If You Leave Academia, You Should Try Therapy

PhDs, like anyone else, can benefit from therapy.

A PhD takes years of your life to complete. Including my masters degree, I spent 6 years in pursuit of an academic career. In some ways, this can be traumatic or at least cause great distress.

Help Keep After Your PhD Ad-Free. [kofi]

The Stress of a PhD

Getting a PhD is extremely stressful. Speaking from personal experience I recall several sleepless nights. During the writing process of my dissertation, I was drinking red bulls at night to keep myself awake. I frankly had serious anxiety during much of the process, but I just thought that’s what PhDs were supposed to feel writing their dissertation.

Outside of my personal experience. Cassie M Hazell and her colleagues found that over a third of the participants reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and that many reported feeling isolated and unsupported. The article suggests that the intense pressure to succeed, coupled with a lack of support, may be contributing factors to the poor mental health of doctoral researchers.

Leaving Academia Is Stressful Too

Leaving academia can be a challenging and demanding process, and seeking therapy can be a helpful way to cope with the stress and pressures that may arise during your transition. Often times PhDs don’t have the full support of their advisors or even the university itself.

I’m very supportive of informational interviews, but the person you are interviewing is not your therapist. Therapists can help you unpack a lot of mental baggage that was gained before, during, and after your PhD. An informational interview can give you clarity, but not resolve trauma or loss of identity.

A Loss of Identity

For many of us, we were academics. We chose academia and the path to becoming a professor because it was a part of who we were. When you decide that you don’t want to pursue a path that you thought of for years, it can be damaging to your self-esteem and your sense of self.

In 2021, I wrote a Medium post about my experiences of losing my academic identity and a book that helped me find my way. I wrote the Medium post around the time that I was job searching, interning, finishing my dissertation, and being a father of two kids.

Ask Questions To Help Yourself

After Your PhD is all about asking questions. I believe the internal questions we ask ourselves are the most important. When you leave academia and pursue a new career path, start asking questions about what you want in life. Only you can decide.

Having the support of a therapist can certainly make a difference when you start asking questions. Overall, it is always a good idea to take care of your mental health.

Therapy is a great start.

Low Cost Therapy Options

There are several affordable therapy options available in the US. Look into the following options. If you live outside the. US, it’s most likely covered.

  1. Community health centers: These centers provide low-cost or free mental health services to individuals in need.
  2. Employee assistance programs (EAPs): Many employers offer EAPs as a benefit to their employees, which provide a limited number of therapy sessions at no cost.
  3. Sliding fee scale: Some therapists offer a sliding fee scale, which adjusts the cost of therapy based on the individual’s income and ability to pay.
  4. Online therapy: There are several online therapy providers that offer affordable therapy services via video or phone call.
  5. Teletherapy: Some insurance companies cover teletherapy, which is therapy conducted over the phone or video call.
  6. University counseling centers: Many universities have counseling centers that offer low-cost therapy services to students and sometimes to the community. If you haven’t left the university just yet, use their mental health services.

It is worth noting that some people may be eligible for free or low-cost therapy through Medicaid, Medicare, or other government-funded programs.

Feel free to email afteryourphd@gmail.com if you want to ask me anything about my personal journey in academia.

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