On September 20, 2016 the Health Psychology Research Team and the Psychology Club welcomed Leah Schumacher, M.S. to talk about her research and clinical experiences. Leah is currently a Ph.D candidate in clinical psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Leah’s visit featured a talk on her research into behavior lapses and difficulty with healthy eating and exercise. Before the main event, our research team was treated to a conversation about Leah’s experiences with graduate school and exploring a career path that was right for her. Leah shared her own journey with us: she explained how her path did not take her exactly where she planned, but each experience helped lead her to a career that she is excited about. We learned the importance of finding your own path, and considering master’s degree programs to help hone in on your interests before the substantial commitment of a Ph.D. or other doctoral-level program.
Leah explained that choosing a grad program is not the end of your path, and there will be opportunities to change in the future if your career goals change. (This was a relief to us!) We learned that it is important to get experiences in a variety of settings because that can help you discover what is right for you. She talked about how the best way to know if you want to pursue a particular career is when you go out into the field and try it. You may find that your experience does not match your expectations. She gave an example of working at a substance use treatment facility; although she valued the experience, it taught her that working with substance use isn’t quite right for her. An important take away message from this conversation was to make sure you try things you think you won’t like, because that could end up being what you like the most.
During this conversation, we distinguished between graduate programs in psychology and related fields. For example, the differences between programs in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or social work. She also explained the differences between a masters program versus a Ph.D. program. Ph. D programs are highly competitive, and you should not be discouraged if you do not get accepted your first time applying. We discussed that picking the best program for you should take precedence over “the best program” in other people’s minds.
After this session came Leah’s main talk, which was attended by our lab, Psychology Club members, and other interested students. Leah presented her research on “lapses” after starting a behavior change effort and how they affect people who are trying to live healthier lifestyles. Specifically, she explained that behavioral lapses occur when individuals set goals to follow a behavior modification plan and then experience a slip back to their old behavior. Some people will experience a lapse for a day or so and then continue working towards their goal, while others will quit entirely. Research in this area looks to explain the psychological contributors to behavioral lapses. Leah brought to our attention the scarcity of research in this area and the opportunities for new discoveries.
Everyone who attended the talk gained beneficial information. This included information regarding graduate school and career paths, but also on health psychology research that could be helpful for improving behavior change treatments. Overall it was a valuable learning experience for all those involved. We thank Leah for sharing her research and personal experiences with us!
Learn more about Leah’s research team at Drexel. Contributors to this post were Zuhri Outland, Kristen Pasko, Marissa DeStefano, and Dr. Arigo.