Clinical Psychology Graduate Students' Perceptions of Their Scientific and Practical Training: A Canadian Perspective

By Peluso, Daniel L.; Carleton, R. Nicholas et al. | Canadian Psychology, May 2010 | Go to article overview

Clinical Psychology Graduate Students' Perceptions of Their Scientific and Practical Training: A Canadian Perspective


Peluso, Daniel L., Carleton, R. Nicholas, Asmundson, Gordon J. G., Canadian Psychology


The scientist-practitioner model is the most commonly used training modality in Canadian clinical psychology graduate programmes. Despite pervasive endorsement throughout Canadian psychology programmes, there is a paucity of data available on Canadian student opinions of the model's implementation. The current study assessed 134 students from 9 provinces with a 38-item questionnaire developed by the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology for assessing students' perceptions about the quantity, quality, and breadth of science training in their clinical psychology doctoral programmes. Most students described their programs as providing a mix of research and clinical focus, with slightly more weight given to research. Science training was reported as very important to students, with indications they receive a good amount of high-quality training in science. Moreover, there was a high level of agreement between desired levels of science training and the science training received. Implications for future research and training are discussed.

Keywords: clinical psychology, clinical psychology graduate training, clinical psychology graduate students, scientist-practitioner model

The primary goal of clinical psychology graduate programmes in Canada, as expressed in many departmental mission statements, is to train students according to the scientist-practitioner or "Boulder model" of training (Raimy, 1950). This model is geared toward training students to adequately develop both scientific research and clinical practise skills (D. Myers, 2007). Most programmes acclaim the model; however, each programme differs in the extent to which the scientific or practical aspects of training are emphasised. Moreover, incorporating a balance between research and clinical training is indicated throughout the current Canadian Psychology Association (CPA) guidelines for accreditation and ethical conduct (CPA, 2002). The question of what proportion of focus should be given to each aspect of training has been a subject of debate for over 50 years (Aspenson et al., 1993; D. Myers, 2007). Some Canadian researchers have argued that the scientist-practitioner model is illusory and that each programme ultimately focuses on whichever side - science or practise - the programme sees fit to emphasise (Conway, 1984).

To understand the status of the scientist-practitioner model in a Canadian context, it is necessary to understand the developmental history of clinical psychology training in Canada. The existing documentation regarding the early history of applied psychology is scant; however, it is widely held that training in professional and clinical psychology was prompted by the ending of the Second World War (C. R. Myers, 1970). At that time, the utility of applied psychology had been demonstrated through successful selection, training, and rehabilitation of military personnel (Vipond & Richert, 1977; Wright, 1974). Consequently, there was increasing demand for applied psychology in education, government, and health sectors. Clinical training in Canada was not geared toward professional specialisation; that is, training was encompassing and broad, offering students training in educational, industrial, and counselling sectors (Conway, 1984).

The status of applied psychology amongst other academic disciplines was considered suspect, largely because the psychologists of the day paid little attention to scientific research (Wright, 1969). In an attempt to secure status and legitimize itself as a profession in universities, psychology programmes began adopting stronger scientific foci. The shift was so profound that professional and applied areas were eventually relegated to an inferior status in favour of rigorous science and research (Conway, 1984).

Growing concern over professionalization and the development of professional training in psychology prompted the CPA to stage the Opinicon conference in 1960. …

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