By Rexford Bloxsom-Carter, Fall 2011
At our professional institution, CSPP San Francisco, we have both Clinical PhD and PsyD programs. Students from these programs share numerous classes, go through the same dilemmas around dissertation data collection, hold the same work-study jobs, and often work alongside one another at practicum sites across the Bay. Despite the many similarities, there are fundamental differences, and the largest by far is the emphasis on research. Although all PsyD students must complete a dissertation, faculty and students are often confronted with the stereotype that PsyD students simply don't do research. If there is such a strong mystical allure around graduate level research, how does it fit within the training at our professional institution?
The answer, in my opinion, breaks down to the simple differences in curricula. The PhD program is longer and involves a multiple year research cluster, which provides direct training and support throughout a student's progression from the first year project to the final stages of the dissertation. PsyD students are not offered this, as their program's emphasis focuses mainly on psychotherapy applications and empirically-based practice. The PhD program's curriculum only requires students to have two years of clinical work and many of these students jump straight into a clinical caseload without having much prior experience. These differences in research and practice have always been the simple indicators of demarcation between PsyD and PhD at CSPP. However, if we take a look at internship acceptance rates, both programs do fairly well: Last year 84% of PhD applicants attained internships, with 12 students getting APA or APPIC, and 82% of PsyD applicants attained internship, with 27 students attaining APA or APPIC placements.
These differences are important to note because a call from the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science (APCS) questions the heterogeneity between the 161 APA accredited PhD Clinical Psychology programs. In their analysis, Sayette, Norcross, and Dimoff (2011) conclude that free-standing professional schools like Alliant International University offer zero full tuition financial aid packages (where almost all APCS schools offer near 100%), have significantly lower APA or APPIC matching rates, 20% less extramural grants, and have significantly larger acceptance rates than APCS Universities. Two things that the researchers didn't account for were: 1) the limited scope of free-standing professional schools in their study (N=8, 50% being CSPP programs), and 2) the fact that free-standing professional schools had significantly more ethnic minorities enrolled than APCS and non-APCS PhD programs (Sayette, Norcross, & Dimoff, 2011). These implications leave the reader wondering about the potential identity crisis within the PhD Boulder model and the fundamental question of how small research focused clinical programs, as seen in the schools of APCS, can meet the multidimensional needs of present day clinical psychology.
CSPP has a long legacy of professional excellence, where both Scientist-Practitioner (PhD) and Local Clinical Scientist (PsyD) models have a convergence of scholarship, science, and evidence-based practice. However, as the changing academic and professional trends shift, how does the PhD/PsyD difference at our professional school influence a student's journey through research opportunities, internship placement, and the professional career beyond? I wholeheartedly agree that our school offers unique research opportunities, however, how do this push for graduate level research and the APA mandate (IR-24) that all students collect psychotherapeutic outcome data, fit within our different models? The students and faculty of both programs must come together to define their academic values, professional goals, and unique multicultural composition or else be cast into a never ending pursuit of comparing ourselves to an esoteric APCS hegemony. Our professional identity is our strength; we need to emphasize our distinctiveness.
Sayette, M. A., Norcross, J. C., & Dimoff, J. D. (2011). The heterogeneity of clinical psychology Ph.D. programs and the distinctiveness of APCS programs. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 18, 4-11.