Training in Clinical and Counseling Psychology

Choose the Right Program for Your Goals

Therapist in session in their office
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Graduate school applicants who want a career in the field of psychology often assume that training in clinical or counseling psychology will prepare them for practice, which is a reasonable assumption, but not all doctoral programs offer similar training. There are several kinds of doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology, and each offers different training. Consider what you want to do with your degree -- counsel patients, work in academia or do research -- when you decide which program is best for you.

Considerations in Selecting Graduate Programs 

As you consider applying to clinical and counseling programs remember your own interests. What do you hope to do with your degree? Do you want to work with people and practice psychology? Do you want to teach and conduct research at a college or university? Do you want to conduct research in business and industry or for the government? Do you want to work in public policy, conducting and applying research to address social problems? Not all doctoral psychology programs will train you for all of these careers. There are three types of doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology and ​two different academic degrees.

Scientist Model

The scientist model emphasizes training students for research. Students earn a Ph.D., a doctor of philosophy, which is a research degree. Like other science Ph.Ds., clinical and counseling psychologists trained in scientist programs focus on conducting research. They learn how to ask and answer questions through conducting carefully designed research. Graduates of this model get jobs as researchers and college professors. Students in scientist programs are not trained in practice and, unless they seek additional training after graduation, they are not eligible to practice psychology as therapists.

Scientist-Practitioner Model

The scientist-practitioner model is also known as the Boulder Model, after the 1949 Boulder Conference on Graduate Education in Clinical Psychology in which it was first created. Scientist-practitioner programs train students in both science and practice. Students earn Ph.D.s and learn how to design and conduct research, but they also learn how to apply research findings and practice as psychologists. Graduates have careers in academia and practice. Some work as researchers and professors. Others work in practice settings, such as hospitals, mental health facilities, and private practice. Some do both.

Practitioner-Scholar Model

The practitioner-scholar model is also referred to as the Vail model, after the 1973 Vail Conference on Professional Training in Psychology, when it was first articulated. The practitioner-scholar model is a professional doctoral degree that trains students for clinical practice. Most students earn Psy.D. (doctor of psychology) degrees. Students learn how to understand and apply scholarly findings to practice. They are trained to be consumers of research. Graduates work in practice settings in hospitals, mental health facilities, and private practice.

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Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Training in Clinical and Counseling Psychology." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, August 26). Training in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. Retrieved from Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Training in Clinical and Counseling Psychology." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).