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Clinical Overview

Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program Overview

The Ph.D. Program in Clinical Psychology is fully accredited by the American Psychological Association* and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System, and it is a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Sciences. Our program is firmly committed to training students to advance scientific knowledge and foster the application of scientifically validated procedures to human psychological problems. Adopting a clinical scientist model of training, students receive vigorous academic and research preparation.

Students are carefully selected from a large pool of applicants based on their promise as future leaders and innovators in the evolving field of clinical psychology.  Students work closely with a major advisor in a research apprentice training model. Major advisors and students are matched at the time an offer of admission is made based on shared research interests. However, these relationships may change if a student’s interests change. In this training model, the majority of students graduate with publications and conference presentations co-authored with their major professors.

The training goals of the Clinical Psychology Program are:

  • To provide a thorough grasp and understanding of the scientific foundations in general psychology.
  • To insure a sound understanding of research methodology and the necessary skills of data analysis.
  • To provide a broad spectrum of training in clinical and professional skills.

Students must successfully complete a curriculum balanced with required clinical-core courses, courses in substantive areas of psychology outside the clinical area, and a selection of advanced seminars chosen from a variety of special topics (e.g., Health Psychology, Substance Use and Abuse, Psychopharmacology, Neuropsychology, Law and Psychology, Depression). In addition, students enroll in supervised clinical practica each semester.

The Clinical Psychology Program is fortunate to have a unique cluster of campus and community training facilities available for student placement. These facilities provide opportunities for both clinical training and research experience. Besides the Departmental Psychological Services Center, other campus training sites include the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute; the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute; and the University Counseling Center for Human Development. Off campus training facilities include the Tampa V.A. Hospital, located across the street from the College of Medicine; Hillsborough County School System; and various community mental health agencies in the Tampa Bay area (e.g., Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry). It is worth noting that three of these sites (Tampa VA, Florida Mental Health Institute, University Counseling Center) also function as APA-approved internships. Another APA-approved internship site, the Bay Pines VA Hospital, is located about an hour’s drive from campus.

Principles & Philosophy

The field of clinical psychology is very young. It began a little more than 100 years ago, in 1896. At that time, Dr. Lightener Witmer established the first psychological clinic, named the field "clinical psychology," and created the first clinical psychology journal called the Psychological Clinic. At the dawn of the 20th Century the American Psychological Association, which began in 1892, had fewer than 100 members. The first doctoral programs in clinical psychology appeared in 1948, little more than 50 years ago.

Although the field of clinical psychology has made major strides since 1896, many questions remain unanswered as we strive to help those who suffer from a wide array of human psychological problems. We believe that clinical psychologists have a unique role, obligation, and opportunity in this endeavor. Clinical psychologists are the only mental health professionals rigorously trained to apply scientific methods to the identification, understanding, and treatment of mental health problems. The world desperately needs highly trained professionals who can advance the field by generating new findings and by fostering the application of empirically based knowledge to psychological problems. Our goal in accepting graduate students is to identify and recruit individuals who wish to join us as we strive to improve the psychological well-being of society by applying the tools of science.

Our program is firmly committed to a clinical scientist training model. Students receive a thorough grounding in the scientific foundations of general psychology, are taught the most up-to-date concepts in research methodology and data analysis, and are trained comprehensively in clinical and professional skills. Clinical course work and practica emphasize the integration of scientific principles and the use of empirical evidence and validated theoretical models in guiding clinical practice.

The objective of our program is to provide comprehensive training in psychology as a basic mission, and broad-based training in clinical psychology as a specialty. We intend for our students to be sufficiently trained so that a variety of career options are possible for them. Beyond this basic objective, however, we hope to provide training that will enable our students to make an impact on the field in whatever specialty niche they pursue. The field of clinical psychology has been in flux since its inception. Merely training students in current practices does not sufficiently prepare them for changes that will occur in the field, nor does it prepare them to become innovators in the field. Our training program’s primary goal is to produce graduates who will participate in the discourse that occurs among scholars and practitioners at the highest levels of psychology throughout their careers and who will have a significant impact on the field. To achieve this goal, students must receive balanced training in the science and the scientific practice of psychology. We believe that those individuals who have a firm appreciation for the problems encountered in clinical practice can make the most meaningful contributions to scientific knowledge; similarly we believe that it is only by gaining a true appreciation for the science of psychology that one can provide informed and competent service. The Department of Psychology’s Mission Statement provides additional information about our Program’s Principles and Philosophy.

PCSAS and the Academy of Psychological Clinical Sciences

As noted above, the Clinical Program is accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS). As noted on its website, “PCSAS was created to promote superior science-centered education and training in clinical psychology, to increase the quality and quantity of clinical scientists contributing to the advancement of public health, and to enhance the scientific knowledge base for mental and behavioral health care.”  PCSAS requires documentation that the program is dedicated to training clinical scientists, and that the majority of its graduates are indeed functioning as active clinical scientists.  USF received accreditation for a term of 10 years beginning in 2011. The PCSAS application abstract from the February, 2011 summarizes how the program met the accreditation criteria at that time.

Similarly, the program is a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science, which is a coalition of doctoral training programs that share a common goal of producing and applying scientific knowledge to the assessment, understanding, and amelioration of human problems. Membership in the Academy is granted only after a thorough peer review process. Membership in the Academy reflects our Program’s commitment to excellence in scientific training, and to using clinical science as the foundation for designing, implementing, and evaluating assessment and intervention procedures.

Curriculum, Sequence of Training, and Other Requirements

Please read the Department Graduate Student Handbook for details.

* APA Commission on Accreditation: 750 First Street, NE - Washington, DC 20002 - (202) 336-5979