Cover Story

  • Internal and external demons.
    Internal problems—such as anxiety and perfectionism—coupled with external problems—such as conflict with advisers or lack of communication with dissertation committees—can hamper students, says Rachna Jain, PsyD, author of "Get it Done! A Coach's Guide to Dissertation Success" (Moonswept Press, 2002).

  • Failing to complete the dissertation before the internship.
    Ruth Maki, PhD, professor and chair of Texas Tech University's psychology department, says this is one of the biggest problems she sees because "everyone always has good intentions, but it's very hard once you're gone to get it done."

  • Procrastination.
    Students procrastinate because of perfectionism, unreasonable expectations, fear of failure and lack of structure—all of which make procrastination the top factor in delaying degree completion in clinical psychology programs, according to a 1991 study by researchers T. John Akamatsu, PhD, and Susan Yulish Muszynski, PhD. Akamatsu, a Kent State University psychology professor, says there are fewer student procrastinators in his department now that it provides written guidelines on when tasks should be completed, such as the master's thesis or when to apply for internship.

  • Inadequate funding.
    Not having enough funding can also be a major roadblock. Some programs try to guard against this by offering full-tuition waivers or assistantship stipends for the first four years and an opportunity to attain fifth-year financial assistance through a dissertation fellowship or teaching. Students then know that if they take longer than a specified time, they will have to find funding themselves.