Clinical Training in the Wheaton College Psy.D. Program

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to illuminate the nature-past, present and future-of clinical training within the Psy.D. Program of Wheaton College and to contribute to the conversation of Clinical Training in Integrative Christian Doctoral Programs. We examine the history and basic philosophy of clinical training within the program, the unique opportunities and challenges our program experiences interfacing with the professional community, and the integrative dimensions of clinical training at Wheaton College. Additionally, we explore the various challenges and rewards that come with becoming a practitioner-scholar in a Christian context. Finally, we look forward to new directions and opportunities which remain ahead for the professional psychology training programs whose missions are grounded in a Christian worldview.

The Wheaton College Psy.D. program began in 1993 and was accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1998, in time for the first graduating class of doctoral students. The philosophy of our clinical training flows from the practitioner-scholar model (Gregory & McMinn, 2004), with an emphasis on servanthood which truly makes our program distinctive. In particular, there is a vital imperative for doctoral training to prepare psychologists for work with underserved populations given the disparity in the need for psychological services and the provision of these services among underserved populations (Krous & Nauta, 2005; Kruse & Canning, 2002). The founders of the Wheaton College doctoral program were greatly influenced by their desire for and calling to serve the underserved (Isaiah 61:1-4, Romans 12:1-2) and that influence has continued to impact the continuity and changes of our program, and specifically the clinical training of our students, over the past 17 years.

This desire is reflected in the mission statement for the Psy.D. program which includes four strivings: 1) educate students in a manner grounded in, informed by, and shaped by the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith; 2) produce highly competent clinical psychologists who will be practitioner-scholars, capable of benefiting from and contributing to both the theoretical and applied empirical scholarly literature of the clinical psychology field, adept at advancing our understanding of the interface of psychological and spiritual understandings of the person, and competent to intervene to enhance human welfare; 3) emphasize and model a commitment to professional practice as service, especially to the Body of Christ, the Church, and also to those persons who have been marginalized and wounded by our society on the basis of racial or ethnic identification, age, socioeconomic status, or gender; and 4) conduct training in the context of an intentional community of faith which will emphasize a balanced approach to spiritual, personal, professional, and interpersonal growth and development. The wording of the mission statement highlights how important clinical training is to the program in its focus on the development of Christian clinical psychologists who are effectively and holistically trained to enhance human welfare and to serve others.

With regard to the structure of the program, during graduate study at Wheaton College students are building a foundation upon which all later clinical development will occur. The academic curriculum includes breadth and depth in both clinical psychology and theology courses. This scholarly basis is critical to the professional development and clinical practice of students. We recognize the importance of diversity in models of professional practice as an impetus for personal growth as each student trains to become a competent professional. We strive to integrate theory with practice early in the program through student involvement in practicum training, which begins in the second year of the program. Throughout the sections included in this article, it will be apparent that the experiences that students receive in their clinical practica training in years two through four are central to their development. …