'The postdoc trap'
I MUST COMMEND THE EDITOR and staff for choosing "The postdoc trap" as the May cover story. It instantly caught my eye and I read it with a nodding head and "amens" throughout. The piece captured my torturous journey last year as a married, female intern looking for postdoc work in a very limited geographical area. When explaining my search process to friends and relatives the same "Catch-22" phrase was reiterated. In reading this piece, I felt a great sense of confirmation of my frustration and universality in my efforts that I was not alone in my unanticipated search for a needle in a haystack. I was completely unprepared to hear the response, "Your vita is amazing and we would hire you yesterday, but we cannot hire you unless you have a license...we cannot get reimbursed." My training program certainly gave no warning. By now, many of the formal postdocs in universities and medical centers are taken and those still searching are going to appreciate this article that came out in such a timely fashion. At least they will realize they are not alone in their "Catch-22" quest.
I finally found a postdoc in a private practice offering me supervision and plenty of hours toward licensure. My pay is embarrassing, I am not doing anything related to my specialty, but I am getting my hours.
KAREN WOLMAN, PSYD
I WAS SURPRISED THAT IN "THE postdoc trap" no one addressed the issue that possibly there might need to be some control over the number of psychologists that are being trained in PsyD, counseling and clinical programs. If "educators" are only interested in filling their designated number of graduate school student slots and are not trying to coordinate internships and job placements for their students, then the current situation is not a surprise. Considering how socially responsible the field of psychology seems to consider itself, it seems that some who are training psychologists (and I have assumed that the trainers are psychologists themselves) are being socially irresponsible to their students and seemingly only interested in a fast buck/self-interest. For all our criticism of the medical profession, they seem to do a better job at not allowing any organization that wants to train physicians to set up shop and do so.
I disagree with the concept that current graduates are so well trained and have so much supervised experience that the additional year of postdoctoral supervision is unnecessary. Anyone who has an independent private practice or works as a psychologist in the public sector will tell you that there are many issues that are simply not covered in graduate training. New PsyDs/PhDs need to be willing to go where the jobs are and to make the sacrifices in terms of relocating to a less desirable area in order to start their professional careers. APA can do nothing constructive to give everyone a job where they want it, except to make it more difficult for those who are already in the most desired locations, i.e., to make an adequate living. Psychologists are already overly competitive or insecure enough in reference to their colleagues, oversupply will likely only make this worse.
JESSE F. DEES, PHD
I AM THRILLED AND RELIEVED to have read in May's Monitor that the incongruence between the cost of a doctoral education and the wages associated with postdoctoral experience are finally being addressed, yet I believe the problem extends well beyond the postdoc year. Like many others, I made the choice to borrow money for my education. Fortunately, I have received postdoctoral supervision in my current job at a reasonable wage. Unfortunately, entry level salaries are still not high enough to compensate for my loans accrued during graduate school. I struggle to make monthly school loan payments. My training program and my experience as a psychologist have served me well. I believe that I am employable in a variety of settings. I would never trade my training or my experience.
What I may be forced to trade (in order to pay my loans before retirement) is the work environment in which I use my skills. More than ever there is a need for competent clinicians to practice psychology in schools, hospitals, prisons and private settings, not to mention the need for strong instructors, mentors and researchers in academic settings; however, the motivation to remain in those settings is tested when it is difficult to pay student loans on low salaries. I believe that it's important for the commission to address this issue in addition to tackling concerns about the postdoctoral supervision year. I know that I have plenty of company among new psychologists when I discuss this tough issue.
MARY M. HARTLEY, PHD
MY REACTION TO "THE POSTdoc trap" is not the popular or politically correct one. As someone completing my PsyD soon, I am tired of hearing about people who can't find postdocs, can't get licensed, and can't pay their loans back. We cannot blame our training programs for being ill prepared for the postdoc/job search, as we are responsible for our own futures. What my training programs failed to provide me with, I learned on my own. I joined every professional organization that I could. I listened intently to every experienced psychologist willing to talk. I was amazed at how many postdocs are available when you are aggressive, pool together resources, and put yourself out there, even in geographically desirable, saturated marketplaces. They may not be advertised, but the opportunities are there! Myself and all of my colleagues were able to secure formal postdoc positions and received multiple offers.
The entire faculty at my internship have phenomenal academic careers, while also maintaining booming clinical practices (everything from organ transplant to being the substance abuse specialist for the NFL to civil forensic work). They never complain about the field. I have soaked up everything I can from them and found their positive attitudes to be a breath of fresh air. We never hear the success stories, but they do exist. We are responsible for being innovative and creative. There are many areas that have been untapped, even in saturated marketplaces. There is plenty of room for hardworking, self-motivated, intelligent new psychologists. Although I have significant debt, I am convinced that these loans will be paid off soon. My work is my life's passion. Maintenance of a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the field we have chosen is a key ingredient to success!
AFTER REVIEWING "THE POSTDOC TRAP," Iwould like to urge interested persons to investigate training and career opportunities that are offered through the various state and federal departments of corrections. The areas of correctional and forensic psychology are growing areas and offer substantial opportunities to gain an array of clinical and risk assessment related work in an expanding area. Some states, like Washington, have psychologist positions in corrections that do not require a license. (These positions are under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.)
For example, my supervisor, who recently moved up from the Department of Corrections in California, tells me that there is a need for clinical people in the correctional domain. He tells me that there's free licensing supervision with a starting pay of over $40,000 a year.
I hope this information is helpful.
On the 'President's column'
I AM A BRAZILIAN PSYCHOLOGIST AND MEMBERof APA for almost 10 years. After reading the March "President's column" and discussing it with my students, we agreed that the majority of Brazilian psychologists are not very conscious about the importance of being involved in public policy. After reading the column, I am motivated in conducting a research study among the 120,000 psychologists registered to work in my country, together with our National Council of Psychologists to evaluate the degree of their involvement with public policies. Just now we are evaluating all the 140 undergraduate programs to form psychologists in Brazil and we don't see any other way to change our situation but turning our psychologists into agents for social change. In our country this is an urgency. Thank you for your words!
RAQUEL S. L. GUZZO
Pontifical Catholic University of Campinas
São Paulo, Brazil