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Community Context of Training

We attempt to be a Christian community of learning and growth that fosters growth in all areas of life, not just in narrowly professional domains. We will strive for a quality of caring relationships that encourages growth in all areas of the lives of students, faculty, staff, and families.

The most effective learning probably does not occur when students are in a passive mode listening to an "expert" pontificate on his or her subject matter. Learning will be maximally effective when traditional methods are complemented by active learning in a context where there is the possibility of mentorship and apprenticeship relationships with a professional the student can emulate. The doctoral program in clinical psychology attempts to foster this kind of learning environment by maintaining as small a training program as is fiscally viable. The program is budgeted on 65 full-time students (equivalent), and a student to faculty ratio of 10 to 1. Further, faculty are involved in the oversight of student clinical work, in the qualifying examination process, and in the required clinical dissertation.

As a complement to our relative religious uniformity, we desire to maintain and even celebrate diversity in terms of gender, culture, ethnicity, and age. Wheaton College is committed to an international focus and to valuing the various cultural traditions of the United States.

Psy.D. Program Goals and Objectives

1. Professionalism and ethical behavior

We expect our students will:

  • display behavior and comportment that reflects integrity, responsibility and the values of psychology contributing to professional identity as a clinical psychologist; demonstrates empathic understanding for human suffering (Integrity and Professional Comportment)
  • demonstrate knowledge of professional ethical and legal issues; shows awareness and application of ethical decision making (Ethics)

2. Scientific foundations and scholarship

We expect our students will:

  • demonstrate knowledge of scientific foundations of psychology and clinical practice (Scientific Foundations)
  • demonstrate ability to effectively engage in and critique scholarship that contributes to psychological knowledge and clinical practice (Scholarship)

3. Clinical practice skills

We expect our students will:

  • relate effectively and meaningfully with individuals, groups, and communities with interpersonal and expressive skills (Interpersonal)
  • approach training and practice with personal and professional self-awareness and reflection of unique personal biases informed by one’s own identities and experiences (Self-awareness and Self-reflection)
  • demonstrate ability to assess and diagnose problems with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds with effective use of assessment methods, and formulation of case conceptualization (Assessment and Diagnosis)
  • have knowledge of theories of intervention and demonstrate ability to apply appropriate, culturally sensitive evidence-based interventions to alleviate suffering and promote well-being of individuals and groups (Intervention)
  • demonstrate basic knowledge and utilization of supervision models and procedures (Supervision)

4. Individual and systemic diversity

We expect our students will:    

  • demonstrate awareness of self and diverse others as shaped by culture and society, and applying this awareness towards effective work with underserved persons and communities (Cultural Awareness and Application)
  • exhibit awareness and skills in targeting the impact of social, political, economic or cultural factors necessary to advocate in order to promote change (Advocacy)
  • demonstrate awareness of the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration and the skills to respectfully and productively collaborate with professionals from diverse disciplines (Interdisciplinary Collaboration)

5. Integration of Clinical Psychology and Christian faith and practice

We expect our students will:

  • demonstrate foundational knowledge of Christian theology and current models of integration (Foundational Knowledge)
  • articulate their personal process of integration of Psychology and Christian Faith (Personal Process)
  • apply integration of Psychology and Christian faith to clinical practice in order to enhance human welfare as a means of Biblical justice (Application to Clinical Practice)

Christian Distinctiveness in the Psy.D. Program

Christian Distinctiveness

We live in a time in which it is increasingly intellectually credible to work at interrelating religious belief with a scholarly and applied discipline such as psychology. The Enlightenment rationalism and dogmatic empiricism that were in vogue several decades ago could hardly allow for such interchange. But today's intellectual climate includes the broad phenomenon of postmodernism, the rise of instrumentalist and critical realist approaches to the philosophy of science, and even specific empirical findings on the positive relationships between religious practice and mental health and between values and psychotherapeutic outcomes. These developments leave plenty of room for interaction between Christian faith and practice on the one hand and the discipline of psychology on the other.

Our commitment to Christian distinctiveness is more than just a reaction to contemporary trends in scholarship, however. It is a reflection of the historic commitment of the entire institution, a commitment that has endured when the intellectual trends have not been so comforting. "Wheaton College [as a whole] serves Jesus Christ and advances His Kingdom through excellence in liberal arts and graduate programs that educate the whole person to build the church and benefit society worldwide. . . . Wheaton College seeks to relate Christian liberal arts education to the needs of contemporary society. The curricular approach is designed to combine faith and learning in order to produce a biblical perspective needed to relate Christian experience to the demands of those needs" (Catalog of Wheaton College).

The Graduate School specifically exists to "relate Christian education to the needs of contemporary society." Further, its mission is to "enable the committed Christian student to formulate and articulate a biblical and global understanding of life and ministry and to apply it to service for Christ and His kingdom. The emphasis of the graduate program throughout its history has been on practical scholarship -- scholarship totally rooted in the final authority of the Scriptures but practical so that educated and trained Christian leaders are equipped to relate to the real needs of people today" (Catalog of Wheaton College). We seek to train psychologists to understand and value human diversity, to demonstrate a commitment to underserved populations, and to be agents of reconciliation wherever oppression and injustice exist.

In conformity with these broad goals of the whole institution and of the Graduate School in particular, the doctoral program in clinical psychology is founded upon a concern for interrelating Christian belief and practice with the best of contemporary scholarship and professional standards in the discipline of psychology. We are forthrightly concerned with producing graduates who will be distinctive as Christians in their practice of professional psychology, whether that practice be in an overtly religious context or not. The doctoral program at Wheaton College conforms to the  Community Covenant and the Statement of Faith, which provide a framework for our life together as an academic and spiritual community.

Professional Practice as Service

We quote again from the College catalog's description of the mission of the Graduate School: It exists to "relate Christian education to the needs of contemporary society . . . to enable the committed Christian student to formulate and articulate a biblical and global understanding of life and ministry and to apply it to service for Christ and His kingdom. The emphasis of the graduate program throughout its history has been on practical scholarship -- scholarship totally rooted in the final authority of the Scriptures but practical so that educated and trained Christian leaders are equipped to relate to the real needs of people today"(Catalog of Wheaton College).

The Graduate School of Wheaton College has existed throughout its history to facilitate and prepare students for service to the Church and to the world. We wish to emphasize and model this service orientation in the doctoral program in clinical psychology. It is our goal to expose students to training with underserved populations. As a community, we strive to model Christ's love to all regardless of whether they belong to his Body, the Church. We strive to model the very compassion of Christ himself, who mourned for the poor, the down-trodden, and the victims of injustice, regardless of their personal religious faith.

Psy.D. Program Training Model: Practitioner-Scholar

There is a growing recognition in the Christian community of the profound needs for healing and growth among the religious and nonreligious populace, needs that are not readily met by traditional approaches to pastoral care. There is also an increasing recognition of the intimate interrelationship of psychological and emotional needs and the spiritual or religious realms of life. There is a strong need for skilled practitioners in the field of psychology who are respectful and informed about the religious traditions which form the fundamental commitments in life for so many in American society and across the world.

Following the Vail Conference model the doctoral program in clinical psychology attempts to address this need by providing training deliberately directed at producing highly competent practitioner-scholars of clinical psychology who are respectful of the Christian faith and at the same time personally committed to embracing the professional identity of psychology. Our goal will be to produce psychologists who are ready to be effective practitioners, equipped not only with up-to-date skills in such areas as psychodiagnosis, assessment and intervention, but also the capacities to continue growing over their professional life; capable of understanding not only evolving research and scholarship in the field of clinical psychology, but in the biblical and theological domains as well. While we are aiming at producing practitioners, we are convinced that the most effective practitioner in the long run will be the scholarly person who is multidisciplinary in focus and prepared to think in an analytical and sophisticated way in as many areas as possible that address our understanding of the human condition.

In recognition that no one model or theoretical approach in the mental health field has succeeded in dominating the field, the doctoral program in clinical psychology is intentional in its pluralistic focus with regard to theoretical orientation. We recognize the importance of diversity in models of professional practice as a stimulus for growth as the student trains as a developing professional. We strive to integrate theory with practice early in the program through student involvement in practicum training beginning the second year of the program.

The curriculum offered reflects a great deal of thought and effort, and is intended to foster development of practitioner-scholars. It is designed to prepare ethnically- and culturally-sensitive Christian psychologists to deal with diverse needs found in a pluralistic culture and throughout the world. Because psychologists attempt to build clinical theories and techniques on scientific principles, courses in the four core content areas in psychology are required (biological bases of behavior, social bases of behavior, cognitive/affective bases of behavior, and individual differences). Psychologists also must be wise consumers of, and often contributors to, the scientific literature, so the curriculum includes coursework in advanced statistics, research design, program evaluation, and clinical research. Effective practitioners are aware of the theoretical underpinnings of their work while appreciating the work of those with differing theoretical views, and so diverse coursework on the theoretical bases of professional psychology is included (e.g., psychometric theory, cognitive-behavioral theory, psychoanalytic theory, family theory). Because of our commitment to Christian distinctiveness and our desire to produce scholars with a multidisciplinary focus, courses in other fields that contribute to an understanding of the human condition also are included in the curriculum (spirituality, diversity, theological anthropology, bible and theology). Thus, the foundation of the curriculum is based on a broad understanding of scientific and theoretical psychology and on multiple perspectives of the human condition. On top of this essential foundation, the curriculum provides courses and supervised practica in the technical skills necessary for professional psychologists (intellectual, personality, and neuropsychological assessment, psychotherapy, program evaluation, group therapy, community psychology).

Many courses are conducted with a special focus on professional applications, with the practitioner-scholar model affecting the use of classroom time and assignments. Some themes, including multicultural awareness, knowledge of ethical standards, and integration of Christianity and psychology, are so central to the curriculum that they are found in virtually all courses offered throughout the program. Though some courses are specifically devoted to these topics, these themes are of such critical importance for practitioner-scholars in psychology that they cannot be relegated to isolated spots in the curriculum.