Beginning Your Clinical Training

Your first experience as a psychotherapist begins via involvement in a year-long psychotherapy practicum in either Adult Psychotherapy or Child Psychotherapy. Both practica draw their clients from referrals made to the Psychological Services Clinic (PSC). The PSC provides psychotherapy services, evaluations, assessments, and consultations to the local community as well as the university community. In keeping with the demographic profile of the area, PSC clients include relatively small numbers of minority clients; in 2019-2020, 27% of therapy clients were racial or ethnic minorities and 18% self-identified as sexual minorities. 87% of the Clinic’s clients receive services at markedly reduced fees. Students are expected to continue work with clients through June and July; the Clinic closes for the month of August.

Therapy training in the PSC is organized in a vertical team model. Second and third-year practicum students carry caseloads of 3-4 clients and receive intensive supervision following live and videotaped observation of sessions. Fifth year students serve as student supervisors and work under the supervision of faculty members who head the vertical teams. First semester students attend vertical teams as observers and complete initial observations of therapy sessions. The teams intentionally represent a range of empirically supported theoretical perspectives including cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, and family systems approaches. All teams incorporate evidence-based approaches and ongoing assessment of the efficacy of treatment efforts, with the goal of enabling students to select and synthesize the most appropriate approaches for each client. Vertical teams are supervised by seven licensed psychologists: five members of the Clinical Faculty, and two licensed practitioners from the local community who are adjunct faculty members in the Department of Psychological Sciences.

All students are required to complete the Adult Psychotherapy Practicum but can choose to do so in either their second or third year. The Child Practicum is optional but strongly recommended. Many of our students who do not plan to specialize in the treatment of children and families have found the Child Practicum to be a rewarding and enlightening training experience. Students can take the Child Practicum in either the second or third year. Thus, by the end of the third year, each student will have completed two year-long practica: either a year of child and a year of adult or two years of adult. Students receive feedback from their faculty supervisors at the end of each semester. The Vertical Team Evaluation form is included in Appendix D.

This experience as a professional helper can be stressful. One student described a sense of panic at “the sudden realization that I had to be able to call on all the material I was supposed to have been learning in class to make a difference in the life of another person who needs my help”. It is normal, and even useful, to experience that kind of transient stress as a beginning therapist. It is during this initial year as a therapist that students often choose to enter psychotherapy themselves (more about that later).