Academic journal article Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry

Educating Graduate Students

Academic journal article Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry

Educating Graduate Students

Article excerpt

Excitement, the strong positive affect engendered by new information, plays a key role in creative learning. The department chair noted as problematic for all programs that very few of our graduate students became faculty at major universities. But many of the students of Karon did become faculty at major universities, one index of quality of graduate training, as well as becoming competent psychotherapists. This was not because of any direct encouragement to become faculty members. The difference in his approach to graduate education from that of his colleagues can be summarized in four principles. First, remember that graduate students are just like the faculty, except that they are younger. Consequently, they have done less and read less. Second, teach what you know. Particularly if you have done original work, teach that. Your excitement will communicate itself. Third, encourage them to take their own work seriously, including their own research and clinical observations. Their own ideas are as valuable and as worth exploring and developing as any in the literature. Finally, if they are bright, get out of their way. This is related to Tomkins' theory of the role of affects, especially interest-excitement, in learning and intellectual creativity.

Keywords: graduate education; training; faculty; therapists; research

Excitement, which is the strong positive affect to new information, is essential to motivate creative learning. According to Tomkins' (2008) theory of affects, it is the same affect as interest, except at high intensity.

The chair of the psychology department described as a problem for all programs that the graduate students did not tend to become faculty at major universities. The chair said that he was decreasing the amount of clinical training the clinical psychology students obtained because it was his aim to train college professors and researchers, not practicing clinicians. At that time, Karon disagreed, suggesting that the changes seemed like a mistake because you cannot do first-rate research in clinical psychology unless you know what clinical psychology is, but the chair did not agree. But the changes in required course work did not have the desired results. Six years later, the chair described the problem as still there.

That few of the students became faculty at major universities was surprising. Karon was readily able to think of a dozen former students who were faculty at major universities, out of approximately 40 who had worked closely with him; five of the 40 were at major medical schools, many of them had done first-rate research as well. Still others were at smaller universities and colleges, at schools of professional psychology, or training analysts at first- rate psychoanalytic institutes. All of these careers are valuable, as are careers as competent practitioners. Yet, eventual careers as faculty at major universities-a relevant indicator of the quality of a graduate program-were not usual among the department's graduates.

Obviously, we are happy to train practicing psychotherapists as long as they are competent. Karon's graduate courses had run the gamut from statistics to clinical supervision. But the graduate course he had taught most often (about two thirds of his years as a faculty member) was a nonrequired seminar on the psychotherapy of psychosis, which included discussions of readings on theory, technique, and research. The graduate students watched through a one-way mirror (or on video tape) one or two sessions per week of psychoanalytic psychotherapy with a single psychotic patient. By doing this, they could directly observe how such patients actually communicate, and they could see the patients' obvious progress (even with a therapist who made mistakes at times). Graduate students find real clinical training exciting.

Karon had not specifically urged graduate student to become college professors, although he valued good academics as much as first-rate clinicians, nor was it the result of selection. …

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