Individuals who have graduated from clinical science programs in psychology, such as those accredited by PCSAS, typically pursue careers that align with their specialized training and interests in clinical science. These professionals are trained to conduct rigorous research, apply the discovery of knowledge to evidence-based practices, and contribute to the understanding of mental health and behavior. Here are a few examples of clinical scientists making contributions to improving mental health:
We are Clinical Scientists!
Read about Dr. Chanelle Gordon here
What is your current profession/position and how do you feel it relates to clinical science? I am currently a research scientist at the Child and Family Translational Research Center within Boys Town’s National Research Hospital. My position relates well to clinical science because my job focuses on applying basic science to solve real-world problems in the family-based and community services provided by my organization. For example, I am collaborating on a pilot exploring executive functioning differences using neuroimaging in very young children with ADHD or who are at risk for ADHD. The overall goal of this project is to identify neural correlates of ADHD that could be used to identify and treat ADHD in children early.
How did your clinical science training prepare you for your profession/position? My training has provided me with the basic building blocks needed to effectively understand and communicate with other scientists as well as communicate effectively with a non-scientific audience. I have a solid foundation in research methods and statistics, but my clinical training has also given me a unique perspective that has allowed me to more easily see how we can apply science to benefit individuals and their families.
For you, what does it mean to be a clinical scientist? Being a research scientist means keeping up with the latest science (through the research literature, collaborations, etc.) and persistently finding ways to apply this science to benefit individuals and their families.
Read about Dr. Terry Keane here
What is your current profession/position and how do you feel it relates to clinical science? I’m currently the Associate Chief of Staff for Research and the Director of the National Center for PTSD’s Behavioral Science Division located at VA Boston Healthcare System. I am also a Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Boston University and Assistant Dean for Research at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. I am responsible for oversight of all research at VA Boston, the largest recipient of federal research dollars in the Veterans Health Administration. I also serve as the Director of one division of the National Center for PTSD. The research programs include large portfolios of clinical research, biomedical (basic) research, health services research, and rehabilitation research. At VA Boston there are eleven research centers of excellence, most of which address pressing issues related to military veterans’ health and adjustment. The National Center, that I direct with Brian Marx, PhD, has a wide-ranging portfolio to include genetic and genomic analyses, diagnostic assessment and evaluation of PTSD patients, epidemiological studies, suicide prevention, experimental psychopathology research, and a large group of studies that examine psychological treatments for PTSD utilizing randomized clinical trials (RCT’s). Our group initiated the use of exposure therapies in the treatment of PTSD and most recently developed Written Exposure Therapy, a remarkably efficient treatment for PTSD (D. Sloan & B. Marx).
How did your clinical science training prepare you for your profession/position? I graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in Psychology and in the earliest stages of my graduate career, I considered a focus on teaching in a college in a small town and having a clinical practice on the side. I matriculated to Binghamton University which focuses its training on the development of skills in research and clinical care. It wasn’t clear to me during graduate school how much I really enjoyed the conduct of research: the conceptualizing of a problem, the construction of an experimental design, searching for the best possible measures, the actual running of participants in studies, and conducting the analyses and write up of the data. It was during my last (4th) year of graduate school that my enthusiasm for clinical science manifested itself. When I interviewed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (then one of the very few scientifically oriented clinical psychology internships), I was convinced that science would play a major role in my career. Multiple courses in design and statistics, psychopathology, and psychotherapy taught by outstanding professors at Binghamton prepared me well for the next phases of my career. The graduate program promoted the two hat concept (research and clinical care) and I ultimately came to appreciate the importance of research, the delivery of clinical care, and a strong commitment to education as equal foci for my career. This commitment ultimately led to my appointment as Chief of Psychology and then Associate Chief of Staff for Research at VA Boston.
For you, what does it mean to be a clinical scientist? For me, the commitment to outstanding clinical care, research, and education is my definition of a true clinical scientist. Whether one is functioning as an investigator, a clinical supervisor, or in the therapy room the application of scientific hypotheses and principles guides my interactions. Most gratifying to me over my career was the capacity to interface with the many other disciplines engaged in clinical research and clinical science. For those of us trained in clinical psychology, we benefited greatly by the integration of research and clinical care in our graduate training, a perspective shared by few if any other disciplines in the healthcare setting. Working in top ranking institutions and Universities with outstanding psychologists and other disciplines has elevated my own work in so many ways. Our degree in clinical psychology, was and is, a major advantage for us as we embark on efforts to address the many problems and issues facing the people in our society. In year forty-six of my career, I’ve never been bored a single day of my professional life—rather I’ve been challenged, driven, and committed to solving the psychosocial problems of our day. I can’t think of a better career for me.
Read about Dr. Caroline Roben here
What is your current profession/position and how do you feel it relates to clinical science? A little over a year ago I took my first professional role in philanthropy as a Program and Evaluation Officer for Vanguard’s Strong Start for KidsTM program. I oversee our Resilient Families portfolio, which prioritizes early relational health and equity in supporting caregivers in evidence-based parenting and early literacy programs, connecting to early childhood systems and learning opportunities, and accessing community resources. I rely heavily on my clinical science background to lead the team’s impact measurement work, which aims to communicate and synthesize the vast impact of our community partners’ efforts to both internal and external stakeholders.
How did your clinical science training prepare you for your profession/position? As a clinical science graduate student, I wouldn’t have predicted a future role in philanthropy, yet I use my training every day. My graduate training with Drs. Pamela Cole, Jenae Neiderhiser, and Ginger Moore, and the many other early childhood development experts at Penn State, provided me with a robust foundation in research, parenting, and child socio-emotional development that underscores the evaluation of proposals in my current role. A clinical internship at the University of North Carolina gave me further insight and real-world experience with a network of early childhood systems that crossed preschools, early intervention, hospitals, and crisis intervention. I then spent the next 10 years at the University of Delaware with Dr. Mary Dozier, directing the implementation and program evaluation of the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC), a national, evidence-based home visiting program for infants and their families. My clinical science training prepared me to jump into that role and build a dissemination and evaluation process that incorporated community and family voices, while also maintaining fidelity to the evidence-based model. Continuing in this newer position, I am thankful to have experience in research, clinical implementation, and thoughtful evidence-based program scaling as I now partner with leaders and organizations to create conditions in which all children and families can thrive.
For you, what does it mean to be a clinical scientist? A clinical scientist embraces the challenge of prioritizing what we’ve learned from rigorous research with the voices and histories of individuals, cultures, communities, and clinicians. An effective intervention in one context may not be so in another, and a clinical scientist seeks to partner with others to implement what works best for whom. Zooming out another level, an effective intervention won’t be impactful if the operational elements of implementation, such as payment structures and policies, don’t support its use.
Some Possible Clinical Science Career Pathways
Here is a list of some career pathways that have been followed by graduates of clinical science programs:
Practicing Clinical Psychologists: Training under a clinical science model can ensure treatment interventions are grounded in science and research. Many PCSAS graduates become licensed, practicing clinical psychologists. In a recent comprehensive analysis of over ten years of PCSAS graduates, we found that 73% report engaging in clinical service delivery in their current positions.
Academic Roles: Clinical scientists often pursue careers in academia, working as professors, researchers, or both. They may teach courses related to clinical psychology, conduct research in areas such as psychopathology or therapy effectiveness, and also mentor graduate students.
Clinical Supervisors and Consultants: Some clinical science graduates become clinical supervisors, and oversee the training and development of other mental health professionals, such as interns or therapists-in-training. They may also offer consultation services to organizations or to other professionals.
Research Positions: Clinical scientists may work as researchers in various settings, including universities, research institutions, government agencies, or private companies. They design and conduct studies to advance our understanding of mental health issues and develop evidence-based interventions.
Policy and Advocacy: Some individuals with clinical science backgrounds engage in policy and advocacy work. They may work for government agencies, non-profit organizations, or advocacy groups to influence mental health policies and promote evidence-based practices.
Program Development and Evaluation: Clinical scientists may be involved in developing and evaluating mental health programs and interventions. These clinical scientists may be involved in designing and assessing the effectiveness of therapy programs, prevention efforts, or advancing public health initiatives.
Teaching and Training: Clinical science graduates often teach and train other mental health professionals or students. This may involve designing and delivering workshops, seminars, or continuing education programs.
Hybrid Roles: Some individuals pursue hybrid careers that combine clinical practice with research or teaching, allowing them to apply their clinical science knowledge in multiple ways.
The specific career paths chosen by clinical science graduates depend on their specific interests, expertise, and professional goals. However, all these paths involve a commitment to integrating scientific knowledge and evidence-based practices into their work, contributing to the advancement of clinical psychology and the improvement of mental health care.