Comparing the Psy.D. to the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology


Pacifica's Clinical Programs

 tri Department Home
 tri Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
 tri Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology

What is a Psy.D.?

Psy.D. stands for Doctor of Psychology. Like the Ph.D., it is a doctoral level degree and acceptable in all US jurisdictions for educational requirement towards licensure as a clinical psychologist. Psy.D. holders are entitled to be addressed as "doctor" just like a Ph.D. holder. Psy.D. graduates receive a Doctorate of Psychology upon graduating, while Ph.D. graduates receive a Doctorate of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology. There is also a third doctoral level degree which qualifies for licensure: the Ed.D.

How do the Psy.D. and Ph.D. differ as models of training?

The difference primarily lies in the emphasis on clinical practice vs. research. In 1949, a conference in Boulder, Colorado established the scientist-practitioner model of training in clinical psychology, which emphasizes production and application of scientific research to guide practice. This was followed by a period in which research scientists dominated clinical psychology in the US. In 1973, a similar conference in Vail, Colorado established the practitioner-scholar model as an alternative training model, emphasizing clinical practice over research, in which psychologists are seen as primarily healing-arts professionals who are consumers (rather than producers) of research. Since then, these two models have been called the Boulder Model and the Vail Model. Most (but not all) training programs who use the practitioner-scholar model are Psy.D. programs. Pacifica has employed the practitioner-scholar model even prior to considering developing a Psy.D. program.

What's the difference between Psy.D. and Ph.D. graduates for purposes of licensure?

Graduates of both training models are eligible for licensure in all US states, and licensing exams and renewal requirements are the same for both degrees.

Do other countries recognize the distinction?

Yes, but the terminology varies. In the English speaking world, the equivalent degrees are termed PsyD or DPsy (Canada), DClinPsych (United Kingdom and Ireland), or DPsych (Australia).

What are the implications for dissertation?

In the Psy.D. program, the doctoral dissertation will be replaced with a Clinical Research Project (CRP), which is shorter and has a sharper focus on clinical literature and clinical issues. The CRP will be built into the final two years of coursework, such that it should be finished prior to internship. The CRP must be defended just like a dissertation.

Are the clinical training requirements different in the Psy.D. versus Ph.D.?

The clinical training requirements remain the same for both programs: 1000 hours of practicum plus 1500 hours of internship, governed by the rules and regulations described in the clinical training handbook. However, the following distinctions apply:

• Psy.D. students must complete and defend the CRP prior to starting internship. We believe that finishing the CRP before internship benefits students by making them more competitive to internships, and also leaves more free time to complete the internship. In both programs, students must complete all practicum hours before starting internship.

• Psy.D. students have three years of coursework in which to complete practicum hours as compared to two in the Ph.D. program.

How has Pacifica structured the Psy.D. and Ph.D. differently?

The Psy.D. program is comprised of four years of coursework, with the CRP project running parallel to years three and four in the program. In this system, students are expected to complete and defend the CRP before the end of the fourth year. Year five will be internship. The CRP must be completed prior to the beginning of internship.

Also, additional clinical content has been built into the Psy.D., including a course in Clinical Interview and two additional courses in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Actual course sequence and inclusion will vary by cohort year during the transition.

The Ph.D. will remain at three years of coursework, followed by a two-year dissertation clock which becomes a fourth and fifth year. The internship may be undertaken before, during, or after the dissertation phase as the student chooses (but after all coursework is completed).