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Clinical - Practicum

Practicum Overview

The Clinical Science faculty believes that clinical scientists should be competent clinicians if they are to develop a complete understanding of clinical phenomena and the transfer of scientific knowledge to clinical practice. We therefore emphasize the development of strong clinical skills as an essential part of training. To this end, the Director of Clinical Training (DCT) is responsible for all aspects of clinical training including practicum, externship, and internship. The DCT’s primary mission is to ensure that each student receives a variety of supervised training experiences through which the student develops a high level of competency across multiple domains of clinical skills.

Practicum training begins the first year and continues through the student’s program of study. Students enroll in clinical practicum (PSYC 5965, 5966, 6965, 6966) each semester of their residence. For every practicum experience, the student receives a written evaluation with verbal feedback based on a set of clinical competencies that are observable, measurable, derived by experts, and can be enhanced through training and development. The first two years of practicum take place at our department’s community-based clinic, the Psychological Services Center (PSC). The PSC utilizes a vertical team approach which consists of one qualified faculty supervisor, one or two first year students, several second year students, and one or two fourth year students. In first year practicum, the faculty supervisor and advanced students help prepare first year students to interview, assess, and treat a caseload of one to possibly two clients. First year students then have the option to continue beyond the academic year into a summer practicum experience that provides additional training and supervision in basic interviewing, assessment, and treatment skills. In the student’s second year they are directly supervised by their mentor or placed on a team focused on their primary area of clinical interest, and their caseload increases to three to five clients.  Throughout these first two years of initial training there is an emphasis and focus on evidence-based models, techniques, and manualized protocols of assessment and treatment, primarily from a cognitive-behavioral orientation.

In the student’s third year, practicum is referred to as “Externship” and is conducted at a local, regional, or out-of-state center, facility, or agency. The purpose of Externship is to have a supervised practicum experience outside of the PSC that is complementary and/or consistent with one’s career goals. The Externship is arranged by the student in collaboration with their chosen site, and a student can have multiple externship placements throughout their third year of study. The Director is responsible and available for guidance and consultation throughout the Externship experience. A sample of recent Externship settings includes:

  • Veterans Administration Medical Center, Salem VA
  • Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Roanoke VA
  • Duke University Medical Center, Durham NC
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
  • Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburg, PA

The student’s fourth year is typically conducted back at the PSC and usually consists of some combination of seeing clients and peer supervision. The agreed upon arrangement of activities is developed between the student and faculty supervisor in the context of student’s areas of needed experience and training. A student may conduct their fourth year practicum experience at a different site given it is consistent with the program’s training requirements and the student’s career goals, and is approved by the DCT.

Over the past years, students have had an average of 1500 total hours of supervised clinical experience gathered within our required training sequence and taking advantage of available opportunities for additional training.  Opportunities to conduct additional clinical training include working within one of the Department’s specialty clinics or centers including the Adult Assessment Clinic, Child Assessment Clinic, Child Study Center, Center for Autism Research, and Autism Center. Our primary goal is that students acquire a high level of competence in the basic areas of clinical practice including professional conduct, interviewing, assessment, case conceptualization, treatment and intervention, measurement of treatment effectiveness, ethics, individual and cultural diversity, consultation, and supervision necessary for an excellent internship and a career path in the clinical sciences.

The capstone practicum experience is provided by a one-year pre-doctoral Internship at an APA-approved setting. Each student is required to complete this internship experience to earn the doctoral degree in the clinical program. Graduates of our program typically attend prestigious internships around the country. The DCT provides direction and guidance throughout the internship application process, and is responsible for the verification of the experiences, qualifications, and skills development necessary for internship. As such, it is the goal of our program, and the responsibility of the DCT, that practicum training prepares our students to match well with and be prepared for compatible internship sites and for successful careers as a clinical scientist. A sample of recent Internship settings includes:

  • Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • University of Colorado School of Medicine
  • Duke University Medical Center
  • Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine
  • Michael DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center