Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology

Program Philosophy

The Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at CLU is based on the Vail Model which was developed for professional schools who were focused on training clinicians and awarded the Psy.D. (Nelson & Messenger,2003).

While the foundation of CLU's Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology is built upon the integration of research and professional development, as an institution, CLU has adopted three Core Commitments which include Liberal Learning, Professional Preparation and Character and Leadership Development. Professional Preparation is described as providing the theoretical and practical framework for students to excel in specialized careers.

In keeping with the core commitment of Professional Preparation, the Psy.D. Degree in Clinical Psychology is aligned with CLU's educational objectives. The Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology will prepare students to become licensed clinical psychologists. In addition, the clinical training and skills that students develop will be based on sound research and a solid understanding of how research contributes to clinical practice.

The curriculum will reflect the integration of practice and research by offering a sequence of research courses, requiring a dissertation project and requiring ongoing practica experiences and an internship prior to graduation.

The Psy.D. Program will attempt to incorporate the best features of first rate existing programs as well as add innovative components. Thus, like any viable doctoral program in clinical psychology, the Psy.D. Program at California Lutheran University will provide training in a range of therapeutic modalities and theoretical approaches. With regard to the former, students will learn about individual, couples, group, and family therapy as well as child therapy and therapeutic interventions with infant and child-caregiver dyads.

As for theoretical approaches, students will receive training in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic theory (including brief psychodynamic therapy approaches) and will also be exposed to therapeutic approaches shown to be effective with particular diagnostic groups — for example, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), and Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT) with borderline personality disorder patients; exposure therapy and short-term psychodynamic therapy with agoraphobic patients; and attachment-based interventions with couples and with distressed infant-mother dyads.

Our approach to courses and practical training will be integrative in two senses: one, in the sense of an emphasis on common themes and principles that cut across different theoretical approaches, for example, change principles and therapeutic factors common to different therapeutic modalities; two, in the sense of integrating, to the extent possible, assessment and clinical training with theory and research rather than the usual practice of separate courses on clinical skills, theory, and research. Also, in meeting the course work requirements, students will generally be expected to integrate clinical material, theory, and research.

Rather than encouraging exclusive loyalty to a particular therapeutic modality or 'school', we will aim to ensure that our students are sufficiently knowledgeable about different approaches and change principles so that they can make informed judgments regarding which approach is effective for particular sets of problems and clinical populations, that is, "what works for whom" (Fonagy & Roth,1996).

What we want to ensure, however, is that students develop the professional attitude of turning to relevant research findings to inform their clinical work and become intelligent research consumers (Stricker & Trierweiler, 1995).

A unique feature of the curriculum includes six core courses which reflect the spectrum of disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th Edition - Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). Rather than requiring a course in psychopathology and courses in assessment and technique, each of the six core courses will introduce students to a group of disorders and present them with a historical overview, diagnostic considerations, prevalence, incidence and course information, etiological considerations from multiple orientations that will include seminal studies and papers, issues of assessment and treatment including evidence-based treatments and relevant research, cultural considerations, local resources, ethical considerations and related topics.

The six core courses require students to develop an integrated, developmental understanding of psychopathology. In addition, diagnosis, assessment and intervention are incorporated in each course from a research perspective. This approach prevents adherence to any one theoretical orientation and requires students to rely on research and evidence-based interventions.

In addition to an integrated curriculum, we have the good fortune at California Lutheran University to have available a well-run and highly regarded Counseling Center that serves the surrounding community, as well as a group of experienced and diverse supervisors who contribute to the clinical training of our students. The fact that students' initial clinical experience will take place at the Counseling Center will enable us to ensure a consistently high level of supervision, which has been recognized as a "key in one's learning of therapeutic skills" (Boswell & Castonguay, 2007, p. 380) and, one might add, also in one's learning of assessment skills.

We also plan to initiate an ongoing process and outcome study of clients seen at the Counseling Center, which should serve as a live model of the integration of clinical work and research (Boswell & Castonguay, 2007). Our Counseling Center is equipped with videotaping capacity, which will be very useful in supplementing other techniques such as role-playing, and in linking the teaching of helping skills to observations of moment-to-moment interactions (Hill et al, 2007).

Other features of our training program include:

Students participate in an ongoing research work group of between 4 to 7 students with a selected faculty member throughout their training. The work group is intended to facilitate the selection and completion of the dissertation, to provide a sense of camaraderie throughout their training, and to establish and maintain an ongoing close working relationship with at least one faculty member.

Along with quantitative research methods, students will also receive training in rigorous qualitative research methods. As part of this training, students will learn to view the clinical case study as a vehicle for critical thinking, appeal to evidence, and disciplined clinical inference (Edelson, 1984; Kazdin, 2007; Wolitzky, 2007; and the journal Clinical Case Studies).

As part of our Counseling Center, we have established a Parent-Child Study Clinic whose purposes are primary and secondary prevention and therapeutic intervention.

Our approach in this clinic is modeled after other infant and parent-child intervention programs throughout the country that are based on attachment theory and research — for example, the "Circle of Security" Program initiated at the University of Virginia and led by Robert Marvin (a colleague of Mary Ainsworth) and his colleagues (2006); and the intervention program led by Cicchetti and his colleagues initially at the University of Rochester (2006).

These and other similar programs have the common aim of transforming the infant's disorganized and insecure attachment, risk factors in development, to more organized and secure attachment, protective factors in development.

We will build into our training program ongoing feedback from our students regarding aspects of their training that they find helpful and areas for improvement . We will use this information in an ongoing process of evaluation of our program.

We will initiate a colloquium series and will invite speakers whose work can serve as a model for our students.

We plan to include in our program the requirement of a second year project which will be preparatory to the carrying out of a dissertation. The latter can include a critical literature review, a case study that includes relevant theory and research, or an exploratory empirical project. Whatever project the student selects, the overall and consistent emphasis will be on integrating clinical data, theory, and research.

In conjunction with the Parent-Child Study Center, we hope to establish an Attachment Consortium modeled after the New York Attachment Consortium, sponsored by Adelphi University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The consortium will serve as a hub for bringing together individuals interested in attachment theory and research, for sharing research, clinical, and theoretical ideas, for inviting speakers who work in the attachment area, and for organizing periodic conferences. Students will be invited to participate in all these activities.

One of our strengths is the existence within a university setting of a strong faculty with a variety of scholarly and research interests. This seems to us to constitute a palpable advantage over free-standing Psy.D. training settings that are not embedded in a full university structure.

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