Active Minds Blog » psychology Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Applying to Graduate School (PhD) in Psychology Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 Cai is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Cai and his fellow scholars here.

Hello everyone! This is my final post for the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. As someone who just went through the entire process of applying to graduate school in Psychology, I think I should conclude my blogging with an article detailing my experience and what I learned in the process.

1. What type of program should I apply to?

This is a very important question, because different types of graduate programs have very different focuses. Many people think they should pursue a PhD because the “doctor” title seems like a crown. However, PhDs are suitable for only a handful of people because of both the commitment and effort they require and the relatively limited career paths they typically lead to.

Put simply, if conducting scientific research is something you enjoy, and entering academia is something you want for your future, you should absolutely pursue a PhD. However, if you want to be a therapist without too much pressure to do research, you should consider PsyD programs. There are also other master’s programs that are more applied and suitable for those who want to be social workers, school counselors, and HR consultants. However, it should be noted that many schools do not offer terminal master’s or PsyD degrees.

  1. What am I really interested in?

This is the very first question you will ask after or along with the “what program” question, but also one that you will contemplate upon for your entire life. Yes, you will be asking yourself this question throughout your life, but in the case of applying to graduate school, you do not need to crystalize a grand life-long project. However, you do need to figure out the big question that you think you will happily commit your next 5 years to, at least for now.

It took me a long journey to find it out. After I tried different classes and research opportunities, I was lucky enough to realize that the big questions in cognitive development, such as the relation between language and thought, were exactly what fascinated me. Therefore, if you don’t know what you are most interested in, step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself by trying things that you are not familiar with. You will be surprised by how many wonderful things there are that you have never imagined before.

FYI, if you want to study social psychology, I will quote a piece of advice that I consider the best I have ever received –

“Think about what makes your angry and what wakes you up at night.”

  1. How to prepare?

First, you need to realize that applying to top PhD programs in psychology is extremely hard, even harder if you want to study clinical psychology. For example, the Psychology PhD program at Stanford normally accepts only 3% of its applicants. Because of the competitiveness of admissions to PhD programs and the rigor of PhD-level work, successful applicants normally have excellent GPAs, GRE scores, and more importantly, solid research experience, letters of recommendations, and some insights into the unanswered questions in the relevant fields.

Unlike many professional schools, PhD programs use GPAs and GRE scores as cut-offs to minimize the applicant pool. Although programs do look at applications with low scores but high research credentials, most applications with low scores will not pass the initial screening because there are just so many applications.

Also, keep in mind that high scores are necessary, but they are not a guarantee. After the initial screening, what would really make you stand out are 1) the statement of purpose that outlines your solid research experience and skills and demonstrates your understanding of the questions you want to investigate, and 2) your letters of recommendation that speak to your work ethic, research abilities and potentials, critical and independent thinking, and interpersonal capacities.

Therefore, the key is to have as much research experience as possible to improve your practical research skills, build your relationships with your professors (it is very important to have professors who know you well in research settings to write you letters of recommendations), and refine your understanding of the subject matter. Normally, you should do so by seeking on-campus and summer research assistant opportunities and conducting your own research projects as independent studies or honor’s thesis projects (being selected as an Emerging Scholar in Active Minds will say a lot about how capable you are as a scholar).

  1. Interviews

Most programs invite a selected group of applicants to on-campus interviews. Most interviews are not intimidating and are intended to be platforms for professors and applicants to get to know each other better. They will ask you general questions about your research interests and future plans to get a better sense of who you are, confirm that your interests indeed align with theirs, and make sure you really understand your goals. You should also keep your answers consistent across your interviews with different faculty because they will talk and make the decision as a group. Inconsistent answers will induce suspicion about your intention and whether you really know what you want to do.

Remember that not only are professors interviewing you but you are interviewing them as well. You should take this opportunity to ask them questions about their work and the program to evaluate whether this is really the place for you. You should also ask other graduate students about their experiences, and most people would be fairly honest.

By the way, pay attention to how you interact with other graduate students, because faculty will ask them about their impressions of you.

  1. Many Offers! Yeah! But how to make the decision??!!

For some people, including me, this could be one of the toughest decisions to make in a lifetime. Even now, I still ask myself if I made the right decision. When you have offers from multiple programs that you really like, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The key is to think about which program’s research focuses match yours most closely, and if two or more programs are tied in this aspect, you should think about where you would be happiest for the next 5 years.

  • Would you be happy to live in that area?
  • Did you like the atmosphere when you visited?
  • Do you think other students there have interests similar to yours?
  • Do you have multiple faculty to work with?
  • Will you be close to your significant others?

These can all be deal-breakers when you have offers from equally strong programs.

Applying to PhD programs requires a lot of hard work, but it will be one of the most enriching experiences in your life because you will really get to know yourself in this process. Whatever the outcome, you will be grateful for this experience. Good luck!

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Meet My Mentor: Dr. Megan Moreno, MD, MPH, MSEd Thu, 03 Mar 2016 15:27:45 +0000 Corey is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Corey and her fellow scholars here.

Dr. MorenoI’ve been lucky enough to be paired with Dr. Megan
Moreno, MD, MPH, MSEd, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Moreno focuses on adolescents and technology use, and her most recent study focuses on self-harm on Instagram.

Originally Dr. Moreno was a pediatrician, where she saw a rise of social media use among her adolescent patients.  With that prevalence of social media use among teens, Dr. Moreno saw many of her patients dealing with cyberbullying, which is why she decided to work so closely with cyberbullying research.  I’m lucky to have someone who is so knowledgeable about cyberbullying to help me whenever I need her!

So far, Dr. Moreno has offered invaluable support and advice.  Knowing that I have someone in my corner, even when she’s 2,000+ miles away in Seattle, is a fantastic feeling.  I’m excited to continue working with Dr. Moreno and to see how she helps my project grow.

Project Update:

I’m officially IRB approved, and I will begin testing my participants when Loyola gets back from spring break!

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Meet Corey Falls Thu, 04 Feb 2016 16:11:27 +0000 Corey is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Corey and her fellow scholars here.

Picture1 corey

(Photo Credit: Lauren Anzevino)

Hi! I’m Corey, and yes, although my name can be confusing I am, in fact, a girl! So, let’s get to know each other a bit. I’m a sophomore at Loyola University Maryland (#GoHounds) studying psychology. I’m an Evergreen Orientation Leader on campus, which means that I love ice breakers and I can recite my name, hometown, major and 3 fun facts in record speed.

Picture 2 EG group

Corey (red) and the Evergreens at Fall Orientation

In case you were wondering those fun facts are: I’ve swam with sharks, I’ve performed at Walt Disney World with my high school choir and I have a backwards tooth (don’t ask).

I am also involved in Loyola’s chapter of Psi Chi and Psych Club. Aside from academics, I play on an intramural volleyball team and I play the ukulele.

Picture 3 volleyball

Reigning Intramural Volleyball Champions

Now that you know a little about me, it’s time to find out more about my project!

Have you ever heard of Yik Yak? Nope?  Well, to put it simply its anonymous twitter where anyone within a certain mile radius can post about anything they want.

Picture 4 yikyak

Yik Yak logo

Sometimes this is used for SpongeBob quotes, and other times it can be used to make fun of other students, professors, or administrators. After seeing the harm in anonymous social media, I set out to experiment with it and determine the effects it has on college students

I’ll be studying cyberbullying and the role cyber bystanders (both anonymous and public) play in effecting the bullying that occurs in social media apps. For my experiment, I will be using the app that makes large group messages possible (in the wise words of DJ Khaled, #blessup) GroupMe to create controlled chat rooms.

Picture 5 groupme

GroupMe logo

While I hope that my faith in humanity will be restored through this study, I also hope to understand the differences between anonymous and public social media.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Imposter Phenomenon and Finding a Voice Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:50:06 +0000 Jessica Harvath-Hilgeman is a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at the University of Missouri. Her most recent blog post, Making Insomnia a Superpower, uses personal narrative to present academic research. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaHarvHil and on Facebook.

In honor of Active Minds’ suicide prevention mission, Kelly Sheline, doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at Colorado State University and suicide researcher, contributed to Jessica’s blog. Not sure how to talk to a loved one who may be thinking about suicide? Check out her post.

artwork-jessicahh blog

When I heard about the Active Minds Emerging Scholars Fellowship last fall, I thought how amazing it would be to get guidance on combining psychology and creative writing. And immediately after that, I thought: No way. I’ll never get it.

First, Active Minds is an organization dedicated to preventing suicide, particularly in high-school and college-aged populations. I do not research suicide prevention; I do not specialize in working with students.

Second, my project was wildly different from what Active Minds proposed. Unlike the other scholars, I did not propose to conduct my own research. I instead proposed to synthesize the academic writing of established researchers using narrative and creative writing techniques.

Third, I had a case of imposter syndrome. First studied by Clance and Imes in the 70’s, the imposter phenomenon is the feeling people sometimes experience when they believe their success is due to luck or external circumstance, and it’s only a matter of time before they are discovered as incompetent imposters.

So, No way was a somewhat reasonable, if unproductive thought. On the surface, the mission of the Active Minds Emerging Scholars Fellowship is to help researchers share helpful psychological information with the public. But the beauty of the program—and perhaps its deeper mission—is that it empowers researchers to believe they can disseminate to the public. After all, nothing builds self-efficacy—the belief someone has about her ability to complete a task—like actually completing a task.

Here are some of the topics I wrote about in the past six months:

  • Cognitive dissonance, or the discomfort someone feels when they realize they have contradictory beliefs, is an important part of human meaning-making. Leon Festinger first researched cognitive dissonance by watching what happened when a doomsday cult failed to predict the apocalypse in the 1950’s.
  • Puncky Heppner, counseling psychology professor at the University of Missouri, has had a long career teaching compassion and multiculturalism. In an interview, he shared with me how his upbringing and experiences helped him understand people from different backgrounds, and how leading students through difficult experiences abroad increases their empathy for others.
  • Psychological approaches can be used to solve real world problems. In a recent blog post, I explore how disgust can prevent people—primarily Westerners—from eating a sustainable source of protein: insects. Using psychology to help people accept this food source can contribute to sustainable agriculture and increased access to food.

But beyond these topics, I have come to appreciate something deeper: believing you have something useful to contribute is an act of faith. Writing is hard. I feel like an imposter when I write, and I am sure the next person who reads my work will see the sham: shoddy writing scaffolding half-connected psychological concepts.

The act of faith is plodding along anyway, keeping the word processor open when there are more attractive things to do, like clipping Aunt Rita’s toenails. And good writing is the product of consistent plodding. Sometimes.

In sum, thank you to the folks at Active Minds for taking a chance on me. Kaja Perina, it has been unreal and amazing to work with you and learn how to establish my voice. Candace Daniels, you’ve been an utter pleasure to work with. Many, many thanks to you both.

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10 African & African American Psychologists You Should Know Sat, 28 Feb 2015 11:16:09 +0000 It’s Black History Month (for one more day!) and we’re excited to bring you this list of important African and African American psychologists, who have conducted critical research and contributed to the field of psychology in too many ways to count.

kenneth-clark-1-sized1. Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-2005)

Contributions:  Work essential in case of Brown v. Board of Education. In the famous “Doll Study” he studied the responses of more than 200 Black children who were given a choice of white or brown dolls. His findings illustrated that children showed preference for white dolls from as early as three years old. Thus, he concluded segregation was psychologically damaging which played a role in the Supreme Court decision in outlawing segregation. Additionally he was the first black president of the American Psychological Association.

url2. Francis Cecil Sumner (1895-1954)

Contributions: First African American to receive his Ph.D. in Psychology. Helped establish the psychology department at Howard University to train African American Psychologists. Sumner completed vast amount of research which counteracted racism and bias in psychological studies of African Americans. Some of his students went on to becoming leading psychologist in their own right, for example Kenneth Clark.

Mamie-ClarkColumbia3. Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983)

Contributions: Her work with children showed that African American children became aware of their racial identity at about three years old. Many of these children began to see reflect and internalize the views that society held about them. She also found that many African American children who were tested and informed they had a learning disability or disabled were diagnosed incorrectly due to biased psychological testing.

url4. Inez Beverly Prosser (1891-1934)

Contributions: She was the first African American woman to receive her Ph.D. Her dissertation examined the academic development of African American children in mixed and segregated schools. Her findings showed that African American children fared better socially and academically in segregated schools. Specifically she found that African American children from integrated schools experienced more social maladjustment and felt less secure, a barrier to their learning. She spent the last seven years of her life teaching at historical Black colleges.

images5. Robert Lee Williams II (1930-Present)

Contributions: He was a founding member of the National Association of Black Psychologist and served as its second president. He created the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity by utilizing African-American vernacular and personal experience. This test showed that African Americans weren’t intellectually inferior to European Americans, but the differences in speech and experience can skew IQ results. Also, he created the term Ebonics to refer to the African American vernacular English.

url6. Albert Sidney Beckham (1897-1964)

Contributions: He is regarded as the first African American to hold the title school for Juvenile Research and Chicago Bureau of Child Study. He brought together ministers whose parishes included families of students he was working with, allowing for the first time a church-neighborhood-school relationship in the community that benefited African American youth.

images7. Kobi Kambon (aka Joseph A. Baldwin)

Contributions: Served as the president of the Association of Black Psychologists from 1982-1983. He does research in the areas of African American mental health and psychological outcomes of racial-cultural oppression of African Americans in American society. He developed several measures of African-centered worldviews and philosophies. His works examine how deviations from African-centered worldviews can have detrimental effects for African Americans in the US.

url8. Beverly Daniel Tatum (1954-Present)

Contributions: She’s widely recognized as a race relations expert and leader in higher education. Her areas of research include racial identity development and the role of race in the classroom. Her book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” examines the development of racial identity. She argues racial identity is essential to the development of children.

url9. Joseph L. White (1932-Present)

Contributions: Helped found the Association of Black Psychologists and establish the first Black Studies Program during the 1968 strike at San Francisco State University. He wrote “Toward a Black Psychology” and argued that whatever the future of race relations and the destiny of Black people, the creation of a Black Psychology was necessary because psychology created by white people could never adequately apply to define African Americans. He pointed out that the application of white psychology to African Americans often led researchers to incorrectly conclude that African Americans were lacking and less than.

hcanady10. Herman George Canady (1901-1970)

Contributions: He was the first psychologist to examine the role of the race of the examiner as a bias factor in IQ testing. His master’s thesis discussed the role of race of the examiner in establishing testing rapport and provided suggestions for establishing an adequate testing environment in which African American students could thrive. He was instrumental in founding the West Virginia Psychological Association, the West Virginia state board of psychological examiners, and the Charleston Guidance Clinic.

About the author: Barry Wallace Jr. (Class of 2015) is a Psychology major at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His research interests include the impact of personality traits on relationships, positive psychology and resilience, and the impact of covert discrimination on minority individuals.

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