Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Thirty Years of Integrative Doctoral Training: Historic Developments, Assessment of Outcomes, and Recommendations for the Future

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Thirty Years of Integrative Doctoral Training: Historic Developments, Assessment of Outcomes, and Recommendations for the Future

Article excerpt

Integrative clinical psychology doctoral programs explicitly blend religious faith with professional training. During the past thirty years, there has been a steady increase in the number of integrative programs in the United States, yet the mission-relevant training outcomes of these programs remain largely unknown. In this article, we review published literature relative to integrative doctoral programs and offer an assessment of the training outcomes recently reported by those integrative programs currently accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). We briefly summarize the distinctive strengths and relative weaknesses of integrative programs and consider the primary challenges they now face. We conclude with several specific recommendations designed to help integrative doctoral programs thrive in the future.

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In the spring of 1961, Fuller Theological Seminary began formulating plans for an innovative doctoral program in clinical psychology. Those who worked to establish Fuller's School of Psychology envisioned the first doctoral program in the world to intentionally place Christ at the heart of psychology training (Malony, 1995). This intentional blending of faith and professional practice has come to characterize explicitly religious or "integrative" doctoral programs. Fuller admitted its first students in the fall of 1965 and awarded its first PhD in 1969. The establishment of Fuller's program was followed by the development of the Rosemead Graduate School of Professional Psychology (the first free-standing Christian doctoral program until its merger with Biola University in 1977), and Western Baptist Seminary's PhD program (which became the PsyD program at George Fox University in 1990).

In the last decade, additional integrative doctoral programs have been launched at Wheaton College, Regent University, Seattle Pacific University, and Azusa Pacific University. In all, there are now seven institutions that seek to integrate psychology and evangelical Christianity at the doctoral level. Four offer only PsyD degrees, 2 have both PhD and PsyD programs, and 1 offers only a PhD degree. The mission statements of these integrative programs emphasize the blending of faith with professional training and preparation of Christian psychologists with unique skills in the provision of service to religious communities.

Thirty years after the graduation of Fuller's first clinical psychology doctorate there is burgeoning growth in the number of integrative programs. There are now over 1000 graduates of these programs in the United States and abroad. At the same time, the profession of clinical psychology has undergone tremendous change and integrative training programs stand at a pivotal juncture in their development. Although Christian doctoral programs have filled a clear niche in the larger training landscape, there is very little data regarding the specific student outcomes these programs produce. Further, there are broad challenges to the field of psychology (e.g., the impact of managed care, increased competition among programs for qualified doctoral students), and specific challenges to integrative training programs (e.g., discerning unique training missions and innovative approaches to relieving financial burdens for students), that will require immediate attention if integrative doctoral training is to thrive for the next 30 years.

The purpose of this article is to offer a brief history and rationale for integrative professional psychology programs, followed by a review of the sparse literature bearing on the nature and outcomes of these programs. We supplement this published literature with a current assessment of the outcomes documented by the four integrative programs currently accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). We highlight the salient strengths and weaknesses of integrative programs, and underscore the significant challenges they face. …

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