What is the Typical Curriculum of a PysD Program?

The training for clinical psychologists has traditionally been focused on training the doctoral student first in science and then in practice. However, because we are seeing such an increased need for clinical psychologists – as much as a 22% increase in employment by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – many graduate students end up going right into clinical services, rather than into academia.

That is why today there are more clinical psychologist programs that stress practice that is informed by science. Many experts think that this is a better education for professionals who want to enter right into clinical psychology practice.

The main goal of the typical Psy.D. program is to provide academic, practicum, internship and research experience that is relevant to the professional, but also keeping the vital scientific base upon which competence and knowledge rest. One of the major goals of the typical curriculum in this field is to ready students to be consumers of research for life.

Clinical skills are developed by a number of courses that focus on assessment and intervention, both by using theory and practice. These classes are usually supplemented by several types of practicum experiences, and these will usually have major supervision. A Psy.D. curriculum will train doctoral students to excel as clinicians, public and private practitioners, mental health consultants, supervisors and instructors of psychology.

The overall goals of a Psy.D. curriculum are for the graduate to:

  • Understand the knowledge base for providers of psychological services

  • Understand and use critical clinical skills for practitioners that are influenced by science

  • Evaluate and employ findings based on science for professional practice

Most doctoral students in most Psy.D. programs will need to complete around 120 credits and pass a clinical competency exam. You also will probably have to complete an internship that is about one year in length. Courses that you take will include the subjects of general psychology, methodology and intervention. Some of the classes you may take in your program are:

  • Adult Psychopathology

  • Child and Adolescent Development

  • Adult and Older Adult Development

  • Professional Ethics

  • Assessment and Intelligence Testing

  • History and Systems of Psychology

  • Psychobiology

  • Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

  • Interviewing Assessment

  • Clinical Practicum

  • Psychopharmacology

  • Statistics

  • Consultation and Supervision

In some programs, you also can choose to specialize in various areas of clinical psychology. Every concentration has a set of electives, a practicum and research. Typical concentrations are:

  • Forensic psychology

  • Health psychology

  • Mental illness

  • Family psychology

  • Neuropsychology

  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy

More About Clinical Training

Your clinical training practice will give you strong assessment, intervention and consultation experiences that you can build upon in your practice. Students will have the chance to go over placements that are approved by the school and express which are their preferences. Students usually need to finish two years of practicum, which will usually occur in their 2nd and 3rd years of residency. Every practicum placement will be for a year, most of the time.

Most programs will have a clinical competency examination which you have to complete no later than 30 days before the end of the year. The test will evaluate how well you understand assessment and intervention, and also your ethical knowledge.

More About Research Training

A Psy.D. student will be expected to show a strong capacity for critical thinking and also gain an understanding of methodology for empirical inquiry and how to use the results. You may be required to complete a directed study research project, which will give you the chance to participate in many types of advanced research. This effort will usually culminate in your dissertation, which you need to defend in front of a faculty committee.

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