Program requirements

The general objectives of the MA/PhD program are (a) to provide intensive coverage of the knowledge base of psychopathology, assessment, and therapy, (b) the acquisition of clinical skills in assessment, therapy, and ethics, and (c) coverage of the broad field of psychology through courses in experimental design and statistics and the nonclinical areas of psychology. To accomplish these objectives, the plan of study includes a series of clinical and nonclinical courses and practica supervised by professional psychologists in university and community agencies. For two years, students carry out clinical work under the direct supervision of department clinical faculty. As they progress through the program, students are given opportunities to specialize in their area(s) of interest.

To satisfy accreditation requirements, graduate students in clinical psychology take a required curriculum that is designed to provide them with a breadth of knowledge in the science and practice of clinical psychology. The clinical program is a carefully integrated combination of training in science-based knowledge, ethics, and clinical skills. The courses are designed to build upon one another and must be taken as a unit; they may not be taken in isolation. All practical courses involve direct contact with clients or confidential client information. Faculty supervisors of these clinical courses are legally and ethically responsible for the work of the students under their supervision. For these reasons, courses involving diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and clinical ethics are restricted to those students who are enrolled in the complete clinical training program.

MA program (at least 30 credits)

The MA program requires full-time resident study and should be completed within two years.

  • PSYC 537 – Ethics & Professional Issues in Clinical Psychology
  • PSYC 541 – Introduction to Psychotherapy
  • PSYC 542 – Cognitive/Behavioural Interventions
  • PSYC 530 – Assessment: Critical Survey
  • PSYC 531 – Assessment: Clinical Applications
  • PSYC 560 – Clinical Research Design
  • PSYC 534 – Clinical Practicum
  • PSYC 545 – Advanced Statistics
  • 3 credits of PSYC courses outside the Clinical area (See the Graduate Student Handbook for further details on this requirement. In addition to the Departmental breadth requirement of one course outside of clinical at the MA level and one course outside of clinical at the PhD level, clinical students must meet breadth requirements in several content areas. Students may use Departmental breadth courses to meet these clinical breadth requirements, and additional clinical breadth courses may be taken at either the MA or PhD level.)
  • Thesis (18 credits)

In addition, students are required to attend the Case Conference / Professional Issues Seminar in both years of the MA program. Please note, certain students may be required to complete additional courses or other undertakings because of deficiencies in their preparatory background; these requirements are specified by the program in coordination with the Graduate Student Progress Committee in writing during the first term of the student’s residence in the program.

Note: Students completing the MA program must apply for acceptance into the PhD program; acceptance depends upon the quality of the master’s-level work.

PhD program (at least 12 credits)

Full academic year residency is required for PhD students until the attainment of candidacy.

  • 3 credits of advanced assessment (e.g,. Child Assessment, Neuropsychological Assessment)
  • 3 credits of psychopathology (e.g., Psychopathology of the Child, Psychopathology of the Adult)
  • 3 credits of advanced intervention (e.g., Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Treatment of Child Disorders, Motivational Interviewing)
  • 3 credits of statistics
  • PSYC 534 – Clinical Psychology Practicum
  • 3 to 6 credits of PSYC courses outside the Clinical area (See the Graduate Student Handbook for further details on this requirement. As noted above, students may use Departmental breadth courses to meet the Clinical breadth requirements. Additional clinical breadth courses may be taken at either the MA or PhD level.)
  • Community-based practica sufficient to achieve program objectives and reflect readiness for internship (minimum 450 hours)
  • Comprehensive examination (see the current Graduate Student Handbook for details)
  • Dissertation
  • CPA- or APA-accredited internship

In addition, students are required to complete the life span developmental training requirement as well as demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of historical foundations of psychology. Note that one of the advanced clinical courses (assessment, psychopathology, or intervention) must focus on children (i.e., PSYC 532 Child Assessment, PSYC 536 Psychopathology of the Child, or PSYC 556 Treatment of Child Disorders).

Clinical training

To accomplish the general objectives of the program, the plan of MA and PhD study includes a series of clinical and non-clinical courses and practica supervised by professional psychologists in university and community agencies. In the first year, students gain basic clinical knowledge and skills to prepare them for practica in subsequent years. In the second and third academic years, students carry out clinical work under the direct supervision of departmental clinical faculty. In subsequent years of the PhD program, students engage in advanced practica in community settings to prepare them for internship and beyond. As students progress through the program, they engage in ongoing assessment of their developing competencies reflecting broad and general training in clinical psychology as well specialization in the student’s area(s) of interest. In order to acquire sufficient breadth, all students must meet program requirements. In consultation with their faculty advisor, students may also plan additional experiences to supplement development of relevant competencies.

The UBC Psychology Clinic serves many of the Clinical Program’s training and research needs. The Clinic operates throughout the year, providing assessment and psychotherapy services to members of the community. Several practicum teams function within the Clinic, allowing students to gain experience with diverse treatment issues and modalities of intervention. The Clinic also supports interaction with members of the professional community, hosting a variety of speakers and promoting clinical workshops. The Clinic provides training in cognitive-behavioural, motivational, and interpersonal therapy to treat addictive and impulse control disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, behaviour problems of childhood (e.g., bedwetting, school refusal), eating disorders, interpersonal problems, mood disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, perfectionism, psychophysiological disorders (e.g., headache, hypertension), and somatoform disorders.

In our program and training clinic we are committed to training that ensures that graduate students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work effectively with members of the public who embody a variety of demographics, attitudes, beliefs, and values. Consistent with this principle, policy in the UBC training program does not allow discrimination on the basis of age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status in the services provided. Thus, students should expect to be assigned clients that may differ from them on these variables and present challenges for them at some point in training.

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 clinical supervisors are committed to a developmental training approach that is designed to support the acquisition of broad professional competence in working with clients/patients from diverse populations. Because students will have to navigate these sorts of clinical situations in their future careers, the program has a responsibility to prepare students to do so in a safe and ethical manner.

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, within the limits of their competence, with any client placed in their care in a safe and ethical manner consistent with the protections afforded by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 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.

Students follow a programmatic sequence of clinical training of increasing complexity:

  1. In the first year, students prepare to begin clinical training by taking Introduction to Psychotherapy, the two Assessment courses, and and the course in Ethical and Professional Issues in Clinical Psychology. Formal supervised clinical practicum begins in the second year. Students are required to take Clinical Psychology Practicum (PSYC534) in both Years 2 and 3.
  2. A community-based practicum experience (minimum 450 hour placement) is required of all students. This practicum takes place in a community agency. It can be done as a full-time experience during the summer after Years 2 or 3 or as a part-time experience during the 3rd or 4th year of graduate studies. Practicum plans are developed in conjunction with the student’s faculty advisor and are submitted in writing for approval by the Clinical faculty. See the Practica and Internships Policies and Procedures Handbook for more detail.
  3. Students subsequently identify additional practicum training to augment their clinical skills in preparation for internship. As with the required practicum, plans for these elective training opportunities must be developed in conjunction with the student’s faculty advisor and are submitted in writing for approval by the Clinical faculty. Practica that are not approved in advance by the clinical program will not be certified as training hours toward readiness for internship and are not covered by the university’s liability insurance that covers required practicum training in pursuit of a degree.
  4. A year-long internship in a CPA- or APA-accredited setting must be completed prior to awarding of the PhD. Students must be approved by the clinical program as ready for internship before they are eligible to apply.  Prior to applying, students must complete all required courses, the history and life span requirements. their comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, and must have all dissertation data collected.  Students must also demonstrate broad-based competencies in relation to program objectives for clinical, professional, and scientific knowledge and skills.  Students can obtain more information regarding these requirements and readiness for internship by examining the Competencies Assessment form, referring to the Practicum and Internship Policies and Procedures Handbook, and discussing this with their faculty supervisor or the Director of the Clinical Training Program (Lynn Alden).

Historical and Scientific Foundations of Psychology

All students in the clinical psychology program are required to demonstrate substantial understanding of the historical and scientific foundations of psychology. This material is presented in most courses, particularly those didactic courses that satisfy breadth requirements for clinical students.

Students who entered the clinical program in 2007 or later must demonstrate a graduate level understanding of historical and scientific foundations of general psychology by preparing a 2-3 page book report on at least one book on this topic (see suggested titles below). Another option that may be used to demonstrate such knowledge is to take either PSYC 500 or PSYC 312, the upper-level undergraduate course UBC offers on this topic (or an equivalent course from another university). This requirement may be completed at any time before applying to internship. Students who choose the book report option should select a book that covers the breadth of scientific psychology, its history of thought and development, including its research methods and applications. Examples of books that would be appropriate include:

Benjafeld, J. (2010). A history of psychology (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Oxford.
Benjamin, L.T. (2006). A brief history of modern psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Goodwin, C.J. (2014). A history of modern psychology (5th Ed.). New York, NY: Wiley.
Hergenhahn, B.R. (2008). An introduction to the history of psychology (6th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Leahey, T.H. (2012). History of psychology (7 Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Schultz, D.P., & Schultz, S.E. (2007). A history of modern psychology (9th Ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Wadsworth.

To promote the development of skills in self-directed learning in psychology, students are expected to fulfill this requirement in a relatively independent manner. That being said, students must obtain advance approval from their research advisor regarding the book they will use for this requirement. The research advisor is also responsible for assessing the quality of the book report on a pass/fail basis. The faculty’s expectation is that the book report will concisely review major themes presented in the book and make connections between material presented in the book and the science of clinical psychology. For example, students may highlight historical foundations of major theoretical approaches underpinning their own clinical training thus far or outline the historical foundations of theories, methods, or research questions examined in their own laboratories.
Students who have previously taken a senior undergraduate course on historical and scientific foundations of general psychology may apply to the clinical program for exemption from this requirement. Application for exemption includes a letter requesting the exemption, a hard copy of the undergraduate transcript showing the course, and a copy of the course syllabus. The course must be similar in breadth and rigor to PSYC 500, and the student must have achieved a mark of at least 80% in the course.

Lifespan Development

Lifespan issues are incorporated in several courses, including PSYC 535 Adult Psychopathology and PSYC 536 Psychopathology of the Child. These courses include readings and discussion of normal transitions across the lifespan. Lifespan issues also are covered in the assessment courses (PSYC 530, 531, and advanced assessment courses), including discussion of appropriate assessment methods across the lifespan and normative developmental comparisons. In addition, all students are required to take at least one course with a child focus (PSYC 532, 536, or 556).

Beginning March 2013, we require student attendance at a Clinical Brown Bag that will cover various topics, including not only Lifespan, but also Drugs and Behaviour, and other topics of interest to the clinical faculty and students. This is a monthly series organized by a committee of faculty and graduate students with the Clinic Assistant involved in pragmatic issues such as scheduling. At least half of the talks in any year are devoted to lifespan topics and presentations by experts in that area (e.g., faculty in the department, visiting scholars). Although all clinical students and faculty are encouraged to attend all of the Brown Bag talks, clinical students are required to attend at least 6 hours of talks specifically related to Lifespan Development over the course of their tenure as clinical graduate students. Attendance (sign-in) is taken to provide a record of talks attended by each student. Knowledge of the material presented at each talk is assessed and recorded using brief post-talk questions. The 6-hour requirement holds for all students who entered the program in 2013 or later. Students who entered the PhD program in 2011 or 2012 are required to attend 3 hours before graduation. Students who entered the PhD program in 2010 or earlier are exempt from the requirement.

Students may petition the clinical faculty to allow Developmental Brown Bag talks to meet the Lifespan requirement instead of (in the case of scheduling conflicts) or in addition to, the Clinical Brown Bag series. Approvals are made on a case-by-case basis based on an assessment of the extent to which the Developmental talks focus on broad Lifespan issues.