2022-2023 Catalog 
    Jun 24, 2024  
2022-2023 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (San Diego)

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School: California School of Professional Psychology

Modality(ies): On-ground

Calendar(s): Semester

CIP Code: 42.2801

Program Description/Overview

The Clinical Psychology doctoral program prepares students to function as multifaceted clinical psychologists through curricula based on an integration of psychological theory, research and practice. The program is a practitioner and scholar-oriented program. The curriculum has four major areas of study: foundations of psychology, clinical and professional theory and skills, applied clinical research, and professional growth. Students interested in one of the following areas can further their individual career goals by taking a specialized series of courses, research and field placements related to that area.


Child/Family Emphasis

The program provides a solid generalist education and training in clinical psychology in accordance with the accreditation guidelines of the American Psychological Association. In addition, students may wish to focus their electives in a specific area in preparation of the pursuit of further specialization, which typically occurs at the postdoctoral level. 

“Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology is a specialty of professional psychology, which brings together the basic tenets of clinical psychology with a thorough background in child, adolescent and family development and developmental psychopathology. Clinical child and adolescent psychologists conduct scientific research and provide psychological services to infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents. The research and practices of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology are focused on understanding, preventing, diagnosing, and treating psychological, cognitive, emotional, developmental, behavioral, and family problems of children. Of particular importance to clinical child and adolescent psychologists is a scientific understanding of the basic psychological needs of children and adolescents and how the family and other social contexts influence socio-emotional adjustment, cognitive development, behavioral adaptation, and health status of children and adolescents. There is an essential emphasis on a strong empirical research base recognizing the need for the documentation and further development of evidence-based assessments and treatments in clinical child and adolescent psychology.” (Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology, https://www.cospp.org/clinical-child-psychology, downloaded January 14, 2020).

The aim of the Child/Family Emphasis area is to prepare students who are interested in specializing in child/family psychology by augmenting their generalist training with this foundational knowledge.

Health Psychology Emphasis

Health Psychology is concerned with biopsychosocial factors related to health and illness, the individuals affected, and the health care providers and institutions that serve them. Students who elect the Health Psychology Emphasis Area develop knowledge and skills that integrate the medical/biological domains and the psychological/social domains in order to provide a theoretical and practical foundation for the roles that clinical psychologists play in a variety of health care settings.

Military & Veteran Psychology Experience Area

The Military & Veteran Psychology Experience Area is designed to:

1. Provide students with an understanding of military and veteran culture for therapeutic practice with veterans and military personnel and their families.

2. Familiarize students with evidence-based interventions and resources available to clinicians treating these populations.

Multicultural/Diversity Emphasis

Alliant places great value on issues of individual and cultural diversity, and provides many opportunities to deepen students’ appreciation for and study of the role of diversity in people’s lives and their well-being. Our approach to multiculturalism incorporates diversity in many domains, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin and international status, age, social class, religion, and ability levels.

Central to traditional clinical psychology is the examination of factors known to be relevant to mental health/mental illness as western society has largely defined them. The goal of this emphasis area is to go beyond the traditional western, majority cultural viewpoint of individualism to consider cultural and societal level influences on the individual, as well as their influence on our conceptualization of normal and abnormal human behavior as a field.

The aim of the Multicultural/Diversity Emphasis area is to prepare students who are interested in specializing in this area of study and clinical application by augmenting their generalist training with this foundational knowledge.

Trauma Focused Forensic Experience

Competence in performing forensic work requires specialized training and practice at the postdoctoral level and is dependent on underlying foundational competency in the science and professional practice of psychology. The Trauma Focused Forensic Experience prepares students who are interested in specializing in Forensic Psychology by augmenting their generalist training with foundational knowledge of the core principles of the application of psychology to the legal system, including:

  1. foundations of the legal system (e.g., types of courts, expert witness requirements, responses to subpoenas);
  2. basic legal principles that are relevant to Forensic practice (e.g., Constitutional rights, statutory provisions, case law);
  3. differences in methodologies between general clinical assessment and forensic assessment;
  4. assessment of insanity and competency (relevant laws, sample evaluation materials);
  5. assessment issues in trauma populations;
  6. ethical issues that arise particularly in forensic contexts;
  7. sociocultural considerations relevant to forensic practice.

Program Learning Outcomes/Goals


Through various academic and training activities, including psychology courses, practicum and internship placements, and supervised research experiences, the San Diego PhD in Clinical Psychology program strives to achieve the following aims:

  1. To prepare students to be effective professional psychologists who are skilled at evaluating psychological functioning and providing empirically supported interventions with diverse clients across a range of settings.
  2. To prepare students to evaluate and conduct research in clinical psychology, therefore contributing to the knowledge base in the field.

Program Competencies

All students are expected to acquire and demonstrate substantial understanding of and competence in the following nine profession-wide competency areas:

  1. Research
  2. Ethical and Legal Standards
  3. Individual and Cultural Diversity
  4. Professional Values and Attitudes
  5. Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  6. Assessment
  7. Intervention
  8. Supervision
  9. Consultation and Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Skills

The competencies are met operationally through various academic and training activities that include courses, practicum and internship placements, and supervised research experiences. Multiple data sources are used to assess outcomes relative to these competencies. These competencies specify knowledge, attitudes, and skills that students are expected to achieve by the time they graduate from the program.

Discipline-Specific Knowledge

In addition, all students are expected to possess discipline-specific knowledge in the following four categories:

  1. History and Systems of Psychology
  2. The basic content areas of scientific psychology, including affective, biological cognitive, developmental, and social aspects of behavior.
  3. Advanced integrative knowledge in scientific psychology.
  4. Research Methods, Statistical Analysis, and Psychometrics.

Training Model

The program offers a well-integrated model of education and training in which research and theory clearly inform clinical practice and in which observations made in the clinical arena inform research questions. The curriculum is a well-balanced articulation of the competencies required for productive scholarship and multiculturally sensitive, evidence-based, professional practice.

Multiculturally relevant knowledge and skills are highly valued by the San Diego PhD clinical faculty and are infused throughout the curriculum. In addition, all students take a required course in multicultural competency development followed by one advanced, multicultural elective. Our selection of clinical practicum agencies affords excellent opportunities for our students to develop multi-culturally competent assessment and treatment skills. Similarly, the diverse community provides excellent opportunities for multicultural applied research, and many students take advantage of this opportunity for their dissertation.

Professional Behavior Expectations/Ethical Guidelines

The program requires all students to abide by the University Student Code of Conduct as well as the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.


All psychologists who offer direct services to the public for a fee must be licensed or certified by the state in which they practice. Applicants for licensure in the state of California must hold an earned doctoral degree in psychology, educational psychology, education with a specialization in counseling psychology, or education with a specialization in educational psychology from an approved or accredited educational institution. They also must have completed 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience (of which at least 1,500 must be postdoctoral) and have taken and passed the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the California Psychology Supplemental Examination (CPSE). In addition, they must submit evidence of having completed coursework in human sexuality, child abuse, substance abuse, spousal abuse, and aging and long-term care. Continuing education is required to maintain the license. CSPP doctoral course requirements are designed to fulfill the programmatic requirements for licensure in California.

Every state has its own requirements for licensure. Therefore, it is essential that all Clinical PhD students who plan to apply for licensure in states other than California contact the licensing board in those states for information on state requirements (e.g., coursework, practicum and internship hours, supervision, or nature of the doctoral project or dissertation). Students seeking licensure in other states should plan ahead to ensure they meet all of those states’ requirements.

For further information on licensure in California or other states contact:

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards
PO Box 241245
Montgomery, AL 36124-1245
(334) 832-4580, asppb@asppb.org

California Board of Psychology
2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 1400
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 263-2699, bopmail@dca.ca.gov

Practice Directorate American Psychological Association
750 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
(202) 336-5979, apaaccred@apa.org

Programmatic Accreditation

The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association. Questions related to the program’s accredited status should be directed to the Commission on Accreditation:

Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological Association
750 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
Phone: (202) 336-5979
Email: apaaccred@apa.org
Web: www.apa.org/ed/accreditation

Internship, Practicum, and/or Dissertation Information

Field Training

Students learn applied professional skills through formal coursework and through clinical training experiences supervised by faculty and professionals in the community. Each student is assigned a professional training advisor who, along with the student’s core faculty advisor, helps the student to formulate an individualized plan for practicum and internship training designed to insure (a) that training experiences are consistent with the student’s growing skill levels and professional goals and (b) that the student is exposed to a breadth of training experiences with a variety of clinical populations and professional role models.

Clinical practica are taken in the second (800 hours) and third (1,000 hours) years of the program after students have mastered the prerequisite knowledge and skills that provide the foundations on which to build clinical competencies. In addition to obtaining training and supervised practice at a minimum of two distinct practicum placement sites, practicum students enroll concurrently in campus-based clinical consultation groups offered by core and senior adjunct faculty. These groups augment the supervision received at the agencies, ensure integration of classroom and clinical knowledge, support evidence-based practice, and allow faculty to directly assess the development of students’ clinical competencies.

Students select their practicum placements from more than 80 agencies. Most of these facilities are within a 25-mile radius of the campus, but some are as far as 80 miles away for the benefit of advanced students who live in Orange County. These agencies have over 350 professional training positions. The Professional Training Office coordinates these experiences and provides continuous oversight to ensure that students receive high quality clinical training experiences.

Students meet with their site supervisor each week a minimum of 10% of their time at the site. One of the hours must be individual supervision and the rest can be individual or group. Students keep track of their hours at the site each week, which is confirmed by the supervisor.

The doctoral internship is the more extensive training experience for advanced students. All students apply for a full-time, APA accredited clinical internship that is expected to be completed in the fifth year of the program.

Research Training

The knowledge and skills necessary to conduct independent clinical research are introduced during the first year of the program and built upon in the years that follow. Students work with a core faculty member under whose direction the student participates in a first year Research Practicum experience. Students learn to design their own studies in the second year and simultaneously begin their enrollment in the dissertation research course sequence that continues through the completion of the dissertation. Students must complete their dissertation proposals prior to applying for the internship training experience.

Credit Units

Total Credit Units: 150

Total Core Credit Units: 138

Total Elective Credit Units: 12

Total Concentration Credit Units: 12*

*Concentration units are elective units

Degree Requirements

The academic year consists of a 15-week Fall semester, a 15-week Spring semester, and an optional 10-week Summer semester. The program is designed to be a 5-year, full-time program; however, in consultation with their Faculty Advisor, students may develop a modified curriculum plan that leads to completion of the program in fewer or more years, not to exceed 8 years, depending on individual circumstances and needs (e.g., courses transferred from previous graduate programs or taken during summer semesters; need for additional coursework, practicum and/or research experiences needed to round out gaps in training).

All students are required to complete a minimum of four years of full-time study (or the equivalent), amounting to 120 total units, including 30 internship units. The program requires three years in full-time residence, with two years of residency prior to advancement to candidacy for students entering with a Bachelor’s degree and a minimum of the equivalent of one full-time year of residency for students with a Master’s in psychology from a regionally accredited institution who have been granted credit for previous work. Units are considered for transfer after careful review of the previous course syllabi by core faculty members to ensure comparable training. The maximum number of units allowable for transfer from another graduate psychology program is 30 units.

Writing Proficiency Assessment

Please refer to the Writing Proficiency Assessment  requirement in the Academic Policies section for more information.

Program Meeting

During G1 Fall semester, students will engage in a semester long non-coursework, required Program Meeting taught by a Core Faculty member. This meeting is designed to assisting students to becoming acclimated to the full-time, doctoral level lifestyle. This meeting will provide students with vital tips, guidance and information pertinent to their success in the program.

Competency Examinations

All students must pass Competency Exams in Research Methodology (Research Design, Measurement, & Statistics) and Clinical Proficiency.

Timeline for competency exams are as follow:

  1. Research Methodology Competency Exam: Students are required to pass the exam prior to the fall of their G-3 year. Students who are on a moderated (less-than-full time) schedule must complete this exam by the time they complete 65 units (the equivalent of 2 years in the Program).
  2. Clinical Proficiency Exam: Students are required to pass the exam prior to Fall of their G4 year. Students who are on a moderated (less than full-time) schedule must complete this exam before accumulating 95 units.

Failure to complete these exams within the stated time period will result in the equivalent of a ‘C’ or Marginal Pass grade for the purpose of evaluation of one’s academic record by Program Faculty and the Student Evaluation & Retention Committee (SERC). Students may not be advanced to doctoral candidacy or apply for the doctoral internship until both exams are passed.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students may apply for Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy when all the criteria below have been satisfied:

  1. Successful completion of the first two years of the general clinical psychology curriculum and the accrual of at least 60 units of graduate study
  2. Successful completion of the Writing Proficiency Examination
  3. Successful completion of all Competency Exams
  4. Status of academic standing is good (i.e., student is not on warning or probation)
  5. There are no incomplete grades on the transcript
  6. The Dissertation Proposal has been approved

Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy is an important event. The decision whether to advance a student is made collectively by the core faculty of the program. It signifies that the core faculty members have reviewed all aspects of the student’s professional preparation and performance and have collectively determined, in their best professional judgment, that the student has demonstrated sufficient competence, and is therefore qualified to enter the final stages of doctoral study. It is unlikely that a student will be proposed for advancement if serious doubts exist about professional suitability.

Students are expected to advance to Doctoral Candidacy by the end of their third year and must be advanced prior to submitting applications for the doctoral internship in clinical psychology.

Prerequisite Courses

Applicants must have completed one of the following three options prior to matriculation. All coursework used to fulfill graduate entry requirements must have been completed prior to beginning the program. All coursework must have been taken at fully accredited institutions. Applicants should use the designated space in the online application to indicate how the graduate entry requirement will be met.

  1. Earned a BA/BS degree in psychology. (A master’s degree will not fulfill this requirement.)
  2. If the BA/BS degree is not in psychology, you must have completed coursework in the following four areas with a grade of “C” or better:
    1. Statistics
    2. Abnormal Psychology or Psychopathology
    3. Experimental Psychology/Research Methods in Psychology
    4. Physiological Psychology, Learning/Memory, Cognitive Psychology, Sensation/Perception
  3. Earned a score in the 80th percentile or better on the GRE Psychology Test. Official test scores are required for this option. Content for the coursework option is as follows:
    1. Statistics: The nature of normal distribution, principles of sampling theory, probability, simple statistics (t-tests, F-ratios, chi-square, r, non-parametric), introduction to analysis of variance. May be taken outside the psychology department.
    2. Abnormal Psychology/Psychopathology: Major disorders, personality disorders, sexual disorders, psychophysical disorders, adjustment reactions, alcoholism and drug abuse, child psychopathology, organic brain syndromes.
    3. Experimental Psychology: Introduction to scientific procedures and methods in psychology. Directed experience in research design and control, analysis, bibliographic and report writing techniques. May include a specific research techniques course in perception, physiology, learning, or complex behavior (social, cognition).
    4. Physiological Psychology: The study of human behavior from a physiological viewpoint. Sensorimotor systems, sleep, dreaming and attention, motivation, neural transmission and synaptic function, heredity, drugs, organic brain pathology. Must focus on the relationship between the psychological and physiological aspects of behavior.

Experience with clinical work and research is desirable, but not required.

Emphasis/Concentration/Track Requirements

Child/Family Emphasis

The following courses are required: 

Field Work: 

It is required that students complete two (2) field placements (2 practicums or 1 practicum and 1 internship) in a setting that emphasizes interactions with children and/or families.


Students also are expected to address family, child, and/or development issues in their dissertation.

Health Psychology Emphasis

Military & Veteran Psychology Experience Area

(1) Two courses designated for the experience area. Course options include:

(2) One field placement focused on military personnel, veterans, and/or their families (Note: Students will need to apply and go through the regular application process for the related field experience placements, i.e., APPIC/APA internship application process. The program does not guarantee a field placement in the experience area.)

Multicultural/Diversity Emphasis


Field Work: 

It is required that students complete at least one year of professional training placement (practicum or internship) in a setting serving a culturally diverse population. 


Students also are expected to focus on issues of individual or cultural diversity in their dissertation.

Trauma Focused Forensic Experience


One Trauma related course, options include:

One Advanced Assessment course, options include:

Field Work:

At least one of the two required practicum placement involves 30% clinical contact with clients who are frequently seen in forensic settings (e.g., incarcerated individuals; patients in forensic hospitals or pretrial defendants; individuals diagnosed with a serious mental illness; children and families of divorce; clients with trauma histories).

(Note: Students will need to apply and go through the regular application process for the related field experience placements, i.e., APPIC/APA internship application process. The program does not guarantee a field placement in the experience area.)


Students are encouraged but not required to develop a research study or their dissertation in a forensic and/or trauma area.

All alternate courses must be approved by the Program Director.

Elective Requirements

Twelve (12) units of elective are required.

Students must take one (1) Cultural Seminar Elective (PSY76100*) and three (3) General Clinical Electives (includes PSY85003A-Z, PSY85013B-N). All electives must be approved by the Program Director. Students are permitted to take up to two (2) electives online with Program Director approval.

Curriculum Plan

Semester Calendar

Academic Year 3 - Semester 2 (12 units)

Academic Year 4 - Semester 2 (13 units)

  • General Clinical Elective (3 units)*
  • Cultural Seminar Elective (PSY76100*) (3 units)*


Academic Year 5 - Semester 3 (8 units)


Summer Semesters are not part of the required program course curriculum (except practicum and internship placements). However, courses that fulfill requirements are sometimes offered in the Summer, such as PSY65030  and elective courses such as Trauma and Diversity and Introduction to Forensics. Students are advised to consult with the Financial Aid office to determined impact of taking summer courses on their Financial Aid during the summer and subsequent semesters. Each student is required to complete four (4) Elective courses, including one (1) focused on cultural or diversity issues. Note that some Emphasis and Experience areas require specific electives. Students must refer to the Student Handbook for more information.

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