Coursework and Degree Requirements
The following is a brief summary of the requirements for the clinical doctoral degree. Please consult the Clinical Handbook for more detailed information.
|First Semester||Second Semester|
|(#) Number of credits awarded for successful completion of course.
* You may not exceed 18 credits per semester. If you are registered for 18 credits (e.g., TF’s must register for PS 699 for 2.0 credits in addition to their 16 credits of coursework), you should register for PS 951 for no credit (NC).
Students are expected to engage in ongoing research throughout their academic careers. Many students start to develop clinical skills and learn how to integrate their academic knowledge with their practical experiences through research. Students will be paired with a faculty mentor beginning in their first year (although most students choose to work with the same faculty mentor throughout their tenure, some students do change mentors as their interests change and develop). Students are expected to produce a written product (in the format of a journal article suitable for publication) by the end of the second year. For either the dissertation or this second-year research project (and certainly both when possible) students are expected to collect original data. As a faculty, we believe that the experience of designing a research project and seeing it through—from initial IRB approval to data collection to completed results and analysis—is essential to earning a PhD.
Beginning in the second year, students start their formal clinical training, which takes place “in house” at the Psychological Services Center. Students are expected to contribute 10 hours (or one full day) of training per week for 11 months. With the advice and consent of the clinical faculty, students may request to do an outside placement if it fulfills a special need. Third-year clinical placements extend into the broader clinical community and are opportunities to strengthen burgeoning skills and pursue areas of clinical interest (e.g., working with specific populations, treatment modalities, etc.). These placements are two full days of clinical training for 11 months. In conjunction with their clinical training, students take a four-credit clinical practicum course that incorporates both didactic materials and supervision in the fall of the third year. Some students opt for additional clinical experiences after the third year. We encourage students to seek out opportunities specific to their interests and needs. However, as a program, we reserve the right to approve all outside clinical (and research) experiences to ensure that students are gaining quality experiences in a learning environment and are not at risk for any liability issues. To minimize conflict with students seeking required third-year placements, practicum placements after the third year of training must be coordinated by the practicum committee prior to submission of the application.
Students conclude their clinical training with an APA-approved internship during their fifth year. All students must be registered for the internship (Fall GRS PS 979 / Spring GRS PS 980). General qualifying exams and coursework must be completed before the internship process can begin. Students are encouraged to look for internships that best meet their interests and training needs, regardless of location. Under new regulations adopted by the state of Massachusetts, individuals with doctoral degrees in psychology are no longer eligible for licensure without completing an APA internship or an internship program that currently meets all criteria to obtain APA approval. APA approved internships are typically full time but there are also a number of part-time internships offered across the country.
An independent research dissertation is the central element of the PhD in clinical psychology. An acceptable dissertation meets two standards: (1) it makes an original contribution to the knowledge base of clinical psychology; and (2) it has scientific merit. The basis of the dissertation is an independent empirical research project designed and conducted by the candidate. As used here, “independent” is not to be construed as discouraging collaboration by two or more candidates. Collaborative research—which includes independent components for each investigator—is encouraged. Often, the dissertation involves clinical samples with whom students work as research subjects, where findings may have immediate applied clinical value. The dissertation may also test clinical theories, which apply to normal as well as dysfunctional populations.
PhD Qualifying Exam
The general qualifying exam is administered to demonstrate competence in various substantive areas of psychology. Following the student’s second year, the exam is held on one weekday in July or August from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Three sections of the examination cover required substantive areas: psychopathology; diagnosis and assessment; and interventions. Students elect community psychology, personality and development, or biopsychology as the fourth section.
If failed, qualifying exam sections may be retaken one year later; a student may petition the faculty to retake the qualifying examination at an earlier date. Decisions are determined on an individual basis but consideration is given to those who had a borderline fail on the initial exam and have a compelling reason to take the exam at an earlier time (i.e., those applying for internship or scheduling a prospectus hearing.) Occasionally, another method for demonstrating competency in a failed area will be allowed.
The general qualifying exam is graded by section, and only failed sections are retaken. Students who fail more than two sections must retake the entire exam the following year. If a section is not reoffered, candidates and advisors will agree on the most appropriate substitution. The program provides a suggested reading list.
The general qualifying exams must be successfully completed prior to holding a dissertation prospectus hearing or applying for internship.