The Catholic University of America

Academic Program and Clinical Training

The program is widely respected for preparing graduates who are competent to function professionally. To achieve the goal of educating empirically sophisticated clinical psychologists, the program requires students to enroll in Research Methods and two semesters of Statistical Methods. A two-semester sequence of Foundations courses in the first year provides training in scientific breadth areas, including biological, cognitive, affective, and social aspects of behavior, as well history and systems of psychology. Students select from a large variety of courses during the second and third years, including one specialized course each in social, cognitive and affective, and biological bases of behavior, to provide depth in nonclinical areas of psychology.

Students complete a three-semester research apprenticeship beginning in spring of their first year. The apprenticeship involves supervised research that typically culminates in a presentation at a professional conference and an empirical or review article.

Students may choose to pursue the concentration in Children, Families, and Cultures,in which courses, practica, and research opportunities are provided under the supervision of Drs. Wagner, Goeke-Morey, Barrueco, and Rich. This concentration, unique in the Washington, DC area, is intended to educate psychologists with expertise in child and adolescent developmental processes within families and broader cultural contexts.

The close supervision that we provide in clinical training is a hallmark of the program. Assessment training begins with courses in psychopathology, interviewing skills, and intellectual assessment. These are followed by coursework and experience in projective and/or self-report personality assessment and opportunities in neuropsychology. An elective practicum in the administration and interpretation of assessment batteries is offered to third- and fourth-year students.
Training in intervention techniques incorporates coursework and experience in basic principles of psychotherapy. Additional elective courses offer training in cognitive and behavior therapy, psychodynamic approaches, family therapy, and therapy with children. Students begin practicum training in psychotherapy during the second year through an on-campus practicum experience with clients in the University Counseling Center that is supervised closely by core clinical faculty. A practicum is also available in family therapy.
During the third and fourth years of the program, students spend 16 hours per week in an externship experience in a mental health agency in the D.C. metropolitan area. A wide range of excellent area clinics, counseling centers, community agencies, and hospitals have first-class clinical psychology staff who are committed to the training of graduate students. Our students are thought well of in the community and so are generally selected for externships in which they have a strong interest.
The comprehensive examination in Clinical Psychology is taken during the third year of graduate study. The examination assesses the student's ability to define, organize, integrate, and clearly present an important domain of knowledge in clinical psychology.
Work on the doctoral dissertation begins after passing the comprehensive examination. The dissertation is a scholarly work based upon an empirical research effort that contributes to the body of psychological knowledge in clinical psychology.
Clinical training culminates with a one-year internship at an approved setting off-campus, usually in the fifth academic year. In all, the doctoral program requires 5 years to complete.
Outcome data indicate that the program is successful in meeting its goals. The vast majority of our students obtain their degree. Our students have been very successful in obtaining clinical internships at excellent training sites. The most frequent first positions of our alumni are in Veterans Affairs and other medical centers, independent practice, and university counseling centers, as well as a variety of other types of settings. Graduates of the program are successful in getting licensed in psychology, and they report that they are very satisfied with the education they received.