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Essential Abilities and Characteristics Required for Admission and Completion of the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

Earning a degree from the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program requires mastery of a coherent body of knowledge and skills. Doctoral students must acquire substantial competence in the discipline of clinical psychology as specified in the American Psychological Association (APA) Standards of Accreditation and must be able to relate appropriately to clients/patients, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care professionals.  Combinations of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, intellectual, and communication abilities are required to perform these functions satisfactorily. These skills and functions are not only essential to the successful completion of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, but they are also necessary to ensure the health and safety of clients/patients, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers.

In our APA-accredited program, we are committed to a training process that ensures that graduate students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work effectively with members of the public who embody intersecting demographics, attitudes, beliefs, and values. When graduate students’ attitudes, beliefs, or values create tensions that negatively impact the training process or their ability to effectively treat members of the public, the program faculty and supervisors are committed to a developmental training approach that is designed to support the acquisition of professional competence. We support graduate students in finding a belief- or value-congruent path that allows them to work in a professionally competent manner with all clients/patients.

For some trainees, integrating personal beliefs or values with professional competence in working with all clients/patients may require additional time and faculty support. Ultimately though, to complete our program successfully, all graduate students must be able to work with any client placed in their care in a beneficial manner. Professional competencies are determined by the profession for the benefit and protection of the public; consequently, students do not have the option to avoid working with particular client populations or refuse to develop professional competencies because of conflicts with their attitudes, beliefs, or values.

In addition to required academic achievement and proficiency, the Technical Standards described below set forth non-academic qualifications the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program considers essential for successful completion of its curriculum. Therefore, in order to be admitted to, to successfully progress through, to be approved for internship, and subsequent graduation from the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, applicants for admission and current students in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program must satisfy these Technical Standards. Students who are unable to meet these standards may be recommended for remediation or may be terminated from the program, consistent with policies articulated in the Clinical Program Handbook.

Attitudinal, Behavioral, Interpersonal, and Emotional Attributes

Doctoral students must be able to relate to clients/patients, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers with honesty, integrity, and dedication and in a non-discriminatory manner. They must be able to understand and use the power, special privileges, and trust inherent in the psychologist-client/patient relationship for the client/patient's benefit and to know and avoid the behaviors that constitute misuse of this power. Doctoral students must demonstrate the capacity to examine and deliberate effectively about the social and ethical questions that define psychologists' roles and to reason critically about these questions. They must be able to identify personal reactions and responses, recognize multiple points of view, and integrate these appropriately into clinical decision making. In research teams, doctoral students must demonstrate the ability to interact appropriately with research participants, other students, and faculty and staff members. Doctoral students must be able to collaborate well with others on joint projects (e.g., effectively accept and provide input).

A clinical psychology student must be of sufficient emotional health to utilize fully their intellectual ability, to exercise good judgment, to complete client/patient care responsibilities promptly, and to relate to clients/patients, families, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers with courtesy, compassion, maturity, safety, and respect for dignity. The ability to participate collaboratively and flexibly as a member of an inter-professional team is essential. Doctoral student must display this emotional health in spite of multiple and varied academic, teaching, and research responsibilities, in addition to clinical training expectations. Doctoral students must be able to modify behavior in response to constructive criticism. They must be open to examining personal attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes (especially those that may negatively impact client/patient care and professional relationships). Doctoral students must be able to take responsibility for their behavior, which includes being open to feedback from their supervisors, academic instructors, and research advisors. Doctoral students must be open and empathic with others and show respect for different viewpoints, perspectives, and opinions. They must strive to work collaboratively with others in the classroom, laboratory, clinic, and in all other academic or professional settings. They must convey genuine interest in other people and demonstrate affect tolerance (i.e., appropriately manage and contain emotions in academic and professional settings). As an essential part of conducting research or clinical practice, doctoral students effectively tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. They must be emotionally mature (e.g., intellectually and emotionally open to and appropriate when receiving feedback). Doctoral students must be able to advocate for their own needs in the work place without being inappropriately aggressive. They must also seek the resources and build the relationships needed to advance in their academic or professional career. The study and ongoing practice of clinical psychology often involves taxing workloads and appropriate management of stressful situations. A doctoral student must have the physical and emotional stamina to maintain a high level of functioning in the face of multiple demands on their time and energy.

Intellectual Skills

Doctoral students must possess a range of intellectual skills that allows them to master the broad and complex body of knowledge that comprises clinical psychology education. Doctoral students must be able to critically evaluate their own and others’ research, including the ability to identify limitations in the research literature or design of a specific study, to critique a manuscript as an ad hoc reviewer, and to "make psychological sense" of their own data. They must be able to use theory to inform the conceptualization, design, and interpretation of research. Additionally, doctoral students must be able to effectively understand the theoretical literature in their identified substantive research area, to appropriately discuss this literature in individual and group lab meetings, and to integrate their understanding into scientific writing and presentations. They must further demonstrate an ability to generate novel hypotheses and to design a study that follows from those hypotheses.

Doctoral students must be able to analyze and synthesize information from a wide variety of sources and must demonstrate sophisticated critical thinking skills. They must be able to learn effectively through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to: classroom instruction, clinical supervision, small group discussion, individual study of materials, independent literature review, preparation and presentation of written and oral reports, and use of computer-based technology. Because the practice of psychology is governed by the ethical principles set forth in the current APA Ethics Code and by current state and federal laws, a clinical psychology doctoral student must have the capacity to learn and understand these ethical standards and legal requirements and to perform consistent with those principles and mandates as a student in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program.

Communication Skills

Doctoral students must be able to ask effective questions, to receive answers perceptively, to record information about client/patients, and to provide effective psychoeducation to clients/patients. They must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with clients/patients, their families, fellow students, faculty and staff members, clinical supervisors in varied practicum settings, and with other members of the health care team. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., interpretation of facial expressions, affects, and body language). Mastery of both written and spoken English is required, although applications from students with hearing and speech disabilities will be given full consideration. In such cases, use of a trained intermediary or other communications aide may be appropriate if this intermediary functions only as an information conduit and does not serve integrative or interpretive functions.

Commitment to Non-Discrimination

The University is committed to equality of educational opportunity. The University does not discriminate in offering access to its educational programs and activities on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. A doctoral student with a diagnosed psychiatric disorder or other physical, mental, or emotional disability may participate in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program so long as the condition is managed sufficiently with or without reasonable accommodation to permit the student to satisfy the requirements of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, including these Technical Standards. Students who seek reasonable accommodations for disabilities must contact the University’s Center for Students with DisABILITIES. The Office will determine a student’s eligibility for and recommend appropriate accommodations and services. In the event of deteriorating function, it is essential that a doctoral student be willing and able to acknowledge the need for and to accept professional help before the condition poses a danger to the student, client/patients, other students, faculty and staff members, or research participants.


American Psychological Association Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct -

The University’s Policy Statements on Non-Discrimination –

The University’s Center for Students with DisABILITIES –