by Jordan Donson (2022-2023 Secretary)
In 2021, Dr. Walsh graduated with her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of North Texas (UNT). Recently, she shared guidance and advice for graduate students in various stages of their programs, but most importantly, she reinforced hope for anyone who may be struggling. Throughout her internship and post-doctoral training, Dr. Walsh worked at Western State Hospital. Now, she works at the Office of Forensic Mental Health Services in Washington, and is on their inpatient unit – still stationed at Western State Hospital. Additionally, she does evaluations at Eastern State Hospital in Spokane, as well as some evaluations at the jail on the western side of the state. Essentially, Dr. Walsh is living out her dream being able to engage in “a little bit of everything.” Specifically, her position allows her to do violence risk assessment for patients found NGRI, competency evaluations, and mental state at the time of the offense evaluations throughout Washington. Through her job, she is able to do all different types of criminal forensic evaluations that would come to a state forensic evaluator, which is not something everybody gets to do. Dr. Walsh noted that, “[her job] is really rewarding, because it allows [her] to use different parts of [her] brain, it challenges [her] case conceptualization, and forces [her] to stay on top of the literature in a lot of different areas.” On top of her clinical work, Dr. Walsh is also involved in training programs – she supervises practicum students, interns, and post-doctoral students. Additionally, she teaches assessment didactic for the internship committee. Despite being so heavily involved in clinical assessments, teaching, and training – Dr. Walsh made it a point to address that she never works more than 40 hours per week.
So, for anyone who may be struggling – fear not, Dr. Walsh has been where we are, not that long ago. “In grad school, all the time people tell you about work-life balance, and it feels more like people just speaking, not actually wanting you to do that.” But now, being in the workforce, Dr. Walsh is truly able to value a work-life balance. Recently married, a new mom, she is able to go on trips, go hiking, and have hobbies again. No matter how you may be struggling through the difficulty of grad school, always remember that your education is valuable. It is our educations that will open the doors so that one day, too, we can have the same possibilities to have hobbies, and take trips.
For anyone still in need of words of wisdom, Dr. Walsh reflected that the “number one thing [she] would go back and tell [herself] at this age, is that there are times in grad school when you feel like you have to do things that maybe don’t line up with what you want to do long term. But it all matters – believe it or not. Even the things like, child autism differentials, for example, that feel like they have nothing to do with a future career in forensics, it all comes into play and deepens your understanding to make you a better psychologist.” So, keep in mind, that no matter how difficult this may be – there is a lot to be gained from not purely forensic experiences that will help to inform your future forensic practice.
Now, for everyone still stressing over making sure they do everything possible to secure a rewarding internship, fret not, for Dr. Walsh also provided sound advice. As someone who is involved in the internship process for Western State Hospital, she shared that while research is important, it is not the most important thing. She reminded us that, fundamentally, internship is a clinical experience. So, while it is important to have research, and presentations, what gets weighted more heavily is our clinical experiences. Of significant importance, is making sure that your clinical experiences align with the population you are looking at on internship. Of course, this is taking ‘population,’ in a more general sense. Ensuring you have experience with personality disorders, thought disorders, substance use treatment, or work in some forensic context. Really, internship sites are going to look to see if you know about their population and the unique challenges that come with working with those kinds of populations. While this may sound like a lot, the true expectation is just in being teachable, and having an idea of what this may look like. Which is why, having really solid clinical training experiences is, in Dr. Walsh’s opinion, the most important thing.
And lastly, for any students preparing to look at internship sites soon, Dr. Walsh, has offered her wisdom on this, too.
So, there you have it. While grad school may be overwhelming, exhausting, and sometimes brutal, remember that everything you are doing will be helpful down the line. Graduating and having a Ph.D. will generally make you a very competitive job applicant, so when you reach the light at the end of the tunnel, you will be in pretty high demand. Dr. Walsh’s last piece of advice is that a forensic post-doc will also hope to open a lot of doors, as far as career opportunities are concerned. She recommends a forensic post-doc to everyone so that they can take the time to really benefit from an extra year of training. But remember, that these years are just a small part of a much bigger future. Take time for yourself, and know there is meaning in every step of your training.
About the Editor:
The American Psychology-Law Society (Division 41 of the American Psychology Association) Student Committee is composed of elected student leaders representing the interests of our student members.