This winter, we sat down with Associate Dean of the College of Psychology Dr. Alvin McLean to gain some insight into working in the mental health field. This three-part blog series documents Dr. McLean’s in-depth answers to each of three questions about the field. Read on for question and answer #1.

How can someone interested in a psychology career get started?

I would suggest to anyone interested in psychology to 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, and even a special section for high school students. Psychology is a very broad field, and while most people tend to have an interest in doing clinical or neuropsychology, others may be interested in areas like experimental or quantitative psychology. The APA website can offer a sense of what each of those careers are like and what you would be studying if you decided to pursue them.

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. Crisis hotlines are a great place for beginners because they provide a script and good supervision. Friendship hotlines are less well-known but rewarding opportunities that allow you to become a friend over the phone for someone who is a shut-in. Senior centers are also a great and very rewarding option.

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.

That’s it for part 1 of this discussion series. Stay tuned for part 2 in which Dr. McLean discusses what can be done to combat the lack of mental health care professionals in the U.S.

Behind every great article is a college.