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Clinical Psychology – PsyD Programs (Doctor of Psychology)

The doctoral program at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Washington DC has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1999. Most recently in 2009, it was reaccredited for seven years, the maximum length of reaccreditation. Both the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and Master of Arts (MA) programs provide a rigorous curriculum in psychotherapy, psychological assessment, and psychopathology.

Our program has a number of distinctive features. It has an integrative theoretical orientation supported by faculty with expert-level credentials in both specific psychotherapeutic modalities and in psychotherapy integration. We have a large clinical faculty, contributing to many clinical training opportunities in adult and child psychotherapy (embracing a variety of therapeutic modalities), neuropsychology, health psychology, couples and family therapy, forensic psychology, and multicultural factors in mental health.

Our proximity to Washington, DC, brings with it an extensive array of practicum opportunities. Students have the option to apply to our own APPIC member clinical pre-doctoral internship (Mid Atlantic Internship Consortium). Finally, our faculty offers numerous opportunities for those students interested in engaging in scholarship during their training. Each of these features is described in more detail below.

Philosophy of Integration

Our faculty endorses the overarching philosophy of integration: integration of theoretical perspectives, integration of theory and scholarship with practice, and integration of diversity and ethical issues within the curriculum. As specified in our training philosophy, this integration is a primary goal of our program. The program and the faculty view this integration as a process that must be part of every activity of a professional psychologist rather than as an end point to be achieved.

Integration of Multiple Theoretical Perspectives

The curriculum provides students with a broad array of theoretical perspectives in preparation for the general practice of clinical psychology. Required courses expose students to assessment and intervention strategies that are based on psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and systemic approaches. As a group, the core program faculty is also representative of this diversity.

Rather than being immersed in a single theoretical perspective, students are encouraged to consider these alternative perspectives, to critically evaluate the full range of theories and associated practices, and to be able to apply multiple theoretical perspectives to clinical issues. The capstone intervention course is Integrative Approaches to Psychotherapy.

The ultimate goal of this course and our programs broad exposure is to encourage students to begin to develop a metatheoretical perspective consistent with their own evaluation and with models of integration currently available and evolving in the field. It is of note that two of the original founders of and current members of the steering committee of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI; http//:sepiweb.org) are or have been associated with our program. George Stricker, Ph.D., ABPP, is a current member of our program, and Barry Wolfe, Ph.D., up until his retirement, was a member of our faculty.

Integration of Theory and Scholarship with Practice

The program conceptualizes scientific inquiry or research in a very broad sense. We view it both as a way of generating and accumulating a body of empirical knowledge and as a methodology and discipline for the development of critical thinking. The methods of scientific inquiry provide students with the ability to evaluate the evolving scientific and theoretical knowledge bases which can inform their practice, their ability to think in a systematic and disciplined manner about their clinical cases, and, if they so desire, their ability to generate original scholarship. Students are encouraged to be outcome oriented, to consider data and weigh evidence from various sources, and to consider alternative viewpoints.

These abilities serve as the basis for lifelong learning and professional problem solving. Students are expected to complete a sequence of courses in statistics and research methods during their second academic year that integrates statistical and methodological applications. These courses help to further develop and solidify the disciplined method of inquiry that is being practiced throughout the curriculum. Courses in our curriculum integrate a variety of clinical applications with relevant theory, empirical findings, appropriate scientific inquiry and critical thinking, and a respect for individual differences and diversity.

In all of these courses, the inclusion of original scientific literature pertinent to the topics covered is required to implement this integration. Examples of this integration are found in the psychopathology courses where theory is presented along with relevant empirical research and students are required to apply that knowledge base in a systematic fashion to diagnose and formulate cases presented through clinical vignettes. Intervention courses, such as Cognitive Behavioral Theory and Therapy, also illustrate this commitment to integration of scholarship and practice. Students in the course are required to read relevant empirical research and apply that knowledge when writing case formulations and treatment plans.

Integration of Diversity and Ethics

Both diversity issues and ethics are addressed within courses that specifically focus on these areas (Issues in the Assessment and Treatment of Diverse Populations, and Professional Issues: Ethics, Conduct, and Law). However, our faculty feel that sensitivity to diversity issues and an awareness of ethical conduct are of such importance that they need to be addressed and included within every course in the curriculum.

Specifically, the appreciation of the significance of diversity for the effective functioning of professional psychologists is such that there is a commitment to integrate it throughout the curriculum of ASPP. The fundamental need to explore and become sensitive to diversity issues is discussed in virtually every course and seminar. Required and elective coursework and seminars provide opportunities for students to explore cultural and individual differences and to examine their personal assumptions and attitudes.

For example, in the first year, Adult Psychopathology students are instructed as to the manner in which both symptoms and perception of psychopathology are affected by diversity characteristics such as race, gender, age, and cultural background. Practicum training in multicultural settings and with underserved populations enhances the trainees skills and attitudes in these areas and encourages further self-exploration. Our students may also choose to complete a concentration in the area of diversity. The value of diversity is emphasized through formal and informal interactions among our diverse faculty and student body, providing exposure to various perspectives on social and professional issues.

Issues related to the ethical professional practice of psychology permeate courses and experiences in the program. The ethical issues explored are tailored to match the content of the specific courses. Additionally, many of the issues discussed within the practicum seminars deal with the standards of practice and their ethical implications. The two-semester sequence of Statistics and Research Methods provide knowledge and direction in the relevant ethical and professional standards for human research and scholarly inquiry. Coupled with the infusion of ethics, there are two places where our professions ethical code and practice standards are formally presented to our students.

The first occurs during the initial semester in the Professionalization Group, and the second occurs during the 3rd year in the Professional Issues: Ethics, Conduct, and Law course. These two courses in some ways bookend our students experiences, with the first providing an introduction to the area needed to begin the training required of clinical psychologists and the second a broad and in depth coverage of the area needed for future practice. Students attainment of the necessary level of competency in this area is measured on the competency exam and from the reports of site supervisors.

Clinical Electives

We have offered clinical electives (based, in part, upon student interest) by recognized experts in a number of highly specialized areas including (but not limited to) neuropsychology, forensic psychology, substance use disorders, eating disorders, dialectical behavior therapy, group therapy, psychoanalytic therapy, experiential psychotherapy, play therapy, sex offender evaluation and treatment, treatment of traumatized populations, clinical practice with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered clients, and the psychology of ethnopolitical conflict.

Clinical Practica and Internship

Students receive a minimum of two years of off-site clinical training during their clinical practica, in which students provide supervised clinic services in an approved local treatment setting. Our practicum sites span the tri-region area of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, allowing for an enormous variety of placements.

Examples of the types of sites where our students have the opportunity to receive practicum training include (but are not limited to) adult and juvenile forensic settings, inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, residential treatment centers, private practices, university counseling centers, substance abuse facilities, behavioral medicine clinics, pediatric units, neuropsychological assessment sites, community mental health centers, school systems, and university hospitals.

The program provides extensive oversight for our training sites through a unique administrative structure known as the training department. Faculty members in our training department are primarily responsible for overseeing practicum sites and facilitating student placements in both clinical practica and pre-doctoral internships. While receiving training off-site, students also attend weekly practicum seminars on campus with a core faculty member. The practicum seminars allow students to interact with faculty about their clinical work. This experience not only provides additional consultation, but it helps students bridge clinical theory and research from their coursework to its real world application. Students typically attend their full-time clinical internship in the fifth year of training.

A unique feature of our program is the Mid Atlantic Internship Consortium (MAIC). MAIC is our program's own internship (Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers/APPIC-member) and open exclusively to students in our program. It offers approximately 20 internship positions at diverse sites in the DC area. The internship director is also a core faculty member in our program. MAIC significantly increases the opportunities for students to remain in the DC area for internship, to participate in a rich variety of training activities, and to connect with local postdoctoral opportunities to further their careers.

Student Professional Development and Scholarship

Student professional development, outside of program requirements, is strongly encouraged and supported. Many students attend professional conferences and workshops, and students may apply for funding from the university to help support these activities. Other students accompany faculty to lobby Congressional and Senate offices on Capitol Hill in support of mental health-related policies.

There are also opportunities for students to engage in scholarship during their training. A number of our students publish scholarly articles with faculty members and give presentations at professional meetings.

Eligibility for Licensure and Credentialing

This doctoral degree program is accredited by the APA (see Section One, Introduction) and meets the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards/National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology Guidelines for Defining Doctoral Degrees in Psychology. Therefore, graduates of this program who decide to apply for licensing as psychologists typically will meet the educational requirements for licensing. In each jurisdiction, however, there may be additional requirements that must be satisfied. It is the student’s responsibility to determine the requirements for professional licensure in the state in which they wish to practice. For exact information, please contact the state or provincial licensing board in the jurisdiction in which you plan to apply.

Once licensed, graduates are eligible to apply for credentialing as a Health Service Provider in Psychology. Graduation from a designated program ensures that the program you completed meets the educational requirements for listing in the National Register. However, there are additional requirements that must be satisfied prior to being listed in the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. For further information, consult the National Register’s Web site: www.nationalregister.com.