Succeeding in Graduate School: The Career Guide for Psychology Students

By Steven Walfish; Allen K. Hess | Go to book overview

5
Choosing the PsyD
Donald R. Peterson

Doctor of psychology (PsyD) programs are based on a few straightforward ideas. The pursuits of science and professional practice are related but not identical. People who intend to practice professional psychology should be trained to practice professional psychology. People who are qualified to practice professional psychology should hold a doctoral credential that certifies preparation for practice in professional psychology.

More than 50 programs that embody these ideas are now in operation in the United States. The programs differ somewhat in regard to specialties and theoretical emphases, but they all show several characteristics in common.

First, the objectives of the programs are expressly professional. Students are not expected to believe that the best way to prepare for a professional career is to do research. They are trained for practice. When they complete their doctoral studies, they are given a professional degree. As the MD degree certifies preparation for practice in medicine, the PsyD degree certifies preparation for practice in psychology.

Second, professional work and training for practice are valued by the faculty and administrators in charge of the program. Professional work is different from research, but no less noble. An explicitly professional program, symbolized and concluded by award of the PsyD degree, means that the faculty who run the program and the administrators who support it value professional work for its own sake, not as a servant to science.

Third, the programs are based in disciplined knowledge. Professional psychology is not an intuitive art. It is not a set of disembodied practices learned solely through experience. Professional psychology is the systematic application of psychological knowledge to the study and solution of human problems. The conceptions, methods, and facts of psychology are the foundations of practice.

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