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The Radford University PsyD Program in Counseling Psychology is closing and no longer accepting students. The Program has been granted “Accredited, Inactive” status by the American Psychological Association’s Commission on Accreditation.
PSY.D. vs. PH.D.
Why is the Radford program a Psy.D. instead of a Ph.D.?
There are several reasons, but the primary one is that Psy.D. programs are designed to train psychologists who will be practitioners. Because Southwest Virginia, and most rural areas, need psychologists who will be in practice, it made sense to have a doctoral program that would focus on preparing psychologists to be able to practice independently and meet the various mental health needs of a rural region. Thus, because we can focus on applied work and do not have to have as many courses on statistics and research design, we can offer more courses on practice and assessment and fewer on designing research studies and doing statistics. However, students still have to complete an empirical dissertation (see below) and have to complete other scholarship-related requirements. Students also have the opportunity to do additional research and scholarship beyond what is required.
Then, why a Counseling Psychology Psy.D. program and not a Clinical Psy.D. program?
When considering options, the program developers took into account that there are already Clinical Psy.D. programs in Virginia and there is a Clinical Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech (which is nearby); however, the only Counseling Psychology program in Virginia is at Virginia Commonwealth and they offer the Ph.D. Thus, one reason is that a Counseling Psychology Psy.D. program offered something new. Another reason was that the emphases of counseling psychology, as described above, seemed to fit the needs of people in rural areas.
What is the “Practitioner-Scholar” Model that is mentioned in your literature?
There are different training models in psychology doctoral programs, and a school needs to describe itself using one of these models. In Counseling Psychology there are two main types of programs: the Scientist-Practitioner and the Practitioner-Scholar (although there are certainly schools that identify with other program labels). As the order of the words and the specific words themselves imply, in general the Scientist-Practitioner model places more emphasis on research and is therefore the predominant type of Ph.D. program. On the other hand, as noted above, Psy.D. programs focus on training practitioners but there is still an emphasis on critical thinking and being able to understand and contribute to the scholarly literature. Thus, the Practitioner-Scholar Model places an emphasis on training students to do applied work and understand the professional literature.
I have heard that Ph.D. programs are usually smaller than Psy.D. programs so students have more contact with faculty, what will the student-faculty ratio be at Radford?
A 2004 article by Norcross and colleagues examined Clinical Psychology Psy.D. programs (because there were too few Counseling Psychology programs to include in the analyses) and did some comparisons between Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs. These authors did, indeed, find that Ph.D. programs tended to be significantly smaller than Psy.D. programs. However, they also found differences among types of Psy.D. programs, with programs located in university departments (which is where the Radford program is located) enrolling significantly fewer students. Similarly, the few Counseling Psychology Psy.D. programs that exist admit small groups of students each year. The Radford Program has a ratio of 4 students to 1 faculty member; given that there are three cohorts on campus and one on internship, that averages to one student per cohort per faculty member.
One of the reasons a Psy.D. appeals to me is that I don’t like math or statistics and don’t want to do research, how many statistics courses would I have to take and how much research would I have to do?
As noted above, Psy.D. programs tend to place less emphasis in coursework on research design and statistics, but in order to meet APA requirements and to be able to provide appropriate care, students (and graduates) will need to be able to understand and apply the literature when working with clients. Thus, there is a sequence of research and data analysis courses that culminate in a doctoral dissertation (more on this below) but the total number of courses is less than in most Ph.D. programs. The curriculum includes a course on psychometrics and instrument design, an advanced research design and statistics course, a qualitative analysis course, and a program evaluation course, as well as dissertation hours.
The dissertation is the only required research project that involves data collection and analysis. However, as noted above, the Radford program follows the Practitioner-Scholar model, which means that we believe there are more ways to understand and contribute to the literature than traditional quantitative studies. Scholarship is a broader term that, for us, encompasses projects such as literature reviews, program evaluations, and a variety of qualitative methods such as case studies and grounded theory projects. The program has a portfolio requirement (see below) that includes experience doing scholarship but, again, this does not mean that you must conduct a large-scale randomized study; it does mean, however, that you must attempt to understand and apply your coursework to working with clients in your practicum and to the larger community, environment, and profession.
So, I would have to do a dissertation, just like in a Ph.D. program?
Yes you would have to do a dissertation but it would not necessarily have to be similar to what is done in Ph.D. programs. Because our emphasis is on scholarship, broadly defined, and on community involvement (see section on social justice below), we envision that dissertations may be qualitative or mixed-method (i.e., combine both quantitative and qualitative methods) and may involve program evaluation as well as traditional experimental methods. Therefore, you will have to complete a research-based final project in order to graduate.
The timing of the project is important. It is the faculty’s collective experience, and the experience of nearly every psychologist with whom we have talked, that it is best to complete the dissertation before internship or at least be done by the time the internship is complete. In addition, we have been told that in order to be maximally competitive when applying for internship, students should have proposed their dissertations. Thus, the program has a requirement that in order to apply for internship, a student must have successfully proposed her or his dissertation. Basically, this means that by November 1 of the third year, a student must have worked with her or his advisor and dissertation committee to come up with a project and then get the committee to sign off on the proposal. We have designed our sequence of research courses to allow students to develop their proposal as part of the courses in order to meet this deadline.
In terms of completing the dissertation, it will be best for the student to be done as quickly as possible. We have found and been told that it is very difficult to make progress on the dissertation while on internship – and we anticipate this will be true for students in the Radford program because of the types of projects we anticipate students will be conducting (e.g., community-based and possibly involving qualitative methods as opposed to large-scale quantitative studies involving college students where participants can fill out forms on a computer). Thus, our goal is for the student to be completely finished with the dissertation or at least done with data analysis before internship starts.
WHAT MAKES RADFORD’S PROGRAM DIFFERENT?
What kind of financial aid does the program offer?
We are very excited by the commitment the University has made to the Psy.D. program and its students. Unlike many Ph.D. programs and most Psy.D. programs (see the 2004 Norcross article noted above), we anticipate that all admitted students will receive graduate assistantships and will not have to pay tuition while they are enrolled full-time in classes on campus, maintain good academic standing, and receive positive assistantship evaluations. Once a student is on internship that site will, in nearly all situations, pay the student a stipend and if a student is not done with the dissertation prior to completion of internship, the university will not pay for the extra time. In essence, this means that you would not have to pay tuition during the three years you are enrolled full-time in courses and you would be paid to take classes, provide applied services at your practicum placement, and work on campus. In other words, the assistantship and tuition support is to learn how to be a counseling psychologist so you do not have to split your time between classes, practicum, and an off-campus job. We think that if you compare this situation with most other programs you will see that this offer makes us different.
So, how do I know if I will receive the graduate assistantship and will not have to pay tuition?
At this point we believe that, pending adequate legislative funding and continued support from the University administration, anyone who is offered admission into the program will also be offered the assistantship and will not have to pay tuition. However, because we are a state university, the faculty cannot make guarantees.
How is the program different from other psychology doctoral programs in Virginia?
As noted earlier, the Radford University program is the only Counseling Psychology Psy.D. program in the state and is one of only a handful in the country. The combination of having the emphases of Counseling Psychology programs and of Psy.D. programs, combined with our focus on rural mental health, offers students a unique perspective on training and service. This means that we will be a good fit for some students and will not be a good place for others.
How is the program different from other Counseling Psychology Psy.D. programs?
The primary distinction of the Counseling Psychology Psy.D. Program at Radford is the rural mental health focus. A significant amount of data indicates that a large percentage of the U.S. and Canadian population lives in rural areas but there are few professional psychologists available to provide services. Although professional counselors and social workers, and other health professionals, can and do provide important services to those residing in rural areas, psychologists have unique skills to complement those of other providers. Our goal with the Radford program is to train students who can work with people across the lifespan and present with a broad spectrum of issues and severity of psychological conditions; who can provide counseling, assessment, and educational services to individuals, couples, families, and groups; in a variety of settings; and who can collaborate with other professionals in their community and region. And all these efforts must be done while taking into account the cultural aspects of the person as well as the culture of the rural area in which the psychologist practices. Thus, in addition to a large number of practice-oriented courses and experiences, we also have a series of courses related to working in rural areas and we infuse rural issues into all core courses.
Is there really a need for specialized training in rural mental health?
There are a number of resources that discuss how rural issues are different from those of other area. For example, in a comprehensive survey of mental health care issues (McDonald, Harris, & LeMesurier, 2005), the researchers stated that “One of the primary problems with mental health access in rural and frontier areas is that quite simply, there are very few mental health practitioners who work in these areas” (¶2). The study reported that professional shortage problems are reported to be even worse for providers trained to treat special populations such as children and seniors. The report noted that the fact that "mental health services are difficult to access in rural and frontier areas is distressing, particularly in light of recent research that suggests that rural and frontier residents seem to suffer from high rates of depression and substance abuse, as well as suicide” (¶2).
Substantiating this report, the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration (http://hpsafind.hrsa.gov/HPSASearch.aspx) has designated many counties in Virginia as Mental Health Provider Shortage Areas (http://www.vdh.state.va.us/healthpolicy/primarycare/shortagedesignations/documents/MHPSA.pdf. Such a designation implies a severe need for mental health services in those areas.
What else is different or unique about the program?
We believe that there are several aspects of the program that may not be unique in and of themselves, but when placed together, especially in combination with the rural focus and the funding provided that we highlighted above, make the Radford program special. We outline these below.
As noted earlier, the rural focus of the program sets us apart from other Counseling Psychology Psy.D. programs. It also makes us different from most Clinical Psychology Psy.D. programs.
Attention to Diversity
Counseling Psychology programs in general tend to emphasize diversity and cultural considerations, and we are no different. Just as we infuse rural issues into the core courses, we also include discussion of cultural considerations in classes. Of course, we believe that size of community is a cultural issue, so there is overlap between the rural focus and the inclusion of diversity. As evidence of our commitment to diversity, we adapted the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs’ Counseling Psychology Model Training Values Statement Addressing Diversity (http://www.ccptp.org/ccptp-model-training-vales-statement-addressing-diversity) to fit for our program. Students (and faculty) are expected to adhere to the statement.
In addition, students (and faculty) are expected to adhere to the APA Ethics Code as well as the various guidelines that APA has passed regarding working with members of diverse populations
- American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct (2002, Amended June 1, 2010). Available at http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx
- American Psychological Association. (2003). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist, 58, 377-402.
- American Psychological Association. (2004). Guidelines for psychological practice with older adults. American Psychologist, 59, 236-260.
- American Psychological Association. (2007). Guidelines for psychological practice with girls and women. American Psychologist, 62, 949-979.
- American Psychological Association. (2011). Guidelines for assessment of and intervention with persons with disabilities. Available at http://www.apa.org/pi/disability/resources/assessment-disabilities.pdf
- American Psychological Association. (2011). Guidelines for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients. Available at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/guidelines.aspx.
A natural outgrowth of this focus on diversity is the program’s focus on social justice. We purposefully integrate social justice material and discussions into the coursework, offer practicum placements that allow for social justice opportunities (when possible), and have two semester-long social justice practica. This means that students (and faculty) in the Program will attend to issues of privilege, oppression, equity, and equality as they affect the lives of clients and others in the community, region, state, country, and world, across settings and systems. The goal is to sensitize students, and faculty, to injustice and oppression, helping us all to understand the factors that contribute to human suffering, and enabling us (and others) to develop skills to intervene at a variety of levels in order to promote human welfare and rights. The faculty members see social justice as inherently related to equity and equality and therefore attend to the distribution and access to power and economic / other resources as well as work toward the reduction of various forms of stigma.
A definition that brings together these different aspects follows (from the website of the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Justice Symposium http://socialwelfare.berkeley.edu/sjs/; see also the Social Justice Training Institute, http://sjti.org/home_professional.html, for a similar definition):
Social Justice is a process, not an outcome, which (1) seeks fair (re)distribution of resources, opportunities, and responsibilities; (2) challenges the roots of oppression and injustice; (3) empowers all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full potential; (4) and builds social solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action.
Foundation in Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology
The APA has a policy statement on evidence-based practice, which states that “[r]esearch, clinical expertise, and patient characteristics are all supported as relevant to good outcomes” (p. 271). The definition of evidence-based practice in psychology is defined in the policy statement as “the integration of best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preferences (p. 284; see http://www.apapracticecentral.org/ce/courses/ebpstatement.pdf for the full statement). The program faculty members subscribe to this definition and believe that it is consistent with our beliefs about how best to help clients. We therefore include discussion of evidence-based practice (according to the definition above) in courses and discussions of service provision (e.g., in practicum class and in supervision).
There are many ways that students are assessed in the program. Course grades and performance tap into scholastic abilities and practicum/supervisor evaluations provide evidence of practical skills. A student’s ability to work with others is constantly being evaluated through courses, practicum, and interactions with professors, staff, and student-colleagues. However, none of these avenues examines professional development. Therefore, there is also a set of expectations related to development as a scholar and future professional. Each student is expected to participate in appropriate professional organizations (e.g., APA, Society of Counseling Psychology, Virginia Academy of Clinical Psychologists) and contribute to the knowledge of the field (e.g., through professional presentations and publications).
In general, because we value the scholarly process, (a) each year each student is expected to be a member of appropriate professional organizations; (b) by the end of the program, each student is expected to submit at least one project for presentation (e.g., as a poster or paper) at a professional conference; (c) by the end of the program, each student is expected to submit at least one paper for publication in a professional journal; and (d) by the end of the program, each student is expected to have participated in a community outreach project (e.g., professional workshop, community presentation). The program assists in the achievement of these latter three requirements by helping students turn required papers for courses (and the dissertation) into possible presentations (community and professional) and/or publications. Pending availability and resources, at least once before internship, each student is expected to attend a professional conference, be involved in a grant submission, be involved in consultation with a community organization, and be involved in the teaching of a course.
Although students certainly can participate in more professional activities, and many do so though volunteer work or presenting and publishing more than the minimum amount, these additional activities are not required. The time necessary for these efforts must be balanced with the need to complete coursework, practicum, assistantship, and other mandatory work. Students and their advisors often map out schedules to help students not over-commit themselves.
American Psychological Association. (1999). Archival description of counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 27, 589-592.
American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice. (2006). Evidence-based practice in psychology. American Psychologist, 61, 271-285.
McDonald, T. W., Harris, S. M, & LeMesurier, E. A. (2005). Mental health care issues in a predominantly rural and frontier state: Results and implications from a comprehensive survey. Journal of Rural Community Psychology, E8(1). Retrieved September 24, 2007 from http://www.marshall.edu/jrcp/8_1_McDonald.htm
Neimeyer, G. J., & Diamond, A. K. (2001). The anticipated future of counselling psychology in the United States: A Delphi poll. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 14, 49-65.
Norcross, J. C. (2000). Clinical versus counseling psychology: What’s the diff? Eye on Psi Chi, 5(1), 20-22.
Norcross, J. C., Castle, P. H., Sayette, M. A., & Mayne, T. J. (2004). The PsyD: Heterogeneity in practitioner training. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35, 412-419.
Norcross, J. C., Sayette, M. A., Mayne, T. J., Karg, R. S., & Turkson, M. A. (1998). Selecting a doctoral program in professional psychology: Some comparisons among Ph.D. counseling, Ph.D. clinical, and Psy.D. clinical psychology programs. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 29, 609-614.
The Radford University Psy.D. Program has been granted "accredited, inactive" status by the American Psychological Association. If you have questions about the accreditation process for doctoral programs in psychology, you can contact the APA via the following means:
American Psychological Association
Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation / Commission on Accreditation
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
Internet Webpage: www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/