Clinical Training and Field Placement

Our distinctive approach to clinical psychology training is guided by a vision of clinical practice that emphasizes a holistic and relational approach to the human condition. We teach students the value of open inquiry into self and other. At the center of this inquiry is the whole person who exists in relationship with other persons, with communities, with cultural meaning systems, and with nature. We believe that psychological suffering often has to do with the fracturing of these crucial relationships. Consistent with the visionary CIIS mission, we view the educational process itself as holistic and relational, and we aspire to "walk our talk" as a learning community - one that is creative and transformative on both personal and professional levels.

Clinical training the CIIS PsyD program is fully integrated with the academic work. After completing qualifying first-year courses and satisfactory faculty evaluation, each student gains two to three years of practicum experience in community agencies.

The typical supervised practicum experience requires about 20 hours a week at the training site. A minimum of one hour per week of individual supervision by a licensed psychologist, group supervision, and didactic trainings are offered at these off-campus sites.

At the same time, students complete companion proseminar courses at CIIS with a core faculty member; "prosems" support integration of theory, research, and clinical materials from classroom learning with the real world experience of psychotherapy in clinical settings. Prosem is the heart of clinical training in the PsyD program. Here students receive intensive, individually focused training and mentorship in small yearlong groups.

The PsyD Program maintains relationships with more than two dozen agencies in the wider San Francisco Bay areas where second and third year students may apply for practicum training.  Students apply to sites that match their interests and skill level; they are urged to obtain differing training experiences.

Students learn about available practicum opportunities by perusing a searchable database that contains information about client populations, therapeutic modalities, location, and other aspects of the training offered.

When all required coursework and practica have been completed, students may begin the clinical internship at an approved training site. Specific sites are listed on websites of the California Psychology Internship Council (CAPIC) and the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC).

The internship may be one year of full-time or two years of half-time work and must be completed within two and a half years from the beginning date. Trainees are placed in supervised professional work in different service settings located in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in the United States.

In the settings, students deepen their skills in offering a variety of psychological services including treatment planning and psychotherapy, psychological assessment, case consultation, and supervision, often working in multidisciplinary teams, across the spectrum of psychopathologies as they are presented in diverse populations.

Support for the process of selecting, applying for, and completing practicum and internship experiences is offered by the PsyD Director of Clinical Training and Field Placement Specialist.

The program maintains a database of training sites, describing their staff, client population, and therapeutic modalities. Students choose training sites based on their own goals and interests, with the assistance of the PsyD Placement Team.

Research Training & Dissertation

The mission of the PsyD Program is to train psychology practictioners rather than researchers.  However, all PsyD graduate will have mastered research skills sufficient to produce a clinical dissertation and adequate to prepare them to be proficient consumers of psychological science. To that end, research training in the PsyD curriculum is offered in the research sequence. The sequence is cumulative, beginning with coursework in statistics, research design, and skill-building in both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

Research training in the PsyD program is notable in the breadth of topics chosen by students, including, for example, treatment outcome studies, applied program evaluation studies, studies of underserved populations, and studies of psychospiritual issues, as well as the range of research methodologies employed.

Research training is conducted in the context of broader values. In particular, the Program's practitioner-scholar training model emphasizes psychological science as the cornerstone of effective clinical practice.  This philosophical commitment is reflected throughout the curriculum, and consists of three core elements.  These are:

1.    Science as a mode of disciplined inquiry.

In addition to constituting a body of knowledge, science is equally crucial to the education of professional psychologists as the principal method through which that knowledge is generated.  Science (as method) is "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment" (Oxford Learner's Dictionaries, retrieved from Accordingly, students in our program are expected to become not only knowledgeable "consumers" of science, but also skilled in the application of scientific methods. Coursework in Psychometric Theory, a two-semester Research Design and Statistics sequence, and Dissertation Research Seminar are designed to lead students through a process, graded in complexity, of learning how to formulate research questions and design systematic processes of inquiry appropriate for addressing those questions.  The Program's approach is guided by the NCSPP model which assumes that the epistemological basis of disciplined inquiry in psychology must be comprehensive; responsive to wide-ranging, diverse, and fluid social contexts; and cognizant of invariably embedded values. This condition requires multiple ways of knowing that inform and enrich each other and that are appropriate and sensitive to the diverse populations to which they are applied. These ways of knowing include an enhanced array of methods drawn from related fields of inquiry-quantitative and qualitative, objective and subjective. 

Our students are, therefore, introduced to a diverse array the research methods, including randomized-controlled trials, process-outcome studies, qualitative and ethnographic research, meta-analysis, studies of interventions in naturalistic settings, and systematic case studies, all of which are recognized as potential contributors to the "best available research evidence" base in our field (APA, 2006).   Science as a mode of disciplined inquiry is, thus, accorded a central role in how students are educated as professional psychologists in our program.

2.    Science as a body of knowledge. 

We believe that effective clinical practice depends on mastery of the knowledge base of psychological science, as developed through research.  While coursework in Lifespan Development, Psychopathology, Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior, and Biological Bases of Behavior entails the scientific study of individuals, we also believe that human psychology is deeply influenced by its relational, cultural, and environmental contexts.  As such, students in the Program are also expected gain a scientific understanding of how individuals interact with others, behave in groups, and relate to the broader contexts in which they live their lives.  This emphasis on the science of "individuals-in-context" finds particular expression in coursework in Social Psychology, Culture and Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality, Religion and Spirituality, and Neuroscience and Spirituality.  All of these courses are principally focused on establishing psychological science as a knowledge base for professional practice.

Intervention courses provide a key context for such integration.  For this purpose, the Program strongly endorses the scientifically-grounded "evidence-based practice of psychology (EBPP)."  In accordance with recent advances, students are taught to integrate "the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture and preferences" (APA, 2006).  This begins in the first year, with coursework in the Foundations series.  Basic clinical skills, including how to express empathy, establish professional boundaries, maintain positive therapeutic relationships, develop and deepen rapport, and create collaborative treatment plans, are here introduced along with research supporting the importance of the "common factors" evidenced to have a significant impact on treatment outcome (Lambert et al, 2014; Laska et al, 2014).  As students progress into their second and third years, they receive broad-based education in evidence-based treatment and its application.  The curriculum includes courses in the theory and practice of the "big three" approaches to psychotherapy: Psychodynamic (Shedler, 2010), humanistic/existential (Bazzano, 2014; Cooper et al, 2012; Schulenberg, 2015; Wampold, 2012; Van Doesum & Takens, 2013), and cognitive-behavioral (Beck & Dozois, 2014), as well as emerging treatment approaches (e.g., Linehan & Dexter-Mazza, 2008; Hayes et al. 2011).  Subsequently, as students prepare for pre-doctoral internship in the ProSeminar series, they learn to apply basic science and intervention-related knowledge to complex real-life clinical cases.

3.    Science as a reflexive practice. 

Consistent with the NCSPP model, we believe that professional psychologists should "be scientifically educated and trained in all aspects of their education, not just when they are conducting research or evaluation" (Peterson, et al) .  We interpret this statement to mean not simply that science (as knowledge or method) is foundational in all aspects of the curriculum, but also that professional competence requires the cultivation and maintenance of scientific-mindedness.  As an applied attitude, this most fundamentally involves knowing what to observe, how to formulate meaningful questions, as well as the abilities to consider alternate explanations, maintain curiosity in the face of ambiguity, develop cogent rationales, and pursue "data driven" intervention strategies responsive to individual differences and interpersonal patterns. Put another way, and following Peterson, et al. (2010), we seek to train professional psychologists who continually engage the questions "How do you know?" and "Does it [a particular research finding or theory] apply?"  Scientific mindedness is therefore conceived as a reflexive practice whereby one carefully and systematically weighs various forms of evidence (including that generated by self-reflection) for possible application in a specific instance. The importance of specific (or local) circumstances, as we conceive of them, is well encapsulated in the definition of EPPP as an integration of research with "clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture and preferences" (APA, 2006, p. 273).

The ability to engage science as a reflexive practice, like the accumulation of science as body of knowledge or mastery of science as a mode of inquiry, develops in cumulative fashion over the course of the Program.  As educators it is a particular pleasure to witness students' transition from expressing opinions and making assertions early in their training to asking pertinent questions, weighing evidence, and identifying questionable assumptions as they progress through the curriculum.  In our view, critical thinking of this sort is underwritten by science as a reflective practice, and operationalized in attitudinal elements that permeate our version of the practitioner-scholar model.

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