Clinical Psychology Curriculum

The University of Arizona Clinical Program offers opportunities for professional development and the integration of science with practice through coursework, practica, community externships, and the predoctoral internship. Throughout the curriculum, we emphasize the empirical basis of intervention and assessment methods and encourage students to practice critical thinking in processing all materials. In addition to formal courses in statistics and research methodology, we see training in research as an ongoing activity at the core of the graduate student's life and try to make sure that the students have time to engage in hands-on research.  Two mechanisms help us to achieve this goal. First, we have designed a flexible curriculum that trains students in the basics, yet does not structure all their time. Second, we encourage students to get involved in individual faculty research laboratories as early as possible.

Structure of curriculum (requirements, timing, units)

The curriculum of the Clinical Psychology Program is sequential, cumulative, graded in complexity, and designed to prepare students for a future conducting clinical science, disseminating knowledge in a generalizable way, and the application of clinical science through interventions and assessments with individual clients or patients. Accordingly, our curriculum encompasses (a) university and departmental requirements; (b) requirements specific to the clinical program, including core courses, practica, and breadth requirements; (c) elective clinical and general courses; and (d) the predoctoral internship. All required courses are part of the major in clinical psychology; the electives can satisfy either major or minor requirements, depending on the individual student's track. Minor (concentration) areas that have been frequently chosen include clinical neuropsychology, family psychology, health psychology, statistics (see below), child clinical psychology and college teaching. According to the UA Graduate College, a minor consists of a minimum of nine credit units; when a minor is chosen outside of psychology (e.g., in Family Studies and Human Development or Statistics), the outside department (or interdepartmental program) may specify the number of credits required to fulfill their minor requirements, and this number sometimes exceeds nine units. Credits that are counted toward departmental requirements cannot be counted toward a minor subject (e.g., statistics courses); any minor in these topics would require nine additional credits on top of the departmental requirement. However, clinical program requirements (e.g., social psychology) can count toward the minor. For example, if someone were to minor in social, biological, cognitive, or developmental psychology, they would need only to accrue six additional units in the area of study.

In compliance with the APA’s Commission on Accreditation’s (CoA) Standards on Accreditation, our program requires students enroll in coursework that provides Discipline-Specific Knowledge (DSK). CoA conceptualizes DSK as foundational knowledge students must acquire in addition to the competencies required to work effectively as a health service psychologist. The DSK requirements are for courses in history and systems, basic content areas in psychology (referred to below as breadth requirements), advanced integrative knowledge, research methods, quantitative methods, and psychometrics. Our program offers discreet courses covering all of these requirements.

In addition to APA’s requirements for Discipline-specific Knowledge, we are required by the CoA to outline Minimal Levels of Achievement (MLAs), below which would be unsatisfactory. In the spring of 2017, the program faculty elected to use a course grade of B or S (in ungraded courses) as our MLA. Any student who receives a grades below a B or S will need to either (a) identify a suitable remediation plan in conjunction with course instructor and DCT, or (b) take another course that covers that DSK and receive a grade above the MLA.

The following outline includes indicators of progression through the program– for example, certain courses should be taken in specified years, and the comprehensive exam (often called, prelims or comps) has to be completed and the dissertation proposal approved before a student is eligible for internship application.

Departmental Requirements

1.  Courses

500a  History (3 units, fall of first year)

586   Ethics (3 units, spring of first year)

Statistics and Methods, 9 credits, as follows:  (1) Introductory Statistics, PSYC 510 with an associated lab that includes programming applications; (2) One or more of the following advanced courses in Research Design and Statistical Analysis: PSYC 507a Research Design and Statistical Analysis (with lab), PSYC 507b, Research Methods and Statistics (with lab), FSHD 537, Introduction to Applied Statistical Analysis, FSHD 617C, Multilevel Modeling, or FSHD 617A: Structural Equation Modeling; or, (3) A course offered in another department if approved by the CTC, or, (4) An independent study supervised by an instructor with statistical expertise, with a course outline approved by the student’s graduate committee.

Statistics Minor:  Students have two options to obtain a minor in statistics. The Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Statistics offers a 12 unit minor that requires the foundational course STAT 566 with other coursework agreed to by the graduate committee. A faculty from the statistics GIDP must be included on the graduate committee. Information on the statistics minor can be obtained at http://stat.bio5.org/?q=curricula.html#statminor. The other alternative is for students to do a minor in Psychology with an emphasis in statistics.  This requires an additional three (3) 3-unit courses agreed upon by the graduate committee; these three courses are in addition to those used to fulfill the major requirement.

NOTE: Students sometimes enter the program with a fair amount of statistics training. PSYC 510 is an introduction to graduate statistics.  Accordingly, if a student has a moderately strong background in undergraduate statistics, or math, or has taken any graduate statistics, he or she is welcome to take a test to “place out” of the 510 course. Contact Dave Sbarra to learn more about taking this placement test with AJ Figueredo. If a student places out of 510, they are still required to take nine units of statistics courses, unless they formally demonstrate that they have taken equivalent classes elsewhere.  Formal transfer credit can be arranged in this situation (see below).

2.  Master’s project.  A proposal should be approved by the beginning of the second year, with the thesis completed by end of second year or the beginning of the third year. All aspects of this project must conform with the Department of Psychology requirements: http://psychology.arizona.edu/academics/phd-program-requirements-and-policies#Master%E2%80%99s%20Degree%20Requirements . The Master’s proposal should be written in either an empirical paper format or in an R01 grant proposal format (similar to the dissertation proposal), and approved by the student’s committee as a result of a committee meeting.  The committee is composed of two faculty members, at least one of which is a core Clinical faculty. Note: Students are required to complete a study involving original data collection for either their master’s or dissertation. Appendix C includes detailed information about the departmental requirements for the master’s project. Finally, all 2nd-year students are required to present their master’s at the Spring poster session in April of each year.

3. Comprehensive Examination (written and oral).

The written component comes before the oral exam; the written component has to be approved by the student’s committee prior to scheduling the oral exam, and both written and oral components of the comprehensive exam must be completed before approval of dissertation proposal. Students have two options for the written component: (1) An examination, the format of which (open or closed book) is determined by the student, his/her advisor, and the committee. The exam usually takes place over the course of a few days after a period of preparation. Students taking the examination option consult with their committee members to determine the exact scope of the areas they should study for each member. Test questions are derived from these agreed-up areas of study. The examination is scheduled for a specific time; or, (2) A comprehensive review paper, typically to those published in the journals Psychological Bulletin, Clinical Psychology Review, Perspectives in Psychological Science, or other discipline-specific journals. The parameters of the review paper are discussed with the committee members prior to the commencement of writing. Faculty members may provide feedback, and students are encouraged to get their committee to agree on the general scope of the review paper.

The comps committee is composed of four faculty members, at least three of which are core clinical faculty. Students may petition the CTC directly (email John Allen) to request a change in the core faculty requirement for the comps committee.

4. Dissertation.  The dissertation is an empirical study. The study can be based on original data collection, secondary data analyses of an existing dataset from which the student carves new questions, or a meta-analytic study.  A qualitative literature review or theoretical paper does not qualify for a dissertation. Before students are eligible to apply for internship, and no later than two weeks before the first deadline for submission of application materials, the student must: (a) submit a dissertation proposal written as a NIH grant proposal, (b) assemble the committee for a proposal meeting, and, (c) obtain the committee’s approval for the proposed plan.  For guidelines on format and content of the proposal, see Appendix B.  The dissertation committee is composed of four faculty members, at least three of which are core clinical faculty.

Clinical Program Requirements

1.  Courses and practica

Assessment Sequence (Year 1)

621   Clinical Assessment Methods:  3 units, Fall [Allen]

694a  Clinical Assessment Practicum:  2 units, Fall [Allen]

3 units, Spring [Prouty]

Intervention Sequence (Year 2)

625a,b  Psychosocial Interventions (Clinical Research Methods): 4 units, Fall & Spring  [Lawrence, Hamann]

697 & Intervention Seminar (3 credits) 3 units, Fall & Spring [Sbarra & Bowen]

694b  Intervention Practicum (2 credits) 2 units, Fall & Spring [Sbarra & Bowen]                                              

Externship (Years 3 and 4)

Clinical work outside the department in university and community agencies, usually about 20 hr/wk in the third year and 10 hr/wk in the fourth year.  All students on externship are required to register for 694c during their third year in the program. Students must attend the seminar for two academic semesters, but be enrolled during their third year.

694c  Consultation & Supervision: 1 unit, Fall & Spring [Shisslak]
Students typically enroll in 696c in their 3rd year in the program.

Optional Practicum:

694d  Clinical Neuropsychology Practicum [Grilli]
694d is a prerequisite for completing one of the program’s neuropsychology-oriented externships 

694f  Couple & Family Therapies [Lawrence]
Psychopathology course (before the second semester of year 3)

582   Advanced Psychopathology: 3 units, one semester [O’Connor]

2.  Breadth of scientific psychology (see details in narrative, below):  

I. Biological aspects of behavior [area instructor: Allen]

One of the following courses: Psyc 504a (Brain and Behavior), or Psyc 585 (Psychoneuroimmunology).

Students may also complete our “portfolio system” for completing this DSK/breadth requirement (see the narrative description of the portfolio system, below). The portfolio course is as follows:

Psyc 696b, Biological Bases of Behavior

As described, our portfolio sequence can be taken when students have already taken a course that covers at least ⅓ of the breadth area requirements, and these classes are as follows: Psyc 502 (Principles of Neuroanatomy), Psyc 501 (Psychophysiology)

II. Cognitive aspects of behavior [area instructor: Grilli]

Psyc 506b (Foundations of Cognitive Psychology), or Psyc 696c (Cognitive/Affective Bases of Behavior—with O’Connor)

Students may also complete our “portfolio system” for completing this DSK requirement (see the supporting document describing the portfolio requirements). The portfolio course is as follows: Psyc 696c (Cognitive/Affective Bases of Behavior)* 

(* Psyc 696c is taught as a seminar every other year with Dr. O’Connor, but can be taken with Dr. Grilli as part of the portfolio sequence as well.)

As described, our portfolio sequence can be taken when students have already taken a course that covers at least ⅓ of the breadth area requirements, and these classes are as follows: Psyc 517 (Introduction to Cognitive Science), Psyc 526 (Advanced Human Memory), Psyc 528 (Cognitive Neuroscience)

III. Affective aspects of behavior [area instructor: O’Connor]

Psyc 696c (Cognitive and Affective Bases of Behavior—with O’Connor)

Affective science content is also infused into the following courses: Psyc 697 (Clinical Interventions); Psyc 625 a and b (Clinical Research Methods), Psyc 504a (Brain and Behavior); Psych 585 (Psychoneuroimmunology); Psyc 501 (Psychophysiology)

IV. Social aspects of behavior [area instructor: Sbarra]

Psyc 560 (Advanced Social Psychology)

Students may also complete our “portfolio system” for completing this DSK requirement (see the supporting document describing the portfolio requirements). The portfolio course is as follows: Psyc 696s, Social Psychological Bases of Behavior [Sbarra])

As described, our portfolio sequence can be taken when students have already taken a course that covers at least ⅓ of the breadth area requirements, and these classes are as follows: Psyc 596a (Culture and Psychology), Psyc 696s (The Science of Gender Identity), Psyc 596a (Attitudes and Social Cognition),

V. Developmental aspects of behavior [area instructor: Sbarra]

One of the following courses: Psyc 583a (Lifespan Developmental Psychopathology; SERP 601 (Cognition and Development; in Educational Psychology Dept)

Students may also complete our “portfolio system” for completing this DSK requirement (see the supporting document describing the portfolio requirements). The portfolio course is as follows: Psyc 6964, Human Development Across Life-Span [Sbarra]

As described, our portfolio sequence can be taken when students have already taken a course that covers at least ⅓ of the breadth area requirements, and these classes are as follows: FSHD 603/ ANTH 695D, (Topics in Social and Psychobiological Development in Childhood: “Stress, Development, and Health: A Biological Embedding Approach”); Psyc 504b (Clinical Neuropsychology:Dementias)

Advanced Integrative Knowledge

In addition to the five DSK breadth area requirements, students are also required to take at least one class that provides “advanced integrative knowledge,” defined as a course that integrates at least two of the breadth area DSK topics. Presently, in our curriculum, the following courses provide advanced integrative knowledge:

  • Psyc 696c: Cognitive/Affective Bases of Behavior (Cognitive Affective)
  • Psyc 585: Psychoneuroimmunology (Biological-Cognitive)
  • SERP 601:Cognition and Development in Education (Cognitive-Developmental)
  • Psyc 504a Human Brain-Behavior Relationships (Biological-Cognitive)
  • Psyc 587 Foundations of Health Psychology (Biological-Affective)

NOTE: Each semester new courses are added/deleted from the University course catalog. Students who are interested in taking a class not listed above for potential full or partial fulfillment of a breadth area requirement should consult the 696 instructor of record (Allen: Biological; Grilli: Cognitive, O’Connor: Affective; Sbarra: Human Development; and Sbarra: Social) and ask them to evaluate the specific class syllabus in order to determine if the course provides full or partial fulfillment within a specific breadth area. It is the requirement of each student to provide the 696 faculty of record with the syllabi for approval; if a class is not listed above, it cannot be used to fulfill any breadth area requirements without the 696 faculty member’s approval in advance of a student taking the course.

3.   Predoctoral internship

The predoctoral internship is a full-time, 12-month (or, part-time, 24-month) training experience in either a CoA and APPIC-accredited setting, or in a setting approved by the Clinical Training Committee (CTC). To successfully meet the Clinical Program’s internship requirements, all students must have documented completion (in the form of a letter or certificate) from their internship demonstrating that they have completed all required training. If the student completes a non-accredited training experience, we require they document their planned training experiences (in the form of a written training plan) to provide for license eligibility in Arizona prior to initiating the training experience. This written training plan constitutes the scope of the work the student will engage in during the internship experience. Students working in a non-accredited (APA or APPIC) internship settings will have satisfied this requirement when their internship Director of Clinical Training documents that the student has completed all requirements outlined in their written training plan.

4. Diversity science is infused into all aspects of the curriculum.

From the Department of Psychology’s Diversity Committee:

“The Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona is strongly committed to supporting diversity in all areas including but not limited to age, socioeconomic background, race/ethnicity, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, language, disabilities, and the intersection of multiple underserved identities. We strive to foster a respectful and affirming climate in which all students, staff, and faculty are valued and feel inspired to achieve their full potential.

“Consistent with the broader University of Arizona commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Excellence, the Department of Psychology seeks Io facilitate understanding and valuing of diversity through its education, training, and research endeavors. Examples of these efforts are detailed below. Moreover, the Department is committed to attracting, admitting, and educating students from the broad spectrum of underrepresented backgrounds without limitations.

“The Department's newly-formed Diversity Committee will ensure that issues of diversity are addressed in all aspects of Department functioning. These efforts include identifying information and resources to facilitate our students ‘and colleagues‘ success, supporting and promoting department efforts to be a leader in diversity scholarship, and advocating for the valuing of diversity in curricula, graduate student recruitment, and faculty recruitment.

Indeed, ‘valuing diversity is a core tenant of what it means to be a Wildcat.’ "

The Clinical Program implements an infusion model in order to train and educate our students in multicultural competencies broadly, as well as in diversity science and intervention more specifically. We integrate diversity training throughout our curriculum, thus infusing multicultural perspectives into all aspects of training through readings, class activities, and lectures. Training and education in multicultural competencies are addressed in the students’ clinical training, coursework, research, training to be a teacher, and training in supervision and consultation. Additionally, we strive to make our program a safe space for each person’s individual multicultural development. Our broad goal is to build on their integrated awareness, knowledge and skills related to multiculturalism. Consistent with research and best practice recommendations in multicultural training, we incorporate a range of pedagogical approaches incorporating research, and experiential components: Diversity training is included through both specific readings assigned, through in-class activities and discussion, and through lectures; through their research training, students work with faculty to answer questions related to diversity and study a diverse range of populations; and, multicultural competency is prioritized in students’ clinical training as well.

5.   Elective courses, areas of emphasis, minor tracks, and additional clinical practica

Elective Courses listed in the Graduate Catalogue can be part of major or minor requirements. Graduate students who decide to take the clinical neuropsychology area of emphasis are required to take the complete Clinical neuropsychology sequence, including a basic course on Brain and Behavior (504a) followed by Clinical Neuropsychology: Dementias (504b).  Both courses are pre-requisite for the Clinical Neuropsychology Practicum (694d), which is a prerequisite for completing one of the program’s neuropsychology-oriented externships (see the Clinical Neuropsychology Sequence for more detail).  Although not required for the clinical neuropsychology sequence, students in this area of emphasis are also encouraged to take the Neuroanatomy (502) and graduate courses from the Neuroscience (NRSC) program. Sequence Director: Grilli.

In addition, students can take courses in the Health Psychology Minor Track (described in detail below), which includes Foundations in Health Psychology (offered in the fall semesters with Ruiz, Psyc 587), Behavioral Medicine Interventions (offered in the spring semesters with Hamann, Psyc 588), as well as one other elective course. Sequence Director: Ruiz

The breadth of scientific psychology and a portfolio of independent study

Among the core values of our program is that psychology is one discipline, not separate, Balkanized programs. Some of the most exciting advances occur through interactions at the interface of separate areas. Research and practice in clinical psychology are enriched through collaboration with investigators in basic psychological processes and basic psychological science is enriched through attempts to understand clinical processes. Students select from broad, general courses in biological bases of behavior, cognitive and affective bases of behavior, social bases of behavior, and human development across the life span. These courses are taught by faculty experts and clinical graduate students are enrolled with students from other program areas. In other words, these courses are not tailored to clinical psychology interests, but are broad graduate level courses in basic processes (see the list of courses in the previous section).

In many instances, students have acquired substantial expertise in a particular breadth area so that taking a general course in that area is repetitive and hinders students from advancing their expertise in new technologies or more specialized knowledge. To further tailor our program to the needs of the students, but to ensure that all students acquire the needed breadth in the areas listed above, we have created a competency-based training and a parallel structure in each of five breadth areas: biological, cognitive, affective, and social bases of behavior, as well as human development across the life span. Each area has an instructor who is a core clinical faculty with expertise in the specific breadth area (Allen: Biological; Grilli: Cognitive, O’Connor: Affective; Sbarra: Human Development; and Sbarra: Social). Each of these instructors conduct a core course of the Psyc 696 series (696b,c,d, and s for biological, cognitive, developmental, and social, respectively) that is composed of the area’s cutting-edge topics and literature. Students who have acquired considerable expertise in an area, but may still need to cover some specific topics that would have been covered in a general course, can enroll in a 696 course to acquire the appropriate knowledge.

The faculty member in charge of each 696 course makes admission decisions and monitors student progress. As a general rule, admission is granted if a student already has adequate knowledge of at least a third of the material covered by the course syllabus, as evaluated by the area instructor. Students who want to be admitted to a 696 course should review the syllabus and meet with the instructor to evaluate existing competencies. 

Students can meet the breadth requirements in no more than two of the breadth areas by taking competency-based Psyc 696 courses. The other two breadth areas are to be covered by one of the approved area courses via the following process: Area-instructors review syllabi of other courses in the area and approve of courses whose coverage of the area is broad. If a student is interested in taking a course that is judged by the instructor as too narrow, the instructor guides the student to take specific topics or components of the area’s core (696) course so that the student can gain competency in the rest of the breadth area. 

The materials for the 696 courses can be covered in one semester or can be accumulated throughout several semesters, the final of which is the semester for which the student registers.  Students’ portfolios is periodically reviewed by the core clinical faculty responsible for the specific breadth area and when the student is ready, an evaluation of competency is administered by Allen (biological), Grilli (cognitive) O’Connor (affective), Sbarra (human development), and Sbarra (social).  The evaluation of students’ competencies in each breath area is determined by the responsible faculty and summative evaluations typically include (but are not limited to) a synthetic review paper or grant proposal. All students are expected to maintain a detailed reading list as evidence of complete coverage of the breadth area material in question.

An additional about graduate coursework: Obtaining full exemptions from courses

On occasion, students enter the program having taken graduate courses that fulfill the requirements of the core statistics sequence course and/or one or more other required courses. If a student and their advisor of record believe the student has previously covered most or all of the topics covered in the departmental statistics sequence or one of the other program and departmental requirements (e.g., Psychopathology, History of Psychology), the student may petition the DCT (Sbarra) for full exemption from a given class. To petition the DCT, students should identify relevant University of Arizona instructors for the courses in question, review these choices with the DCT, and then ask relevant Departmental instructors to review prior coursework.  Typically, students will email the instructor indicating that they have previously taken course X (e.g., “two introductory graduate statistics courses”) and are seeking an exemption from the department’s or clinical area’s requirements for this course. They should provide all relevant supporting information and ask the instructor to review the material to decide if this meets the requirements of their course. The student should CC the DCT on this email and ask the instructor to make an email recommendation about exemption directly to the DCT. The student may, at the discretion of instructor, need to meet with the instructor to clarify the material covered in the course, as syllabi and course descriptions sometimes prove insufficient.  If the instructor feels the course requirements have been met, the student will be exempt from this departmental or clinical requirement.  Students who have taken graduate courses in one of the four breadth areas should consult with the instructor of the respective 696 course (see p. 11 of the Handbook). If the DCT has concerns regarding a student’s exemption, the matter will be considered further by the Clinical Training Committee (CTC), who will make a final decision about the course requirement in question.  

There is a difference between having a course requirement waived (for example, if a student wants to “place out” of statistics) and receiving formal transfer credit for graduate-level classes taken at other institutions. According to UA Grad College policy, students can formally transfer up to 12 credits from another institution. These courses need formal recognition on the student’s Plan of Study and need approval by the DCT (Sbarra), as well as the Director of Graduate Studies. Consult the Program Director to begin the process of formally transferring graduate credits. Students who wish to receive formal transfer credit for courses from a prior university/graduate program should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies; all other inquiries should be directed to the DCT (Sbarra).

Receiving “Credit” for a Master’s Degree Received Elsewhere

Some students who enter the graduate program have master’s degrees from other institutions. Students can receive “credit” toward the master’s thesis requirement in the UA Psychology Department by demonstrating that they have completed an equivalent thesis elsewhere. To demonstrate this, a student consults with their advisor and convenes a committee that includes their core clinical advisor, anther core faculty member, and a third faculty member (who does need to be a core clinical member). The student provides each of these readers with a copy of their thesis and asks that they inform their advisor whether or not the thesis meets the Psychology Department requirements. If all readers agree that the thesis passes our requirements, their advisor will contact the Program Director to indicate that they have fulfilled the Departmental requirement. The Program Director should then contact the Graduate Secretary to note that the student has formally passed this program requirement; formal recognition of this program requirement will be placed in their file. The student will not need to complete another master’s thesis.

Components and sequences of the curriculum: A summary

  • The first-semester history of psychology (500a), the second semester of ethics (586), and the two semesters of statistics and methods (beginning with 510) establish the general foundation of knowledge, understanding, and professionalism; and socialize students to careers in clinical science.
  • An assessment sequence, including a basic theoretical-methodological course (621) followed by a basic didactic Assessment Practicum (694a). Sequence director: Allen.
  • An intervention sequence, including a year-long seminar on Psychosocial Interventions (625a,b) that runs parallel to the Intervention Practicum (697 and 694b) and is followed by the Consultation and Supervision seminar (694c), which runs parallel to the clinical Externship in community agencies. Sequence directors: Sbarra and Bowen.
  • Optional: Clinical neuropsychology sequence, including a basic course on Brain and Behavior Relationships (504a), followed by Clinical Neuropsychology: Dementias(504b) and Neuroanatomy (502).  504A and 504B are pre-requisites for the Clinical Neuropsychology Practicum (694d). Sequence director: Grilli.  The Health Psychology Minor Track includes Foundations in Health Psychology (587) and Behavioral Medicine Interventions (#TBD), as well an additional elective course.
  • A course in advanced psychopathology (582)
  • Breadth requirements in the areas of biological, cognitive/affective, social psychology, and life-span development.
  • Courses that expand the scope of research methods from basic to field research and evaluation of mental health programs and policies, and a module on psychotherapy research within the required intervention seminar.
  • Courses that cover professional standards and ethics.
  • Most courses include coverage of cultural diversity and other dimensions of individual differences.
  • In addition to courses the program includes (a) continuous research development throughout the student's residence in the program including the completion of a master's thesis and a doctoral dissertation, and (b) continuous supervised clinical experience that enables students to accumulate about 500-700 direct clinical hours before they qualify for the required predoctoral internship.