Practicum Training for the PhD in Clinical Psychology
Readying you for research and clinical practice.
There are two sequences to practicum training in the doctoral program:
- Practical experiences devoted to clinical practice
- Those devoted to conducting research
The doctoral program’s primary clinical training facility is the onsite Center for Psychological Services. It exists to provide patient services and doctoral training in a setting where students may acquire clinical competencies through intensively supervised clinical activities. The director, a full-time administrative coordinator and graduate assistants staff the center. In practice, the center is the hub of clinical training where, in each of the four years of residence, every student engages in clinical activities. These activities consist of intake and disposition in the first year, and diagnostic assessment in the second. Psychotherapy is required in the third year and elective in the second and fourth years. Having the center integral to all phases of clinical training provides an opportunity for the faculty to observe students formally, as well as informally, as they acquire increasingly complex and demanding professional skills. The center also offers extracurricular events and clinical presentations from program faculty and outside experts on a variety of topics, which students may initiate throughout the training. All clinical work at the center is under the supervision of the doctoral faculty.
In addition to its primary function as the clinical training arm of the program, the center is a research training facility. The center maintains a clinical database wherein data on patients in treatment are archived and made available for student and faculty research. Recently, the University has provided financial support for the establishment of a technological infrastructure to study service delivery and training currently in our clinic psychological services. The clinic is equipped with mobile devices to collect phenomenological data (attitudes and perceptions) reported by patient and clinician on the service provided, as well as clinician and supervisor on the training conducted. The content of these self-report measures will generally concern diagnostic status, symptomatology, level of functioning, personality and interpersonal process. In addition to quantitative data, the self-report measures will also yield narrative-based, qualitative data. The studios in the clinic will be set up for video recording capacity that will be stored on a secure network server, along with phenomenological data. The video recordings will allow for observer-based assessment of the clinician-patient interactional process, including quality and impact of service provided. With the development of our clinic as a research training facility, the aim is to increase student awareness of the integrated and mutually enhancing functions of clinical and research activities.
Clinical practicum training begins in the first year with supervised intakes in the program’s training clinic and diagnostic psychological testing labs. In Intake and Interviewing Seminar I: Initial Evaluation (632), students are trained in the use of clinical interviews to assess adult patients’ presenting problems, develop a psychosocial history, create a case formulation, arrive at a provisional psychiatric diagnosis with the DSM-5, and determine a case disposition. All prospective patients are seen at the Center for Psychological Services. The seminar includes training in administration of the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.) to expose students to standardized methods of diagnosis and to strengthen their understanding of the DSM.
In Intake and Interviewing Seminar II: (633), students receive training in clinical interviewing with children and their families. Intakes are conducted in our main clinic in Garden City, and also in our satellite clinic in Hempstead that serves a largely minority population.
As part of Diagnostic Testing I-II, students meet weekly in small groups called testing labs, which are led by advanced students who have distinguished themselves in the program, are approved by the diagnostic testing course instructor, and who are supervised by the course instructor. Testing labs foster the acquisition of competence in beginning diagnostic skills through a variety of techniques, including role-playing, practice with scoring and administration, and close monitoring of student progress.
Research practicum training begins with Psychological Research I-II in the first year when each student starts attending the research workgroup of the adviser to whom he/she has been matched. It is in these groups that the students first develop their pre-dissertation project and then ultimately their dissertation research.
As part of their pre-dissertation project, students must submit their proposal to the University Institutional Review Board for approval: This requires that they must also have completed the NIH Web-based training course, Protecting Human Research Participants, which fulfills the program’s requirement regarding professional conduct and ethics in the context of conducting research. The pre-dissertation project begins in the first year, but is due by the end of the second year.
Students begin off-campus practicum training with a one or two day per week externship placement in an inpatient or outpatient psychiatric setting. Affiliation agreements have been established, for example, with Beth Israel Medical Center, Bronx Psychiatric Center, Brookdale Hospital, and Long Beach Reach. These placements provide students an introduction to serious clinical conditions in a structured setting and to working collaboratively with professionals from diverse disciplines. The students attend rounds, conduct mental status exams and brief psychological assessments, co-lead structured therapy groups, begin work with individual patients, and participate in individual and group supervision. This experience especially builds on Psychopathology I-II (621 and 820), Diagnostic Testing I-II (625-6), and Intake and Interviewing I-II (632-3). The director of field placement continuously monitors student activities with ongoing communication with students and supervisors.
On campus, students continue diagnostic training in Clinical Practice I-II: Diagnostics (712-3). They are assigned to a diagnostic testing workgroup of four or five peers led by a supervisor from the Center for Psychological Services who closely supervises their diagnostic work and report writing. Three diagnostic testing batteries are completed in the center during the year. Administration, scoring, interpretation and report writing, identification and use of additional diagnostic assessment tools (e.g., learning disability assessment), assignment of appropriate DSM-IV diagnoses, understanding of the impact of ethnicity, race, and gender on assessment outcomes and feedback consultations with patients and other professionals are all targeted in this training. Patients typically request assessment of learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders and emotional problems. Students also develop consultation skills in this diagnostic training, as they learn to interface with academic testing agencies, school psychologists, offices of college disability services, and referring mental health providers.
Second-year students are also enrolled in the psychotherapy Case Conference I-II (700-1), where they participate with third-year students in small group discussions of their externship cases and third-year students’ treatment cases. These groups are led primarily by full-time faculty, affording second- and third-year students opportunities to work alongside each other and to integrate their academic work into their clinical training. Here, students develop skills for building the therapeutic relationship, create case formulations, integrate an understanding of personality structure with clinical/symptom presentation establish treatment goals, present and critically discuss clinical case material and understand the contributions of race, class, culture and other factors over the course of treatment. Students are also introduced to supervision methods in these case conferences.
Research practicum training continues in the second year in Psychological Research III-IV (742-3). Students aim to complete their pre-dissertation by the end of the academic year with the support of their workgroups. Evidence of completion can be demonstrated with some acknowledgement of a paper presentation at a conference or submission to a journal. This experience builds on academic courses in the research sequence, making, applying and developing knowledge introduced in these courses.
The director of field placement meets regularly (four times per year) with local groups of clinical program directors and externship directors (New York/New Jersey Area Directors of Training-NYNJADOTS; and Psychology Directors in New York-PSYDNYS) to review externship placement procedures, to establish and enforce standards of training, and to develop new sites. In addition, the director of field placement visits select sites periodically to develop new training opportunities and to assure quality of training. In these ways, the director oversees placements and regularly communicates with externship directors. Externship sites are listed in student information.
Each third-year student is assigned for individual supervision on campus (Clinical Practice III-IV: Psychotherapy, 714-5) to a member of the program’s core faculty or, in a few instances, an adjunct psychotherapy supervisor, who is a senior clinician with postdoctoral training. This clinician functions both as a supervisor and a mentor. Students have input in the selection of their supervisor for this psychotherapy practicum, a process facilitated by students’ exposure to several supervising faculty in Case Conference (700-1) in the preceding training year. During the academic year, the student meets individually with the psychotherapy supervisor for 60 minutes per week and is expected to manage a caseload of up to five patients at the center.
As in the second year, students are enrolled in the psychotherapy Case Conference (800-1), where they present their work and critically evaluate the work of their peers. The case conference format allows the student to become competent with understanding clinical processes from various contemporary perspectives, interacting on a professional level with classmates, conceptualizing and presenting clinical case material, and developing their supervision skills. Importantly, it also provides a venue for faculty to observe each student’s clinical work in progress over two years and to integrate material from off-campus externships, thus promoting each student’s overall professional development, including development with regard to evidence-based practice, cultural competence and ethical conduct.
Research practicum training continues in Dissertation Research I-II (817-8) with the support of the workgroups. The aim of this academic year is to develop and prepare a dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal is due by November 1 in the fall of the fourth year, prior to applying to the internship.
In the fourth year, psychotherapy training in our clinic continues, and students prepare to apply for a full-time internship, which takes place in their fifth year.
Students elect a Concentration Seminar (803-4) that provides training in treatment modalities and intervention strategies extending beyond core competence in individual dynamic psychotherapy. The specific clinical topics covered in these seminars include (but are not limited to) transference-countertransference, intensive psychotherapy, difficult issues in psychotherapy and psychotherapy integration. The vehicle for supervision on these topics is a case conference that students attend for the entire academic year. In addition to concentrating on a specific clinical topic, faculty members use these seminars to further develop student skills with regard to supervision.
Research practicum training continues in the fourth year with Dissertation III (819) and Ongoing Dissertation Supervision (848), which continues into the fifth year (849). With the assignment to advisers and workgroups now done prior to the first semester of the first year, as well as the revision of our curriculum which makes the third- and fourth-year course load lighter, students should have more time to complete their dissertations earlier than in the past.
Learn the details of the dissertation process. Research is an important and integral part of doctoral training at Derner. As such, involvement in research begins with your acceptance into the program at which time you must begin the process of selecting a research mentor.
Providing doctoral candidates with an introduction to procedures and requirements pertaining to clinical placements outside the program, also known as externships.
During the internships, trainees are expected to learn to make theory-practice links and apply the knowledge learned in the course of academic teaching, and approach competency at the level that qualifies them for independent practice upon receiving the doctoral degree.