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Program Overview

The Counseling Psychology program at UNC has been in existence since 1984. It became accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1995 as a PsyD program. The curriculum was modified to offer only the PhD in Counseling Psychology and has been accredited by APA since January 15, 2010. For more information about APA accreditation, contact the American Psychological Association’s Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation at 750 1st Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242, by phone at (202) 336-5979, or on the web at http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/.

In our doctoral program at the University of Northern Colorado, we offer a Major Area of Study in Counseling Psychology with at least three years of didactic course work and supervised clinical training in that Major Area of Study, which includes completing a dissertation that is consistent with the field of Counseling Psychology; students also complete one additional year of pre-doctoral internship. Students that complete our program are appropriately trained in health service psychology to be eligible for licensure as doctoral level psychologists. We offer students experience in being trained in treatment interventions from multiple modalities by completing: two individual practica courses, one couples and family practicum course, and a group practicum course. Live supervision is provided for these practica courses at our on-site training clinic that provides professional psychological services to community members and university students. Students are also exposed to psychological assessment by completing a cognitive assessment course and a personality assessment course, as well as the option of completing additional assessment courses. Furthermore, our students are trained to create, disseminate, and utilize scholarly research to engage in evidence-based practice. Our program places a greater concentration on training related to research. Students take six courses in the area of research and have the option of completing one additional research course in order to receive a doctoral minor in applied statistics and research methods.

Integration of Empirical Evidence and Practice

The Counseling Psychology PhD program at UNC adheres to the integration of empirical evidence and practice (practice is evidence-based, and evidence is practice-informed). We place great emphasis on both research training and practitioner training. Inherent in this approach is the assumption that health service psychologists can best benefit society and serve client well-being through the understanding and practical applications of empirical research knowledge and science. Empirical research is fundamental to our students’ training. Our program believes that it is important for our students to become contributors to and informed consumers of psychological research. As a PhD program, we place relatively greater emphasis upon training related to research and the faculty are strongly committed to training future counseling psychologists who can create, disseminate, and utilize psychological research to engage in evidence-based practice. In pursuit of this, training in research and evidence-based practice in psychology is integrated throughout coursework and practica experiences. Upon graduation, our students are able to demonstrate expertise and an evidence-based approach to practice in health service psychology as counseling psychologists, and have demonstrated competency in the areas of research, intervention, assessment, supervision, consultation, ethical and legal standards, communication, professionalism, and diversity.

Individual Cultural and Diversity

Our program values individual cultural differences and diversity and integrates these areas throughout students’ training. Psychologists work with individuals and systems from unique and evolving backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles; as such, it imperative that we train our students to strive for life-long learning in cultural competency. Our doctoral training emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs of diverse populations in order to produce culturally sensitive graduates who are attuned to evolving cultural, ethnic, gender and lifestyle concerns within a global community.

 We engage in actions that indicate respect for and understanding of cultural and individual differences and diversity. While in the program, students are expected to demonstrate knowledge, awareness, sensitivity, and skills related to cultural and diversity issues in all areas of professional work/activities of health service psychology. These issues are incorporated into students’ training across the curriculum. Students are also regularly evaluated by the CP faculty in the area of individual culture and diversity. In addition to classroom and practicum training experiences, students are provided regular ongoing opportunities to engage in actions to increase their knowledge, awareness, sensitivity, and skills related to cultural and diversity issues. We require all students (until they begin their internships) to receive additional training/workshop experiences related to increasing their individual culture and diversity competency beyond the expectations of any course. This is then evaluated as part of the students’ annual review and the faculty discuss the students’ competency in this area and provide their evaluations to ensure all students are prepared to navigate cultural and individual differences in research and practice, as well as value conflicts or other tensions.

Program Details

Our APA-accredited counseling psychology doctoral program in health service psychology provides general education and training in discipline-specific knowledge (DSK) and profession-wide competencies (PWC). Therefore, our Counseling Psychology (PhD) program is designed to train students according to current APA competency guidelines that will prepare them to practice in health service psychology through broad knowledge of psychology and profession wide competencies in the areas of research, ethical and legal standards, diversity, professionalism, communication, assessment, intervention, supervision, and consultation. Our curriculum addresses all of the domains required for accreditation (i.e., DSK & PWC) in health service psychology and trains students in the specialty area of counseling psychology. Our approach to training promotes a strengths-based perspective, prevention, life span development, vocational psychology, social justice and advocacy.

Our program is distinguished from others by the breadth and intensity of our clinical training, as well as by our dedication to live supervision. We provide training in at least three core treatment modalities: Individual, Group, and Couples and Family. Doctoral students are supervised by licensed psychologists during their clinical practica experiences and receive live supervision from behind a one-way mirror. Students receive feedback immediately after finishing sessions and review real-time feedback dubbed onto session video recordings. Our on-site training clinic also utilizes electronic medical records (e.g., Titanium), and trains students in the proper use of this system as well as in best practices for protection of electronic client records. In addition to completing clinical practica in the three core treatment modalities, all students complete a practicum in Clinical Supervision of individual therapy and have further opportunities to supervise both Group and Couples and Family practica. Students also engage in clinic administration and outreach opportunities, and have the opportunity to gain additional experience through external practica in a variety of settings (e.g., University Counseling Centers, Veterans Administration, Medical/Integrated Care, Correctional Facilities, Community Mental Health Centers, etc).

 Reflective of our dedication to promoting evidence-based practice, our program places strong emphasis on the acquisition of assessment skills. Our students complete a minimum of one year of coursework and training in assessment. The assessment core emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge and competency regarding how to use numerous cognitive, educational, behavioral and personality tests in order to assess, diagnose and treat, as well as the evaluation of intervention effectiveness. The school has its own Diagnostic Materials Library, which contains well over 100 different tests and computerized assessment and scoring programs for many popular assessment instruments. Students learn how to conduct psychological assessments in our psychological services clinic as part of their counseling psychology training. Students desiring specialized training in neuropsychological assessment also have the opportunity to work in the school’s Neuropsychology Laboratory. Additional training opportunities in assessment are available at nearby VA Medical Centers/Clinics and community mental health centers.

The program’s academic curriculum encapsulates each of the required Discipline-Specific Knowledge Areas (DSK). The DSK areas include intensive courses in History and Systems of Psychology, Affective Aspects of Behavior, Biological Aspects of Behavior, Developmental Aspects of Behavior, and Social Aspects of Behavior. Students are also trained in an advanced integration of at least two of the previous six domains (e.g., social cognitive neuroscience).

Our program believes that it is important for students to become contributors to and informed consumers of psychological research. Consequently, they receive training in quantitative research methods and psychometrics. Students complete a rigorous statistics sequence as well as courses in qualitative methodologies. They participate in program evaluation research projects and pursue individual research through the CP program. All students present at national (e.g., APA) and/or regional (e.g., Rocky Mountain APA) professional conferences, as well as at local venues. While still in the program, many students have submitted manuscripts for peer review and publication. Students’ research training culminates in the doctoral dissertation, which includes a publication-ready manuscript.

Program Aim and Outcomes

Our program aim is to prepare students to be counseling psychologists in health service psychology.

To achieve our program aim, students acquire foundational discipline-specific knowledge (DSK) in the areas of: 1) history and systems of psychology, 2) basic knowledge in scientific psychology, 3) integrative knowledge in scientific psychology, and 4) methods of inquiry and research. Students use the discipline-specific knowledge to develop profession wide competencies (PWC) in the areas of: 1) research, 2) ethical and legal standards, 3) individual and cultural diversity, 4) professional values, attitudes, and behavior, 5) communication and interpersonal skills, 6) assessment, 7) intervention, 8) supervision, and 9) consultation and interprofessional/interdisciplinary skills. These nine PWCs are operationally defined using multiple elements for each competency area and student evaluations are linked to the respective nine PWC areas (see CP PWC Evaluation Form). Students achieve competency as defined by the elements that are associated with each of the nine PWC areas. Program wide outcomes are evaluated accordingly.


Systematic Integration of Research

As an APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD program that adheres to the scientist-practitioner model of professional training, research is a core part of our students' training. Our program believes that it is important for our students to become contributors to and informed consumers of psychological research. While the program is weighted on the scientist side of the scientist-practicioner continuum, (approximately 60 percent science), the faculty are also strongly committed to training counseling psychologists who know how to conduct, understand, and utilize psychological research in health service psychology.

Doctoral students in the Counseling Psychology program at UNC are introduced to research and mentored in research skills in a systematic manner:

  • A rigorous sequence of courses is required through the department of Applied Statistics and Research Methods (SRM), including: SRM 600, SRM 602, SRM 603, and SRM 610.  Students are not only introduced to the principles of research, design, and analysis, but they also master statistical concepts ranging from descriptive statistics to multiple regression, various forms of ANOVA, and factor analysis while increasing their familiarity of computer statistics packages.  For a description of SRM courses, please visit http://catalog.unco.edu.  Completion of the required research core will leave you one course (3 credits) shy of earning a Doctoral Minor in Applied Statistics and Research Methods
  • At the outset, students are required to complete an online training series in the Responsible Conduct of Research through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) in order to demonstrate initial basic competencies in ethical research practices (see Appendix B in CP Handbook)
  • Training in evidence-based practice in psychology is integrated throughout coursework and practica experiences
  • All students are engaged in pre-dissertation research experiences.  Students are on research teams or work individually with faculty to be mentored on research beginning in their first year.  On these teams students may: compile IRB materials, conduct literature reviews, further existing research projects or start new ones, develop manuscripts, run statistical analyses, edit, and/or submit their work for relevant journals and professional conferences (e.g., RMPA, APA).  Students are encouraged to present and to be co-authors on team or class-based research projects.  As a result of these activities, many of our current students and recent graduates have made professional presentations or coauthored articles with members of the faculty.  Students have relationships with multiple faculty members for professional support in developing one’s areas of expertise
  • The annual UNC Research Day allows students to present their research work to colleagues and faculty and to gain valuable experience in the dissemination of research; this annual event is a program requirement for all students for each year their research has not been accepted to national or regional conference until students begin their internships. Students must have been in a leadership role on the research project.
  • Other opportunities to gain experience in the dissemination of research results are available within the university such as SRM Research Night.
  • Faculty presents their professional interests and research in APCE 701- Professional Development Seminar in Counseling Psychology.  In this course students are also introduced to the process of program evaluation, theory, and methodology through both didactic and experiential components, wherein students may collect, compile, analyze, and present their findings from a program evaluation project, such as projects related to evaluation of our in-house clinic or campus connections program.  Students collaboratively develop a professional poster with the intention of presenting the poster at a national convention/conference
  • Faculty actively pursue a wide variety of research interests and act as research mentors and role models for students.  Our doctoral program has received the “Program Academic Excellence in Scholarship Award” from the UNC Provost Office. Faculty have also received the “College Scholar Award.”
  • Faculty mentorship frequently moves to the individual level at some point during one’s second year, as students closely work with a chosen faculty member and work with them on writing, research, and professional scientific and scholarly endeavors that align with their research interests. Students gain experience working collaboratively in the planning, application, and/or dissemination of a research project related to the field of Counseling Psychology and develop a repertoire of research skills.
  • Students are required to take APCE 733 – Seminar in Research Methods in Counseling Psychology. This course has a heavy emphasis on preparing students in formulating a rigorous research project that resembles a dissertation proposal. Students also learn how to critically evaluating research, as well as conducting scientific research.
  • Our program values the unique contributions of both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.  Thus, students are trained in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, as all students are required to take SRM 680- Introduction to Qualitative Research and SRM 700- Advanced Research Methods. SRM 680 and 700 are intensive research methodology courses which require students to write and submit an application for IRB approval, to design and conduct a complete research project, and to report the results in a manuscript suitable for submission for publication
  • Depending on whether one chooses a quantitative or qualitative route for their dissertation, students must take additional specialized coursework in their respective research methodology.  At minimum, students must complete advanced courses, such as SRM 686- Qualitative Case Study Research; SRM 606- Multiple Linear Regression Analysis; SRM 629- Structural Equations Modeling
  • Students choose their dissertation topics based on their research interests, which may or may not overlap with faculty research interests; however, all dissertations must be within the field of Counseling Psychology.  Faculty supports student research growth based on student interests. The faculty’s role is to mentor students’ research learning process
  • In preparation for their dissertations, students enroll in APCE 797- Doctoral Proposal Research.  This class leads to the dissertation proposal and working closely with one’s Research Advisor and dissertation committee.  Additionally, students must enroll in APCE 799- Doctoral Dissertation while working on their dissertation.  The dissertation must be defended and approved before one’s dissertation committee in order to graduate
  • Students must also prepare an extra chapter in the dissertation, which is a manuscript that is ready for submission for publication or presentation to the APA National Convention or other regional conferences (e.g., Rocky Mountain Psychological Association)

 Sequence of Research and Statistical Experiences

  • First Year

    • Students are expected to have some level of background knowledge and experience with statistics and research methodology prior to admission to the graduate program (e.g., undergraduate and/or master’s level statistics courses prior research experience, and if applicable, a master’s level thesis).  Depending upon the level of one’s prior course work, select classes may be substituted with more advanced ones.  This research-based foundation is continually built upon throughout the program, starting in the first year
    • Over the course of the first year, students typically enroll in the following research courses: SRM 600- Introduction to Graduate Research (note: this course is frequently waived for students with their Masters’ degree that have taken an equivalent research course), SRM 602- Statistical Methods I, and SRM 603- Statistical Methods II (note: some students with a Bachelor’s degree may decide to take SRM 603 in their second year).  Students are introduced to the principles of research, design, and analysis, and they also master statistical concepts ranging from descriptive statistics to multiple regression and various forms of ANOVA while increasing their familiarity of computer statistics packages
    • APCE 701- Professional Development Seminar in Counseling Psychology introduces students to the process of program evaluation through both didactic and experiential components, wherein students will collect, compile, analyze, and present their findings from a program evaluation of our in-house clinic or approved community project
    • Training in evidence based practice in health service psychology is integrated throughout coursework and practicum experiences
    • At the outset, students are required to complete an online training series in the Responsible Conduct of Research through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) (Appendix B in CP Handbook) in order to demonstrate initial basic competencies in ethical research practices
    • Faculty actively pursue a wide variety of research interests and act as research mentors for students.  First year students are further ushered into the research process through their participation in faculty-led research teams, often as part of their graduate assistantship. Students may compile IRB materials, conduct literature reviews, further existing research projects or start new ones, develop manuscripts, run statistical analyses, edit, and/or submit their work for relevant journals and professional conferences
    • Students are strongly encouraged to submit class- and team-based research projects to both regional and national APA conferences/conventions starting from their first year onward, wherein they gain valuable experience as presenters and co-authors
    • Students must present their research on an annual basis in which they have been in a leadership role on the research project. Thus, students whose research has not been accepted to a regional or national conference are required to present at the annual UNC Research Day, which allows students to present their research work to colleagues and faculty and to gain valuable experience in the dissemination of research results locally
    • Other opportunities to gain experience in dissemination of research results are available within the University such as SRM Research Night
  • Second Year
    • Second year students continue their didactic and experiential learning of the research process in advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods courses.  Students are required to take both SRM 680- Introduction to Qualitative Research and SRM 700- Advanced Research Methods. In addition to classroom-based learning, both classes culminate in a student-led research project that students must present at SRM Research Night. Students are strongly encouraged to subsequently submit their work to conferences and for publication
    • Depending on whether one chooses a quantitative or qualitative route for their dissertation, students must take additional specialized coursework in their respective research methodology.  At minimum, students must complete one of these advanced courses
    • Students are required to continually expand their research base by enrolling in both SRM 610- Statistical Methods III during their second or third year, and elective statistical courses throughout the remainder of their program. Note: students with a Bachelor’s degree should take SRM 603 in their second year if not completed during their first year
    • Many second year students continue to participate as part of faculty-led research teams.  Students may continue their work on existing research projects, though most begin to work on additional projects.  Second year students may be assigned additional responsibilities as it reflects their increased knowledge base and understanding of the research process.  Students are again strongly encouraged to submit their work for conference presentations and publication
    • Faculty mentorship frequently moves to the individual level at some point during one’s second year, as students closely work with a chosen faculty member and work with them on writing, research, and professional scientific and scholarly endeavors that align with their research interests. Students gain experience working collaboratively in the planning, application, and/or dissemination of a research project related to the field of Counseling Psychology and develop a repertoire of research skills. Faculty pairing is frequently based on methodological and topical alignment, though faculty certainly supports student research growth based on their individual interests
    • Students are required to take APCE 733 – Seminar in Research Methods in Counseling Psychology. This course focuses on research methods in counseling psychology, including topics such as strengths, limitations, interpretation, and technical aspects of rigorous case study; correlational, descriptive, and experimental research designs; measurement techniques; sampling; replication; theory testing; qualitative methods; meta-analysis; and quasi-experimentation. This course has a heavy emphasis on preparing students in formulating a rigorous research project by completing a “Result Masked Review Manuscript” (e.g., resembles a dissertation proposal in form, but the coherence of a well-constructed journal manuscript with results masked for review). Students also learn how to critically evaluate research and perform a result masked review of a manuscript. Note: students with a Bachelor’s degree often take this course in their third year
  • Third Year and Beyond
    • Third year students elect to take advanced courses in statistics and research methodology, such as SRM 686- Qualitative Case Study Research; SRM 606/625- Multiple Linear Regression Analysis; or SRM 629-Structural Equation Modeling. These choices are often influenced by a students’ decision to conduct either a quantitative or qualitative dissertation study
    • Students choose their dissertation topic based on their research interests, which may or may not overlap with faculty research interest; however, research topics must be within the counseling psychology field
    • In preparation for their dissertation, students enroll in APCE 797- Doctoral Proposal Research.  This class leads to the dissertation proposal and working closely with one’s Research Advisor and dissertation committee.  One’s proposal is typically scheduled at the beginning of the fall semester and is required before students can apply to internship.  Faculty members continue to mentor students throughout the dissertation process. Please see the Internship Procedures section in the handbook for additional information related to expectations for internship eligibility.
    • Additionally, students must enroll in APCE 799- Doctoral Dissertation while working on their dissertation.  The dissertation must be successfully defended and approved before one’s dissertation committee in order to graduate.  Students are strongly encouraged to do so prior to beginning their internship at the start of their fourth or fifth year
    • Lastly, UNC students are required to compile an extra chapter in their dissertation, which is a manuscript, ready for submission for professional publication in a peer-reviewed journal and/or presentation to the APA National Convention or Regional conferences (e.g., Rocky Mountain Psychological Association).