Being a Clinical PhD student

Guest author – Taylor Swain

This year I transitioned from a Psychology Research PhD to a Psychology Clinical PhD. Whilst it meant a two-word change in the degree title, the changes in my life were much greater.

Me on my day of graduation, at Flinders University in 2017

A research PhD allows you to focus on research, publishing and developing relationships in the academic community. It also gives you some spare time for other opportunities such as teaching, marking and other lab work. Whilst all these opportunities are available in the clinical PhD, you are also required to balance class, coursework and placement. I knew this change was coming, but I didn’t expect the effect it would have on my research.

Having to once again balance assignment due dates with all my other commitments came as a shock.

As you would expect, research is very important to me, I love my topic area and being involved in the research community. So when I had less time to be involved in the lab and less time to conduct my research I struggled to deal with this change. I wasn’t attending lab meetings, I couldn’t collect as much data and my progress significantly slowed. I was worried how this would affect my thesis and also that my supervisor would be disappointed and my lab members might disown me (ah, the classic Impostor syndrome).

Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy despite your own successes.

Although this all might sound very negative, I am enjoying the content provided in class and my placement. I now think that being fully immersed in the research environment is incredibly important to inform clinical practice. Clinical topics such as diagnoses and treatment should always be informed by the literature and my classes are teaching me to interpret and understand why research is so important. What I have learnt from class and placement have improved my knowledge in my research area and have given me creative new ways to think about my research.

A Clinical PhD is a rollercoaster of work and emotions. If you are passionate about both research and clinical practice it is 100% the path I would recommend. However, an important consideration for Clinical PhD is that something likely has to give. However, one thing that you cannot give up is your self-care!