychologist.” (And click here to purchase.) Please share your thoughts, comments and questions below.