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.