Our Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Program includes a variety of courses and other requirements designed to achieve its goals and objectives. The Program includes foundational course work which is applicable across specialties within psychology, course work relevant to the specialty of counseling psychology, practicum training, a master's-level research project and a dissertation, and a predoctoral internship in professional psychology which is completed toward the end of doctoral studies. Before applying for their internships, students must also complete the portfolio doctoral qualifying examination and have their dissertation proposals approved.
The Program includes a minimum of 91 graduate course credits. This includes 27 credits in Psychological Foundations, 52 credits in the Professional Core, and 12 credits of Research Requirements. Students who have completed some of these requirements elsewhere may petition to waive certain courses or the master's-level research project. Continuous enrollment is required of all students in the degree program, even during semesters when they are not taking courses (students are not required to continuously enroll during the summer, however).
Students in the Counseling Psychology Program complete extensive practicum and internship training in a variety of mental health and educational agencies in the Milwaukee area. Students are required to complete a minimum of 1000 clock hours of doctoral-level practicum after having completed a minimum of 600 hours of master's-level practicum. Each semester of practicum is normally 300 hours in length (i.e., 20 hours per week times 15 weeks in a semester), so this ordinarily requires a minimum of 6 semesters of practicum. For full-time post-baccalaureate students, practicum usually begins in the second year after they have completed the prerequisite coursework. Normally these 1600 hours of practicum are completed at a minimum of three different sites (often two semesters at each site), in order to expose students to a variety of sites, populations, assessment and treatment approaches, and supervisors. For those who enter the program having already completed post-baccalaureate clinical practice, only the first two semesters of practicum can be waived; none of the COPS 8965 requirement can be waived.
The first two semesters of post-baccalaureate practicum focus primarily on intake and intervention skills, while the following four semesters of practicum add psychological evaluation responsibilities and more specialized training. Each semester of practicum is supervised by a licensed psychologist and includes a developmentally-oriented curriculum which focuses on increasingly advanced topics as students progress through their clinical training (e.g., intake assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning in the first two semesters of practicum; formal psychological evaluations in the third semester of practicum; beginning to specialize, supervision of master's students, consultation, and program evaluation in the fifth semester of practicum). Emphasis is also placed on obtaining exposure to a variety of client populations and settings so that students are broadly prepared to begin professional practice.
Licensure requirements for professional psychologists in the United States also require that students complete a predoctoral internship. Students in our Program must complete a minimum of 2000 hours in an appropriate behavioral health setting as a psychology intern. The internship must be completed in no less than 12 months (i.e., working 40 hours per week for roughly 50 weeks) but in no more than 24 months (e.g., working 20 hours per week for 100 weeks).
Our Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Program is designed to prepare graduates who are highly skilled at both research and practice. Therefore, research in addition to clinical practice training is infused throughout the Program, and students are expected to be active researchers throughout their doctoral studies.
We view the acquisition of research skills from a developmental perspective. As with clinical skills, students need to learn how to do research over time, starting with more elementary aspects and gradually undertaking more complex responsibilities. As students proceed through their coursework, cumulatively learning about and gaining experience with research methodology and the field of counseling psychology, they will be able to engage in research more independently as they approach their dissertations. Learning how to do research starts in the first semester, and proceeds all the way through the end of students' dissertations and internships.
All of our courses integrate research into the course activities in one way or another. Even our practicum courses, which obviously focus a great deal on the development of clinical skills, require a consideration of the reliability and validity of clinical assessments and the empirical support for any interventions that are considered in a particular case. We also have a four-course sequence of classes which explicitly focus on the development of research skills. Three of these focus on quantitative skills (COPS 8310, 8320, 8311) while the fourth (COPS 8330) focuses on qualitative skills. Most of our new doctoral students have taken the prerequisites for COPS 8310, Intermediate Research and Statistics (i.e., COUN 6051 or their equivalents) in their previous coursework. On occasion, even students who have previously completed these classes retake one of them if a long time has passed or for other reasons they do not feel confident about their ability to enroll in COPS 8310 at the beginning of their program.
Collaborative Research Project. While the Program coursework is designed to help students develop many important research skills, several aspects of research cannot be learned without actively engaging in the research process under the guidance and supervision of experienced researchers. Therefore, we expect students to be actively involved in research throughout their doctoral program so that they can begin to apply their classroom learning, as well as learn other aspects of the research process that are not easily taught within the classroom. To ensure that this happens, we have two requirements for completing the "Collaborative Research Project" (CRP): participation on a research team, and writing a report of a research project in which the student participated.
Students who have conducted research as part of prior graduate-level training in one of the behavioral sciences should discuss that experience with their advisors to see if they have already met the requirements of the CRP. Undergraduate research experience cannot be used to satisfy this requirement. To formally request that this requirement be waived, students can submit a "Research Learning Agreement—Progress Report" summarizing the experience, along with the research report that they wrote as part of that prior research experience, to their advisors.
Students' dissertation research is a significantly larger undertaking than the CRP and usually aims to provide an original contribution to knowledge in counseling psychology. Students are also required to complete the Collaborative Research Project before they propose their dissertations.