Cover Story

Training in psychology gives psychologists expertise to work in myriad settings outside the therapy room-but those interested in nontraditional areas might not know where to start.

That's why the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) and APA's Practice Directorate are co-sponsoring a session at APA's 2004 Annual Convention to guide graduate students and psychologists on making the nontraditional career path a reality.

"The session works to help students and psychologists understand that they can creatively use the basic skills and core competencies they have acquired to engage in nontraditional activities that are still within their existing scope of competence," explains APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Russ Newman, PhD, JD, a speaker at the session.

The session, "Creative strategies for building a practice beyond the therapy room," held 10:00-11:50 a.m. on Sunday, August 1, will also feature APAGS Associate Executive Director Carol Williams-Nickelson, PsyD, who will chair the session, and APA Practice Directorate staff members David Nickelson, PsyD, JD, and David Ballard, PsyD-all psychologists who apply their skills in nontraditional ways.

For example, Nickelson taps his training to direct the APA Practice Organization's technology projects. And, as an early-career psychologist, Newman consulted with local banks, helping employees deal with the aftermath of bank robberies.

Among the topics the presenters will cover:

  • Nontraditional career path myths. Although naysayers often claim there are few nontraditional jobs to be had, that's not the case, says Williams-Nickelson, who will present employment data from APA's Research Office on nontraditional-career trends and talk about helpful mindsets for psychologist entrepreneurs.

  • Thinking creatively about your expertise. Many professionals in business and other fields don't understand how your psychology training prepares you for their arena, says Nickelson. Be prepared to explain why you are qualified-and understand that might mean reconceptualizing how your training relates to the job you want.

For example, says Nickelson, thinking about his training in a novel way showed him that his graduate training did in fact prepare him to help individuals and organizations change and grow; he learned to assess interpersonal situations with reliable measures, analyze human behavior, design interventions and help individuals and organizations maintain behavior change.

  • Marketing your services. Be prepared to show potential clients how your services are relevant, says Ballard, who also holds an MBA. That means "keeping a finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world, including economic trends, advances in technology, social issues and changing demographics," he notes.

  • Common threads among successful entrepreneurs, including setting challenging goals, persevering in the face of setbacks and a willingness to take calculated risks.

-D. SMITH BAILEY