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Leigh Carter, Jeffrey Barnett, Psy.D., ABPP

Essentials of Self-Care and Psychological Wellness in Graduate Training in Psychology

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Graduate training in psychology is for many students the starting point of a lifelong career devoted to the enhancement and well-being of others. Such training can be both intensely rewarding and challenging for students as they navigate through the academic, professional, and personal demands of their lives. In addition to the obstacles that many practicing psychologists face within the field of psychology, graduate students in psychology face a unique set of challenges, demands, and stressors including financial constraints, limited experience in the field, academic demands, and transitions to multiple field placements and internship, while developments and changes in one’s personal life are also likely to occur during this stage. Many are at risk for or currently experiencing distress, problems with professional competence, and symptoms of burnout as they navigate through their professional and personal lives; having significant implications both for themselves and those they treat. Inadequate self-care at any stage of one’s professional journey can have devastating effects for the individual, for those one cares about in his or her personal life, and for those one serves professionally. Unfortunately, many graduate students ignore or postpone the practice of self-care, some thinking it is not necessary at this stage of their career or not allotting time to engage in self-care practices. The incorporation of ongoing self-care practice as part of one’s professional identity cannot wait, and therefore is a critical part of graduate training. As many graduate students struggle to understand the importance and practice of self-care, graduate training programs can serve a role in the prevention of problems with distress or professional competence later on in one’s training or career, as well as play a reparative role for those already experiencing these difficulties. Graduate training programs can assist in educating, encouraging, and modeling the importance of self-care and psychological wellness for graduate students so that they can begin to establish lifelong habits of positive self-care. This poster presentation will highlight the unique stressors, vulnerabilities, and challenges graduate students in psychology frequently face. It will additionally provide data on graduate students in psychology in terms of those experiencing distress and problems with professional competence, as well as research on how different graduate training programs currently address self-care and psychological wellness. Furthermore, it will focus on why self-care and psychological wellness is vital to address and incorporate into graduate training. Finally, it will present specific, realistic strategies and interventions for graduate students to begin practicing self-care and for graduate training programs to encourage and promote self-care and psychological wellness among its students. 

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