Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical & Counseling Psychology, 2014/2015 Edition

By John C. Norcross and Michael A. Sayette

Reviewed by Suzanne MacDonough

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Reading this book is like experiencing hours of in-depth discussions with two trusted mentors who have distinguished careers. Whereas typically this type of guide can be like a impersonal tome weighing down one’s mind with innumerable choices, this revised edition of the Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology acts as a decision-making funnel, eliminating paths and eliminating tens of possible schools — wisely.

According to the authors’ research, today’s aspiring student has choices of “243 APA-accredited doctoral programs in clinical psychology, 69 APA-accredited doctoral programs in counseling psychology, 7 APA-accredited programs in combined psychology, dozens of non-APA-accredited doctoral programs, and hundreds of master’s programs.” To carefully pick a master’s or doctoral program, a guide this helpful is essential.

The authors distilled over 203 articles and books into this highly readable and focused text, efficiently answering the real-life dilemmas of real people. In fact, it was inspired by the authors’ own experiences, they write.

“It was a night of anecdotes and complaints (while doing laundry) that led us to review our travails and compare notes on the difficulties we each experienced during the admission process. … So we decided to write an Insider’s Guide.”

As the authors explain, “That was 12 editions, 24 years, and 140,000 copies ago.”

Co-author John C. Norcross was awarded the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Distinguished Career Contribution to Education and Training Award for his many years of workshops and research on graduate study in psychology. He also works as a professor, adjunct professor of psychiatry, board-certified clinical psychologist, and leader within the APA.

Meanwhile, Michael A. Sayette has directed graduate admissions for the clinical psychology program at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as presented seminars on applying to graduate schools to aspiring graduate students. He also works as a professor of psychology, professor of psychiatry, researcher, and editor of several journals.

Their book provides a map: the big-picture overview and a logical path leading to commitment to this career. If I were to get serious about applying to a master’s or doctoral program, I would re-read this guide several times and follow its strategies to the letter. The authors help the reader see the forks in the road, so a prospective student can make informed choices.

First the reader considers whether to pursue a clinical psychology program or a counseling program. (And if a clinical psychology path, whether the research-oriented Ph.D. or the practice-oriented Psy.D. degree.) Additional topics include the importance of program accreditation and of considering the research specialties of a program’s professors.

More than 300 graduate school programs are profiled (“all APA-accredited programs in clinical, counseling, and combined psychology”). The profile entries include details about the programs’ theoretical orientation, research areas, and internship and clinical opportunities; prerequisite courses and GRE and GPA scores; details about the competing applicants and financial aid, and more.

In a mentoring spirit, the guide suggests how to weigh important factors. The appendix provides decision-making paradigms, such as a recommended timeline, a worksheet for choosing programs, a worksheet for assessing program criteria, and a worksheet for making final choices.

“In the end, you will become more aware that you are the consumer of a graduate program that best suits your needs,” the authors remind us.

Readers will appreciate the advice about how to build up relevant coursework and internship experience. Helpful sample scripts and emails are provided: what to say as an undergraduate student to connect with a busy professor, how to introduce oneself to a graduate school professor with appropriate timing, how to brainstorm a personal statement.

In addition, the authors address so-called quality-of-life factors such as geography and urban versus rural settings, as well as concerns often expressed by applicants who are racial/ethnic minorities, have physical disabilities, or identify as LGBT. The reader benefits from the authors’ many years of experience of thoughtfully discussing students’ questions.

This newest edition provides updates regarding the GRE, financial assistance, and internships. Regarding Ph.D. programs in clinical science, there are updates concerning PCSAS accreditation. The authors comment on the values and benefits of APA accreditation in general for any program, and make special comments about the end of APA accreditation for all Canadian programs on September 1, 2015, after a 7-year phase-out.

Because this guide is so excellent, it can save everyone — students and their advisors — a lot of time, money, and angst.

Sally Barlow, a Director of Clinical Training at Brigham Young University, wrote: “I could continue to pull my hair out over the increased individual inquiries regarding how to get into graduate school, or simply refer each individual to the well-written, fact-based latest edition of the Insider’s Guide.” When it comes to this book empowering its readers, I wholeheartedly agree.

Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology: Revised 2014/2015 Edition
The Guilford Press, May, 2014
Paperback, 425 pages
$29.95

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

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APA Reference
MacDonough, S. (2014). Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical & Counseling Psychology, 2014/2015 Edition. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/insiders-guide-to-graduate-programs-in-clinical-counseling-psychology-2014-2015-edition/00019493
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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 May 2014
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