How can someone interested in a psychology career get started?

Start by going to the American Psychological Association’s website. They have a specific section for introducing people to the many different types of careers available in the field.

Next, if you think you want to do something in clinical psychology where you’re helping people by speaking with them, a great way to try this is to volunteer for a local crisis or friendship hotline, or a senior center.

A final way to explore the mental health field is to go see a psychologist yourself. This experience is one that has influenced many of our students to pursue a career in psychology.

What can be done to combat the lack of mental health care professionals?

We need to find ways for people to practice mental health in settings outside of the typical mental health arena. One solution is the new field of integrated healthcare, which involves psychologists and primary care providers teaming up to provide physical and mental health services in tandem. Another solution is community partnerships that situate mental health services in places like churches or local community centers. Providing services in these more familiar contexts tends to facilitate better outcomes and also offers potential practitioners an alternative way of working in the field.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the lack of mental health professionals mainly exists in underserved communities such as in communities of color and rural areas. We need to incentivize people to work in these areas. Currently, certain grants are available for psychology students interested in doing their clinical training in underserved communities, as well as for those who come from an underserved community and commit to returning there to provide services.

What has been your most rewarding experience working in this field?

The most rewarding experience for me was when I designed and implemented my own residential treatment program for people with traumatic brain injuries. Seeing people who had been in a coma return to their family members and careers in just two years—you can’t beat that.