The first year of the program consists primarily of didactic work in the science of psychology that provides a firm foundation for future course work, research, and clinical training.  Students in the first year take courses covering history and systems and basic content areas in scientific psychology, including biological, cognitive, affective, and social foundations of psychology. They also take foundational courses in research methods, statistical analysis, assessment and diagnosis, psychopathology, and psychotherapy (intervention).

In the second and third years, students take courses that build on their prior training, including more specialized courses in intervention, assessment, and basic content areas in scientific psychology. Students also are required to complete a course in the developmental aspects of behavior during their 2nd or 3rd years. In addition to gaining an increasingly rich knowledge base in clinical psychology, students are expected to demonstrate increasingly well-developed critical thinking skills in these courses. The written comprehensive examination, taken in the third year, is evaluated primarily on the basis of students’ ability to demonstrate sophisticated critical thinking as well as depth of knowledge.  

Our approach to training students in research skills is also conducted in a sequential, graded, and cumulative manner.  Students begin working on their initial research project, called the “Research Apprenticeship,” by the second semester of their first year. Together with their research advisors they identify and execute a project that is focused and manageable in scope.  Thus they have the opportunity to gradually learn the component skills of research under close tutelage. With the dissertation project, which follows completion of the research apprenticeship and comprehensive exam, students are expected to work more independently and to draw on their accumulating knowledge and skills base to demonstrate greater sophistication in research methodology and critical thinking. The clinical program’s research training builds upon the strong empirical tradition within the Department, which, in 1892, was one of the first laboratories founded in the United States concurrently with those at Yale, Brown, and Stanford.

A similar approach is taken to training in clinical skills and critical thinking in the practice domain.  In the first-year students engage in didactic course work in assessment and psychotherapy. The second-year psychotherapy practicum is primarily taught by core faculty and is closely supervised using video recordings, as well as weekly individual and group supervision. In the psychotherapy practicum, the students provide psychological interventions to undergraduate and graduate students in the university’s Counseling Center.  With these on-campus experiences as a foundation, students engage in part-time externships in their third and fourth years to further develop their assessment and intervention skills. Students typically train in the community 16 hours per week and are supervised on-site by qualified licensed psychologists who are committed to training. Students also receive experiential and didactic training in substance use disorders (SUDs) including Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment, prevention, and recovery, and in tele-behavioral health services*. Clinical training culminates in a year-long internship.

Outcome data indicate that the program is successful in meeting its aims. Our students have been very successful in obtaining clinical internships at excellent training sites. The most frequent first positions of our alumni are in hospitals, other medical centers, independent practice, and university counseling centers, as well as a variety of other types of settings. Alumni also continue to be involved in research, with academic appointments at various institutions and universities. Graduates of the program are successful in becoming licensed.

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*This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $731,158,
with all financed by governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not
necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S.