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Pathways to Clinical Work: Graduate and Ph.D. Programs and Virtual Instruction

We’ve invited Dr. Whitney Wall, psychologist, and instructor, to speak about pursuing higher education options in psychology and counseling. While there are many options to pursue this work, researching and following these options can be daunting. Increased virtual learning programs create even more options and choices.

Dr. Whitney Wall is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Fayetteville State University. She teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs and often helps students find their path toward the career they are excited to have. She also has experience pursuing degrees in Psychology, starting in Public Health and moving into counseling psychology. She notes that during that time, she went through “lots of applications and rejections,” and her path toward her current career was winding. In her current role, she teaches, participates in clinical research, and provides clinical services as a counseling psychologist.

There are many options for those with an education in psychology and human services. Dr. Wall notes that many sectors value the soft skills people learn in counseling programs as they emphasize relationship building, creative design, and critical thinking. It is clear to see that solid relational skills are beneficial in all fields.

For practical advice in pursuing a career in psychology and counseling, Dr. Wall notes that most clinical practice work (such as a therapist in private practice) can be achieved with a master’s level degree. Pursuing a Ph.D./ doctoral level training requires more commitment and extended training and is often more focused on research and academic work. According to Dr. Wall, this path might not be necessary if students are primarily interested in clinical work.

Like many people in psychology, Dr. Wall notes that more options are opening up thanks to teletherapy. With compacts between states, more clinicians can practice across state lines, and Dr. Wall states that it makes sense to open this up. She also speaks to the surprise of the effectiveness of telehealth after using it out of necessity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Wall enjoys working via telehealth; her clients also continue to request it. She also notes that it makes it easier for people to maintain consistent services and the benefits of clients being in their homes, that people may feel less inhibition when they are in their comfortable space. Dr. Wall states that this comfort is beneficial when working with families and couples as they may be more comfortable opening up and speaking about their challenges and needs.

As for teaching online, Dr. Wall enjoys this and appreciates the flexible options offered to students. She can be more creative in assignments with students, as they can find resources and meetings to attend across the internet. Also, when students practice speaking online, this can help them prepare for how their careers will be, as so much now takes place online. There are also specific ways to attend to relationships and build rapport online. Clinicians must take care of themselves when working online to prevent compassion fatigue, which is always essential.

Dr. Wall is passionate about assisting people in finding their career paths and notes that there is no perfect way to do this. She suggests finding someone with a “dream career” and then asking that person how they got to where they are now. Learning from their experience and their advice could be very valuable. Her main advice is to follow one's passion and “do what you love.” Dr. Wall says to follow your passion and do what you love. When people follow their excitement and feel energized, they might find open doors they otherwise would not have expected.


Whitney Wall, Ph.D., HSP-P is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Fayetteville State University (FSU). She serves as the Graduate Program Coordinator for FSU's Online MA Program in Psychology (General) and two professional graduate certificate programs (Professional Psychology Certificate and Behavioral Research Certificate). She teaches various undergraduate and graduate-level psychology courses including health psychology, personal adjustment, and research methods. I'm a counseling psychologist with a background in public health and her specific research interests include patient-centered culturally sensitive healthcare delivery, culturally sensitive health promotion, community participatory research, and exploring the associations among social system injustices and health.

Dr. Wall is also a licensed psychologist and excited and honored to be able to work with wonderful therapists and clients at The Purpose Center in Durham, NC.

 By: Megan E. O’Laughlin