Clinical Practica

Clinical training is considered an integral part of the doctoral program in clinical psychology. Clinical practica are organized to ensure a progression of clinical training experiences that correspond with the sequence of the course curriculum. Clinical practicum training plays an important role in the integration of theory, research and practice. Clinical practice provides opportunities for students to integrate critical thinking and hypotheses testing into their clinical activities and to assimilate an empirical, scientifically informed approach to clinical practice. The department has a training clinic where students will at a minimum complete their first two years of clinical training, closely supervised by members of the clinical psychology faculty and clinic staff.

Clinical training will begin in the very first semester when incoming students will shadow advanced students, clinical faculty and clinic staff. The department also works collaboratively with a number of off-site practicum training sites in the Rio Grande Valley area. These settings include but are not limited to hospitals, medical centers, community mental health centers and the Department of Probation. In the first two years, students gain experience in general therapy and assessment skills. Subsequently they receive training in their chosen major area study of the three offered in the department neuropsychology, trauma/anxiety and integrative primary care. Although the department has a cognitive-behavioral orientation, the practicum training at the different sites exposes students to multiple theoretical orientations and evidenced based intervention techniques.

Beginning in the first year, each student begins a series of practicum experiences that will total a minimum of 1000 hours of clinical training by the time they apply for internships. Ideally, a student obtains a breadth of clinical experiences including diagnostic interviewing skills, assessment and intervention skills. Clinical practica in Years 1 and 2 are designed to provide students clinical training in general fundamental intervention and assessment skills. Training in the first two years is expected to prepare students for more advanced clinical training in years 3, 4, & 5 and eventually for internship in one of the three major program areas available.

First Year Students will be placed in the Department clinic. The objective of first year practicum training is to introduce students to a setting providing clinical services so that a student is able to understand the roles and functions of clinical psychologists. First year students are typically expected to spend 6-8 hours per week in clinical practicum training. In the first semester they will shadow advanced students, clinical psychology faculty or clinic staff. In the second semester they will be assigned two to four clients who they will provide therapy for under close supervision. All sessions will be video recorded and made available for the student’s clinical supervisor to facilitate the supervision process.

Second year students will also be placed in the department clinic and be expected to spend 8 – 10 hours a week in clinical training including assessment, intervention and supervision. They will be assigned a caseload of six clients including assessment and intervention under close supervision from a clinical faculty or staff member. In addition, and coinciding with the completion of the two assessment courses (PSY 6347 Assessment and Measurement in Children and Families & PSY 6346 Assessment and Measurement in Adults) in the fall semester of the second year, students will be required to complete 6 to 8 full psychological assessment batteries throughout the second year. Students will see a combination of child and adult clients presenting with different problems. The goal being for students to have received generalized training with both adults and children and to prepare them for the more advanced practica in years three and four.

After the second year, students may choose a clinical placement in one of the three major areas of study: neuropsychology, trauma/anxiety and integrative primary care. This coincides with the students taking an elective in their chosen area in the fall and another in the spring semester of the third year. After approval of the Master’s Thesis proposal, students may spend a maximum of 12- 15 hours per week in practicum training. Students at this level typically choose practicum placements that are more intensive and closely match their area of interest. These practicum placements will usually be at external practicum sites although students could opt to continue seeing clients at the clinic if for example they chose the anxiety/trauma major area of study. The Director of Clinical Training works with the student to facilitate specific placements. It would be beneficial for students to obtain some experience during their training in a placement other than the program’s training clinic since this would help them develop communication and multidisciplinary skills.

During the fifth year of training, while the students are applying for a full time APA accredited internship in their 6th year, students will be encouraged to pursue their clinical training by continuing to see a small number of clients in a setting of their own choosing. Additionally, if they so choose, they will be able to supervise one first year student, under close supervision from a faculty or staff supervisor. The goal is to allow students to obtain some experience with supervision of other professionals, which will be a requirement of their internship training. Again, the Director of Clinical Training will work closely with students in both of these options.

Clinical training philosophy: Students first meet with the DCT and their respective advisor to discuss training and career goals in order to determine the appropriate and required training experiences for that particular student and ensure that clinical training meets the needs of each individual student.

The program places a very strong emphasis on the acquisition of evidence based knowledge and practice in both assessment and intervention. As such, students will be required to learn to monitor their client’s treatment progress with respect to the chosen goals. In addition, clinical training will emphasize the application of evidence-based principles in both assessment and intervention from a comprehensive understanding of the individual client. All sessions will be held in either English or Spanish as per the patient’s preferred language.

All clinical training will be closely supervised by clinical faculty and staff following a 4:1 client contact: hours of supervision ratio, to ensure that students are receiving adequate supervision. All in house supervision will, in addition, be based on audiovisual recordings of all sessions. For external practica, primary supervision will be provided on-site; however, a secondary supervisor will be assigned from the faculty to assist if necessary.