Satisfaction with Clinical Training in Christian Psychology Doctoral Programs: Survey Findings and Implications

Article excerpt

Perceptions of clinical training at seven explicitly Christian doctoral programs in clinical psychology were assessed with a satisfaction survey. A total of 228 students, 128 alumni, and 34 faculty completed the online questionnaire that entailed 20 satisfaction items. Factor analysis revealed three factors: Supervision and Support, Clinical Placements, and Professional Development. Of these, Supervision and Support received the highest satisfaction ratings and Professional Development the lowest. Overall, clinical training was perceived quite positively by respondents, and more highly than research training ratings reported in a previous study. Alumni and faculty reported greater satisfaction than current students.

The work of clinical psychologists covers a wide variety of tasks ranging from research and program development to assessment, supervision, and consultation. Likewise, training in clinical psychology is diverse, with some training models emphasizing science more than others (Cherry, Messenger, & Jacoby, 2000). But the common denominator that runs through all training models and most of the work that clinical psychologists perform is clinical work - assessing and treating clients and patients. This is what distinguishes clinical psychology from other specialty areas in psychology. As such, most programs in clinical psychology emphasize clinical training a great deal, and typically hire a Director of Clinical Training to coordinate and develop clinical training efforts. Integrative doctoral programs provide general training in psychology as well as clinical training while also educating students in religious and spiritual issues, especially those pertaining to Christianity (Johnson & McMinn, 2003).

Clinical training typically involves placements in community settings during the first three to four years of training, and then a full time internship during the final year of training. In integrative doctoral programs, these clinical training placements sometimes - but not always - are done in the context of faith-affirming agencies where religious and spiritual issues can be considered. Clinical training opportunities vary among programs in terms of variety and availability of practicum site selection, supervision, consultation, theoretical orientation, opportunities for faith integration, flexibility of scheduling, access to varying populations and pathologies, and so on. Whereas classroom training is an integral part of preparing to become a clinical psychologist, work done in these clinical settings is vital in preparing doctoral candidates for the face-to-face unscripted experiences of clinical practice.

How satisfying are these training placements? Are students who complete their programs prepared and qualified to enter the field of clinical psychotherapy? And how do we determine this, in light of the lack of standardized measures to evaluate training and competence? These questions are difficult to answer due to the limited methods that can be used to obtain the information. Typical strategies that utilize control groups and random assignment to differing training conditions are not available when the subjects are engaged in lengthy and expensive doctoral training programs. Still, one can do program evaluation by asking students, alumni, and faculty for their candid impressions of clinical training at their institution. Though this methodology may be somewhat subjective and influenced by loyalty, it has nevertheless been used in the past to evaluate the effectiveness of research training in Christian psychology doctoral programs (McMinn, Hill, & Griffin, 2004).

Thus, the purpose of the present study was to assess the satisfaction of students within explicitly Christian doctoral programs regarding their clinical training. We surveyed faculty, current students, and alumni.

Method

Procedures

In September 2010, program directors at each of the explicitly Christian doctoral training programs in clinical psychology were invited to participate in a survey research project designed to assess the quality of their research training. …